Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bossa Nova Bike

Ivan and I went out for lunch at the Restaurante Natural Beterraba again.  It was good food again.  Lil Dave went to explore Rio on his own.

Ivan and I walked to the beach where we rented a pedal bike.  It cost R$40 for an hour.  We biked down most of Copacabana Beach and then back to the rental place.  It was really hot and humid out. 

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We were thinking of heading to the beach, but it was too hot to stay outside. 

Ivan thought we should take a siesta (nap), so we headed back to the apartment.  It’s so convenient having the apartment so close to the beach.  Ivan and I took a long 2 1/2 hour nap. 

We showered and got ready.  We grabbed a taxi and went to Rio Scenarium in the center of Rio.  We were too early since it doesn’t open until 8 pm.  Ivan read that the line to get in can be really long.

This street has great colorful buildings with balconies that remind me of New Orleans.

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We got a great watermelon caipirinha at Mangue Seco while we waited along with a lot of other people who were also waiting.

Right before 8 pm, we joined the line and were second in line to go in.  It was $25 USD per person for entrance since it was New Year’s Day.  Ivan and I stepped in Rio Scenarium and were welcomed by fridge doors on the wall and a bike hanging from the ceiling. 

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I knew that this would be a cool place.  I was definitely right since the restaurant has lots of cool antiques all around the 3 floors. 

We had great seats next to the band.  Ivan I ordered dinner and then we went to check out the second floor with all the great stuff on the walls and display cases.

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Marcia Guedes were playing some great bossa nova music. 

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The dance floor was getting filled up with lots of people dancing.  Ivan thought it would be lots of tourists, but the Brazilians were singing along to a few of the songs.

Ivan and I shared cod balls and a shrimp in a pastry for a starter.  For our main course, we shared spaghetti with shrimps in a pesto sauce.  We enjoyed our dinner with a tasty passion fruit caipirinha.

We ordered a brownie which took forever to arrive.  I think the waiter forgot about it until we reminded him 40 minutes later.  I thought it was cheeky when he told us about his tip… especially when we found out later that the service charge is already added on the bill.

The second band Dhy Ribeiro came on later and they were a lot funkier.  Not many people were dancing since I don’t think anybody could figure out how to dance to it.  They sounded good though.

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Before we left, we went to look around the 3rd floor. I could spend a very long time exploring this great restaurant.

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New Year’s Eve

I woke up at 11 am on December 31, 2012.  Ivan and Lil Dave were already awake.  We had the free breakfast.  Lil Dave went to meet up with his cousin for the monkey New Years party later tonight.

Elizabeth walked us to a laundry place, but it was $16 USD for our load and would take 2 days to do – that’s way too expensive and it usually only takes a day, but I guess they’re closed on New Years day.  Elizabeth said we could just wash it at the apartment.

Elizabeth also helped me get medicine since I keep coughing up mucus.  She’s so very nice.

Ivan and I walked along the beach.  We went back to the apartment and put the laundry in the washer. 

At 3 pm, we walked back to Copacabana Beach. 

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We each got a caipirinha and started walking on the beach.  After finishing our drink, we went in the water which was really cold.  The waves were really strong and knocking us over, so we sat down on the beach and relaxed. 

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We’ve been thinking about what to do for New Year’s Eve lately.  A party at Copabana Fort with apl.de.ap of The Black Eyes is $500 USD with a dinner buffet and open bar all night.  There’s parties on the beach that are $100 or more.  It’s just way too much to spend for one night.  We decided to just go to the beach, watch the fireworks and see what’s going on afterwards. 

Ivan and I went back to the apartment to get ready.  We wanted to go to the Chinese restaurant, but it was closed.  We were thinking of an Italian place nearby, but there was a wait.  We ended up at New Tokyo Sushi Bar

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Ivan and I shared a tasty sashimi salad for an appetizer.  We had strong cold sake with our grilled fish and grilled salmon dishes.  It was a wonderful meal.

Afterwards we made our way to the beach and after grabbing a few caprihinas, we found our space to watch the fireworks. It wasn’t even half as busy as we thought it would be – probably because even though there was something like 2 million people there, Copacabana Beach is really long and quite wide at some points, so everyone is well spread out.

The fireworks started a few minutes early – and unfortunately there was no countdown, but they were really amazing to watch.

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Lasted about 20 minutes! After the fireworks we suddenly found ourselves swallowed up in a passing samba band……and we just let the beat take control with us, and we ended up dancing for about 1.5 hours while walking all the way down Ipanema Beach! It was a lot of fun. The band were all wearing traffic cones on their heads, and there were tons of people dancing with them as we all walked along.  I took an umbrella from a guy and started dancing with it. 

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It was a really fun night!

We went back to the apartment at 2:15 am.

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Chinese Graffiti

On December 30, 2012, we had the free breakfast at the apartment. 

Ivan’s dong a half marathon soon, so he decided to go running.  He came back awhile later and ran some, but it was too hot and humid to do the full length he wanted to do.

Later on, we went to Feira Hippie de Ipanema which is the Hippie Market of Ipanema which occurs on Sundays.  I bought a few souvenirs.

Ivan and I shared an acai (the superfood that is from the Brazilian Amazon) with bananas and granola at Amazônia Soul. 

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It was cold and tasty.

We got a taxi to Parque Lage. 

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I noticed a cool sign outside of the café.  Ivan wanted to check out their café. 

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There was interesting art inside.

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Ivan found a great self guided graffiti tour which is around the area of Parque Lage and Jardim Botanico (Botanic Gardens). 

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We walked around for awhile checking out the cool graffiti and street art.

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If you want to see all the graffiti we saw, go here.

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Ivan and I jumped into a taxi and headed back to Copacabana Beach.  Ivan and I each had a caiprinha for R$6 each which was cheaper than the one we had on Ipanema Beach. 

We walked back to the apartment and used the internet.  I also worked on the blog.

The natural buffet place was already closed.  Ivan found a Chinese restaurant called Chon Kou.  Lil Dave got the mu shu banana.  Ivan and I got a bean curd for a starter which had a great sauce.  Then, we shared a fish in a hot sauce and a fish with mushrooms and onions.  It was a really tasty meal.

Ivan and I watched the movie Turistas before going to bed. 

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Copacabana Bars

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up at 9:45 am on December 29, 2012.  We had the free breakfast and chatted with Mauricio and Stuart. 

It was great staying at their lovely home Casa Verde with the friendly Mauricio and Stuart and their cute dogs. 

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The only downside is that the location is far from the beach.  It’s a 45 minute drive by bus (plus wait time for the bus) to the beach.  We said good-bye to Mauricio and Stuart.

We waited a few minutes for the bus to Copacabana.  It was another hot day out.  I fell asleep on the bus even though it was hot and humid.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I arrived at the new apartment at 1:20 pm.  The apartment is in a great location – about a block away from Copacabana Beach.  We met Elizabeth and her husband who were really nice.  Ivan asked about restaurants nearby and she told us about a few per kilo buffet places.  She mentioned a natural one and Ivan said yes that sounds good.  He asked where it was and she said she could show us.

About 15 minutes later, we left the apartment with Elizabeth to Restaurante Natural Beterraba.  Ivan and I picked food from the buffet selection which did have chicken, salmon and lots of vegetarian foods.  It’s priced R$3.49 per kilogram.  We filled up our plates and then sat down to eat.  The food was pretty good.

We back to the apartment and used the internet. 

At 4:45 pm, we walked to Copacabana Beach.  It was now overcast and not as humid.  The tide went out far onto the beach, so we got wet.. some areas my shorts would get wet.  The water was really cold since the sun had gone in. 

We walked for a long time.  Loud music was playing from a big stage, but then it stopped when we came closer to it.  Near the stage, we saw HUGE waves that would break by the beach.  The waves could really knock you out. 

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Ivan noticed sand art with Santa Claus and girls in bikinis.  It was really quite good.

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We walked further and saw more sand art.  Then, we started walking back to the apartment.

Ivan nipped out to grab sorbet popsicles at Delicias do Cerrado across the street – we had these passion fruit popsicles at the bird park and thought they were delicious.  Ivan got two banana popsicles for him and Lil Dave and an avocado one for me.  They have a big selection of fruit popsicles.  I want to try mango next.

Ivan and I took showers before heading out at 7:15 pm.

We walked to General Osorio’s Square which is outside General Osorio Metro Station for the Rio Walks’ Bar to Bar tour.  We met our tour guide Beatrice and the two older Brazilian ladies who were also doing the tour.  There was supposed to be 7 Spanish people joining us, but they never showed up.  It was nice that it was only four of us since it feels like a personalized tour.

Beatrice was going to take us around bars in the South Zone of Rio.

Our first stop was at the bar Belmonte.  Beatrice recommended the empada which is a pie, sounds similar to en empanada but it’s not even close to one.  Ivan and I got a camarao (shrimp) fechada empada and a bacalhau (cod) aberta empada.  The cod empada looked more like a fish ball. 

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The shrimp empada was my favorite which looked like a muffin, but they both tasted good.  Ivan and I also shared a strawberry caipirinha.  Caipirinha is the Brazilian cocktail made from sugar, rum and lime.  The caiprinha was strong and had lots of strawberries in it. 

We started walking by the beach.  Bea told us that there are certain posts (areas) on Ipanema Beach where different personalities hang out.  Post 9 is where the young hip crowd hangs out.  Between Posts 8 and 9 is the gay spot and Post 10 is for the wealthy people.  Post 11 is where you go to see celebrities and Post 12 is where families with young kids hang out.  Find out more about the posts here.

Beatrice told us how one part of Brazil didn’t want to become independent from Portuguese rule.  One man helped Brazil become independent by playing the trumpet to cheer on the soldiers to keep fighting.  We saw the statue of this man in the street.

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The group went to Garota de Impanema bar which means Girl of Impanema.  The Girl of Impanema lived down the street from this bar.  The song was written at this bar.  Beatrice was planning on taking us here, but it was so busy at the bar that there weren’t any seats available  She told us that the shrimps with marinara and herbs and the crab served in a shell were great dishes at this bar.

Ivan wanted to find a place for espresso.  We went into one café, but it was already closed.  Beatrice knew of a place, so we walked on.

Bea told us that the best ice cream place was Italia.  Ivan thought we should stop and get some.  Ivan and I shared a delicious Belgian chocolate ice cream in a cup.

It was off to our next bar at the bar Devassa.  Devassa means naughty girl.  Devassa is known for the beer that they brew. 

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Ivan and I ordered a caipirante (a special caipirinha) which was supposed to have strawberries, bananas and a touch of cinnamon.. but it came with bananas and mangoes instead.  We also shared the casquinha de siri which is like the crab in Garota de Impanema bar, but it’s not served in a shell. 

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The crab was really tasty.  It came with farofa which is toasted manioc flour mixture.  I thought the farofa tasted like what I think sawdust would taste like – not good at all.  We also drank an espresso to wake up a bit.

The group started walking to the Leblon neighorhood which is the wealthiest neighborhood in Rio. 

I asked Beatrice why people wore white for New Year’s Eve. She said that white means peace. People wear the clothing to represent what they want in the New Year. Pink and Red means you want love and Yellow means you want money. Lingerie stores like Loungerie sell packages that include underwear for what you want in the new year like all red or pink lingerie.

The next bar was Bracarense which was voted the best bar in Brazil in 2001.  I’m not really sure why it won since it wasn’t anything special.  The bar is known for the draft beer which is Brahma.  Ivan and I each got a beer – mine was mini sized. 

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Ivan and I shared a cod ball and enjoyed it with the bar’s own pepper sauce.  The sauce was a little spicy.

The group walked to Jobi Bar which is a bar that’s open very late til 5 am.  It’s a bar where lots of people flirt.  It wasn’t anything special and Ivan and I shared a beer.

The next bar was Chico & Alaíde

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Ivan and I shared a tasty passion fruit caipirinha here.

Our last bar was Hipódromo which is located in Gávea.  Ivan and I decided just to get a sparkling water. 

This walking bar tour was fantastic.  Beatrice is so friendly and she’s always smiling.  I highly recommend taking this tour to try some new foods and check out the bars in Rio.  The bars weren’t the fanciest bars, but it’s nice to see the bar culture, try the caipirinha and beer and learn some Rio history.

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Favela Tour

Ivan and I left the house at 1 pm on December 28, 2012.  Lil Dave went to meet up with his long lost monkey cousin who’s a gangster – he’s going to show him around his favela. 

Ivan and I grabbed some snacks at the Hotel Marina Palace.  We were picked up for the Favela Tour at 2 pm.  Our guide was a man named Everaldo.  The bus was filled with English, American and Dutch people. 

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The first favela we went to was Rochina (pronounced ho-sin-ya).  This is Rio’s largest favela with a population of 250,000 people.  It has the good and the bad with the most expensive street in a Rio favela and poor sewage which means unsanitary conditions where lots of people get tuberculosis.  Everaldo introduced us to some of the artists and shops owners in the favela. 

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There was a great view of the Rio from this spot.  We had ten minutes to browse the shops.

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The group went back on the van and went to a house in the favela.  On the balcony, we had a great view of the colorful buildings of Rochina which is situated in the hillside. 

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The group piled back on the van.  Everaldo knew a lot about the favelas.  There are 950 favelas in Rio.  20% of the population in Rio de Janeiro live there – not all the residents are poor with doctors and lawyers living here.  Communities are formed in the favelas to build associations to get services like sewer, garbage disposal, water and electricity.  That’s why you see lots of trash on the streets.  There are gangs and drugs in the favela, but for the most part the favelas are a safer place to live probably since there’s no police here.  Police visit once a year and they will announce the time and date of their visit.  I still noticed two policemen who patrol the area with big machine guns. 

Our next stop was Para Ti community school.  A percentage of the money raised from the Favela Tour is donated to this school.  We didn’t get to see any students since it’s Christmas break.  Kids ages 5 to 15 attend this school.  From the second floor, we saw a nice view of the Villa Canoas favela which was the next place the group was headed to.

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The group got back in the van and we drove to Villa Canoas.  We stopped at a bar where we could buy drinks or a caipirinha.  Everaldo asked that we don’t take any pictures for privacy reasons since we were walking right in the alleys of the homes.  This favela is a lot smaller with 2,500 residents. We walked through the narrow alleyways.  Villa Canoas is a lot nicer than Rochina with a better sewage system. 

Everaldo told us that in the 1800’s, 20,000 veteran soldiers were brought back from a war against the Canudos and had no place to live.  They decided to build houses in the hillside.  Somebody found favela beans in the hills and that’s how the name was coined.  Although, I was looking at favela on Wikipedia and it says differently.. it says that it had to do with Canudos’s Favela Hill — a name referring to favela, a skin-irritating tree in the spurge family indigenous to Bahia.

The Favela Tour was great to learn more about the favelas and actually be able to walk around two of the them.

Afterwards, everybody was taken back to their hotel.  We got dropped off at Ipanema beach and we walked to a square. 

Ivan and I went to a grocery store and picked up toothpaste and razors.  I got some lozenges for my sore throat at a pharamacy.

Ivan was hungry since we didn’t have a proper lunch, so we stopped at Koni Store for a snack.  Ivan and I shared a shrimp yakisoba and a salmon sushi.

We wanted to try a caipirinha, so we walked to the beach and found a stall selling the drink for R$10.  Ivan and I each got one and sat on plastic chairs on the beach. 

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My caipirinha was salty and sweet at first, but then the salty flavor went away.  It was quite strong and tasty.

Ivan and I got the 354 bus back to the house and we arrived shortly before 8:30 pm.

Later that night, we went to the Italian restaurant Cozzi Restaurante for dinner.  It’s a mile away from the house.  Ivan and I shared a white fish with shrimp on top and a penne with shrimp and a great arrabiata sauce.  The dishes were pricey (about $20 USD each), but they were a decent portion and tasted great.

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Rio Birds

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up at 9 am on December 27, 2012.  The power went out in the hostel.  Ivan went to get the free breakfast of cereal.  I went back to sleep. 

We took showers and then packed everything up.

A guy at Hostel Inn told Ivan that we should cross the street and wait for the bus headed to Iguazú Falls on the Brazilian side. 

We walked across the street to wait for the bus.  Two girls were waiting as well.  A taxi driver stopped and asked if we wanted to go in the taxi for the same price as the bus.  Ivan went over and said that was good.  So, we started going, but Ivan recognized the sign that we saw yesterday.  We were actually heading to the Iguazú Falls on the Argentina side.  The guy at the hostel gave Ivan the wrong information.   The driver took the two American girls to the Falls.  He told us that it would be 200 pesos to the Brazilian side.  To get there by bus, it would cost 160 pesos and we would have to transfer twice.  Ivan thought we should avoid the hassle and take the taxi.

The taxi took us to the Argentina Immigration where we didn’t even have to get out.  Our passports were stamped and off we went to the Brazilian Immigration. 

We got out of the car.  Ivan and I had to fill out forms.  The Immigration guy looked at my Brazilian visa and I got a stamp and our entry/exit form was stamped as well.  You have to keep the exit form and give it to Immigration when you exit.

It was great that both Immigration didn’t have a wait and it was very simple.

The taxi arrived at the Iguazú Falls entrance and we noticed two long lines.  Ivan put down his stuff and went in search of an ATM.  Ivan found out that the two lines are for buying tickets and one for waiting for the bus that takes you to the falls. 

We placed our bags in two lockers at the Iguazú Falls entrance.  Ivan and I thought we should try the falls later if the line was A LOT shorter.

We walked across the street to the bird park Parque Das Aves.  Ivan asked the lady at the entrance if the restaurant in the park was better than the restaurant across the street.  She said yes.  In Brazil, most people speak Portuguese.

The menu didn’t have many vegetarian or fish items.  Ivan and I ordered fish croquettes to share and an egg and cheese sandwich for each of us.  Lil Dave got a banana and peanut butter sandwich. 

Ivan read that people spend 3 to 4 hours at the bird park. 

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We spent 50 minutes walking around and saw many types of birds, a few snakes, crocodiles, turtles, flamingos and a variety of butterflies. 

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It’s too bad that there’s not an area where you can feed the birds.. Ivan loves doing that. 

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There wasn’t that much to see so I’m not sure how people spend so long at this park.  The best bird park we’ve been to is the KL Bird Park in Kuala Lumpur in 2009.

Walked back across the street to the Iguazú Falls entrance, but the line was still long.  It would probably be an hour to get on the bus.  Ivan read that most people thought the Brazilian side was boring compared to the Argentine side.  I thought that it would be best if we just left it and went to the airport early.

We got a taxi for 20 pesos to the Foz do Iguaçu Airport which was only 5 minutes away.  Our flight was at 7 pm.  Ivan noticed an earlier flight to Rio de Janeiro at 4 pm.  Since it was 2 pm, he asked the lady at the counter if we could change the flight and she said yes.  There wasn’t even a charge for changing the flight. 

Ivan used the internet while I worked on the blog.

Our plane took off at 4:05 pm.  Ivan and I watched the Christmas episode of Miranda and episodes of Balls of Steel Australia.  The plane landed at 6:09 pm in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

We got our backpacks and got a taxi to the house Ivan booked through Booking.com.  We were staying for two nights with a gay couple named Stuart and Mauricio at Casa Verde.  The English and Brazilian men were so very friendly.  They own two adorable Schnauzers.  The dogs are so cute, I want to take them home with me.

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Their house is beautiful with lovely artwork done by Stuart and a great pool outside.

Later on, we walked to dinner at Pizzaria Plano B with Stuart and Mauricio.  Ivan and I ordered a pizza with one half with tuna and the other half was mushroom. 

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Lil Dave got a banana pizza.  The pizzas were cut in a checkerboard pattern and we were given little wooden forks to eat it with.  We chatted awhile about traveling, Rio and hypnosis.

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Agva Falls

On December 26, 2012, Ivan and I had breakfast at 6:30 am since there was a stop early in the morning.  The breakfast was crackers, a croissant and little sweet pastries with tea.  Lil Dave had his own bananas for his breakfast.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I went back to bed.  The radio was playing music on the speakers.  I’m glad that it was over Ivan and not me.

The bus arrived in Puerto Iguazú at 12:30 pm, so it was a 17 1/2 hour journey. 

We got a taxi to Hostel Inn.  Ivan checked us in.  He asked a lady if there was an ATM outside of the falls.  There is an ATM inside the falls.  Ivan said that he had to go to the city to get money since it’s cash only for the entrance fee to Iguazu Falls.  One of the staff, a guy, said you should have thought of that before you came here.  It was rude for him to be sarcastic like that. 

We got a taxi to the town for an ATM.  We couldn’t find a place for lunch that sold sandwiches.  Ivan and I grabbed vegetarian empanadas, apples and granola bars at a pastry shop.

It was time to head to the falls.  We got a taxi to Iguazú Falls for 100 pesos.  The guy thought we wanted to go to the Brazilian side and we were nearing the Argentina border and Ivan said No, we want to go to the Argentina side. 

There was an ATM right at the entrance where you drive in – so the guy at the hostel was wrong. 

Ivan bought tickets easily since there was no line probably since it was 3:40 pm.  Ivan asked where we should go first.  The guy suggested that we take the train to the Garganta del Diablo Station and from there walk 1000 meters to the Devil’s Throat Balcony.  Then, we take the train to the Cataratas Station and check out the numerous viewpoints for the different falls.

So, we took the very slow train to the Garganta del Diablo Station.  The walk on the footbridge took us 15 minutes to get to the Devil’s Throat balcony.

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The Devil’s Throat is massive.  Water kept spraying everywhere and I was worried about my DSLR.  There was a full rainbow over the falls.  Here’s a great shot of us with the rainbow for our project. 

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It was a cool sight to see.  Although there was lots of mist so it was a bit hard to see.

We got the train to the Cataratas Station. 

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We walked along the footbridge seeing many of the falls like Salto Dos Hermanos, Salto Chico and Salto Ramirez.  These falls were pretty, but I think the Devil’s Throat was more impressive.

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The Iguazú Falls was a lovely sight.  I still think one of the most impressive things I’ve seen is Halong Bay in Vietnam. 

We got the train back at 5:50 pm.  Ivan and I were thinking of getting the bus back, but weren’t sure when it would show up.  So, we got a taxi back to the hostel.

That night, we went to the seafood restaurant Agva Restaurant for dinner.  Ivan and I shared the river fish croquettes for a starter.  We shared a half bottle of Malbec wine.  Lil Dave got a banana and fish salad. 

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Ivan and I shared the Surubi (local fish) skewers and stuffed Paco (river fish) with grated asparagus, onion jam and heart of palm ragu.  It was a delicious meal.

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Last Day in BA

Ivan, Lil Dave and I walked to Puerto Madero on December 25, 2012 which is right by the river.  We walked along the river to find a place for lunch.

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All the restaurants were the same with pizza, sandwiches, burgers and some had Italian food.  We decided to go to TGIF’s.  Ivan and I shared the tasty fried calamari for an appetizer.  Lil Dave had a banana skewers dish.  I had the Jack Daniel’s chicken while Ivan got the shrimp fajitas.  The main courses were average.

It was time to walk around more.  I really like the big yellow cranes right by the water – I think they look cool. 

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Ivan wanted to check out the Fauna hotel which was designed by Philippe Starck.  It was modern and pretty inside. 

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The restaurant in the hotel was about the same prices as TGIF’s and had really cool antique items all around in glass cases.  Too bad we didn’t go here for lunch.

We walked back to Puerto Madero to find a bar.  It was hot out, but at least it wasn’t that humid like the past two days have been.  We couldn’t find a good bar along the river.  We did notice better restaurants than TGIF’s though, but we had gone the opposite directions in search of something.  Oh, well.

We walked back to the center and went to a bar and restaurant which I think was called Junto de 1812.  Ivan got a Stella Artois, Dave got a banana juice and I got a red wine.

We walked back to the apartment and arrived at 5:50 pm.  We were supposed to meet the lady outside the guest house at 6 pm.  She came shortly after and let us into the apartment to collect our backpacks. 

We had a great time in BA (Buenos Aires).  There’s lots of fun things to do here.  I really enjoyed seeing tango up close and dancing it. 

Ivan hailed a cab and we piled in and headed to the bus station.  Ivan went to the Rio Uruguay desk to print out our bus tickets, but they wouldn’t do it for him.  How can they not do it when we booked it through them online?  Good thing there was a internet café right by the desk. 

The bus left at 7 pm headed to Puerto Iguazu.  It was another luxury bus.  It was dumb since they have tv screens, but headphones weren’t given out – the sound played on the speakers right above the window seats.  There was no way to turn it off.  The seats were like the Andes Mar bus which were very comfortable and you could recline all the way back making a bed.

We were served drinks with an option of soda, beer or whiskey.  Ivan and I decided to share a whiskey.  A few minutes later, we got bag of pizza chips.

Dinner was served later on.  We got cordon bleu, potatoes, sandwiches, a bread roll and dessert served with red wine. 

Ivan and I watched the movie Anuva hood which is a funny British gangster movie.  We got a glass of champagne before bed.

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Hot Polo

Ivan and I had breakfast at 10 am at the guest house which was a croissant, toast, cereal and tea on December 24, 2012.

We got ready and were picked up at 10:50 am for the Argentina Polo Day.  Ivan and I were going to learn how to play polo today.  It took us 45 minutes to arrive at the El Camino Polo Club.

The staff are really friendly at the Argentina Polo Day.  We were given beef and potato empanadas.  Ivan told them he was vegetarian and he was given cheese and bread.  The group consisted of 9 people and us.  Everybody was also given red wine. 

It was a really hot and humid day.  We walked to the field and watched a polo match.  During the breaks between the 10 minutes of playing, we would practicing hitting a ball with a small mallet.  The ball is made of plastic.  There was an American teacher and she showed me three ways of hitting the ball.  I was good at hitting the ball, but I wasn’t on a horse doing it.  We were served red wine, tap water and more empanadas if we wanted it. 

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We spent an hour watching the professional polo players play.  Sometimes the horses would come off the field and come close to where we were seated. 

The group walked back and it was time for the BBQ lunch.  Ivan was given grilled potatoes, courgettes, onions and a big block of cheese.  It was a really bad having really basic vegetarian food.  Ivan thought they could have ran to the store to get something during the polo match.  I had salad, sausages, steak and grilled vegetables.  There was lots of meat if anybody wanted seconds.  The wine was unlimited as well.  Ivan and I drank the tap water.  I didn’t want to be drunk or buzzed  trying to learn how to play polo.

We learned that most polo horses are female.  If the horses are male, they are castrated first. 

It was an English woman’s birthday so a pan leche cake was brought out with a big white candle on top.  It was too windy for the candle to stay lit, so she didn’t have a chance to blow it out.  The pan leche cake is similar to a fruitcake.  It’s a bit dry and doesn’t have much flavor.

Dessert came out later which was fruit cocktail from a tin (just like the one Dole makes in the USA). 

Next, it was time to learn how to play polo.  Ivan and I were put on our horses.  I’ve never been the best at steering horses.  Ivan’s great on horses though.  I prefer to be on a camel which I’ve actually only done once in India. 

Our mallets are really long and heavy. 

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Mine wasn’t long enough since I’m short.  I had to bend really low to hit the balls.  My horse was really stubborn and I couldn’t steer him at all.  The American lady kept hitting balls near me so I could practice hitting it. 

My horse, which I named Rachel, was following Ivan’s horse which he named Tammy.  Later, my horse was following a horse that was being ridden by an English girl. 

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The mallet was heavy to carry around.  I know for sure I’m not going to be a polo player.  I can barely control my horse and hit balls at a standstill.  Ivan was doing alright on his horse.

At one point, Rachel and Tammy led me and Ivan off the field.  I’m not sure why the gate was wide open for any horse to leave.  The group kept continuing to ride around the field and try to hit the balls.  It would have been fun to play a match or a small game.  We spent an hour on the field.

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It was time to head back.  We were given water or beer.  I felt so sticky from the humidity.  Ivan went to pay the $170 USD per person.  We don’t think it was worth it.  We could have been served bottle water.  Ivan could have been served better vegetarian food.  The dessert could have been something better like a nice strawberry pie or alfajores.  Also, we think that it would have been fun to play a game to make it fun.  It was a fun day out.

Ivan and I went back in the mini bus back to the apartment. 

Later that night, we went 36 Billares for dinner.  Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve in Argentina so not many restaurants were actually open.  Lil Dave had banana ravioli.  Ivan and I shared a salmon salad for a starter.  We both got a trout for our main course.  The food was alright.

At midnight, we heard fireworks going off for Christmas.

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NOLA Brunch

Ivan, Lil Dave and I checked out of the apartment on December 23, 2012.  We got a taxi to the Centro where our guest house was inside a nice apartment.

For lunch, we went to the Scandinavian restaurant Ølsen for their brunch.  The restaurant is very modern and airy with very tall windows. 

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Ivan and I went for the set menu for 105 pesos per person ($21.38 USD).  Ivan got the salmon galvez (smoked salmon), risotto with cereal and fried potatoes.  I got the pollo asado, grilled vegetables and fried potatoes. 

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Our brunch also came with a drink which we chose the great champagne Chandon 187.  Lil Dave decided to go with a cheaper brunch with banana oatmeal, fried bananas and a banana croissant.  The food tasted great.  Our set menu was a great deal since it came with tons of food.

We went to San Telmo and walked around the Sunday market. 

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The stalls were filled with souvenirs, mate cups, art, shoes and clothes.  We saw a few bands playing in street.  San Telmo is known for tango in the street during the night.  We saw an older lady dancing the tango with two different men.  I thought that it was weird that she closed her eyes while she danced.

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It was really hot out so we stopped by a bar for a drink.  Ivan had a Stella Artois while I had a white wine.  A couple started dancing the tango on the stage.

We went back to the apartment where I took a short nap.

Ivan got a last minute reservation at NOLA which is a closed door restaurant.  Ivan and I quickly got ready and got a cab to the restaurant.

NOLA is a New Orleans restaurant that is run by Liza and Francisco in their home.  We were dining with 3 other couples: one from Toronto, Canada, one from Ottawa, Canada and a Sweden couple.  Liza presented the dishes while Francisco was the sommelier and told us about the wine.

The couple from Toronto was a guy named Luke who looked like Jesus with his blonde girlfriend Jackie. 

It was a four course meal. 

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The first course was a lovely gazpacho with shrimp and avocado served with a Torrontes wine.  The next course was okay which was an octopus salad with a rose.  The third course was a braised pork with a creamy polenta with a chili ancho sauce with a Malbec wine.  Ivan got a salmon instead of the pork.  The delicious creamy polenta was spicy with the chili sauce.  Our dessert was a blueberry pie with a Dulce wine.  The food and wine were wonderful.  I highly recommend the NOLA restaurant for a great night out.

After the meal, we went with the other couples to the bar Soria.  Ivan and I went to bar for an espresso at a bar nearby to wake up.  We went back to the bar and chatted with Jackie.

We said good-bye and headed to the gay club Amerika.  Nothing was really going on yet since it was early, so we got a taxi back to the apartment.

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