Brazil Trip 1999
When we selected Brazil as our 1999 vacation destination, we were surprised to discover the size and variety of all that it offered. We selected five separate stops within Brazil and spent quite a bit of time in airplanes - but it was worth it to experience such an incredible country.
Rio de Janeiro
(10/24 - 10/27)
We started out in Rio de Janeiro, at a Sheraton on the beach just south of Ipanema. Our first day was exactly what we expected weatherwise: hot sun and blue skies. The remaining days were cloudy and cool, and even surprised us with some rain. Because of our Seattle background, this didn't stop us from enjoying and exploring the classic beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. We spent one morning touring the city and visiting the statue of Christ standing on the top of Corcovado mountain.
Our first new food experience here was coco verde (green coconut) also called coco gelado (iced coconut). They cut off the top of the coconut, give you a straw, and you drink the high-energy, healthy coconut water right from the husk. When you're done, you ask them to cut the empty coconut in half so you can eat the soft coconut meat. We tried to make coco gelado a daily habit. Our second new food experience was churrascaria, BBQ Brazilian style, with a buffet of salads, desserts and side dishes. You go up to the counter and select slices of meats from the spits (various cuts of lamb, pork, chicken and beef). Brazil is carnivore heaven!
Recife (10/27 - 10/29)
Recife is a small town in northeastern Brazil about as far east as you can go on the mainland. Our Sheraton hotel here was on the beach (Boa Viagem) as well. Fortunately our 3 1/2 hour flight put us back into the sunshine we were seeking, so the pool and beach saw a lot of our ready-to-burn flesh. We toured Recife and the neighboring town of Olinda (the old capital of Brazil). Recife is modern and industrial and Olinda is quaint and classic, with old churches, winding streets and the dolls used for the Brazilian Festivals.
Somehow we got lucky and our last night in Recife was the first night of Recife's Festival (similar to the big February carnival in Rio) called Recifolia.
Fernando de Noronha (10/29 - 11/1)
Noronha is a small island about a 1 1/2 hour flight east of Recife. We went there primarily for the scuba diving, and the opportunity to swim with the spinner dolphins. The island isn't very developed, so we stayed in a "Pousada", the Brazilian equivalent of a bed and breakfast. Warning: because of the constant warm weather, very few houses on Noronha have hot water. We discovered this when we took our first shower and turned on the cold water faucet and then couldn't find the 2nd hot water faucet. It wasn't that bad, but it did improve our shower-time efficiency.
We'd heard a lot about the scuba diving, but were a bit disappointed. There wasn't much coral and due to some recent storms, not much fish life.
The highlight of our visit to Noronha was the snorkeling trip with the spinner dolphins - you could hear them talking with their wonderful clicks and squeals long before you saw them streaking by beneath you, dozens at a time. The captain times the boat trip to coincide with the dolphins heading out from their protected bay to feed. Snorkelers quickly throw on masks, fins and snorkel and jump into the water.
Foz Do Iguacu (11/1 - 11/4)
On Monday, we jumped back on the plane and after 1 1/2 hours to Recife, then 3 1/2 hours to Sao Paolo and then a final 1 1/2 hours in the air, we ended up at Foz do Iguacu - one of the premiere waterfall (foz) sites in the world where the Iguacu and the Parana rivers come together.
The weather here was nice EXCEPT for the morning we did the boat and forest tour on the Argentina side of the river. Come to think of it, though, how classic is it to be soaking wet from the rain in a sub-tropical rain forest? The bad news is that it was too wet to take pictures. The good news is that the boat driver figured since everyone was already wet, we wouldn't mind some extra excitement. His definition of excitement was to give us a close-up view, right up into the base of the falls so that the spray took care of any dry spots left on our bodies. It was a thrill ride Walt Disney would have enjoyed. At the end of the ride, we were dropped off at the beginning of the lower forest tour path and spent the next hour walking through the beautiful forest and waterfalls sites.
We stayed at the Tropical Hotel das Cataratas, located 9 kilometers inside the waterfall park, right across from the Brazilian river path. The second day we woke up to beautiful sunshine and spent the morning seeing the falls from the Brazilian side. The difference between the two sides is the view: the Argentinian side tends to be closer to the smaller falls, while the Brazilian side is further away from the actual falls, but gives you a wonderful overall view of the falls as well as the larger falls you can't see from the Argentina side.
Sao Paolo (11/4 - 11/6)
Our final stop in Brazil was Sao Paolo and the 5 star Sheraton Hotel. In Sao Paolo, our favorite food experience was Pao de Queijo - chewy little cheese rolls, similar to popovers. We bought them at fast-food-type stands along the streets and even visited a grocery store to buy the ingredients needed to make them ourselves at home. While we were in Sao Paolo, we were fortunate to hook up with Claudia, a friend we made in Noronha, for a terrific sushi diner, gelato, and a driving tour of the city.
On Saturday, our final day, we finally had the "opportunity" to sample feijoada, Brazil's national dish - ingredients include pig's ear, tail, feet, ribs and chops as well as beef tongue, cooked for several days with black beans. It tastes better than you would think but still, we didn't go to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients for this exotic dish.
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