Thanksgiving trip to Buenos Aires

I know, I know. I am trips behind in blogging. Such is the way of the writing life when there is just too much living happening.

And I’m ok with that.

But before I lose the pictures, and more accurately the memories, I want to share about our trip to Buenos Aires for Thanksgiving of 2017. It was our first intercontinental, international South America adventure. Such easy and quick access to another country was surreal and awed us again with this blessed life we are living.

For the most part, we ate and drank our way through town–as is our usual mojo; good thing we did a ton of walking! We arrived late on Thursday night to our hotel by way of taxi. Uber is illegal in Buenos Aires, so most of our transportation was the flagging-down-type. By the end, we felt like such New Yorkers. Thursday night we hit some dive bar next to our hotel in Palermo where we bellied up next to college kids and other late-night hipsters. The food was terrible, but we had our first experience with how weighty the dollar is to the peso…wow, the best bottle of wine on the menu was under $10. It was crazy!

One of our days we spent strolling through La Recoleta Cemetery, which was hauntingly beautiful at first, then abundant in spiders (everywhere, ewww) and redundancy. It was odd to see how much money people spend on something that eventually becomes someone else’s tourist attraction. Naturally, afterward, we quenched our thirst at a nearby brewery. The sunshine was warm and the beer was cold.

On the other day, we toured open-air markets. We bought these really cool gemstone wire baskets to hold crystals. They also serve as a meditation mandala-like tool. It honestly was one of the most unique items we’ve ever seen at a market and we were glad to snatch up a few of these handiworks. Down the street from the market was the world’s most del.i.cious French bakery that I would go back to in a heartbeat.

In general, we loved Buenos Aires–though it ate up our cash (few places accept credit cards). It was a beautiful town with cobblestone streets and colonial buildings juxtaposed with street art (that Dave was constantly stopping to photograph) and urban vibes. We ate well, and late. Craft beer (!) was everywhere. And…the streets were on a grid! No spaghetti-esc scattering of streets like in Sampa. The best part was… SPANISH! It felt so good to be in a foreign country that didn’t feel so foreign. Dave and I felt right at home butchering our Spanish, and it was a small victory after so many difficulties learning Portuguese.

It is still hard to believe that our flight from “home” to Buenos Aires was the same duration as a flight from Colorado to Illinois.

This life of adventure rocks.

Here are some pics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

wonder

Tonight was a miracle.

Dave and I sat on the world famous Ipanema beach, eating acai with granola and bananas. In every echo of our ears, there were the accented voices of vendors:

Aguuuuuuuua, cervejjjjjjjja.

Queijo, queijo, queijjjjjjo coalho.

Limonada, mate, Globoooooos.

cammmmmmmarão.

Hola Heineken. Longe neckeeeees.

Later, we met up with colleagues from Caminhoes Language School to play volleyball.

There we were, covered in sol and sand,

while the setting sun painted streaks of magenta stripes across the sky,

a sly hide-and-go-seek with Pedra da Gávea,

ocean rippling lava and light.

In the north sky,

lightning danced the illuminated story

of jagged exclamation points and question marks.

In our hands were Caipis,

beneath our toes brown sugar sand,

in our hearts joy.

And then, there, in the distance,

a whale meandered through the waves,

along the coast.

Arching and dipping,

a liquid serpentine volcano.

A whale.

What is this life we are living?!

A life of wonder.

Wonder.

road trip to Guarujá

 

The middle of November brought a three-day weekend due to the Brazilian holiday of Dia da Consciência Negra. So, naturally, this little adventure-seeking-couple headed to the beach!

After less than three hours in the car, we arrived at the coastal town of Guarujá.

 

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 the scenic drive

 

It is a long stretch of beach dotted with colorful umbrellas, open-air restaurants, and hotels. We stayed in one of those where we could literally walk out the front door, across the street, and onto the beach. Perfect location!

 

 

IMG_1899

 the scenic driveIt is a long stretch of beach dotted with colorful umbrellas, open-air restaurants, and hotels. We stayed in one of those where we could literally walk out the front door, across the street, and onto the beach. Perfect location!

 

Friday night, we headed to a delicious Thai restaurant. So much so we returned there Sunday night for dinner. We ate on a quiet patio, overlooking the ocean, bathed in the subtle shifting light of sunset.

Saturday was an absolutely perfect day for the beach. Clear sky, warm sun, gentle breeze. Families played, dogs frolicked, birds squawked, and salty air renewed. We spent most of the day lounging, optimizing the chair service of food, drinks and views. We also enjoyed the tableside service of grilled cheese. No, not with bread. I’m talking Brazilian style, crispy on the outside chewy on the inside, delicious, addictive grilled queijo coalho.  Beach-walking servers come to your real estate on the sand, take your order, place the cheese sticks on their portable grill, and then whip it around in the air. It tastes like magic.

Sunday was rainy, but we still took advantage of the beach. To our surprise, there was a triathlon happening that morning right outside our hotel. We watched that for quite awhile, inspiration rising within us both.

Since we’ve come back, Dave and I look at our trip to Guarujá as a turning point. Though Ilhabela was an adventure, it wasn’t quite the beach life of Brazil we were expecting. And the brutal commute didn’t help. But this road trip was relaxing and rejuvenating. We felt more comfortable in our skin in this foreign land.

We might just be getting the hang of this expat life.

first Brazilian road trip: Ilhabela

October 12 in Brazil was a holiday, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, resulting in a four day weekend.

Seeing as we live in South America (that still feels cool to type), a trip to the coast was in order!

So Dave and I planned our first Brazilian road trip! Our destination was Ilhabela, a small island reachable by ferry from the coastal city of São Sebastião. We left São Paulo bright and early on Thursday in an attempt to beat the massive migration from the city to the beaches that occurs every holiday weekend (think I-70 in ski traffic). Armed with breakfast from our local padaria, translations for emergency cellphone-less situations (“help, our car broke down”), and gallons of bug spray (we were warned countless times about the atrocious borrachudo bites), off we went!

It was very much like a typical road trip on any highway back in the states. That is, until we got off in some raw, podunk town only to get right back on to the highway a few miles later. (Cool side trip bonus: we did pass a small religious parade that had half of the road closed down.) Just when we were prompted to do that again, we realized we had the no-toll option on Google maps: whoops!

Once we got out of the city, the drive was beautiful. Rolling hills eventually gave way to a rather aggressive winding road dropping down the mountainside to the sea. (I guess we have a little bit of Colorado here!) Just as we started that descent, we hit the traffic we had been expecting the whole way: not too bad in the scheme of things.

After about an hour-long cue for the ferry, we were on the water! We could see Ilhabela in the distance, vertical and verdant. Even though I’ve never been there, it reminded me so much of Hawaii.

On the island, we drove the one main road that runs along the Western side of the island (the developed side) to Hotel Maison Joly, where we were staying. To our left were the Atlantic-fed waters of Canal de São Sebastião. To our right were small neighborhood streets jutting up to the wild Parque Estadual de Ilhabela. All along the streets walked couples, families and other groups of people, mostly in wet swimsuits. Sunbathers lined the beaches. Runners dripped in the humidity. Dogs frolicked in the sea.

After dropping off our luggage, we visited a beach recommended by our hotel staff: Praia Portinho. Parking, as to be expected, was crazy; we barely managed to squeeze into a spot in front of the bar on the beach. Score! Plastic chairs with umbrellas shaded picnickers, and soon us. Sadly, as it’s still spring here (oh right), the water was super cold. However, we did enjoy people watching (and by people, I mean swimwear watching–what little there is of it). We explored the rocks and watched the sky. We felt small.

After a long commute capping a long week, we stopped for some pizza on the way back from the beach (the Brazilian go-to dinner…who woulda thunk it?!). Day 1 in Ilhabela in the books.

The next day, we sat on the patio of the hotel to enjoy a delicious breakfast with a sea view: fresh squeezed juices, an overeasy egg cooked in a heart-shaped hole in toast (how cute is that!), fruits, assorted breads and pastries. While finishing up, the owner of the hotel came over to chat with us. He was delightful. He suggested activities for us to do on the island, and checked in to make sure our stay was up to his standards.

Friday consisted of spending the morning at the beach: Praia Pereque. Then we explored the one road to the Southern end of the island. Because we were planning on hitting up dinner late (it doesn’t open until 8pm, oh Brazil), we napped. Good thing. The highly rated Thai restaurant on the island didn’t seat us until almost 11. (What is that?!) But the view was beautiful (the outdoor garden area and the people watching), and that curry was del.ic.ious.

The highlight of our trip came Saturday: a speed boat trip to the east side of the island. We visited three beaches: Praia Fome, Eustáquio and Castelhanos. It was amazing to ride the waves alongside birds diving into the ocean for fish. And on the open sea, we couldn’t help thinking about our friends who lived and traveled on a boat; clearly their courageous and adventurous spirits inspired us more than we realized at the time.

Here is a video of our boat-trip-slash-roller-coaster.

 

Sunday. Oh Sunday. It was a 12 hour commute to get home. It was brutal. It agitated the underlying sense of culture shock I’ve (we’ve) been feeling lately. So I’ll save that for another post.

Here are some pictures from our first Brazilian road trip!

Next up on the Team-Possum-Always-Have-A-Ticket-In-Your-Pocket-Adventure-Agenda:

1745301_1

November 2017: Guarujá and Buenos Aires

December 2017: Illinois

January 2018: Rio

February 2018: Southern Brazil road trip

March 2018: Lollapalooza and Campos do Jordão

 

 

 

 

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