Sunday, August 4, 2013

Campinas and Hollambra, Brazil

I went to visit a good friend who lives in Campinas, Brazil. It's about 1.5 hours away from Sao Paolo and I don't think it's a big tourist attraction but to live and work, it was a really nice city.

 Typical grocery store
Capybaras...the world's largest rodent, but so freaking cute!

In Campinas, there is a huge lagoon called Parque Portugal. We walked around the lagoon, but unfortunately the swan paddle boats were closed for the day. Instead, we took the train!

We also took a day trip to a little town called Holambra, a town founded by Dutch people (Holland and Brazil = Holambra). There's not tons to do there except walk around, have a beer and lunch but it was really fun.

Carneval in Rio!

Last February I went to visit a friend in Brazil who had a friend in Rio whose couch we could crash on during Carneval. There is so much travel info out there about Rio and Carneval but I just wanted to share a few tips I didn't know before the trip.

Don't go to the Sambadrome to see Carneval.....only rich Brazilians and foreigners do this. You will sit in a packed stadium for hours each night (they give each dance troupe an hour to parade about 100 feet down the middle).

Instead, the rest of Rio goes to block parties called "blocos". You can bring your own beer from the grocery store and watch as they parade by (or I assume you could jump right in). There are also huge "themed" blocos which can attract thousands of people. We went to a "Beatles" themed one.

While I always felt safe, females should be careful. I got "grabbed" by a guy who was in a group. It was more startling that anything but the police have there hands full during Carneval so you can't count on them.

We did the normal Rio things like Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. But since our friend lived there, she took us on some not so touristy places like the Noss Sra da Penha Church (which is the highest church in Rio and you will see it from the plane) but I don't think too many tourists climb the 365 stairs to the top.

At the mid-way point there is an excellent outdoor cafe to grab a beer on the way down.

We also walked through the Villa Cruziero favela. I would not have done this on my own but both girls I was with live there and speak Portuguese. This was not one of the horrific seemed more like just a run down neighborhood than anything. We did get some looks but I think more because I think everyone there knows everyone else and it's not a tourist destination.

Our friend lives in the Lagoa area which I recommend seeing. It's dominated by..wait for it...a huge lagoon in the center with restaurants and shops all around.

I have no idea how to get there (we took a bus) but I loved the Barra neighborhood. It felt kind of like Miami Beach but without all the millions of tourists. Our friend said the only tourism there really is from surfers.

Most people who go to Rio will visit Sugar Loaf mountain. I highly recommend this but if you are traveling cheap or just want bragging rights, there is a trail you can climb up and then take the gondola down for free. (It's about $25 to go up but free to go down). You have to go down by the port/military base at the bottom and you will see off to your left a trail (follow all the young people). It is paved but shortly you will veer off it to your left to a dirt trail.

It's not an easy climb but we saw tons of people doing it (including an American lady who was bringing her newborn up in a carrier). Considering there is a possibility of falling (you are climbing up the side of a mountain) I would not recommend this for older people or those not in good shape.

If you do it, you may see monkeys like we did. Eventually you will come out to the main (middle) plateau. This is where the restaurants and shops (including a Havaianas flip flop store).