A Travellerspoint blog

Paradise

T.H.E. E.N.D

After spending four marvellous days in London and adapting our body clocks to the European time, we flew to Mallorca. Our families were expecting us and a big welcome dinner had been organised. Walking in my room and seeing it full of stuff only made me realise further how unimportant certain things are. We had been living out of a backpack for the past 9 months, and I never missed one of the things that were in that room. Still, I felt rich from my experiences, adventures, ideas, thoughts, friendships and gratitude. After the first 24 hours, everything became a blur; we spent a couple of weeks in Mallorca, then in Italy, came back, got jobs offered in Barcelona, and just now, 2 months after hitting European land, it seems that we are settling down.

They say that it takes a while to adapt to the old lifestyle after such a long trip. The daily routines and the constant stress people are exposed to in this part of the world is just crazy and absurd, yet we keep being told this is the real world. We are surrounded by people that are desperate to posess the latest technology gadget, and I understand them, they're constantly reinforcing their identity, feeding that consumeristic attitude. Because we're in a world where things are supposed to be either black or white, salty or sweet, good or bad, democratic or communist, catholic or muslim. Well, it's so liberating to know that it ain't true, and I want to invite everyone to discover what the world has to offer outside the box we grow in, to experience absolute freedom like we did during the past 9 months. Every corner of the world is at your disposal, and if you let yourself go, forget your prejudice, you will discover PARADISE, not because you're going somewhere specific, but because you will feel real.

"Trust me, it's paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. From mine it's a generation that circles the globe in search of something we haven't tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite, and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it. You hope and you dream, but you never believe that something's gonna happen for your. Not like it does in the movies. And when it actually does, you expect it to feel different. More visceral, more real. I was waiting for it to hit me...I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it's someplace you can look for, cause it's not where you go. It's how you feel for a moment in your life...and if you find that moment, it lasts forever"[i]. - The Beach

NEVER STOP EXPLORING - Love, Nick & Sonia

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Posted by sonianick 17:45 Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

From Rio to Ilha Grande

Last bits of Brazil

sunny 36 °C
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When we flew back to Rio de Janeiro, we couldn't believe that our family was leaving and that our 2 weeks together in Brazil were over...all the laughter and good experiences lived didn't leave space to realise how that wonderful time together was consuming quickly. Back in Rio, we all went to our hotel in Copacabana (yes, a proper one! with a decent bed and an en-suite toilet!), and went for a walk to the beach right next to it. A few hours later Marco, Patty, Joey and Luli disappeared in a taxi, and we felt nostalgic but happy, because our friends had crossed the Atlantic just to spend some time with us. We knew anyway, that another meeting was going to take place upon our return in Europe, so there wouldn't be any time to miss each other!

Maria flew to Rio with another plane late that evening and she made it on time to grab some dinner with us. We met up with a friend of Nick from Italy who was casually in Rio with his girlfriend, and spent a nice evening together. We repeated our ritual in Rio i.e. walk to Ipanema, stop at Poli-Sucos, a little sunbathing and bikini shopping, oh yes, it felt good to be back in Cidade Maravilhosa! Maria left after 2 days and we managed to meet up with Claire and Craig, a Scottish couple we knew from Halong Bay, and there we were, 6 months later in the same city! We had dinner at Santa Teresa and saw the fireworks opening the show at the Sambadrome, so we decided to walk down to where all the masses were. Everyone was dressed in fancy carnival costumes, adorned with feathers and all sorts of brilliant ornaments that must have cost an arm and a leg. Around the Sambodrome there were many people reselling used tickets, and after a little bargaining Claire and Craig went inside. We didn't have money so we couldn't get in, but were happy to see the atmosphere that embraced the city. It was magic, and we were experiencing it. Our four days in Rio passed by quickly and we saw how the carnival kept people partying every hour of the day non-stop; the passion these guys demonstrate for a party is overwhelming; they're definitely the best partiers ever!

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Brazil is big and full of interesting places, but we decided to take it easy during our last weeks and stayed around Rio de Janeiro. We first went to Buzios, known as the Brazilian St. Tropez (Brigitte Bardot made it famous), and a wonderful spot just 3 hours away by bus from Rio. The town of Buzios is cute, posh, small, well-maintained, and is located in a peninsula with more than 20 beaches, so it's attractive to tourists. We stayed 7 nights at the Che Lagarto hostel, new and well located. Apart from beach hopping there's not that much to do in Buzios, but one thing that you must visit when you go there is Arraial do Cabo. We went there on a tour and took a boat trip to the two best beaches we saw in Brazil; Prainhas do Atalaia and Praia da Ilha do Farol. So called the Brazilian Caribbean, the sea has an amazing colour and unique ecosystem, as it's where the Patagonian currents meet the Caribbean, and voilà! Breathtaking oceanic landscapes overwhelm your senses. During our stay in Buzios we met Claire and Craig again, and had the most amazing time on a party boat trip - FREE CAIPIRINHAS! What else could we ask for?

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From Buzios to Ilha Grande, another jewel from Brazil. It used to be a prison for the most dangerous convicts, a port for pirates and the base of a lazaret. Unspoiled, with a small population in the village of Abraao, we felt we were in the middle of nowhere. Despite our willingness to explore the island, it never stopped raining during our stay there, making it very difficult to do anything. Still, we managed to go on a couple of boat trips, one of them left us off at the best surf beach in Brazil, Lopes Mendes. Lopes Mendes and Lagoa Azul were probably our favourite spots in the island, but still it's hard to tell since the horrible weather didn't allow us to discover the north part of the island.

After 5 bad weather days we went back to Rio de Janeiro to spend our last night in Brazil and in South America. We stayed at a depressing hostel called Casa6, and it was also raining there...and we were sad. Sad because we realised that the trip was coming to an end. We took our last strolls in Ipanema, drank our last juices and went to the beach. The famous mountain of Ipanema was surrounded by clouds, and the beach was empty. Suddenly the beautiful atmosphere of the city was gone, there were no hot guys and girls showing off their Brazilian swimming costumes, no music, no one playing football or jumping the waves. Only the pareo seller was there, holding the Brazilian flag, making an effort to earn some money, even if it wasn't a very productive day. We walked towards him and bought a sarong with the Brazilian flag on it, as a souvenir to take with us to Europe, to remember how special this country is.

Twenty-four hours later we were inside a British Airways airplane on our way to London Heathrow. It was time to go back home, but it was different; we were different.

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Posted by sonianick 22.05.2010 17:04 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Salvador de Bahia

Carnaval do Brasil

semi-overcast 35 °C
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We flew from Rio to Salvador with VoeGol, one of the low cost airlines available in the country. Maria almost missed the plane, but in the end we managed to arrive all together. This time though, we divided into three groups; Olga and Chiara stayed at a nice Posada, whilst the rest of us were staying in two different hostels; we went with Maria to Galeria 13, and Patty, Marco, Luli and Joey went to the unforgettable Albergue do Pelo, where we would join them for the last two nights. Albergue do Pelo, better known as Versailles between us, was the worst hostel in Brasil, South America...to be precise, it was like an Indian hostel where you spend 2 Euro for the night, except we were paying an average of 40 Euro due to the Carnival. Filthy, depressing, ugly, and it was recommended by the Lonely Planet as a "hostel with very high demand". We hated it, but we had prepaid the stay and were therefore stuck. We didn't have breakfast there, we only used the bathroom when required and would not go back to sleep until we were a little drunk (despite the amount of caipirinhas in our systems, the hostel didn't seem any prettier).

Salvador is very different from Rio de Janeiro; our first impression was that it's poorer than the Cidade Maravilhosa, but still another fascinating place in Brazil. We were told by an Italian girl who worked at Galeria 13 that women should never walk alone at night, never carry a bag (carry your notes in your bra) and wear very simple clothes, otherwise you're a potential robbery victim. Our area was Pelourinho, the historic city centre, full of bars, churches, shops and services. Locals practise Capoeira in the main squares to earn some money from tourists, they dance and play the drums, they sell clothes and make funky hairstyles, they give away the famous wish bracelet from the Bonfim Church. There was activity on every corner, Carnival was getting nearer and the atmosphere was tense; people wanted to party and were waiting anxiously for Thursday Feb 11th to arrive.

We spent our first days exploring Pelourinho and the beaches outside Salvador. Again, kilometres of sand, decorated with palm trees and beach bars where a portion of camarâo and some beer was always the perfect add-on. We personally preferred the magic of Ipanema and its crazy hot people, but still, were happy to be there, and enjoyed every second. Around 5 pm, the beach bars were shutting and the waiters sent us home; too dangerous to stay around when there's no one and the sun is setting. There was definitely a higher sense of danger in Salvador than in Rio, Paraty or Foz.

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Every evening, we would enjoy a caipirinha before having dinner at some random restaurant. We ended up going twice to an Italian place called "La Figa", which in Brazil is a gesture of good luck and wishes, whereas in Italy, the meaning is very different. The sound of the drums was always on the background, making us company and motivating us to keep enjoying ourselves...the words Brazil and boring definitely aren't made for each other. But the best was yet to come and it was the first Carnival night. During our first night at "La Figa", we met a guy from Naples who owns a hostel in Pelourinho, and he informed us about the "blocos", where you basically pay a ticket to dance and parade along with one of the many artists that perform during Carnival. The ticket is a T-shirt that you wear to be allowed in the particular bloco. Although it's also possible to watch all the blocos from outside the protected perimeter, we were told it can get quite dodgy as bands tend to have fights, so we decided to buy the T-shirts and truly experience the celebration from inside.

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The night of the Carnival we met with Fabio at his hotel, located in Barra and right next to where all the blocos were leaving. On our way there, we saw a guy selling all sorts of crazy accessories and decided to buy colourful wigs for everyone! We had dinner and started our Caipirinha ritual. There was a group of Argentinian guys who were taking part in our same bloco and they joined us for some dancing and drinking. Around 10 pm we left to join the bloco. Inside each bloco there was a double decker that had been reconverted into a stage; the singer, Tatau, was ready to start the party, and we were ready; finally...our feet started to move. As soon as Tatau sang the first three words of his song, we were jumping and dancing along with hundreds of people who were even more excited than us, and we started to experience the world's biggest party! We were all in the same partying mood and nothing could stop us, not even the rain, which started to pour down heavily after a while. But nothing mattered, and all the Brazilians were still dancing, still drinking, still smiling, because they had been waiting for a year and nothing would stop them from enjoying themselves. That's when we understood that Brazilians are the best party people; go out with a Brazilian boy/girl and it's guaranteed you'll have fun.

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The party went on all night long, but we retired around 2 am...4 hours dancing under the rain gave us a good idea of what Carnival meant. The streets were filthy, and the smell was a little terrifying...and we just prayed for a shower and a bed to rest. People during Carnival never seem to be resting, as at any time of the day you see people dancing, or playing the drums...where the hell do these people get their energy from?

We spent our last day in Salvador relaxing at Barra beach, which was an absolute disaster after the first night of Carnival. We watched how the blocos were preparing for the second round and said goodbye to Salvador, to its fantastic Pelourinho and good music. It was time to go back to Rio, our family was leaving...

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Posted by sonianick 02.05.2010 04:59 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Rio de Janeiro

La Cidade Maravilhosa

sunny 43 °C
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From Paraty to Rio de Janeiro, our next destination. Known to the Cariocas as Cidade Maravilhosa, this city hypnotised the whole group. Jungle by the sea, emblematic mountains like the Sugar Loaf or Ipanema, stunning beaches and bossanova. We booked the Mango Tree Hostel for the whole group, which was great for its location (1 block from Ipanema Beach), but the people working there hated us and therefore we hated them! How can people be so angry and frustrated in Brazil? It's Brazil...and it was Rio, the best city in the world!!!

We dropped our bags and off we went to Ipanema Beach. That beach offers one of the best sunsets we've ever seen...you see how the sun hides behind the famous mountain of Ipanema, and in the mean time people are playing football, dancing, smoking, drinking or just chilling. Meeting people there is the easiest thing in the world, Brazilians are so open minded! We heard that beaches in Brazil are full of pickpockets, but we fell very safe and even took our cameras to take some shots. But the best thing in Ipanema is definitely the beautiful people you see there...we were shocked by the quantity of hot men and women that were lying around in their fashionable bikinis and swim shorts. We came to the conclusion that beauty attracts beauty, hence Ipanema and the people there...it's definitely one of the sexiest and most fascinating beaches ever!

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But Rio is not only about its beaches, and we learnt that very soon. During our stay there we booked a couple of tours to get to know the city. The first one was a general tour of the city; Ipanema, Sao Conrado, Tijuca Jungle, The Christ and the neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. The heat was killing us (42 °C!!!) but still it was worth it to walk around and get to know the city...our favourite? The views from Tijuca and The Christ, and the famous Selarón Steps. Selarón is a Chilean artist in love with Rio (how's that not possible?), who dedicated the past 20 years of his life to cover some steps in Santa Teresa with tiles from every corner in the world...He was cocky and claimed to be greater than Michaelangelo, not sure about that, but it was definitely a highlight in our trip. Our second tour was a lesson about the Favelas. We booked it through the Favela Tour, an organisation that donates part of the money tourists pay to the favelas for the children's education. Our tour guide was an Italian guy called Luigi, who has been living in Brazil for the past 15 years and knows the country and Rio very well. The tour only lasted 3 hours, but we had a chance to visit the biggest Favela in Rio, Rocinha, and Vila Canoa. We initially thought that the Favelas would be more isolated, but no, the curiousity in Rio is that poor and rich people share the same street address! The information Luigi was sharing with us about how the Favelas work, and how the people inside them live, was eye-opening. There's a code to respect inside the Favelas and as a member of one you can't visit other Favelas. The government constantly tries to improve the people's lives inside the Favelas, although it's tough as they don't really control what's going on inside (the biggest issue was, and still is, the corruption in the police force). As it was a Sunday, the market was open and we had a chance to see people from the Favelas living their regular life...it wasn't fake, and it was fascinating. From Rocinha we went to Vila Canoa, the "posh" Favela and where the school that the company finances is located. We had an amazing time with Luigi and we recommend everyone, not to be scared, and learn.

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In Rio we met another Fabio, this time from Bergamo and a friend from San Diego, whom the guys hadn't seen since they had left the US 8 years ago. Chiara, a friend of Olga, also joined us, so the group was growing...however, we lost the Sicilian Fabio, who must have enjoyed himself a lot going out in Rio with all that beauty around him :-). With so many people, it was easy to celebrate Nick's birthday, who turnded 30 on February 5th, and so we decided to go to a fancy restaurant in Santa Teresa called Aprazivel, from where we had an incredible view of the city. The place was great, the company even better, and Nick had a wonderful time with his friends! After dinner we decided to go to Lapa, well known for its bars and party atmosphere, so some waiters from the restaurant offered to walk us there. We had to walk for 30 minutes down these pedestrian roads and Maria, who had the great idea of wearing heels, was in absolute pain. But she wasn't the only one; Luli still had her elephant foot and a Spanish acquaintance from Fabio, Jacinto, had blisters on his feet and kept walking in a funny way. When we reached Lapa the streets were full of drunk people dancing everywhere and Nick tripped, hurting one of his toes!! So that made 4 injured and we were starting to wonder "are we too old for this?". We still decided to have a drink or two around the main square in Lapa and enjoy ourselves.
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One thing you can't miss in Rio is all the juice bars around the city...we fell in love with Polis Sucos, where we went every day for our daily vitamin boost and played with tropical flavours. We discovered the famous Abacaxi com Hortela (Pineapple juice with mint), maracuja with orange, mango, watermelon, acai with guaraná...mmmmm...delicious delicious!!! From the Favelas to Barra, for its beaches, for its freedom and bars, clubs, and its people...Rio is definitely magical!!! We would also live the famous Rio Carnival, but before, we deserved a break in another city; Salvador de Bahia.

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Posted by sonianick 17.04.2010 04:01 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Paraty

Beleza Pura

sunny 40 °C

The excitement started in Sao Paulo; we couldn't wait to see our beloved friends who had crossed the Atlantic just to meet us and celebrate Nick's birthday (and why not, spend 15 days in South America). We were hanging out inside the coach station of Sao Paulo when unexpectedly we heard someone call our names; it was our friend Olga from Sicily, whom we hadn´t seen for the past 7 years! And we were taking the same bus to Paraty...it's unbelievable how small the world is :-) She was travelling with Fabio, also from Sicily and a new acquaintance to us. This surprising coincidence made our trip from Sao Paulo to Paraty much easier. We were also excited about Paraty itself, as to us it was the real beginning of Brazil, of our last month travelling, and we had the best company ever!

Four hours later we arrived at Paraty and took a taxi to our hostel, the Che Lagarto. Che Lagarto is an Argentinian hostel company spread all over Argentina, Peru, Chile and Brazil. Patty, Joey and Luli weren't there yet; they were travelling from Rio and were quite tired after a 12 hour flight. In the mean time, we had found out that Marco had missed his flight from Madrid to Rio thanks to a snow storm in Brussels that left him and other 11 passengers on the ground. He would be joining us one day later than planned, together with Maria, who was flying from London via Lisbon. We all met as a group between 2002-2003 in London, and have been meeting up ever since, in France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, England...but this time it was different, it wasn't for a weekend to get away from our daily lives but to spend some quality time together, and enjoy the Beleza Pura of Brazil, which may we say, was the easiest part of the trip, it's everywhere! The minute Patty, Joey and Luli got to the hostel they dropped their bags and we got down to some serious business; catching up with caipirinhas...oh yes! First reason why we love Brazil, the caipirinhas...with cachaca, vodka or rum, classic or with kiwi, passionfruit or banana and cinnamon...it doesn't matter, they're so delicious!

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The next day we decided to spend the day at the beach and work on our tans whilst Marco and Maria were making their way down to Paraty. We had heard great things about the beach of Trindade, just 20 minutes away by bus. The bus journey was similar to a rollercoaster ride, so we're thankful that we didn't suffer an accident! Trindade is a very small cute village with one unique street, with just a few houses, pousadas and some bars. The beach of Trindade is impressive; white sand surrounded by rainforest, waterfalls and natural pools, we were thrilled! On our way to the beach we had to walk through a passage made of leaves and the only thing you could see at the end of it was the sea...one of the most beautiful images that remained in our heads, yet no one took a picture. We found out that Brazilians like their comfort at the beach; bars just a few metres away, parasoles, chairs, people who wander around and sell you anything from brazelets, clothes, bikinis to fruit or seafood. We immediately adapted to their lifestyle and sat in a bar, some of us baking in the Brazilian heat and others relaxing in the shade. We couldn't ask for more; we had the sea, there were hardly any people around, we ate fish and drank beer, went for walks, relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. Towards the end of the day we wanted to visit some waterfalls that were just a few minutes away walking, but unfortunately Luli fell and slightly twisted her ankle, in the middle of nowhere. Thank God it wasn't broken, but it was definitely swollen like an elephant foot!!! Luli remained back in the beach whilst we got lost in the jungle until we found the waterfalls and a natural pool...it was great to take a fresh swim and soon after we headed back to pick up Luli and take the bus.

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As soon as we arrived at the hostel we found Marco and Maria down to business with the caipirinhas and making new friends. It was great to see them, we were finally all present and ready to enjoy our holiday together. That night we decided to have dinner somewhere in beautiful Paraty, and casually ended up in a restaurant with live Bossanova and great food. Paraty is a small colonial town set in the middle of the jungle that keeps attracting tourists because it has managed to preserve itself and remain authentic. The best thing to do in Paraty is to go on a boat tour and visit all the little islands around the coast, some of them inhabited by mysterious millionaires. Being a group of 10 people allowed us to rent a small boat for the whole day and just spend around 8 Euro each! So that's what we did on our second day; the hostel booked us a tour with a really hot Brazilian guy called Leandro, owner of a boat that was just perfect for us. We spent 6 hours cruising the ocean and stopping at different islands and beaches to take a swim. The sea water around Paraty has a funny green colour, which together with the tropical landscape just makes the whole panorama very different to anything we had seen before. We stopped for lunch at an island that had a bar, and we were the only guests present. It was definitely one of the best tours we took during our trip, especially because of the people that were with us :-)

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We spent our last day back in Trindade, since Marco and Maria hadn't been there yet, and back in Paraty doing some shopping, taking pictures of its beauty and preparing ourselves for the bus ride to Rio the following morning. It had been so hot during the past days that we moved to a room with air-con (girls in one room and guys in another). Weirdly, when we came back from dinner, we found out someone had been in the girls' room and gone through our stuff. Fortunately nothing was missing and all our valuables were there, but still it was a strange knowing that someone had been looking for something everywhere and all our things were messed up. A stupid joke? Was that person trying to steal something and rushed out the window thinking he would get caught? We don't know, we don't wanna know, thank God we didn't find anyone in the room...that would have been a surprise!

Posted by sonianick 17.03.2010 03:37 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

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