Rio de Janeiro: Part 1

The flight into Rio was amazing! If you’ve seen any photos of the Olympic stadiums, Christ Redeemer or Sugar Loaf, they’re all just as beautiful as the pictures look. Although I do have to say, getting off the plane, the hot and humid air hits you like a brick wall.

We grabbed a uber right from the airport to our Airbnb where Tomaz, our host, met us with the keys. We had some seriously good luck with our Airbnb hosts because Tomaz was awesome. His place was a block away from Copacabana Beach. It was clean, had AC (which ended up being a LIFE SAVER), and all the essentials. Because we were renting during the New Years celebration, it was more expensive than usual but he seemed to give us a far price. Here’s the link to for his Airbnb page if you’re ever looking for a good guy to rent from in Rio!

After we dropped our bags, TO THE BEACH WE WENT! A little odd being on the beach a few days before the New Years celebration but we sure weren’t complaining! But we soon came to realize just how hot and sticky our stay in Rio was going to be. We actually had to go back to our place after a few hours because of exhaustion from the strong South American sun which we weren’t used to and desperately needing water and nap.

Before we left Buenos Aires, I talked with my physio, Mariana, who is from Rio to get the scoop. Needless to say she gave us a very long list including a ton of food or drinks she wanted us to try. Of course, I’m not going to refuse good food and drinks but personally, I had two goals for Rio: 1. Sip a caipirinha out of a coconut while laying on the beach (which was a little more difficult than I thought it would be) and 2. Buy myself a nice cheeky brazilian bikini :). Both were fulfilled as you will read about later.

After our nap, we decided sushi sounded good and luckily we saw a nice place right down the street. After getting up early to go to the bird park, traveling, and the laying in the sun in the afternoon, we were exhausted. We went to sleep pretty early that night because we were going to get up early again the next morning for more touristy things.

When you think of Rio, the two most touristy places you can go are the Christ Redeemer and taking the cable cars up Sugar Loaf Mountain. Both can be tricky and very dependant on weather/cloud coverage. Luckily, we woke up the next morning to a beautiful day. We walked almost all the way down Copacabana beach, passing Copacabana Palace on the way, to the stand where you buy tickets for the Christ Redeemer. The ticket booth even had live footage of the image of statue to show you the weather conditions. We were told that sometimes you can get to the top of the mountain and see absolutely nothing because clouds will be passing or the weather will be bad. We were luck and had crystal blue skies 🙂

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Copacabana Palace

We bought tickets for a shuttle bus up and back down the mountain so we didn’t have to worry about taxi’s or the train. I had read reviews on taking the train up and although people say it’s part of the experience, we weren’t interested (the shuttles also had AC…). On the way up we saw a few people hiking or attempting to bike up the trail but oh boy did that seem hard! It’s a mountain people, think major inclines! Sometimes, even looking through the dash in the shuttle you couldn’t see the road in front of us because of how much of a slope the vehicle was on.

After sitting in some traffic (sometimes it’s only one lane to go up and down the mountain so the shuttles have to play a game of chicken) , getting dropped off and walking up quite a few stairs, we reached the statue and were greeted by hundreds of other people all trying to get the same photo (the ‘Jesus pose’). The funny part was, on the ground you would find soft mats all over the place so when whoever was taking the picture for you would lay on the ground, at least it wasn’t solid cement they were laying on. Clearly a true tourist attraction but still a must none the less.

After taking our pictures and observing the beautiful views of almost all of the beaches of Rio, we headed back down in the shuttle. Since it was such a beautiful day, we immediately ordered an Uber to take us to Sugar Loaf Mountain or Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese. Well it just so happened to be the most popular time to buy tickets so we stood inline and waited for close to 2 hours…again, part of being a tourist.

To reach the top of the mountain, 65 passengers can fit in each cable car but there are two separate cable cars you must take to reach the very top. The first ascends to the shorter peak Morro da Urca which is 722 ft above the harbor. The second ascends to Pão de Açúcar which is 1,299 ft. Even though we wanted for quite a long time to get in a cable car, in total, the ascent only takes three minutes from start to finish to reach the top of Pão de Açúcar.

We wanted to do the highest/second peak first and work our way back down so went all the way up. The view is unbelievable. You can to see the Christ Redeemer looking over all of Rio (when the clouds allow it), the gorgeous beaches and islands, and the iconic view of the different mountainside favelas and neighborhoods of Rio. There were a few trails you could take to see a 360° view and monkeys if you were luckly…we were not. No monkeys for us but beautiful pictures!

The second peak held more of the places to eat, souvenirs and a helicopter pad for those who wanted to take a 5 min helicopter ride. For breakfast, we had only eaten some bread we found at a place near the ticket booth so at this point we were starving. Even though the food was so over priced, we ended up buying a few snacks to hold us over until we got down the mountain. I got cheese bread or pao de queijo which is always delicious and Cody got a chocolate covered churro…we were not going for nutritious here. 

Heading back down in the cable car, we were literally caught in the clouds! An enormous cloud was passing through the mountain. Our timing for both monuments was perfect! 

After coming down from the mountain, we were walking distance from a bar I had seen on the Food Network. I’m a sucker for food/travel shows so I tend to watch a lot of Anthony Bourdain, Chef’s Table, or Andrew Zimmern. Anyways, Bar Urca was on one of those episodes as a great locals bar with a gorgeous view sitting on the sea wall. After a 25 min walk, we found that it was indeed packed with locals. We were lucky enough to get a table in the inside/upstairs section which is very hard to do. We enjoyed a couple of drinks, some empanadas and a little rest time for our legs. Satisfied and a little tipsy from the caipirinhas, we walked along the sea wall with the locals and caught an uber to go back to Copacabana.

After a little shopping around the beach, dinner was the next thing on our minds. Since we were in the mood for A LOT of food, there was a churrista in Ipanema that sounded delicious. We walked there and were not disappointed. Delicious, delicious, delicious. Since we were staying right in front of a pacified favela, we had to be careful of where we walked but as a group, we were ok. Since tomorrow was going to be a long night, we ended up heading home after dinner very satisfied.

The New Years celebrations in Rio deserve a whole post to itself so I’ll stop here. Our New Years shenanigans next!
xo,
B

Cataratas del Iguazú: The Argentinian Side

Declared one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in the World by Mankind Natural Heritage (site), the Iguazu Cataratas (waterfalls) do not disappoint.

Imagine walking through Jurassic Park, not the theme park with plastic sculptures and specifically planted trees and vines, imagine what it would have been like if you were actually there. A picturesque scene of over 2,000 species of plants, 400 of birds and 70 mammals flying and crawling everywhere you look. Now imagine you turn on one of those white noise machines people use to fall asleep in the comfort of their own homes. Turn it to the “waterfall” setting and listen to the soothing sound of water washing over rock. Beautiful image right? Forget it because that doesn’t even come close describing how beautiful and utterly breath-taking this park was.

Like all natural wonders that can’t be explained, there’s a legend that tells the tale. The legend of the waterfalls goes: A deity planned to marry a woman and a man but the woman fled down the Iguazu River in a canoe escaping the marriage. “In rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall” (site).

Planning our trip, I knew I wanted to see the falls from both the Argentinian side, the adventurous side, and the Brazilian side, the panoramic/scenic side. So we flew into Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR), got picked up by your Airbnb host, Erik, who was very knowledgeable about the town of Puerta Iguazu, the activities at the falls, other things to do in the town and good places to go eat. He was also more than willing to drive us anywhere we wanted to go at the same price as the buses or usual transit. Him and his brother have a ‘taxi service’ along with the Airbnb business which was very useful. We didn’t have to worry about where to find a bus or how much it would be, Erik calculated it all for us. One small caveat being that the power tends to go out for the whole town but usually comes back on quickly. It only went out on us twice and came back on in a matter of 10 mins…if the falls were to give power to the town, it would never go out! I don’t think they’re there yet…But if anyone is looking to go to Puerta Iguazu and wants to stay in an Airbnb, I would definitely suggest Erik.

We woke up relatively early to get to the park before the crowds. At the time of writing this blog post, the entry into the park is 330 ARG which is about $20 USD, not bad to see a new Natural Wonder of the World. There are three trails to hike and we wanted to do all of them. Erik told us the upper trail evolves the most sun so to do that in the morning would be a good idea. We waited in line for about 30 mins to get a tram that took us to the start of the upper trail, essentially a narrow two-way walking bridge over water that was about to plummet 2,000+ ft. down, we were on top of the falls. Walking on the tiny bridge, watching people trek back soaking wet with that feeling of pending doom ahead is when I truly felt like I was in Jurassic Park. At the end of the upper trail is Garganta del Diablo or The Devil’s Throat. It is a U-shaped waterfall 269 ft × 492 ft × 2,297 ft, which is absolutely massive. It’s by far the biggest and most powerful waterfall in the park and when you look over the edge and see water crashing down, you see where the name comes from. Standing on the ledge of the biggest waterfall in the world, we were soaked from the mist of tons of water crashing down into the invisible basin but we didn’t want to move. It was one of those places where you just have to stop and take it all in, there’s no way to describe it that would do it any justice. We were on top of the world, it was unreal.

After trekking back like soaked bunnies hoping to dry out in the sun, we began the hike to the middle trail. But before starting we ran into some not-so-friendly coatis. To preface this explanation of what coatis are, let me tell you the road signs we saw while driving to the park. Because the falls are the main attraction in the town of Puerta Iguazu, there’s only one way to get to them with one looong road. Along this road, like most roads around the world, there are warning signs of the different creatures to be aware of incase you come across them. The animal signs I’m used to are more often than not deer signs…but not in Puerta Iguazu, coati and puma signs. Yes I said puma but don’t worry, they had “don’t feed the puma” signs just in case people were really that stupid…The other warning signs were for animals called coatis which are one of the largest rodents in the world. The best way to describe them are raccoons with anteater noses and they are not afraid of you at all. We watched one climb onto a table and steal a woman’s pizza sitting on a plate right in front of her! They are vicious little animals with no hesitations about stealing anything from pizza to your camera. So along with the ‘don’t feed the puma’ signs, there were also ‘protect your belongs from coatis’ and ‘don’t pet or feed the coatis’ signs. Other than avoiding them, the middle trail was beautiful. We were essentially walking along the ledge of all of the other falls of the park.

Absolutely stunning views.

Finally we went through the lower route to finish out the park. Of course there were a ton of people everywhere we went but that’s part of being a tourist. You fight the crowds to get that one picture that ends of having someone else’s hand, elbow or head in it but you’re happy anyways because you know that’s probably the best you’re going to get. All in all, the Argentinian park was amazing, spending time there you start to realize how wonderfully untouched and beautiful nature can be.

We got back to our Airbnb early afternoon so the next thing on our list was the hummingbird park in town. If you don’t know this about me, I love hummingbirds. Whenever I get the chance to see one or be around them I’m all in favor. We found this tiny entrance to a small garden filled with brightly colored feeders, flowers, and a pond with a turtle. I have so many pictures but here are a few so you get the point:

After the garden, Cody and I walked to see Tres Borders which is the intersection between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. In the picture below, we’re standing on Argentina, to the left is Paraguay and to the right is Brazil.

A day filled with hiking and walking always calls for good wine, apps, and a big ol’ pizza. We ate at a very good Italian place in town, walked home and got ready to wake up early to cross the border into Brazil!

The adventures continue…

xo,

B

Holiday Plans & Matadors

Here are a couple of fun pictures from previous events 🙂

As I’m writing this, it’s currently 39° F at home and 92° F in Buenos Aires. With that being said…

Cody and I booked our tickets for our Christmas/New Years Adventure! I am so beyond excited! Not only will we be spending the “winter (our summer) break” on the beach, we’re going to Iguazu Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and spending New Years on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! 🙂 WHHHAT?!

So excited!!!!

If anyone has any suggestions of things so do I’m all ears!

We will fly into Iguazu Falls and go to both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side. The Argentinian side is more adventurous whereas the Brazilian side has the better view, so we will do both!

We’ll fly out from the Brazilian side and head to Rio de Janeiro! The Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf mountain are obviously on the list of things to do while we’re there as well as the AMAZING fireworks show that will happen on New Years Eve! It’s suppose to be one of the best firework shows IN THE WORLD! We’re stay a few blocks from Copacabana beach where all the action happens. 2 million people go to this beach to celebrate…it’s going to be a hell-of-a party!

Other things on the list of things to do, suggestions are welcome:

  1. Have a caipirinha, in a coconut, on the beach (this has been a life long dream. I kid you not)
  2. Feria Hippie de Ipanema – a hippie market that only happens on Sundays
  3. The Copacabana Fortress and Palace (two different places)
  4. Pedra do Arpoador for a sunset
  5. Possibly the Carioca Aqueduct & Escadaria Selaron which are a little farther away from the beach
  6. and maybe a tour of a favela

As well as spend as much time on the beach as we can! I know there are a lot of safety concerns when it comes to Rio. I’ve talked with a few people who have told me be street smart. If you feel like you’re in the wrong area, you probably are.

The Christmas situation here is definitely different from what I’m used to! The other night a few of us went walking through La Boca (where the famous soccer stadium is), San Telmo and Puerta Madero to finally sit down and share a drink by the water. In San Telmo there was a massive parade supporting many of the South American countries. There were lots of drums, lots of noise, lots of feathers, in as little clothing as possible with lots of booty shaking! The streets were packed with people watching and cheering their favorite country. We continued walking to Puerta Madero which is where I saw my first glimpse of Christmas this year! There were lights strung on lamp posts in the shape of candy canes, lights wrapped around ships in the water, and a large lighted Christmas tree. It was a little odd walking by in shorts and a tank top with Christmas music playing at a concert near by…but again, I’m not complaining 😉 The lights were absolutely beautiful.

Sunday morning I woke up and thought I was going to go walk around San Telmo market again just because I could. But another idea popped into my head, I wanted to go to the Feria de Mataderos which is pretty far out of the center of the city. It’s a market celebrating the traditional gaucho (Argentinian cowboy) ways and traditions.

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I walked 45 mins to the train station and took a 30 min train ride and a 20 min uber to get to the Feria. Once I was there it was really cool! Like most markets, there were hundreds of stands set up but this one had a stage in the middle. As soon as I got there I heard the music and singing. Come to find out, on December 6th (in two days) they were celebrating 30 years of the Matadors. There were lots of traditional instruments playing, singing and tango dancing. It was quite the show!

I walked around munching on an empanada looking at all of the trinkets and food available and finally decided to get a tamale and oh boy was it good! I remember having tamales growing up when my mom would make them and I thought they were the coolest thing. You had to unwrap the corn husk and the texture and taste of the corn meal was always so tasty to me, needless to say, these were very delicious. I also had some type of sweet puff pastry with jam or jelly on the inside. I don’t know what it was but it was sugary and I liked it!

I spent a few hours walking and enjoying everything before heading back home. Another successful Sunday spent at a market 🙂

Since I can’t show many training photos, here are a few photos of us attempting to get stronger….maybe, you decide.

xo,

B

Walking Experiences

Wow!

What an amazing cast and crew we have working here and we’ve only just finished the second week! Apart from being probably the most sore I’ve ever been in my life for the first week, it was an awesome couple of weeks! It’s a lot to adjust to for everyone so it’s not only a physical change but mental too. But it’s hard to do anything but smile when this is the view from my apartment 🙂

Just like in Montreal, training and anything having to do with the show/acts/characters ect. is TOP SECRET so there’s not much I can tell you from that aspect of things other than it’s going to be “historic”!

As far as Buenos Aires goes, I’m trying to see as much as I can. The first weekend was a walking adventure! Noon on Saturday I headed to the Floralis Genérica which is a massive metal flower that opens and closes with the sun everyday. Each petal ways around a ton and the whole structure glows with different colors at night, it’s an icon for BA.

I ended up meeting 2 of the other girls from the cast and walked over to Plaza Francia which is fun open air market with little trinkets, clothes, jewelery, etc. As we walked through the market, we were also on our way to the Recoleta cemetery. It seems odd a cemetery is a “must-see” place in BA but it really is an interesting spot. It looked like a small city that no one occupys…odd but beautiful at the same time. This wasn’t your typical cemetery, the tomb stones weren’t just headstones in the Earth, they are beautiful structures with massive sculptures of angels and figures, the craftsmanship is amazing. Definitely an interesting part of the BA experience.

Earlier in the week I had seen a sign for a “Festival of Meat” on the weekend so we decided that was our lunch spot. We took a cab to the horserace stadium in Palermo. Similar to Preakness in the sense that the infield was full of food trucks, music and lots of people. I got a meat-filled empanada (yum), some papas bravas (different from Spain’s), and of course ice cream :). The ice cream was vanilla with a dulce de leche swirl and it was so hot outside, it started melting down my hand immediately. No ice cream wasted here, it was delicious to the last drop!

We left the festival full and ready to walk some of those calories off. We walked for about 25 mins into Palermo which is the young and trendy neighborhood where most of the bars, restaurants and clubs are. The girls wanted to do some shopping. I had already brought 2 suitcases too many so I restrained myself on the ‘buying part’ of the shopping experience but it was nice to look around and see the fashion differences in South America. Platform sandals and shoes are ALL the rage here.

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We met up with a couple from BA who are also part of the cast! They were driving back into the city and they stopped to meet us in a square in Palermo. We walked for a bit and then had “tea time”. Since there is a lot of European influence in BA, their days are structured a little differently than I’m used to. Everything starts later, it’s almost like a delay in the day. I’m not sure when most people eat breakfast but I’ve seen people eating what looks like lunch at around 3-4pm, tea time (essentially snack time) around 7-8pm, and dinner at 11-12pm at night! Grandparents and children are eating then as well! Just something to get used to I guess. We shared a pitcher of lemonade with a snack on the terrace of a funky place and enjoyed the company.

Since I had been walking all day, it was hot out, and my legs were feeling pretty exhausted, I got home and spent the night in my room falling asleep to Netflix, crazy Saturday night, I know.

Sunday was a little less eventful but relaxing and just what I needed. I spent the whole day at the apartment’s pool with some of the cast and crew who had the same idea, it was much-needed. I went on a little adventure to find a nicer grocery store farther away than usual later in the day but other than that, I was preparing for the second week of training!! It’s hard not to be excited when you start seeing billboards for the show 🙂

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xo,

B

Welcome to Buenos Aires

It’s official! I have left the US of A on an adventure with the circus! First stop, Buenos Aires, Argentina! I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my life to have been able to go to a lot major cities around the States and some of Europe but none compare to the massiveness of Buenos Aires, 15.3 million people work and live in the city. I look out the window of my apartment and see an endless horizon of skyscrapers, buildings, and houses, it’s a beautiful city. It reminds me a little of Baltimore with the “port style” city but then a little of Ocean City, MD because of the way most of the taller buildings have balconies, it has its own vibe.

The first few days have been a whirlwind! So many new people, so much information, new country, new language, new currency, new apartment, new everything! Which is very exciting but some what nerve-racking at times. The first day I went to the ATM to try to get cash out and didn’t know what the machine was telling me because it’s all in Spanish…I will learn Spanish very quickly whether I like it or not. I have started my Rosetta Stone again and Duolingo to try to learn as quickly as I can. Just from being here for a week now, a lot of my high school Spanish has come back to me which is helpful. You never know what information your brain stores until you need it.

We are so fortunate to have a very nice apartment building in the city. I have my own room with a bathroom, small kitchenette and a bed, all the essentials! Although, I have come to the conclusion I have brought WAYYY too much stuff. 4 suitcases is too many but I’m the type of person that would rather have more than less to start so I will be sending definitely one full suitcase home, hopefully two.

After a few days of settling in, we had our first group meeting so we could meet everyone and get to know the people who we will be on tour with for the next year and a half! So far there are 2 other people from the States but other than that we are a very international cast which is really cool! Everyone has their own story of how they came to be in this crazy circus of ours.

I don’t know if anyone else uses the “save” option on Google Maps but I use it all the time, I love it. You put in a place you want to go and you save it so you can go back to it without searching. Well my google maps looks like Buenos Aires is a galaxy. I have so many places stared to visit and I’ve even checked a  few of them off! Here are a few of my wanderings so far (If you run your mouse over the photo or click on it, it should have a caption):

That’s all for now!

xo,

B

City Guides

On the EF College Breaks site, there is a tab called City Guides in the upper right hand corner. If you click on the page it will bring you to a map (pictured below) where you can click on the continent you are interested in finding more information about, then click on the part of the country, and finally click on the city you wish to explore. This will give you a complete guide to any city EF College Breaks offers a tour.

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Also, on my blog under the tab ‘Oh the Places we’ll Go”, I have posted our detailed itinerary. So my next posts are going to be going through our itinerary city by city in tandem with the city guides to research the places we are scheduled to go as well as discovering more! I would love to get more suggestions or opinions in each city! Of course we are excited to go to the major tourist attractions listed but we also love the  not-so-touristy places to get the authentic experience of each country and city! My next post will start with London 🙂