1. The Hospitality from the Meija family. Wow. My friend Julia really hooked me up with some wonderful people. Never mind the fact that I met Julia only twice before, she and her family took me in like I was a lifelong friend. They fed me and provided me with places to stay in Sao Paulo, La Costa Verde, and El Salvador. They have left me with a wonderful impression of the people and communities of Brazil.
2. Dancing Forro in El Clube dos Democraticos. El Clube dos Democraticos, located in the Lapa District of Rio is a music hall institution. Founded in 1867, it upkeeps its old school dance hall atmosphere, akin to the swing halls of New York. Big bands play here from Thursday to Sunday, and feature some of the greatest forro music in the country. There’s no elitist Tango-snobs here either; and the attitude of the place is that you can ask anyone to dance. After indulging in the Friday night Lapa street party I came inside for a look at 11 pm. I met wonderful people willing to show me some forro basic steps, was mesmerized by the band, and five hours blew by fast in this historic joint.
3. Jim displaying his game at a chic Sao Paulo club. I was reunited with my childhood friend and he took me out to the swankiest club I had ever been to. Does the photo need any more description?
4. Swaying in a hammock on an Amazonian Riverboat. Traveling via a Brazilian riverboat is so much better than sitting through a bus. The food is decent, the scenery is great, and the family atmosphere can’t be beat. Having now traversed the mouth of the Amazon, I think the next venture would be a six day float down the Amazon connecting Colombia to Santarem, Brazil. Any takers?
See my blog entry for more details
5. Drinking flojes along the Amazon waterfront in Macapa. The main riverfront avenue of Macapa is a great place for hanging out at night. People come down to sit, take in the Amazon breeze, people watch, and indulge in the local favorite drink, the floje. A floje consists of blended ice, milk, sugar, passion fruit (or any other local variety), and cachaca (the cane-based national liquor of choice). Served in a mug, it looks more like a milkshake than an alcoholic beverage, and at a dollar a pop, they go down fast! With chairs and tables accompanying each floje stand, I soon found a favorite and the vendors became my first good friends from Macapa.
6. Forro in Alphorria, El Salvador. El Salvador runs at a different pace than do the cities to the south, and its music is no exception. I went to check out some live forro bands in one of the “edgier” neighborhoods of the city at a small brick-basement club called Alphorria. Both the music and the dancers were the best I have seen in all of Brazil, and the ambiance was better than any club I have ever been to. It is so good there, that by itself it’s a compelling reason to visit Salvador.
7. Taking a motor boat into Iguazu falls. Touristy and expensive, but well worth it. The falls of Iguazu are magnificent and the motor boats that take you to their base get a lot closer than I had I imagined. The driver literally butts you into the base of these falls, and the spray is so powerful that it hurts to open your eyes.
8. Kid’s Samba Party in Macapa. My new friend Any invited me to her family’s home in a small neighborhood in Macapa. It was there that I finally found the pumping, rhythmic streets of Brazil, where children would let loose in the street and dance around. I brought pizza for all of Any’s nieces and nephews, and they provided the entertainment. It was an all out toddler-dance party. We finished the gala at midnight. I was exhauseted, but even though the kids had to get up at six for school, they wanted to keep going.
9. Attending a football match in Maracana. Not only is it the largest soccer stadium in the world, but it’s probably the international center of the sport. Here Pele wowed 200,000 spectators in his last game in 1970 and in four years it will host yet another World Cup championship. I had the lucky chance of being in town for a classico, a rival game between two Rio teams, Botofogo and Fluminesce. The cheap admission was worth just the chance to get a glimpse inside the stadium, where Olympic champions are soon to be crowned.
10. First View of Rio. I am convinced that Rio is the most beautiful city in the world (although I am told that I need to see Cape Town before making that assertion), and my first jog down Copacabana Beach was just a shocker. As an outdoor lover, it has everything you could possibly want, merged into one magnificent city. I’m still in awe.