Brazil–Best Vacation Ever!

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My first impression on the trip was pretty much, “Someone’s gotta invent that transporter room…” Honestly, seventy-jillion hours on a plane without sleep is sheer torture.

I did get to see what those seat/beds were like in the Boeing 767, but of course we could not partake. So it was a long night, at least for me. I did get to catch up on my movies, which were accessed through a video screen in the back of the seat in front of me. Works great til that passenger wants to lean his seat back. Then it’s a little bit of a different perspective. I watched “Monuments Men”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, and several Disney nature documentaries. By the end of the trip, all I wanted to see was the insides of my eyelids.

But so worth it to see our son waiting for us, practically jumping up and down in excitement! His girlfriend was happy to see us too–she could get some relief from trying to hold him back.

We got the luggage, piled into her car, and went to the hotel (Hotel Faial), which was in the downtown area of Florianopolis.

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Our room was very nice–first one I’ve ever been in where you had to insert your card key into a slot to make the lights work.

P1050207One thing that was left out of the travel advice–by anyone–is that you can’t flush toilet paper down the loo. Anywhere in Brazil. We did anyway, preferring to play the ignorant tourist. There wasn’t a sign NOT to in our bathroom, so…

First thing I did was to plunk down on the bed and make zzzz’s for several hours.

Once we were rested, the kids picked us up and drove us to Joana’s grandparents’ house, where a lovely barbecue dinner was waiting for us. That and quite a number of relatives. Only two spoke English, but that was okay–everyone was so wonderful and welcoming. Joana’s ava (grandma) showed us around the house, telling us about all the different pictures, while Joe and Joana played the dutiful translators.

Every Brazilian house has one of these. They love their barbecue!  And they love their salt…

P1040586We had some terrific meat–Brazilian beef is so much better than even Kobe beef. We also had guarana, a juice I’d never had before, and of course can’t find here. Sigh… So much for that addiction.

The grandparents were going on vacation the next day, so we cut it short and went back to the hotel, gladly falling into bed and sleeping for some 12 hours.

The people of Brazil look like athletes, for the most part. For as much salt, sweets, and meat that they eat, I am surprised that most of them look so svelte. Truly, I wouldn’t have even known I was in a foreign country if it weren’t for the language. It really is a melting-pot of people of all ethnicities.

Joana had to work the next day, so Joe took the bus to the hotel and played tour guide for a bit. We walked to the farmer’s market, where he bought us breakfast (which a bee tried to take from me…) and treated us to sugar-cane lemonade. The guy in the booth ground the cane stalk up right there, and made the drinks from the squeezin’s. Man, that was good! My first indication that the weight-watching was not going to go well.

Joana met up with us and drove out to the stables, where she introduced us to her horse. I fell in love with him–he liked to give horsey-kisses on my face, and tried to eat my glasses more than once. The other horse wasn’t so friendly–but not unfriendly either–just skittish.

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I also considered stuffing this little doggie into my suitcase and bringing her home. She was the sweetest little girl. Once a feral dog (there are a lot of them in Brazil), she settled down and has become a favorite among the horse owners.

P1040964They call her “Branquinia” (okay, the spelling is probably wrong), and she loved attention, watching the horses, and above all, getting fed the meat and castoffs that were sent her way during the barbecues.

 

 

 

The kids showed us these odd little grape-like fruits that grew on the bark of a tree. I forget what they’re called. But they were fun to eat–just suck the innards out of the skin, discard the skin, and spit the seeds.

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That fun was cut short when Joe accidentally broke off a dead tree branch, and ants came roaring out of the break. OK–on to the next thing!

From there, we went to a very large supermarket, Angelino’s, and the kids bought stuff they wanted us to try. We took it back to Joana’s parents’ house (she lives there too), and got the grand tour. We met the dogs, Miro, Kito, and Luke–not all at the same time, though. Miro and Kito don’t get along.

Then it was off to the “shopping” – what Brazilians call a mall – to get a few things and look around. They have a chain of stores there called “Kopenhagen”–they sell the best chocolate espresso on the planet, bar none. We went there a couple of times.

We met Joana’s parents, Patricia and Nelson, for dinner, and got to watch a real lightning/thunder/rain storm from the restaurant. It was magnificent!

The next day, we explored a nearby park with the kids, and saw a really grand church. It was closed at that time, but we knew it was probably the one we’d be going to on Sunday, so we’d see it then.

The park was just a little one, with the walkways all paved in broken white tile. But there was one grand old fig tree in the middle. Reminded me of the one in Balboa Park in San Diego.

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Fig tree in Brazil

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Australian fig tree in Balboa Park

Both immense.

By the way, a word of advice–don’t drive in this area. Ever. Unless you don’t mind taking your life in your hands. Motorcycles have free rein–they can zip in and out of traffic to their heart’s desire. Rules are for tourists–not natives. The roads are almost all cobblestone, and it was all I could do to keep my molars from jangling out of my head. Walking is preferred.

Toured a couple of museums–a museum employee constantly watching us. I dunno–maybe we’re gonna walk with a chandelier out the door…but that’s how things are there.

Back to the mall–and I have to tell you what they are like. Eight floors, generally, and the top three are for parking. The center is open to the floor, and there are escalators on every corner, and elevators of course. Thing is, you can see from any level which stores are where (at least the ones closest to the central hub).

We had dinner at Red Lobster, which was a surprise, since we didn’t know they were in Brazil. Decent stuff–however, I never really did find a beer I really liked. Heaven knows I tried!!

Got to see a movie–“Guardians of the Galaxy”–in English with Portuguese subtitles. Loved the movie–I’ll probably get it when it comes out.

After the movie, we went up on the roof of the building and took many pictures. I saw the Southern Cross constellation, so now I can cross that off my bucket list. Cool!

Then we drove around the lagoon that is part of the Florianopolis area. We found a place to park, conveniently in the dirt behind a bus stop (don’t tell anyone), and walked a ways down the sand. Once we found a bench in  some decent light, we unwrapped the food we’d bought at Angelino’s and ate it.

P1040741We had some more of those weird fruits we’d had earlier, and had a contest to see who could spit the seeds furthest. Paul won–and sprayed us with jetsam as well. I think this is the best memory of the trip, right here. We were like a bunch of kids–no age difference, no parent/child relationship–just all of us having fun. It was wonderful!

 

Bananas can’t be beat in this part of the world. Small and sweet–like fully-ripe bananas that are still firm. We had quite a lot of them.

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We walked through empty streets the next day to go to church. The only other creature out and about was a feral dog–he looked like he was on a very urgent mission. These dogs know to cross at intersections and to watch for traffic. Street smarts!

The kids came for us afterward, and we went to another park/plaza, where we took a lot of pictures of the Pretty But Useless Bridge. Built of wood (???) in the 1920s, it had fallen into a state of disrepair so bad that a person could fall through by just stepping on the bridge road. Next to it is the Ugly But Useful Bridge, which is the only fast connection to the mainland. When the traffic was light. Which was never.

We went to a coin/stamp show–I think that may have been for Joana’s sake more than for us–but I did find some US money that I had been trying to find for years. The irony does not escape me…

We then went to a fort and military museum, where we got a good look at the underside of Bridge Doom:

P1040788Too expensive to tear down, and nothing in the budget to replace or restore it–so it sits there until it falls on its own.

 

 

 

 

Back to the old homestead–Joana’s, not the hotel.  Had pinoa for the first time. These are like pinenuts, only much, much larger. These come from the aracara tree, and are heavy enough to kill someone if the cone fell just right.

P1040803They are about 1 1/2 inches long or so, and can be roasted or pan-cooked. The outer shell is taken off–the nut tastes like chestnuts. Loved them!

 

 

 

Patricia took us on a tour of Sao Jose, which is the neighboring city, and where she grew up. A lot of history there. The kids did their best to translate everything she said–she was just so excited to show people around her old stomping grounds that it was hard for them to keep up.

Much of the city’s walls, both here and in Florianopolis, are covered in street murals and graffiti. Some of it is really good:

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I’ll leave out the really bad…

That night, we drove to the highest point in the Florianopolis area, and took a lot of pictures as the sun went down.

P1040853This was the best representative of all of the pictures we took. That green slash of light to the right of the Ugly Useful Bridge is the fallover one. They like the pretty lights to go on–I think it makes it easier to find the bits when the thing finally falls into the water.

By the way, our hotel is between the two bridges, on the far side of the waterway.

 

OK–that’s enough for one night. I will continue this blog later. I’m glad I took notes because I sure didn’t get any writing done of any kind while I was there.

Part II in a couple of days!

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