Carnival in Brazil: It's time to samba

As Carnival (or Carnaval in Portuguese) is upon us, now is a good time to write a little about it, even though it is a celebration that does little for me personally.
First off, Carnival is perhaps Brazil’s most important holiday and is certainly the longest.  Businesses tend to shut on Friday afternoon only to reopen at midday on Wednesday.  I still find this idea of going to work at lunchtime after 4 or 5 days of partying a strange concept although I suppose it does provide a little time to get over any hangovers.
The dates of Carnival weekend vary from year to year in the same fashion as Easter.  They are the last days to party before lent, meaning that Carnival celebrations are the weekend before Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday.

Carnival – Rio de Janeiro

Carnival varies somewhat from city to city.  In Rio de Janeiro, the main event takes place at the Sambadromo, a 700m long avenue with spectator stands either side, on Sunday and Monday of the weekend between 9pm and approximately 3:50am.  Each day 6 different samba schools take their turn to parade along the avenue.  Each school has 3,000 to 5,000 people dressed in various costumes.  Additionally, each school usually has about 8 specially designed floats themed to the schools overall theme of the year.  You can find out a lot more here
Carnival in Rio

Carnival – Salvador

Perhaps the second most famous Carnival city is Salvador, where in true local style it starts on Thursday and carries on to Wednesday more or less all day and night long.  In Salvador they have many trios which are floats or trucks with bands/dancers that drive slowly around the city’s streets.  People can  follow a particular trio around, protected from the crowds by security guards, by buying a pass to become an abada. Another way is to buy a ticket in a camarote where you will have the comfort of food and drink.  The third way is to simply walk the streets and pavements.  This is called pipoca (usually translated as popcorn) and is the least comfortable and safe option.
Carnival Salvador
Other cities celebrate  may elect to celebrate Carnival on different days or even different weekends.  For example, Sao Paulo has a similar parade to Rio that takes place on Friday and Saturday.  Other cities, such as Belo Horizonte where I live, don’t have any major events, but instead have many smaller street parties or blocos, a smaller, less organised version of a trio.

Carnival Ouro Preto
Time to cool down – more photos here

Another popular destination for Brazilians are the historic cities, such as world heritage listed Ouro Preto.  In Ouro Preto, most people stay in a ‘republic’ – a sort of dorm/hostel where facilities are shared among many.  The atmosphere is lively with various stages dotted around city’s cobbled roads and numerous churches. the .  It is a 4 or 5 day party with little sleep for most

Chile: Northwards to San Pedro de AtacamaChile: caminho de volta à Santiago

The journey from Valdivia to Santiago would be approximately 800km, but we chose to stop a little under 200 km before Santiago.  Once again, we were worried about finding a hotel in the early evening, so we phoned a couple of hotels the previous night to check availability.  The first was in the Santa Helena winery, but was fully booked already, so we called the Hacienda los Lingues who had vacancies so we made a reservation.
The drive from Valdivia was completely uneventful, however it was the first and last time that it rained on our trip!  The journey probably took around 8 hours including a couple of quick stops for fuel and food etc.

Reception at Hacienda los Lingues

We arrived at the Hacienda and checked in.  It looked beautiful and lovely place to stay and there were a lot of cars in the car park.  After being shown to our room and ordering dinner (we had to pre-order), we went on an exploratory walk around the grounds and discovered that the vehicles belonged to a film crew shooting a pilot/preview for Chile’s next novella (soap opera).  Perhaps we met Chile’s most famous actors, but didn’t know…  We then met the manager and one of the owners of the farm.  It is owned by the original family who still live there and run the hotel.

The unkempt vegetable garden at Hacienda los Lingues

After seeing more, we realised that the hotel wasn’t quite as nice as first appearances and various parts were a little neglected.  The price was very for a luxury hotel, but the service didn’t really come up to this level.  The dinner was ok, but my order was different from the menu.  All in all, not a place I would recommend and the price they were charging.

Our room in Hacienda los Lingues

The next day we had to get to Santiago before midday to return the hire car and check-in for our flight to Calama (the nearest airport to San Pedro de Atacama and the city that supports Chile’s largest and one of the the world’s largest copper mines – Chuquicamata).  We had pre-booked flights on Sky airlines, Chile’s second biggest airline after Lan Chile.  The prices of Sky were much much cheaper than Lan.  The only problem with them was that don’t except foreign credit cards on their website, so booking involved phone calls and emails.  It all worked out well and I’d thoroughly recommend that others consider making the effort to do this.
The flight to Calama was about two and a half ours with one stop (different cities in each direction).  Once again, this was uneventful and we were met by someone that was going to provide the 75 minute transfer from Calama to San Pedro.  We had pre-booked this transfer, but I don’t think it was necessary with hindsight.

A typical shot of terrain around San Pedro de Atacama

The journey was through the desert on a good road.  You leave Calama and go over a mountain range which takes you to height of around 3,400 metres before dropping down into the valley between these mountains and the Andes.  San Pedro is at the foot of the Andes on the far side of the valley across the salt lake (more next post).  It is a town based around a natural oasis whose water source is in the Andes mountains.

Hacienda Los Lingues

Chegamos à Hacienda Los Lingues depois de um dia de uma viagem bem tranquila desde Valdívia. Ao sair da Ruta 5, não acreditamos nas instruções do GPS e tomamos uma estradinha de terra que nos levou por uns 5 km até a entrada da fazenda. Na verdade, o GPS estava certo (dahn!!) e há um caminho pavimentado que chega ao local. No estacionamento, várias vans e alguns caminhões e eu pensei “ai meu Deus, onde fomos nos meter?”.  Mais tarde vimos que havia uma equipe filmando uma novela de época para a televisão chilena nas instalações do hotel.

A fazenda está localizada em uma região muito bonita, tem jardins com árvores centenárias, e uma horta de onde vem a maioria dos produtos servidos nas refeições no hotel, segundo nos informou nosso garçon. A piscina fica fora da ala principal, a alguns metros de distância do portão principal, e nós fomos também a um laguinho de onde se tem uma vista geral das instalações.

Uma das fazendas mais antigas e preservadas do Chile, o lugar é sem dúvida testemunho do dinheiro antigo no país. A casa principal data de meados do século XVIII e é decorada no estilo, com pesados móveis, tapetes, cortinas, papéis de parede floridos e muitos objetos da família em exposição.  O quarto em que ficamos nos fez pensar que estávamos no quarto da fazenda da minha bisavó, se ela tivesse uma. Olha só o quarto:

O nosso guia (Rough Guide to Chile 2006) afirmava que o hotel era parte do grupo Relais e Châteaux, mas pelo que vimos não é mais. Percebemos uma certa decadência na fazenda, desde o papel de parede descascado, até a toalha bordada poída e o gerente (na verdade genro do dono) reclamando da interferência da família na condução nos negócios… Enfim, tudo meio surreal!

Na manhã seguinte, partimos diretamente para o aeroporto de Santiago, 150 km ao norte, onde entregamos o carro e embarcamos no voo da Sky Airlines para Calama, com escala em Antofagasta. Apesar de o avião não ser muito novo, a viagem de pouco mais de duas horas foi agradável, no horário, e com um lanchinho de fazer a Gol passar vergonha. Em Calama, já tínhamos contratado com o hotel nosso transfer até San Pedro de Atacama, nossa base no deserto mais árido do mundo.

Outros capítulos da viagem ao Chile:

Nossa viagem ao Chile: primeira parte

Santa Cruz e Pucón

Puerto Varas e Valdívia

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Chile: Puerto Varas and ValdiviaPuerto Varas e Valdívia

We arrived at Puerto Varas, avoiding Puerto Montt as guide books were not very flattering about the other city in the region, in mid-afternoon.  In many ways Puerto Varas is similar to Pucon:  it has volcanos (3 or 4 visible on a clear day), it is on the edge of a lake and it is also a popular tourist destination.  However, I would describe Pucon as being a little more ‘up-market’, but Puerto Varas is a larger city and probably has more to offer.  We had decided to spend 2 nights there.
We checked in to the Licarayen hotel.  Once again we were concerned about finding vacancies and this hotel had had good reviews so were pleased to find availability.  However, we found it a little simple and nothing special.  Breakfast was again particularly uninspiring with instant coffee and a very limited selection.  I think we could have found something better, but it was close to a beach and the town centre.

Os vulcões Osorno e Calbuco vistos do nosso quarto

On the day we arrived, there was beautiful sunshine which allowed for some good shots of the Osorno volcano (the closest to the city).  The above was taken on our first night.  The next morning, however, we awoke to fog with extremely limited visibility and no volcanos to be seen!  We were a little tired anyway, so took it easy in the hotel in the morning, but when the cloud started to lift we decided to drive around the lake to get closer to the mountains as Puerto Varas itself is quite flat and not terribly beautiful.

Salto del Petrohue with Calbuco volcano in the distance

The drive to Petrohue from the centre of the town was only about 50 km.  The first half is flat and fairly unspectacular, but the last section is beautiful.  Fortunately, as we drove the clouds continued to lift.  About 5 km short of Petrohue the paved road runs out at Salto del Petrohue.  Here there are a number of cataracts and falls, even though they are not particularly high the volume and proximity to the water makes them impressive.

The lake at Petrohue

If you carry on along the road you come to Petrohue where you can catch a ferry to take you to Peulla and cross the Andes to Bariloche in Argentina.  This would be a beautiful trip, and one I would like to do, but we didn’t have time this trip.  Maybe one day we will make it in the reverse direction from Bariloche.  Despite not being able to make the crossing, we still found Petrohue to be very beautiful being on the edge of lake, close to Osorno volcano and the source of the Petrohue river that flows over the falls mentioned above.  There are places to stay if you want.  It is also possible to take a day trip to Peulla by boat from Petrohue, but as we arrived in the afternoon, it was also too late to do this.
The next morning, we left Puerto Varas to start the long (~1000 km)  drive back to Santiago.  We decided to stop twice en-route.  The first would ideally have been around half-way, but we couldn’t find anything that looked interesting in our guide book so elected to stay in the city of Valdivia which is described as ‘cosmopolitan’.

A view of the river from our hotel

It was a relatively short drive of just over 200 km up the main highway with a 50km turning to the left (west) towards the coast.  We mistakenly thought we would see the Pacific Ocean and a proper beach, but alas no!  As for cosmopolitan, the only evidence we discovered for this was a Macdonalds and a Chinese restaurant.  To say we were disappointed is a total understatement.  The pictures may paint a pretty picture, but most of the town was very very different.
We stayed at the Naguilan hotel.  The hotel was again clean and comfortable with a slightly better breakfast than a lot of the other hotels, but it was a 20 minute walk from the town centre and located in a poor neighbourhood with a dock for fishing boats a short distance away.  Whilst I wouldn’t say don’t stay here as the grounds and hotel are pretty, there is a modern and what appears from the outside to be a much better located hotel in the city centre.

Olha o leão marinho tomando sol!

The only other thing apart from an old submarine of indeterminate age and origin that I found interesting in Valdivia was a group of Elephant seals/Sea lions (I don’t know which) that played in the river close to a fish market and hauled themselves out of the river to bask in the sunshine.

Os vulcões Osorno e Calbuco vistos do nosso quarto

Chegamos em Puerto Varas e nos instalamos no Hotel Licarayén, num quarto com frente para o Lago Llanquihue e uma vista dos vulcões  Osorno e Calbuco de tirar o fôlego. Nem chegamos a ir a Puerto Montt, já que tínhamos ouvido, mais de uma vez, que não valia a pena esticar a viagem até lá.
Puerto Varas é uma cidade parecida com Pucón, com lagos e vulcões e muitos turistas que aproveitam da infraestrutura da cidade para fazer base e explorar o entorno. O parque nacional Vicente Perez Rosales fica bem próximo, e aí é possível fazer trilhas, caminhadas, e até mesmo escalar o vulcão Osorno.

Não parece o Monte Fuji??

Queríamos ver o Lago de Todos os Santos, de onde começa a travessia para Bariloche, que eu tinha feito há muitos anos, e para lá fomos na tarde seguinte. A estrada vai margeando o lago Llanquihue por uns 40 km, até Ensenada. Daí a paisagem se torna mais bonita, principalmente quando a estrada se encontra com o Rio Petrohué, o rio mais turquesa que já vi. Paramos para ver as corredeiras, chamadas Saltos de Petrohué, logo antes da entrada do Parque Nacional.

Saltos de Petrohué

Seguindo por uma estradinha de terra de 6 km chega-se ao ponto final para quem não vai pegar o ferry boat para Peulla e seguir até a Argentina. É o Lago de Todos os Santos, o mais bonito que vimos na região. É chamado de Lago Esmeralda justamente por causa da cor intensa da água. As margens do lago são de uma areia escura, que nos pareceu resultante de uma erupção vulcânica passada.

Resolvemos que vamos voltar um dia para fazer a Cruce de Lagos, e completar o passeio que começa aqui em Petrohué. Por ora, tínhamos de voltar a Puerto Varas, para começar, no dia seguinte, nossa viagem de volta a Santiago. Neste trecho iríamos parar em Valdívia, uma cidade que, segundo nosso guia de viagem, compensava o desvio de 50 km a oeste da Ruta 5. Queríamos também ver o Oceano Pacífico, e achamos que esta cidadezinha litorânea seria uma boa pedida. Segundo a descrição do guia, era uma cidade cosmopolita, vibrante, que mistura o colonial com o contemporâneo.

O simpático deque do hotel em Valdívia

Logo descobrimos que, na verdade, Valdívia não fica no litoral, mas em uma confluência de rios a alguns poucos quilômetros do mar. A cidade também não é tão cosmopolita quanto descreveu nosso guia, mas é uma pequena cidade universitária, que abriga o campus da Universidade Austral do Chile. Como era um período de férias, não havia muito movimento.  Gostamos muito do hotel em que ficamos, o Hotel Naguilán, um pouco afastado do centro, mas com um delicioso deque para o Rio Valdívia.

A cidade tem um Mercado Fluvial e, na ilha logo em frente, um Museu Histórico e Antropológico. Há vários barcos ancorados, que fazem passeios pelos rios da região, e levam a algumas fortificações espanholas do século XVII.  Nos contentamos em ver os leões marinhos, que aparecem no rio próximo ao mercado para ganhar restos de peixe e tomar um banho de sol.  Havia também um misterioso submarino ancorado que, pareceu ao Steve, ser da Segunda guerra mundial.

Olha o leão marinho tomando sol!

Para não encarar os 850 km até Santiago, decidimos dormir próximo a San Fernando, e aproveitar nossa última noite novamente no Vale do Colchagua. Minha vontade era ficar no hotel da vinícola  Casa Silva, mas estava lotado. Reservamos então uma noite na Hacienda Los Lingues, “uma das haciendas mais antigas e bem preservadas do Chile”, segundo nosso guia. Mas esta história fica para a próxima…

Mais da nossa viagem ao Chile:

Viagem ao Chile (1a parte)

Santa Cruz e Pucón

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Chile: Santa Cruz to PuconDe Santa Cruz a Pucón

Following the previous night’s New Year’s ‘festivities’, we got up fairly early, had breakfast, checked out and hit the road around 9:30 a.m. for our 750 km drive south.  Unsurprisingly, the roads at this time on New Year’s morning were pretty much deserted.
Santa Cruz is about 40 km west of Chile’s main north-south road 5 which is part of the Pan American highway.  Rather than taking the shortest route back to this road, we allowed our GPS to direct us along some country lanes to join the main motorway further to the south.  We drove past many more fields of grape vines, but also corn and other crops.  I imagine that these crops were Chile’s main produce before Chile’s wine industry really started growing 20-30 years ago.
About an hour later, and only one small error in our GPS’s directions, we were on the main highway heading south at 120 km/h but still with a good 7 hours drive in front of us and no hotel reservation at our intended destination.  We had read that this road was good, but I was sceptical, to say the least having got used to Brazilian roads.  However, the descriptions were right, the road was excellent and easily up to european standards.  From Santiago to Puerto Varas/Puerto Montt it is at least 2 lanes in each direction.  The only ‘problem’ were the tolls.  There is a toll booth about every 80-100 km and the cost for the whole one-way trip (Santiago to Puerto Varas) was something in excess of 20,000 Chilean Pesos (£25/US$40).  Apart from comfort/petrol/gas/food stops, we only stopped once to see an attraction described as a ‘small Niagra Falls’ in our guide book.

Salta del Laja

Salta del Laja is a waterfall about half way between Santiago and our southernmost destination of Puerto Varas.  We had read about it a little before travelling and had been considering it as a possible overnight stop on the way back.  However, we decided to stop on our way south.  It was a good decision as the town is very small and extremely touristy.  Despite this, the falls were quite impressive but nowhere near on the scale of Foz de Iguacu or even Niagra.  For anyone taking a similar journey as us, I would suggest stopping, but only for a short break to stretch the legs etc.  It is only a very short diversion from the main road and even used to be visible from the old road before construction of the motorway.

A view of Villarrica volcano from Pucon towncentre

After our stop, we drove straight to Pucon eager to find accommodation.  We arrived at Pucon early evening and set about finding a hotel.  The first place we enquired was fully booked so we started to get concerned.  However, we walked around the main square and found the Hotel Huincahue which had a room.  It was quite a nice place with the exception of breakfast which was put out (covered) the night before!
Pucon is a town on the edge of a mountain lake and in the shadow of Villarrica volcano.  It is in a really beautiful location with some stunning scenery around.  It is reportedly one of Chile’s main holiday destinations.  Perhaps consequently, Pucon has a good range of restaurants.  We chose an Italian, but found it disappointing.  This was not unusual in Chile.

An early evening on Pucon’s beach

Apart from the beautiful scenery, Pucon also offers a beach.  However, as you’ll note from the picture above the sand isn’t golden, instead it is black from the volcanic rock.  We didn’t feel tempted to go for a swim, but there were many who do.  The other principal attraction in Pucon is an arts market where locals sell all types of things.  It is found on the main square and was open the evening we arrived, but closed the next morning as we left too ‘early’ (about 11 a.m.).  In fact, we discovered (different to Brazil) that the Chilean day starts late and ends late perhaps as a result of the daylight hours and being on the western side of South America.

Villarrica volcano at the end of the dirt road near Panguipulli

After a quick walk around the town to take some pictures (the ones with sun!), we drove the remaining 250 km or so to our ultimate destination: Puerto Varas.  However, once again we decided to start the journey with a scenic detour via Conaripe and Panguipulli.  About 40 km of the road was on a dirt road around a lake which we didn’t realise when embarking on it.  I don’t like dirt roads much, but this one was suffering just for the views and in truth the road was in very good condition.  However, once we were back on the main highway, the stunning scenery was nowhere to be seen.  We got to Puerto Varas mid to late afternoon.
As before you can see more photos here and you can read Eneida’s account in Portuguese.Santa Cruz está 30 km a oeste da Ruta 5 (em direção ao Pacífico), em uma estrada de mão única que liga a cidade de San Fernando ao litoral. O nosso hotel estava localizado nesta estrada secundária, a poucos metros da entrada de Santa Cruz. Para voltarmos à Ruta 5 e seguirmos para o sul, resolvemos tomar um caminho diferente  por uma estrada vicinal que passa por entre as diversas vinhas da região. Com o auxílio do nosso GPS, a que carinhosamente batizamos de Queenie, chegamos à Teño, de volta à Panamericana que nos levaria à Pucón,  620 km ao sul.

A estrada é boa, mas paga-se bem

A viagem é bem tranquila, e encontramos a estrada especialmente vazia, devido ao feriado do dia 01/01. Como disse antes, a Ruta 5 é super bem conservada, então dá para justificar os váaarios pedágios que encontramos no percurso.  Calculamos que a cada 80-100 km é preciso pagar 1900 pesos chilenos (R$7,00). Fui juntando os comprovantes e, no final da viagem, vi que pagamos mais de 20 pedágios, somando um pouco mais de 40.000 pesos (R$150,00).
Atravessamos o chamado vale central do Chile, a região mais fértil do país, de onde vem grande parte da produção agrícola. Atualmente, a agroindústria toma conta de grande parte da região e, além das vinhas, há plantações de frutas e verduras na maioria do percurso.  Durante a viagem até Chillán, especialmente, vê-se enormes galpões de estocagem e processamento de produtos agrícolas.  A cordilheira dos Andes, neste trecho, não apresenta montanhas tão altas quanto na região de Santiago ou mais ao norte, mas vez ou outra é possível avistar um pico com neve.
No meio do caminho tinha uma cachoeira…
340 km ao sul de Teño, a poucos metros da Ruta 5, fizemos uma paradinha para conhecer  Salto Del Laja, uma cachoeira que, segundo nosso guia de viagem (o livro Rough Guide to Chile, 2006), era uma miniatura de Niagara Falls. Well, me desculpe a cachoeira e o guia, mas tendo estado em Foz do Iguaçu recentemente e conhecendo Niagara Falls, posso dizer que a Salto Del Laja é até bonitinha, mas não é assim nenhuma Niagara. Parece que é um programa popular entre os chilenos, há barraquinhas vendendo souvenirs e estava bem cheio de gente. De qualquer forma, é um lugar para fazer uma paradinha técnica na longa viagem até Pucón.

Miniatura de Niagara Falls?? Acho que não…

Pucón
Da cachoeira, fomos direto a Pucón, pegando a Ruta 199, já no chamado distrito dos lagos. A partir da cidade de Villarica, são 30 km de estrada margeando o lago Villarica, que oferece aqui e ali belas paisagens. Estávamos apreensivos quanto ao hotel em Pucón. Era feriado, a cidade cheia, e não tínhamos hotel reservado. Resolvemos estacionar na Plaza de Armas e sair procurando. Nossa primeira opção foi o Gran Hotel de Pucón, o hotel mais tradicional da cidade, situado na beira do lago Villarica. Como estava lotado, contornamos a praça e achamos um quarto no Hotel Huincahué, um hotel pequeno e confortável com um quarto bem espaçoso.

Pucón é uma cidade muito simpática, à sombra do vulcão Villarica, com casas de madeira – um pouco como Gramado.  É um destino ideal para os amantes do turismo de aventura, pois de lá é possível: escalar o vulcão Villarica, cavalgar nas encostas do vulcão no Parque Nacional Villarica, fazer rafting nas corredeiras do Rio Huerquehue, pescar nos lagos e rios ao redor da cidade, e muito mais.  Nós não fizemos nada disso! Fizemos um passeio até as “praias” do lago Villarica e La Poza, e compramos souvenirs na feira de artesanatos na Plaza de Armas.

Praia de Pucón

À noite, a cidade é super movimentada, os bares e restaurantes da Av. Bernardo O’Higgins ficam lotados. Ah! e só tem gente bonita, todo mundo magro, de cabelo liso e sorridente. E como são bonitos e simpáticos, os chilenos! Não cruzamos com ninguém mau humorado no nosso caminho. Sempre falam “ya” pra tudo (no castelhano falado por lá “ya” quer dizer sim, ok, tudo bem!).
Os Sete Lagos

Região de Sete Lagos

Saindo de Pucón, voltamos em direção à Villarica e de lá, mais uma vez, tomamos uma estrada secundária pela região dos Sete Lagos, que nos levou às paisagens mais bonitas desta parte da viagem. 30 km ao sul de Villarica está o Lago Calafquén e daí rumamos para a esquerda, com direção a Coñaripe. A estrada de terra é bem conservada, nem o Steve reclamou. De Coñaripe, fomos a Panguipulli e de lá voltamos para a Panamericana, na cidade de Los Lagos. O percurso todo, de Pucón à Panamericana, levou umas 2 horas, de lagos e vulcões e rios azuis.

No meio do caminho tinha um vulcão

De Los Lagos a Puerto Varas, nossa próxima parada, são 180 km, que foram percorridos em menos de 2 horas.  Mas Puerto Varas fica para o próximo post.
Mais da nossa viagem:
Nossa viagem ao Chile (1a parte)
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Para ler o relato do Steve, escolha a opção “inglês”.

Our trip to Chile (part 1)Nossa viagem ao Chile (1a parte)

Having some time off and some air miles that were about to expire, we asked ourselves “Where shall we go?”  Answer: Chile.
The next question was where, specifically.  We decided that we would like to visit Santiago, the wine region including some wineries, the south for the scenery and the Atacama for its uniqueness.
Our first night, the night of 29th December, was spent in the Holiday Inn hotel adjacent to the terminal building of the airport having arrived at around 2 a.m..  The next morning, having picked up our reserved hire car (thankfully it was pre-booked as none of the companies had cars left), we drove around 200 km south to the town of Santa Cruz, the main city in the Colchagua Valley – one of Chile’s premium wine production districts.
We had decided to spend about 2 days here.  The hotel we chose was Hotel Casa del Campo, a small family run hotel with lots of charm.  The owners were incredibly friendly, even driving us to a restaurant as taxis were hard to come by.  The only drawback with this hotel was that it was on the outskirts of town and you needed to drive everywhere which wasn’t so convenient for New Year’s Eve given the dearth of local taxis!
The town of Santa Cruz itself is quite small and doesn’t have a huge amount to do.  But it does have wineries which are probably some of the best in Chile.  Time only allowed us to visit three: Viu Manent, Montes and Clos Apalta, but they were all of differing character.

A charrete da Viu Manent

The first, Viña Viu Manent, is one of the oldest producers of wine in the valley and has some of the oldest vines – its speciality being Malbec with vines dating back around 100 years.  Formerly, its product was for private/personal consumption of the estates owners, but it now sells internationally as well as domestically.  It is one of the smaller wineries, but probably my favourite.  The tour encompasses the vineyards, history, a horse pulled carriage ride to the production facility through some vineyards and terminates with the wine tasting.

A view over Viña Montes winery and its vineyards

Our second stop was at Viña Montes on the morning of New Year’s Eve.  This was the largest of the wineries we visited and was described by our guide as a medium size Chilean winery.  Our impression was that it is more of a factory than a family winery.  However, the wine produced here was excellent including an excellent Carmenere.  The tour consisted of a van drive up onto a hill overlooking the valley and in particular their vineyards.  The tour was followed by a trip around the winery itself including the underground facility where they play music to the wine ageing in oak barrels.  As always, the tour concluded in the shop with wine tasting.

A view of the fermentation vats

The final winery was Clos Apalta.  This is one of the newest wineries, but perhaps produces the highest quality wines which have received awards.  Here the tour consisted only of a tour of the winery itself followed by tasting.  The winery is built over a number of floors and the whole production process is done by gravity with the grapes entering at the top, being put into the oak fermentation vats, before being piped down into the cellars into French oak barrels.  The entire emphasis here is on the quality of the wine produced.  We finished this tour early afternoon of New Year’s Eve.
So, hot to celebrate the arrival of the new year.  There were basically 2 options:  the main hotel in the centre of town, or the casino a couple of blocks away.  We didn’t fancy an expensive set meal in the hotel so elected for the casino, also having spent the previous New Year’s at a less than marvellous party in a hotel in Egypt.  However, on this occassion, I think the hotel may have been a better option as the casino was totally empty.  The party only started after midnight but we had to leave soon after the clock struck 00:00 as there was a long drive to Pucon facing us the next morning!
Steve
For more pictures, please see our gallery.
For Eneida’s account of the trip, please see the Portuguese version!Fui ao Chile pela primeira vez com minha mãe, quando ainda era adolescente. Fizemos a travessia da Cordilheira dos Andes, de Bariloche à Puerto Montt, e depois voamos para Santiago onde passamos alguns dias. Desde então, voltei à Argentina algumas vezes, mas nunca mais tive oportunidade de voltar ao Chile.
Quando resolvemos gastar as milhas que tínhamos para um passeio na América do Sul, o Chile nos pareceu o lugar ideal. Em duas semanas, poderíamos ir de norte a sul, visitar o deserto de Atacama, o vale do Colchagua e a região dos Lagos, de cujas paisagens espetaculares ainda me lembrava. O difícil foi resolver o que deixaríamos para uma próxima ida, como a Ilha de Páscoa, o passeio de navio para ver as geleiras, e a região de Puerto Natales, no extremo sul da Patagônia Chilena.
Decidimos alugar um carro na primeira semana da viagem para viajar para o sul e, na segunda semana, ir ao deserto de Atacama de avião. Ficaríamos um dia em Santiago antes de embarcar de volta ao Brasil.
– Será que vale a pena dirigir de Santiago a Puerto Varas e de volta a Santiago em uma semana?
Foi a pergunta que nos fizemos quando ficamos sabendo que, para devolver em Puerto Varas um carro alugado em Santiago, teríamos que pagar quase o dobro do que pagaríamos se o carro fosse devolvido no local em que foi alugado. Depois de algumas pesquisas, sabíamos que a Ruta 5, estrada panamericana que corta o Chile de sul ao norte, é uma rodovia totalmente duplicada e com asfalto em excelente estado de conservação.  Sabíamos também que a distância entre as duas cidades era de aproximadamente 1000 km e que havia alguns lugares interessantes no caminho. O motivo mesmo para querermos ir de carro era poder parar nas cidadezinhas do vale do Colchagua, da região dos lagos e dos vulcões. Queríamos também conhecer uma cidade litorânea.
Então, fazendo as contas, resolvemos encarar os 2000 km de viagem, e embarcar com um roteiro mais ou menos definido, mas que estava aberto a mudanças. Como era altíssima estação  (réveillon), reservamos hotel para os dois primeiros dias da viagem (em Santa Cruz, no Vale do Colchagua). De resto, iríamos arriscar.
1a parada: Vale do Colchagua
Tínhamos chegado em Santiago depois de 2:00 da manhã com energia somente para atravessar a rua e cair no Holliday Inn do Aeroporto, que ganhou nota 10 no quesito proximidade do desembarque. Foi ótimo, àquela hora, não precisarmos nos preocupar com táxis, trânsferes, etc. Quando acordamos, atravessamos novamente a rua para buscar o carro que tínhamos reservado para alugar. Sorte. Não havia carros disponíveis em nenhuma locadora para quem não tivesse reserva.

E deixamos Santiago com destino a Santa Cruz, a menos de 200 km ao sul. Pudemos confirmar que a Ruta 5 é mesmo ótima e, ainda melhor, é que os chilenos são extremamente bem educados no trânsito: nos 2.500 km que dirigimos,  não vimos nenhum louco passando a 150km/h quando o limite de velocidade é 120km/h e, surpreendentemente, não presenciamos nenhum acidente.

Nossa simpática Casa de Campo em Santa Cruz

Já estava quase me estressando por não ter levado o endereço do Hotel Casa de Campo, que seria nosso endereço nos próximos dois dias, quando vimos a placa de entrada, a menos de 1 km de Santa Cruz. O hotel, na verdade uma agradável pousada, é mesmo na beira da estrada, mas ficamos muito bem impressionados com a simpatia com que fomos atendidos e com as instalações, que nos fizeram sentir como se estivéssemos mesmo passando uns dias no sítio de um amigo.

A charrete da Viu Manent

Ainda dava tempo para conhecer uma vinícola, e foi o que fizemos. Na loja da Ruta del Vino, na praça principal de Santa Cruz,  nos indicaram a vinícola Viu Manent, que fica a poucos quilômetros do hotel, então rumamos para lá. Uma das vinícolas mais antigas da região, tem como especialidade o vinho Malbec, mas gostamos muito do Carménère que nos foi servido na desgustação. O tour inclui um passeio de charrete através das vinhas até a unidade de produção, onde experimentamos o vinho diretamente dos barris, antes de estar pronto para o consumo. Assim, pudemos comparar com o produto maduro que provamos na desgustação. Para mim, que nunca tinha visitado uma vinícola antes, foi muito tudo muito interessante. Mas juro que não consegui sentir no vinho o “retrogosto de tabaco com notas de café” que o guia insistia em salientar.

Viña Montes: o vinho descansa ouvindo uma boa música

No dia seguinte, último dia do ano, ainda visitamos duas outras vinícolas: a Viña Montes, que nos tinha sido recomendada, e a bonita Casa Lapostolle. Nas duas, o vinho é produzido em instalações moderníssimas sem que precise ser bombeado, pois a forma com que as instalações foram construídas permite que seja transportado sempre pela força da gravidade. Não faço ideia de como isso altera o gosto do vinho, mas, pelo que nos explicaram, parece que é o que há de mais avançado em termos de produção de vinhos.

As vinhas da Lapostolle

Para o Réveillon,  tínhamos duas opções: um jantar no Hotel Santa Cruz, principal hotel da cidade, ou uma ida ao cassino onde haveria música ao vivo. Escolhemos o cassino porque no ano anterior participamos de uma festa no hotel em que estávamos no Egito e não gostamos muito. Fomos para o cassino só mesmo para brindar a meia-noite, pois no dia seguinte teríamos uns 700 km de estrada nos aguardando.  E assim, logo depois da entrada de 2010, voltamos para nosso hotel-casa-de-campo.

Casa Lapostolle: a mais moderna de todas

Mais fotos da viagem aqui.
Para ler o relato do Steve, leia a versão em inglês.

Must see places in Brazil

So you see Brazil isn’t just Rio, beautiful people and crime. It has far more to offer.

I’m often asked by friends and students “What do British people think of when they think of Brazil?”.  I have to say beautiful beaches and women, carnival, the amazon rain-forest and crime.
Dealing with the last first, there is undoubtedly serious crime in Brazil, particularly in the big cities.  However, and I hope it stays this way, I haven’t personally had experienced this.  In fact, I’ve been told several stories about people going to the UK and having things stolen that weren’t stolen in Brazil.  I think with some common sense and staying away from certain neighbourhoods, then there isn’t a huge amount to worry about.

Devil’s Throat, Foz de Iguaçu

With regards my other answers, they are true, but there is so much more that Brazil has to offer.  For example, the beaches aren’t just Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon in Rio de Janeiro.  Brazil has about 2800km of beaches and, in my experience, most of them are spectacular and many exceed the beaches I’ve seen in other parts of the world.
So, apart from the beaches, where would I suggest visiting.
Foz de Iguaçu/Itaipu

Itaipu Dam with spillway open

Foz de Iguaçu (or Iguazu in Argentina) should, in my opinion, be considered as one of the natural 7 wonders of the world, however, Itaipu Dam is considered by American Engineers to be one of the engineering world.  Where else, within a few kilometres travel, can you see TWO such sites.
Foz de Iguaçu is a huge waterfall which is over 270m long, consists of upto 275 individual falls with a drop of approximately 82m.  It is on the Iguaçu river which delimits the border between Brazil and Argentina.  The Devils throat is quite spectacular.  On the Argentinian side you can get almost to the very top of the falls, whilst from the Brazilian side you can take a boat and travel to the base of the falls.
The Itaipu Dam was ‘jointly’ built by the Paraguayan and Brazilian governments but was mostly funded and constructed by Brazil.  It dams the Paraná River just above where it meets the Iguaçu River.  The convolution of the 2 rivers marks the border between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, which is unique in the world as well!
The dam generates 20% of Brazil’s total electrical needs and all of Paraguay’s.  It is possible to take a tour of the dam which includes the control centre, a drive over the top and base of the dam.  If you are lucky, like we were. you can see excess water being released down the spillway, but this is only about 10% of the days.
For more pictures of both these sites, please see our photos.

Ouro Preto central square

Colonial towns such as Ouro Preto and Tiradentes
These are historic cities founded by the Portuguese colonizers which are in the state of Minas Gerais (where we live). They give a glimpse into early life of Brazil.  In my opinion, many of these towns and cities are quite similar but a visit to one or more is a must.
Ouro Preto (black gold) is today on Unesco’s list of world heritage sites.  It was the focal point of Brazil’s 18th century gold rush and gold can still be seen today decorating many of the numerous historic catholic  churches.  It is set in a valley and was once the state’s capital until Belo Horizonte was built.
Rio de Janeiro
Most people know of Rio so this is very brief.  It is really beautiful city and has many attractions such as the harbour, the lagoon, Sugar Loaf, beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema and of course Corcovada (where the famous Christ the Redeemer is to be found).  There are many many other attractions, great restaurants.  I currently rate Rio as my second favourite city in the world.
The above are all places we have visited.  The ones below come highly recommended and are on our list of places to visit.
Fernando do Noronha
Fernando do Noronha is an island archipeligo about 350km off the northeastern coast of Brazil.  In many ways it is the Atlantic’s Galapagos with the upwelling of water drawing much marine life.  However, it doesn’t have as large a diversity of terrestrial animals as does the Galapagos Islands.  It is regarded as the best diving in Brazil, a fact I have yet to test.
Bonito

Bonito is famous for its crystal clear rivers that are a result of a natural filtration.  It is being preserved to keep its pristine natural beauty.  Activities include walking/treking and swimming/snorkeling/diving in the rivers and caves to be found in the area.
Amazonia
The amazon is a river basin surrounded by rainforest and is located in the countries of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana.  The region and diversity is so varied that I’ll mention only a few things that I’d like to see and do.  In no particular order, see the confluence of the Rio Negro and Amazon river, swim with the river dolphins and experience the rainforest and jungle.
The Pantanal
The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland covering an area of around 140,000 sq km.   It is renowned for its bio-diversity.  It is also easier to spot the wildlife in the Pantanal than in the Amazon as there are less hiding places.  As Bonito, it is predominantly located in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  There are thousands of different vertebrate species to be found there.

Lençoís Maranhenses

Lençoís Maranhenses
This is a region covering 1000 sq km of in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão.  Despite heavy rainfall, it is a region largely devoid of vegetation with many discreet sand dunes and lakes.
As and when we visit these places, we’ll write more.
So you see Brazil isn’t just Rio, beautiful people and crime.  It has far more to offer.

2016 – Olympics coming to Rio

Looking down on Rio de Janiero from Corcovada

Congratulations to Rio de Janeiro for winning the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games.  But is it good or bad for Brazil?  What do Brazilians think?
It’s fair to say that there are mixed opinions about hosting the Olympics.  There are those that say the Games will boost tourism, improve infrastructure, and reduce crime.  Conversely, there are those that are worried about corruption.

Itaimbezinho Canyon in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul

Can anyone imagine a more beautiful location and stunning back drop than Rio de Janeiro?  Rio is a truly gorgeous city with great beaches, mountains and warm lively hospitable people.  But Rio is just one very small part of Brazil, there are other equally amazing places throughout the country that are little known outside of Brazil.  If the Olympics bring tourists to Rio, lets hope they find time to visit some of the other incredible places in Brazil (more about these in a later post).  Brazil’s tourism potential is sadly currently under-exploited.  Brazil boasts stunning natural scenery, in addition to beautiful (and cheap) beaches to mention but two.  In fact, those in the northeast of the country that are just a few hours flight from southern Europe and the United States.  The Games can only aid in the development of this potential.
There are undoubted concerns after the Pan-American Games of 2007 that the Olympics will be beset with allegations of corruption and wasted expenditure.  I have little doubt that there will be some of this, but what major project anywhere in the world doesn’t suffer similar problems (I’m sure Londoners would concur). I hope the various governmental authorities have learnt from the Pan-American Games and find ways to minimise this.  There is a deep-set belief among Brazilians that corruption is ever-present.  I think that this is in part due to history and in part represents the current behaviour of some politicians and companies.  It won’t be easy to convince them otherwise but, with openness and changed policies, maybe this perception can be gradually changed.
Another concern is Rio being left with “White Elephants” that are little used by the citizens.  I think if Rio/Brazil can use the games to tap into the potential sporting prowess of a growing population (not just for football/soccer), then this infrastructure will be used. However, it needs to be made available to all sections of society, hence it needs to be cheap to use.
Lastly, there are concerns that the money could be better spent on healthcare, education, housing and other important social issues.  This is more difficult to answer.  There is progress being made on these fronts, albeit slowly.  The problems in Brazil’s big cities are not trivial and there is no quick easy answer, but if the funding for the Olympics improves housing and educations and does something to improve the quality of life of the favela’s (slum’s) inhabitants in Rio de Janeiro, there will be long-term benefits there and, hopefully, elsewhere.  There is no doubt that crime is a serious concern and something which will need to be resolved prior to the Olympics in order to reassure the influx of tourists.
My personal opinion is that the Games represent a huge opportunity for Brazil to be recognised for what it is:

  • A huge country with enormous economic and touristic potential
  • A country with beautiful warm open people, stunning beaches and diverse cultures

So lets hope that the Olympics are a huge success and bring financial and social rewards to Rio and Brazil as a whole.

The 10 things I miss most from the UK

Whilst Brazil is a great place to live with many many positives, unsurprisingly, there are a number of things I miss from the UK.  Some of these are trivial, others less so, but after 4 years, and still missing them, I guess they must have some significance.  So here they are in no specific order.
Friends and Family
I think the reason for this is clear, so I wont say more.
Cricket and Rugby
Why cricket and rugby and not football?  I guess the answer is obvious – Brazilians (not all but most) love football so there is plenty to watch on TV, normally including 3 or 4 matches from the English Premier League each week.  However, it is impossible to watch cricket here.  I have to follow it on the internet, but thanks to Test Match Special on the radio via the internet, I was able to follow our re-taking of The Ashes!  A pity the one day series has been so bad.
Unlike cricket, there is some rugby on TV and Belo Horizonte even has its own team.  I found this out when I taught the club’s president for a while.  The TV has European club rugby matches on, but they are usually recorded and, therefore, not so interesting when you know the results.  It is also possible, on cable TV, to watch the French Six Nations matches, but only the French games.  Shame it has to be the French!

An old English beer

Warm beer

Who remembers Skol from the UK?  Well, here it is perhaps the most popular beer – enough said?  Seriously, Brazilian Skol is much better than our version, but virtually all the beers here are lagers/pilsners.  Whilst I like them, sometimes I really crave a draught 6X, London Pride, Old Speckled Hen or one of our delicious real ales.  It is possible to buy cans of some of these, but they are expensive and who likes canned beer?  There is a local German bar that serves draught Guinness which goes somewhat to soothing those pangs.
Television, especially the BBC
I still struggle with understanding Portuguese properly, so long for decent TV.  Yes, we get the US sitcoms, CNN and BBC World, but this isn’t the same as television in the UK.  Even when I was young and living in California, I missed British TV.  I guess it is cultural, but the American shows just don’t hit the spot.
By the way, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the BBC, BBC World is not the same. Sure it is the same company, but if I were to give the BBC in the UK 9 out of 10, I would give BBC World 1 out of 10!  Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered a way to watch the BBC.
Strong mature cheddar cheese
This is perhaps the one thing I miss the most.  Sure there is nice cheese here.  You can get most European cheeses, but the thing Brazilians call cheddar is the tasteless version that can be found in the USA.  If anyone ever visits, please bring me some!

A traditional British cheddar cheese

Other foods
As a very fussy eater, I can honestly say that Brazilian food is excellent.  I don’t like everything, but that goes for the UK as well.  However, the things I miss the most, in no particular order, are curry, Branston Pickle, Fish and Chips, Horseraddish sauce, Bovril, McVities Plain(Dark) Chocolate Digestives,and English mustard.   Who notices a bit of a pattern?  Yes, I like spicy, flavourful food and Brazilians tend to prefer plainer tastes such as rice and beans.
Seasons
In Belo Horizonte there aren’t any ‘real’ seasons.  Sure there is the rainy season and the dry season. but the temperatures never get really cold, the trees don’t lose their leaves, the length of the day doesn’t change much.  Sometimes, I long for some cool weather but not the dreary, sunless winter months of Britain.
Cheap computers and components
Although it is possible to buy almost anything electrical in Brazil, the things are usually very expensive.  For example, I just bought an Apple iPhone and the cost of it (with a similar package to one in the UK) was approximately double. I paid R$1449 (roughly £490) for the mid-range one. This isn’t just for Apple products, but is particularly applicable for electronics companies who don’t have factories in Brazil or other South American countries.
Although I mention an expensive product, the same applies to laptops, desktops, video cards etc from other suppliers such as Dell and HP.
Outdoor activities

A view of Belo Horizonte from a road leading to one of the most affluent suburbs, Belvedere

Why outdoor activities when the weather is so much better than the UK?  The answer to this depends on the activity in question.

First, I like walking in the countryside and even around towns or cities.  Where we live in Belo Horizonte, it isn’t easy to walk for two principal reasons: security and topography.  Even though I haven’t personally witnessed any serious crime in Brazil, some of my students tell very unpleasant stories.  It is therefore considered unwise to walk in many areas both in and outside of the city.
The second reason is the topography.  Belo Horizonte (beautiful horizon is the translation) is a very hilly city.  So to walk anywhere here means, almost certainly, scaling small mountains which is good exercise but not quite the pleasant stroll that I prefer.  Of course this is specific to where we live.
The second outdoor activity I miss is gardening (please don’t laugh for those who saw my garden in Kingston).  As most people choose to live in flats, there is little chance to garden.  We have a small herb garden on our balcony, but this doesn’t count as the balcony is enclosed in glass.  We are thinking about buying a house in the future mainly for this reason.
Lastly, and yes I’ve started to struggle to think of 10 things, is:
Public transport
People in the UK, and I was one, complain about the public transport being late, dirty and many other things.  In Brazilian cities, the only significant public transport is buses.  These get really busy and hot apparently because they don’t have air-conditioning.  I say apparently because I’ve never actually tried them yet.  Imagine being on a bus full of people, some who may have been labouring all day, in direct sun with temperatures in the shade in the mid-thirties centigrade.  Suddenly, the British trains, tubes and buses don’t seem so bad.  The UK has an established public transport system, perhaps with room for improvement, but, in Brazil, there is little option other than using a car for those who can afford one.
Concluding, there isn’t so much missing in Brazil. Most things can be found with some effort, but there are those few things that I shall always miss.  Thankfully, the UK isn’t so far away.
In the future …

  • The 10 things I don’t miss about England
  • The best things in Brazil
  • The things I’d change in Brazil if I was President

London’s Public Transport Transporte em Londres: uma introdução

One of the questions I’m often asked is “What is the metro like in London?”

First, there are several public transport systems in London, most of which are now managed by the city council. There is the London Underground, which Londoners call the “The Tube”, and it has 12 separate lines. The tube network is mainly in the north half of the city because of London’s geology. This system starts operating at around 5:30am and runs until about 12:30am seven days a week. The trains depart central London stations at about 2-3 minute intervals during peak times, and 7-8 minute intervals in off-peak times. Contrary to general opinion, much of the Tube is above ground, particularly away from the central zones. See the tube map.
There are also plenty of London buses, including the famous red double-deckers. Their routes extend across the whole of London and operate for similar hours to the tube. However, there are also night buses. These night buses run along similar routes to some of the day buses but have a reduced frequency. You can get on a night bus from about midnight in central London and take it to your neighbourhood in the suburbs.
Additionally, there are also river buses in central London, but they aren’t generally used by Londoners.
Finally, and definitely not least importantly, there is the National Rail network or over-ground train system. This is operated by many different companies and the trains depart from many central London terminus stations like Waterloo, King’s Cross, St Pancreas, Victoria and Paddington.
The southern half of London is mainly served by this overland network rather than the Tube. Therefore, if you look at the famous Tube map, don’t be fooled into thinking this is the complete ‘train’ network. There are in fact, probably, twice as many stations with the other 50% appearing on the ‘London Connections’ map.
To use this network, you can buy single tickets to go from place to place, or you can buy daily, weekly or monthly tickets or even an oyster card from any of the stations or other points of sale such as newsagents. The cost of travel depends on how far you travel. The entire network is divided into 6 principal zones. These zones are arranged as concentric ‘circles’ around the centre of London. All you need to do is buy a ticket for the zones you want to travel to and from (and any zones you pass through en-route).

To navigate on the Tube is very easy. Each line is colour coded. On the map, the stations where you can change from one line to another are shown as a circle, the non-interchange stations are shown as a ‘tag’. The direction of travel is shown on the front of each train and on signs on each platform. Additionally, it is important to know your north, south, east and west despite the fact that the platforms are labelled as northbound, southbound, eastbound or westbound. To find your way round, you simple follow the colours of the lines/signs and have a general idea if you need to go north or south.
I hope this brief introduction of getting about in London is helpful.
For further information: Transport for London
Pictures: Wikipedia and Guardian.co.ukUma das perguntas que sempre me fazem é “Como é o metrô em Londres?”

Para começar, há vários sistemas de transporte público em Londres, a maioria deles gerenciada pela prefeitura da cidade. Há o famoso metrô “London Underground”, que os londrinos chamam de “The Tube”, com 12 linhas separadas. A rede do Tube está localizada principalmente na parte norte da cidade devido à geologia de Londres. O sistema começa a operar às 5:30 da manhã e funciona até aproximadamente 00:30, sete dias por semana. Os trens partem das estações centrais de Londres a cada 2 ou 3 minutos durante os horários de pico, e em intervalos de 7 a 8 minutos nos outros horários. Ao contrário do que muitos pensam, grande parte do Tube não é subterrânea, principalmente nas áreas afastadas do centro da cidade. Veja o mapa do metrô.

Londres conta também com um sistema de ônibus: entre eles, os famosos double-deckers (ônibus de dois andares) vermelhos. As rotas se estendem por toda a cidade, e o horário de funcionamento é semelhante ao do metrô. A diferença é que existem os ônibus noturnos. Os ônibus noturnos mantêm rotas similares às de alguns ônibus diurnos, mas a frequência é menor. É possível pegar um ônibus noturno no centro de Londres a partir de meia-noite para ir aos bairros nos subúrbios.
Existem também ônibus-barco no centro de Londres, mas eles quase não são usados pelos londrinos.
E por último, mas com certeza não menos importante, há a Rede Nacional de ferrovias ou sistema de trens de superfície. Esses trens são operados por diferentes empresas e partem dos diversos terminais ferroviários de Londres como Waterloo, King’s Cross, St. Pancreas, Victoria e Paddington. A parte de Londres situada ao sul é servida principalmente por este sistema de trens de superfície e não pelo Tube. Sendo assim, não pense que a rede de “trens” que você vê no famoso mapa do metrô está completa. Na verdade, deve haver pelo menos o dobro de estações e essas outras 50% aparecem no mapa de conexões chamado “London Connections”.


Para usar todos esses tipos de transporte, você pode adquirir passagens únicas para ir de um lugar ao outro, ou pode adquirir passes diários, semanais ou mensais, ou o seu Oyster card. Eles podem ser comprados em qualquer estação ou outros pontos de venda como bancas de revistas. O custo da viagem depende da distância. A rede completa é divida em 6 zonas principais. Essas zonas são “círculos” concêntricos ao redor do centro de Londres. Você só precisa adquirir o bilhete válido para as zonas em que você quer se deslocar (e aquelas que estiverem no caminho).
É muito fácil usar o Tube. Cada linha tem uma cor diferente. No mapa, as estações em que você pode trocar de uma linha para outra são mostradas com um círculo, e as estações em que a troca não é possível não têm o círculo. O sentido da viagem é mostrado na frente de cada trem, e também aparece na plataforma. É importante saber em que sentido você quer ir (norte, sul, leste ou oeste), mas há indicação nas plataformas juntamente com os nomes das estações. Você verá “northbound” (para o norte), “southbound” (para o sul) “eastbound” (para o leste) ou “westbound” (para o oeste). Para achar seu trem, você deve seguir a cor ou o nome da linha que deseja tomar e saber mais ou menos se quer ir para o norte ou sul, leste ou oeste.
Espero que essa breve introdução ao transporte em Londres seja útil.
Fotos: Wikipedia e Guardian.co.uk

My move to Brazil – a personal account

Below, I’ve copied a page from my static site.  I’d like comments and feedbacks to share with others
I am writing this page to perhaps help others in a similar situation to myself. I often found it difficult to locate information about rules and regulations when moving and when I did I often found it differed considerably. Whilst the info below is based on my personal experiences, you should confirm details for yourself as well. I am not a lawyer and can’t offer legal advise only opinion.
I believe that some of Brazil’s regulations vary from city to city and state to state. My experiences are based on moving from the United Kingdom to Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais.
A little about my story. I met a Brazilian lady whilst she was studying in the UK. After carrying on a long distance relationship we decided to get married and for me to move to Brazil. I am currently living in Brazil since May 2005 and now have a permanent visa, RNE (identification card for foreigners), carteira do trabalho (official booklet that records employment details) and driving license.
The first point of research should by your local Brazilian Consular office. You can visit the UK one here.
Please read the info below. You can contact me if you have any specific questions that I may be able to help you with.
General Points
I have been told by other British people I have met in Brazil that it worth getting any and all documents (and some you don’t think you’ll need) that you even think you may need legalized at the consulate in the UK. Without a stamp, UK documents are no use in Brazil (eg birth certificate, driving license, qualifications etc) and you can only get them legalized at the consulate in the UK and not in Brazil. These documents will also then need officially translating into Portuguese once you are in Brazil.
You are allowed to remain in Brazil on a tourist visa for 90 days which can then be extended by a further 90 days at the Federal Police Station. I understand that the maximum duration you can stay, continuous or not, in Brazil in any 365 day period is 180 on a tourist visa. These figures are the official ones, but I have met several people who have over-stayed there time and not had any problems when they did come to leave. However take this chance at your own risk.
Marriage
The guide from the consul about documentation that was required proved to be accurate. We had no problems at the local cartorio (registry office) with any of the paperwork. Although we had been told in advance that we would not need a non-impediment to marriage certificate I obtained one in the UK anyway and had it legalized As with many things in Brazil it is better to have too much paperwork than not enough. Because I am a UK citizen staying in Brazil, the application for the marriage license did take longer than it would for a Brazilian couple. For us it took around 6 weeks from date of application.
Visa Application
I returned to the UK after we got back from honeymoon for a short trip to apply for permanent visa (family re-union) at the consulate in London. I was repeatedly told that it is much easier and a shorter process to apply in your own country. I was told it would take approximately 2 months to process in the UK, whereas to apply in Brazil could take up to 2 years. I have met several people who applied over a year ago for a permanent visa in Brazil are still waiting for it to be issued.
The consulate accepted all the documents I provided except one. On their web site they say you need proof of residence in the UK and give as one of the examples of accepted forms as a letter from a GP. However this was not allowed so I then applied to my electoral register office for a letter which was accepted. I believe documents such as this and the police statement detailing any criminal record remain valid, once legalized, for 3-6 months.
Despite the early indications that it would take 2 months or more to process my visa application, in my case it took only 24 days. Please do not count on your application being so fast but be aware it could be. When I returned to the UK I had to leave my passport with the consulate. When I arrived they told me to come back in 4 days time, despite it saying 3 days on their website, however when I showed them my return air ticket they agreed to process visa in 3 days.
RNE Application (ID card for immigrants)
The RNE is probably the most important document you need in Brazil as a foreigner. You can not apply for one until you have a visa other than tourist.
Once I had returned to Brazil with my permanent visa, the application process for the RNE was quite simple. All I had to do was go the the Policia Federal (DPF) with my passport (including photocopies of ALL pages), 2 passport size photos and one copy of my visa application that the UK consulate gave me back when I collected my passport with visa. There is a limited period from arriving in Brazil on permanent visa during which you must apply for the RNE or start the whole process over again. There was also an application fee that needed to be payed.
After completing the forms, handing in documents, having finger prints taken etc, I was given a temporary paper ID card which remained valid for 180 days. I was told the final ID card would be ready in 60-90 days, but mine actually took over 160 days. I think this was due to some problem in Brasilia though and was an exception rather than usual. When we tried to chase the application after 4 months, the Policia Federal didn’t believe it was taking so long.
There is an intermediate step in the process between being issued with temporary ID and getting final ID. After a few days, the details of the application are logged on to the computer systems. Once this has happened you are able to get another form, which includes your final ID number, called a SINCRE. In reality I found I needed both the SINCRE and temporary ID for other official applications (eg bank account). The SINCRE is just an A4 printout and took just a few minutes to collect.
When my final RNE was ready I was able to tell by checking the DPF website. Literally as soon as the website said it was ready then I was able to collect it that day.
Bank Account
In Brazil there are several forms of document required (eg CPF, ID card). In order to open a bank account you will need at least a CPF number (Tax ID similar to National Insurance number in UK I think), ID card (eg RNE) and proof of address (or as I used my wife’s utility bills with our wedding certificate). The CPF number you can obtain by applying at either Banco de Brasil or another bank called Caixa. You pay a small amount, fill in some forms and then eventually you will be asked to visit the local tax office (Receita Federal) to show your passport before the number is officially issued. I guess this is to check your ID. To get a CPF you do not need a permanent visa even though it will be easier if you do have one. The CPF is about the only permanent document you can get before having other forms of ID/paperwork. There may be other ways to open an account but I didn’t have any success.
However I wasn’t able to obtain any of the other forms of ID until after I was married.
Carteira do trabalho
The carteira do trabalho is actually a booklet that looks a lot like a passport. Although this document is not required by all employers (it depends on type of work and contract basis), I think it is very good to have. In this booklet your employer records details of your employment . When work is recorded in the booklet it means you and your employer are making contributions to the government to cover things such as pensions. It is not this document that allows you to work in Brazil as far as I understand it. You are able to work once you have applied for RNE but you may not get all the benefits until you have the carteira do trabalho and some employers will require one.
In order to get the permanent version of this document , you need the final RNE. However our research indicated that you can apply for a temporary one (like the driving license) once you have your temporary ID and SINCRE.
As I never needed and hence never applied for a temporary one, I am not sure of the details or how long it remains valid.
The application for the carteira do trabalho was very simple. It was even easier for foreigners than Brazilian nationals as there was no line for foreigners and there was a room full of Brazilians waiting to apply. For the application all I had to do was take a passport size photo and a photocopy of my RNE. I also showed passport, proof of address and original RNE. Once everything was completed, I was told to come back in 4 days to collect the document. When I returned to collect, I received the booklet after a short wait with no problems. This application was also free!
Driving
This is perhaps the area that I found most confused. I was told that an international driving permit issued in the UK is not acceptable in Brazil. The consulate questioned why I had bothered to have my UK driving license legalized as they said it was not valid.
The application for this was indeed the most troublesome of all the documents.
After arriving back and in possession of temporary RNE and SINCRE we went to DETRAN to apply for a driving license. We were directed to a small office hence avoiding the long lines. In order to apply I needed to show and have photocopies of proof of address, CPF card, temporary RNE plus SINCRE, UK driving license and the official translation of it. The application was processed immediately and I was given a piece of paper that entitled me to drive for 1 year. For me at least, there was no charge for this temporary document. I just needed to keep this document as well as my UK license and official translation of UK license (or official photocopies of) when I was driving.
Once I had my permanent RNE we returned to DETRAN. This time we had to wait in the line with the Brazilian’s applying for their licenses. Once we were seen by an attendant, she completed a few details on her computer and printed out a form for me to sign, a form for me to pay for the license application and details of a clinic to visit to complete the medical examination that is part of the application process (see below for more on this).
After this I went to the bank to pay the fee and then to the medical clinic where I was seen almost immediately. Having passed the medical and with receipt of payment I returned to the small office to apply for my actual proper printed Minas Gerais license. Once again, as above, I need to show original documents and have photocopies of proof of address, RNE, CPF and UK license. This time however I had to leave my actual original copy of the translation of my UK license (so make sure you have one or more originals/notarised photocopies!). I also needed one passport size photo of myself. Again the application was processed immediately and I was told to expect the license to arrive by post within a week. It is valid for 5 years, and then you need to take another medical exam (not the psychological test, though).
The medical exam consisted of a psychological test which mainly involved drawing lines and shapes on a bit of paper with eyes covered. I found this test very strange and felt sure I had failed it as had another person I knew. However I passed so don’t worry too much about it. The other part of the medical was with a doctor asking questions and checking things like eyesight and blood pressure. Again no problem and a much more expected medical examination.
I think this is one of the things that varies with where you live in Brazil. Be careful and check.

1and1.co.uk – A rant

Stay clear of 1 and 1. They are cheap, but I’ve never had much success with them. I’m still waiting for answers to various questions I’ve posed over the years

When I updated my website I moved the hosting from 1and1.co.uk to a Brazilian host and I wanted to cancel my hosting package but not domain registration.  No big deal you’d think.  However, they have not allowed me to cancel my contract due to extremely poorly devised systems, in my opinion.
The situation
I normally pay by credit card.  However for separate non-related reasons, the registered credit card was no longer valid.  Originally, I chose not to update paymenr details until I had a guarantee I would not be charged.  I then wrote requesting cancellation and I was repeatedly (over a period of over 2 weeks) sent the same email with instructions on ‘how’ to do this.     
The problem
As per the instructions, I navigated to a page to change my package.  I selected the option I wanted, and hit the continue button.  This directed me to a page asking me to update payment details.  However, I don’t have a credit card with a UK address.  I have various credit cards, both English and Brazilian, but 1 and 1’s system would not accept the address.  I have phoned and emailed on numerous occasions.  On one occasion on the phone, I was told that 17th August was a holiday in England and to call back later…  The real reason was the time of the call!  I’ve sent screenshots documenting the problem
After a long phone call earlier today being forwarded 3 times to the ‘billing’ department (This is whom I thought I was speaking to), I eventually discovered the answer.
The solution
There is no solution.  It is a Catch 22.  You can’t cancel unless you ‘pay’.  I can’t ‘pay’ because they refuse to accept perfectly valid credit cards because their inane error checking doesn’t allow me to enter my address.  Even the person I spoke to was unable to do anything.  She was using the same system that I was.  How idiotic is that?
My advice
Stay clear of 1 and 1.  They are cheap, but I’ve never had much success with them.  I’m still waiting for answers to various questions I’ve posed over the years. 
 
Has anyone else had similar experiences?  
If anyone from 1 and 1 reads this, I would love to discuss this more, but it is impossible to get through the defensive barrier erroneously called the ‘help desk’.  This a very much abridged account.

The last month

I need to get into the habit of writing something…
There hasn’t been much news the last month.  Eneida and I have been busy working, me teaching English and proofreading some academic papers whilst Eneida has been busy translating and is back at PUC now.  Thanks to the swine flu, Eneida had an extended holiday from PUC after the Brazilian government asked all the schools and universities to delay the new semester for a week or so.  That’s the good news, the bad is that the week will be added in December.
Talking of the swine flu, I haven’t heard much about it in Belo Horizonte.  I know it is here, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who has knowingly had it or knows someone who has.  I guess it will reach us in vengeance at some point.
The plans?  There isn’t much to report.  We’ll probably travel to Governador de Valadares next month to attend the ceremonial opening of a new part of Regina’s factory which will produce dried milk.
That’s all folks….

A Brazilian Beach in Winter – Trancoso

What is a beach holiday during winter like in Brazil?  Following our 1 week’s trip to Trancoso in the state of Bahia, let me try to explain.

Praia dos Coqueiros looking towards Praia Rio Verde
Praia dos Coqueiros looking towards Praia Rio Verde

Firstly, in the state of Bahia at least, the temperature is very very different to the British (oops nearly wrote English!) winter.  The temperatures were in the mid to high 20’s during the day and high teens at night much like our summer.  The only downside at this time of year is that it can rain and be a little windy.  It rained most days, but not for long and it was always possible to spend some time in the sun on the beach.
That is not all, there are something over 33,00 kilometres of beach in Brazil and a population of about 185 million so the beaches are not crowded especially in ‘winter’ holiday.  There are of course exceptions to this, but with a little searching it isn’t hard to find some space.
Trancoso church - the nearby city of Porto Seguro is where Europeans first landed in Brazil
Trancoso church - the nearby city of Porto Seguro is where Europeans first landed in Brazil

However, the deserted sections of beach are lacking an important facility.  Here it is customary for bars/restaurants, or private individuals in the case of Rio de Janeiro for example, to layout chairs, tables and parasols for their customers.  There is usually a waiter just a ‘moço’ (boy) call away.
The beach also has its entrepreneurs who walk up and down between the bars selling their merchandise such as costume jewellery, suntan lotion, sunglasses.  In Rio you can find almost anything on the beach!
With regards Trancoso, it is a smallish community that was once described as a beach for ‘hippies’, more recently as a beach for chic hippies, and now as a beach for the chic.  In truth, I would say, as is often the case in Brazil, it is a mix of the poor and the rich.
To get to Trancoso, you either need to fly, as we did, or take a bus.  A flight from Belo Horizonte to Porto Seguro is about an hour long.  From Porto Seguro, it is an hour’s drive either by road (about 45 miles) or by ferry across the river ? from Porto Seguro to Arraial d’Ajuda and from their a drive of  about 25 miles.
The historic town is built around the ‘Quadrado’ with the church at the ocean facing end and shops/restaurants running down either side.  The shops mainly sell hand made things from the local artisans.  The restaurants serve mainly local Bahian/Brazilian food with lots of seafood.  We did however eat at an Australasian restaurant called ‘Masala’ where I had my first curry in Brazil.  It was surprisingly very good and well worth a visit.
<Craft shops on the side of the Quadrado, Trancoso
Craft shops on the side of the Quadrado, Trancoso

The accommodation is mainly ‘pousadas’.  They are a bit of a cross between a small hotel and a bed and breakfast.  The >one we stayed at was lovely and very close to the centre.  The other option is to stay at pousada on the beach which is a 10-15 minute gentle walk downhill.  If you feel like something more luxurious, there is a Club Med on the coast between Arraial d’Ajuda and Trancoso.
In summary, Trancoso is a lovely small town with huge amounts of character and a great place to spend a week relaxing on the beach or by a pool.  It isn’t a place I’d suggest if you want a lively place.  We are already considering a return visit!
If you want to see some more photos from our trip, you can see them here.
With regards the website, it is still very much underdevelopment, but I hope to have the design finalised fairly soon and then I’ll start adding content to the various sections.

Steve’s Newsletter 7 (2007)

Friday 18th May 2007

A typical beach between Recife and João Pessoa

Well it has taken an eternity, I know, but here is our latest news (and not so latest…).  It has been nearly 9 months since I lost wrote and the best excuse I have to offer is a catastrophic failure of my hard disk losing weeks of work.  I know I have written to many people, but here is a brief resume of the last 9 months and the future plans.

First work.  I have continued teaching both my own private students and with the school Greenwich.  The private students tend to come and go but, at least during the school terms/semesters, my income seems to stay reasonably constant.  However, next semester I’ll actively be trying to increase this mainly due to our future plans.

Since we got our cat, Foggy, our ability to travel has been somewhat reduced but the benefits and pleasure we get far out way this small inconvenience.  He is now fully grown, but his markings still keep changing, currently his paws are getting lighter whilst overall he gets darker.  Foggy’s favourite game at the moment is chasing the reflection of the sun from my watch when I am at my desk working in the mornings.  He also has an uncanny nack of laying on the keyboard when I am most rushed! Unfortunately, he continues to have various niggling medical problems.  Just as he gets over one thing, another arises but thankfully, so far, nothing too serious.

And as for my Ford Ka!  I really don’t want to make a big point but suffice it to say, much expense later, the Ka will not be lasting much longer.  I’ll be selling it shortly as soon as I can afford something else.  I doubt I’ll ever buy another Ford, and yes, I have said that before. 

Beware the sharks, Recife

Now to the events, recent and not so recent.  Having said we haven’t been away much, we did spend about a week and half in the north east of Brazil over the Christmas and New Year period.  The first and last days were spent in the city of Recife (meaning reef) with Eneida’s mother and family.  In the middle section of the trip Eneida and I drove to a neighbouring state where we stayed in the city of João Pessoa.  

As is customary here, the main celebratory meal happens on the night of Christmas Eve. We ended having a very nice buffet meal in a hotel overlooking the beach. Christmas day lunch was also in the same hotel, but unfortunately lacking the traditional English roast. That had to wait until the weekend after getting back to Belo Horizonte when I cooked for Eneida and her mother. 

Recife is by far the larger of the two, but we both liked the smaller and more charming João Pessoa which I would not hesitate to recommend as a destination should you ever travel to Brazil.  Recife has more things to do and a broader selection of restaurants but the comparative quietness of João Pessoa attracted us.  A couple of quick facts about the two cities.  First, Recife is notorious in Brazil for shark attacks for bathers and surfers along the beaches.  Apparently, these attacks only started after the building of a new harbour.  For my fellow divers, I don’t know what type, but probably, given the location, some sort of reef shark,  Secondly, João Pessoa is the most eastern point of the continental Americas.  I felt like I was nearly home

Eneida and Steve at the Eastern most point of the Americas
(Brazil’s Land’s End/John O’Groats)

Before travelling to Recife, we had a family meal in a local restaurant.  Nothing so remarkable about that?  There were however a couple of things that stood out.  First, was the main course.  Rat, or more precisely Paca (a large Brazilian rodent similar in shape to a rat, but, in truth, probably not closely related), one of the world’s largest, if not the largest, rodent.  It tasted delicious, a bit like chicken or game birds in my opinion.  Secondly, the owner had a pet toucan along with many other tropical birds.  I doubt you’d see many of these at restaurants in the UK.  According some friends of ours, who have a small farm or situ, Toucan’s are native to the area.

Toucan, Eneida and Steve

A couple of months ago, we visited these friends for a day in their lovely situ (sorry no pictures but perhaps another time), they not only mentioned having seen toucans flying wild, but also that their staff had scared off an Onça the previous day.  For those of you who don’t know, an Onça is a native large black wild predatory cat.  It had taken a liking to one of their chickens.  Having said all this, I have yet to see any interesting wildlife in Brazil other than a number of monkeys.  One day I hope to get a chance to see more.

The Toucan 

In April, I nearly had my first face to face contact with a UK resident since my last trip back to the UK in October 2005.  Mick Stowe was touring in Brazil to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.  Unfortunately, Eneida and I were both working and couldn’t spare the time to travel to see him.  Perhaps we will have more luck with the next visitor.

I think this concludes the main events of the last 9 months or so, so on to the future.  

Last week, we started looking for a new place to live.  This will probably be an apartment as it fits our needs at the moment.  I’d prefer a house but it has many extra complications and expenses that are unjustifiable at the moment.  There are many reasons we haven’t looked before such as finance and time.  However, now that I am consistently working more and, post July, I should be able to contribute to the finances having sorted out my UK affairs.

Finally, and perhaps the main reason for writing now, is to let our friends know that we will be travelling to the UK in July.  We arrive on the 9th and leave on the 30th.  Our plans and itinerary are by no means complete but broadly speaking our scheduled is:

– London 9th – 15th July (we will be staying in the Barnes area)
– Other parts of the UK 16th – 22nd July mainly visiting family and friends
– Bilbão/San Sebastian 22nd – 26th July
– London 26th – 30th (we will staying in central London)

Whilst in London, I have many things (legal and financial) to sort out and will probably be busy most days.  However, I would really like to catch up with friends and find out all the latest gossip and news.  I should have a UK mobile number before leaving Brazil, so please let me know by email if you would like me to send you this number once obtained.  I’ll also have my Brazilian mobile (number on email) although it will only be turned on to check for messages occasionally.

One of the main objectives of our trip is to sort out the things I have in storage.  I basically, want to sell, give or throw away most of the things I have left in the UK.  I haven’t decided exactly what I will do with everything yet, but if you know of anyone looking for a few things for a new house….   More details available on request.  Also, if anyone is free in the second week of July and feels like giving us a hand shifting stuff, it would be much appreciated.

I’m sure I’ve missed many details and have other things to tell.  If you want to find out more, I guess you’ll have to join us for a beer or two.  Looking forward to some real beer and many other things that are difficult or impossible to find here.  

That’s all for now.  Hope to see you in July

Steve and Eneida

Steve’s Newsletter 6 (2006)

Sunday 3rd September

Eneida, Gabriel, Foggy and Lu

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a newsletter mainly because not a huge amount has changed. In truth life has been starting to settle into a routine. 

First news on the work front. Since the start of August I’ve been working much more. It has come as something as a shock to the system after a year of doing very little paid work. Currently, I have 3 private students: a university lecturer/want to be UK PhD student, a dentist and an engineering student. The last two were courtesy of a friends of a friend that used to teach here in Belo Horizonte before he decided to move to the city of Vitoria. Many thanks Bruno.

The rest of my current professional activities are working for the language school Greenwich that I mentioned in my last newsletter. This semester I had 4 groups, each twice a week, plus one special course teaching a teenager who wanted conversation classes from a native British speaker. She recently lived and went to school in the UK for 10 months. However,on Thursday I found out that one of my groups is likely to be no more due to lack of students. Therefore 2 groups are to be merged and I am the unlucky teacher. Oh well, at least I have Saturday mornings free again:-) 

As a consequence of this extra work and needing to travel around, I bought a Ford Ka a few weeks ago. It is very nice, if a little underpowered on the streets of Belo Horizonte. It is just 1.0l and when the air conditioning is turned on at slow speeds or the hills/cliff faces of BH…….it is like applying the hand brake! Many of you wouldn’t believe how steep some of the roads are here. One day I’ll work out the gradient of our road which is by no means the steepest! Another interesting point about second hand cars in Brazil, or at least mine and Eneida’s, is that their second hand value is roughly the same as the original purchase price. Perhaps this is just a fluke of depreciation versus inflation but second hand cars do hold their value much better here than the UK.

Foggy at about 2 months old 
Foggy at 18 weeks

Our other main piece of news is the addition of a family member. You may have noticed him in the picture above. Back in June we bought a little kitten. When we got him he was a little over 600g but 10 weeks later he is now a whopping 2.4kg. His breed is called Ragdoll based on a true or mythical story originating in California. The story claims this cat who was half Persian and half Siamese was hit by a car. When picked up, it was completely floppy in the owner’s arms hence Ragdoll. I don’t think I believe it personally.

After much discussion we decided to call him Foggy. I don’t really remember why but other names we considered such as Guinness just didn’t seem right. His hair is very fine and fluffy. Our nephew, Gabriel, described him as nuvenzinha (little cloud). It sort of stuck. See below a couple more pictures of Foggy. The first is soon after we got him and the other was taken earlier today. 

He has been a great addition to our family apart from the early morning wake up calls, numerous trip to the vet and his penchant for eating our plants. In truth it feels like he has had every possible minor thing wrong with him. First it was worms and ear mites, followed rapidly by a fungus in his ears each needing a different medicine. Then there was Ringworm which is another skin based fungus problem. Unfortunately this means bathing him every week and for the first 3 weeks we also had to apply a fungicide spray. Thankfully this has now cleared up but we still have one more bath to give him tomorrow. I’m sure you all know how much cats love having a bath! His last problem was regular vomiting soon after eating and then just as rapid re-eating of it unless we managed to get there first. Animals have some strange habits! We still don’t know the cause of this, but my theory is age/eating too fast. Thankfully this has now stopped and on Wednesday the vet finally gave him a clean bill of health. Neither of us want to see Ronaldo soon (ie our vet)! 

Foggy

I guess this is a fitting, if slightly banal, lead into the final subject I’d like to talk about. You guessed it. It is the embarrassment of the World Cup (the top photo was taken during the first Brazil match in the group stages). I thought with a legitimate reason for supporting not just one, but two of the favoured teams, this year could have been good. I think England’s performances, with some brief exceptions, were appalling. They must have played some of the most boring games of the whole tournament. What happened? And no, I don’t blame Rooney. It was fortunate he could play at all. What was Sven thinking of just selecting 2 injured strikers, one who hadn’t even played in the Premiership for his club and Crouch! No disrespect to Crouch, but he his hardly going to be Golden Boot or whatever it is called for top scorer. Now Brazil. They were no better and perhaps worse. I think I can honestly, and I hope I don’t upset too many Brazilians, say that Ronaldo’s first match performance was the worst I have ever seen in an international football game from any player in any team. The whole team failed to perform well for whatever reason, but, to be fair, Ronaldo’s performance did improve. A bit. 

Despite this, we were all optimistic on the day of the quarter finals. Both teams had to improve, surely. I was both looking forward and dreading the anticipated semi-final clash Brazil v England. When asked during the tournament who I was supporting, I replied England and Brazil however if the two should meet then it would be England. I was hoping to be very unpopular here for a while;-) Back to the fatefully day, many beers, a few Caipirinhas, some churrasco (barbeque) and several hours later, the day came to a rather abrupt and unhappy end. Neither team qualified and neither team played at all well. The streets were completely silent in marked contrast to the more usual frequent fireworks celebrating a win. I think everyone was completely stunned. I guess I now have to wait until 2010. I hope to have the same dilemma of which team to support. 

We don’t currently have any travel plans, but will doubtless do something during the Christmas break lasting until end of January. Then of course comes Carnival again… The holidays here keep on coming. In fact next Thursday is independence day here which I will unfortunately spend on my own as Eneida will be in Rio de Janeiro at a conference/congress for a couple of days. I would have gone apart from work and looking after our gatinho (little cat). 

I hope you all enjoyed reading this even if there isn’t much new news here. I have no idea when I’ll next write but I guess it won’t be anytime soon but please forgive me. 

Please email or call us on Skype (Skype name is stevelathambrazil). I want to know all your news from blighty however small or trivial it might be! It is always good to hear from an friend 

Abraços

Steve e Eneida 

Steve’s Newsletter 5 (2006)

Monday 8th May 

I start writing this latest newsletter on the first anniversary, 8th May 06, of my move to Brazil. However due to a computer problem (some idiot forgot to save 1st draft), I doubt I’ll finish writing it on this day.

February and March were quiet months with very little news to write about apart from some limited success on the work front.

In late February I replied to an advert in a local paper from a local language school called Greenwich looking for people to teach English to businessmen. After a written test, interview and two half days of training I was feeling reasonably confident that I would be working soon. However, there was no real developments until the beginning of April when I was asked to teach one of their more advanced groups of teenagers. These lessons are at a school a few kilometres away twice a week. In the interim I was contacted by a man who wanted some English classes specifically from a native English English speaker! I have now been teaching him for a couple of months with a view to helping him pass an IELTS exam required for entry to British universities. He is planning on applying to study for a PhD at a UK university next year . 

Last month also saw the completion of the new bookcase/cupboards in Eneida’s study. The photos below show my design and visualisation as compared to the real thing. We are both very pleased with the way the unit looks and with the extra storage space it provide which was desperately needed. 

Reality

As you may know Brazil has one of the largest numbers of holidays of any country. In April/May we had three long weekends in a row the first being for Easter (although Good Friday is the only weekday we have off). Good Friday was followed the following week with Tiradentes Day (Tiradentes is a national hero who fought for independence from Portugal) and finally the following weekend was May Day/Labour day.

As Eneida had the whole week before Easter off from work (the Catholic university she works at has more and longer holidays than other places) we decided to go away for the week to the beach. To make the most of what remained of the summer, we took the chance to go to a resort in the state of Rio de Janeiro called Arraial do Cabo. 

Arraial do Cabo is on the peninsula that marks the point where the coast of Brazil changes from running roughly east/west to running more in a south-west/northeasterly direction and is about 170km east of the city of Rio itself. It is also the self-proclaimed centre of diving in Brazil although most people I’ve talked to would say that Fernando de Noronya, an island several hundred kilometres off the north east coast in the Atlantic, has the best diving. At some point in the future Eneida and I plan to visit it .

By now you have probably guessed that our holiday did involve diving. Whilst on the trip I took the chance to take a few dives whilst Eneida was taking her PADI Open Water course. Now that she is qualified, we will be able to dive together on future trips.

Finally also success on the document front. After 169 days (not that I was counting) I finally received my RNE. The RNE is the identity card the foreigners are required to carry in Brazil. It is also the document that Mir required to get virtually all the other documents so its arrival was very welcome. Roughly 3 weeks after receiving it, I now have the other document needed such as carteira do trabalho (a sort of work log book that employers should complete) and my Minas Gerais driving license. To be honest I still don’t have the license, but have been told it will be here no later than Friday (12/4). I hope this timescale is more accurate than RNE one was. Finally if you are interested in the process of getting all my documents read this page. 

That’s all our news for now. As to our future plans or trips, currently we have nothing arranged. In July, whilst we are both on holiday from our respective teaching commitments, we are considering a trip to Bonito. More details to follow in the next newsletter no doubt… Please email or call us on Skype.

Abraços

Steve e Eneida

Steve’s Newsletter 4 (2006)


Wednesday 8th February 

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Copacabana on NewYear’s eve 2005

In keeping with tradition once again this newsletter is somewhat behind my intended time to write. I guess I shall have to stop trying to kid myself saying that I’ll write one every 4 – 6 weeks and instead wait until I have a few things to talk about.

First a few updates from the previous newsletter. Unfortunately I was wrong about the starting time for my next semester of Portuguese classes. Life in Brazil seems to be on hold between Christmas and Carnival and hence universities don’t start again until after Carnival. This year that means early March. 

Despite trying to watch the telenovela’s (soap’s) to improve my Portuguese, I found I couldn’t stand them so will have to find something on TV I do like. Big Brother Brazil is the next candidate. 

Lastly, I am still waiting for my ID card. The Federal Police said 60 – 90 days but that time has now come and gone. Thankfully, this is not a big deal as my temporary works one works for most things but the proper one would make life that little bit easier. The last time we called to check on the progress we were told there had been some progress so hopefully I’ll have it later this week or early next. 

Now to our news of the last couple of months… 

As planned we spent Christmas in Rio de Janeiro with family. We arrived in Rio a little later than planned on Christmas Eve as Eneida was putting the finishing touches to her thesis. Christmas Eve night we went to a family party overlooking the lagoa (lake) which has a huge floating Christmas tree on it. However due to high winds the night before the tree had moved and was no longer visible from the apartment. The tree was very impressive and although I didn’t get any photos of it but you can see some here. Christmas day itself was a little strange as we really only lounged around the apartment. We had planned to go to the beach but unfortunately it was raining that day.

The rest of our stay in Rio was largely spent on the beach, eating out and generally relaxing at least for me. Eneida unfortunately still had those last little corrections to her thesis to finish. This led to one huge scare when the Word document wouldn’t open on her laptop and my computer was left behind in Belo. Thankfully this was just due to an old version of Word being on the laptop and was easily solved by opening and re-saving on a different PC. 

The stay in Rio was relaxing and a nice change from Belo. We stayed until New Year’s day in the end. The photo at the top of the page is of Copacabana beach just before midnight on New Years Eve. There were an estimated 3 million people there to watch the fireworks display at midnight. Also in attendance were 4 cruise ships although I am not sure if people aboard were included in the 3 million visitors. Thankfully we had an excellent view from above crowds in a10th floor beach front apartment. owned by a friend of Fernanda’s who we were staying with. 

The fireworks were launched from 4 or 5 barges floating a few hundred metres offshore spaced along the length of Copacabana beach. The beach is probably about 2 miles long with 50 metres width of combined Sand and road. You could hardly see any sand or road there were so many people! The display lasted about 15-20 minutes. Well worth seeing if you should ever be in Rio over New Year. The only problem was getting home as everyone else was also trying to do the same thing. We eventually made it back to where we were staying, 2 beaches (Ipanema and Leblon) further along from Copacabana, around 5am after a bit of a bar crawl, walk and eventually a taxi ride. 

We had been planning on going to Rio for Carnival this year, but have since mutually agreed to leave this for another year. However there is an upcoming free concert by the Rolling Stones on Copacabana that we may go to. Also, as you may have heard in relation to the ticket sales, U2 are due to play Rio and Sao Paulo soon. 

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On the way back from Rio we decided to take a small detour and spend a night close to a city called Teresopolis. The photo to the right is a mountain that looks like a hand close to Teresopolis called Dedo de Deus (Finger of God). This area is about an hour or two drive north of Rio and is very very beautiful. A lovely part of the countryside that includes some of the last remaining wooded areas of a type called Mata Atlantica that used to stretch along most of the southern coast of Brazil. I would thoroughly recommend that it is worth staying there for a night or two should you ever visit. 

Since returning home, bookshelves have become a recurrent theme. First, I needed to make some simple ones to store my books and other things that arrived just before Christmas. Having finally put everything away, we discovered we have completely run out of storage space in the apartment. Currently there is no room for anything else so we have decided to investigate a remodeling of Eneida’s study. In order to have something to show the carpenter (our intentions are way above my carpentry skills), I decided to model it in 3D. Below are a couple of renders of Eneida’s study. The first shows mainly what is existing and the second shows some new cabinets and bookshelves we hope to get made. 

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The 3D model building was interesting as it is not something I’ve done much of recently and was excellent practice. Although perhaps not the greatest renders you’ll ever see, I am quite pleased with them. I am also hoping to use this 3D modeling as another area I can pursue work in. There are lots of architects and engineering practices in and around Belo so I am hoping that one of them will find my CAD, modeling and lighting experience useful. 

One day we are also planning to design and build a house ourselves. This weekend we intend to start looking at places in order to try to find a location we like. We are not in any great hurry. First I need to start earning some money here. My aim is to draw the plans myself and model them so we know what we are getting. The model will help us as building a house will be a completely new experience for both of us but one we are looking forward to. 

Due to a variety of reasons we decided in the end not to go away on a proper holiday in January. Our current plans are a week on the beach at Easter where I can do a few dives and Eneida can get her PADI Open Water diving certification, as well as of course a lot relaxation. However we did manage a long weekend in Fatima’s sitio in Tangara. It was a nice break and very peaceful away from the noise and bustle of city life in BH. I included some photos of it in my previous newsletter from an previous visit. We had a great time particularly on the Saturday night when Fatima and her boyfriend, Marcos, arrived unexpectedly. We stayed up until the small hours singing songs to accompany Marcos’s guitar playing whilst drinking a few beers and the odd cachaça.

Our final and perhaps most important bit of news is that Eneida successfully completed the defense (viva) of her thesis last Tuesday in Campinas. She is now making me call her Dr Eneida;-)…

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Eneida and Rajan (Eneida’s PhD supervisor) 

We drove to Campinas, a city in the state of Sao Paulo and also close to the city of Sao Paulo, the day before the defense. Needless to say Eneida was a little tense, but thankfully everything went well. The defense took around 3 hours and was not a very pleasant experience particularly at certain points. From what I’ve been told by family and friends this is the normal way of things. Personally it was interesting sitting watching the proceedings even with my limited grasp of the language and virtually no understanding of linguistics. I did manage to get the feel of things and the topics of conversation if not the detail.

The defense was chaired by Eneida’s PhD supervisor Rajan. Joining him on the panel were 4 other professors whose responsibility it was to question Eneida. In the audience I was joined by Luiz Fernando (Eneida’s older brother aka Nando), and 2 other PhD linguistic students studying at Unicamp, Campinas. After it was over and we had heard the good news we adjourned to a look hostelry for a few beers before going out in the evening for a celebratory meal (see photos below). 

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Celebratory cerveja after thesis defense
Eneida, Daniel (student), Isabel (panelist), Gina (panelist), Rajan and Fernando

We are both really pleased that this ‘little’ project is over but also a little sad (but only a very little bit!). It was as a result of Eneida studying in London that we met. So although it is now over and it was very hard for her at many times, we are both very pleased that Eneida successfully embarked on her PhD.

That concludes my news for now. I am not going to predict when next I’ll write here, but please feel free to email me at any time. 

Abraço 

Steve 

Steve’s Newsletter 3 (2005)

Monday 5th December 

Some friends from my Portuguese classes

Once again this newsletter is a bit later than originally planned but here it is now.

Yesterday was my birthday so on Saturday evening we had a small party here in our apartment. We invited family and friends. The picture to the right is some of my classmates from the Portuguese classes which are now unfortunately over until February. The people are left to right (standing) Eneida, Talia and me, (sitting) Tamara, Catalina, Lynge and Inge. Apologies if I’ve spelt names wrong. See bottom of email for some other pictures from our party. 

The federal university largely shuts down (apart from exams) from December until after Carnival is over which this year is 28 February. However I believe my classes will start again at some point before this. Sadly it is very likely that most of the class will go separate ways and next semester there will only be a few of us continuing. The party is probably the last time most of us will be together as a group. 

Following advice from others who also had to learn Portuguese, I am going to start watching one of the many novelas on TV. The novelas are a kind of Brazilian soap opera that are televised 5 or 6 nights a week that most people watch. Apart from perhaps football, they are the most popular past time in Brazil so are also good from a cultural perspective as well. Not sure if I will like them, but guess I could get hooked and it’s an excuse to watch TV.

Eneida and Steve

Although the Portuguese classes are over, I am hoping to be able to continue getting some tuition. Fatima, one of Eneida’s friends that teaches English in Belo Horizonte, has offered to ‘exchange’ some Portuguese tuition if I help her with some English teaching. To me it sounds like a very fair deal particularly as I find it hard to sit at home studying.

To the right and below are a few of pictures of Fatima’s sitio. A sitio is a basically a small home built on a piece of land outside the city. These shots were taken a few months ago so are not really current news. However I thought they were worth showing to give an idea of the countryside and life here in Minas Gerais. In fairness to Fatima, I should also say that the photos of the sitio were taken whilst it was in the finishing stages of construction.

Having started this newsletter with the recent news, I’ll now go back to where I left off previously.

My trip to the UK to get my permanent visa and to ship my belongings to Belo Horizonte went smoothly. I am hoping to have my boxes before Christmas but this will depend on the port authorities in Santos, Sau Paulo and those in the UK. I’m looking forward to finally having my books, CD’s and other personal items with me.

The waterfall. Nice place to swim & cool off

I am also now well on the way to getting all the documentation and identity cards etc that I need to live and work here. I have my temporary ID and a document allowing me to drive for the next 6 months. I now have to wait for probably around another month or two for my actual permanent RNE (identity card) to be processed. This in turn will then allow me to apply for a provisional driving license that lasts 1 year. There are a couple of other things I need, but they are also only available once I have my permanent RNE. However thankfully the temporary ID was enough, after much discussion, to allow me to open a bank account. I will be very pleased when all this is over, but although things are getting easier, it will be at least another year before I have a full and permanent everything.

On returning to Brazil I was asked to get involved in a small press conference in Sao Paulo by a former colleague but after a similar event in London where no guests turned up, the production company who was organising the event in Brazil decided to pull out. However I contacted the production company that was taking over responsibility and was asked to continue in my role of overseeing the technical aspects here. However after another change of date, struggling to find a company that could build the set (or at least get one to quote in under a week!), the event was eventually cancelled a week before it was due to happen. I’m hoping that it will happen at some point in the future. It could still end up being my first job here. 

The kitchen and my first straight cachaça

Now that I have the required documents, I am starting to look to for work. I expect this to be varied for quite a while. Unfortunately, since I arrived in Brazil, the exchange rate has dropped by about 30% so am now finding it tough to live off the rent I am getting in the UK. In terms of work, I would like to become a local contact for European or American production companies working in Brazil. Given that it will take time to build up contacts, last week I also applied to a language school to teach English. In the short term I think teaching English is perhaps the most likely way to earn some money. Once my Portuguese has improved, I intend to start looking for work as a lighting designer here in Belo Horizonte but I expect this mainly to be architectural rather than event based projects.

We have decided to spend Christmas in Rio de Janeiro with some family and friends. We haven’t decided our plans yet for New Years but may stay in Rio if the weather is good or chose to travel elsewhere. At some point in mid-January we also plan to have a week away relaxing before Eneida goes back to work in February. 

Although it will not be the first time I have spent Christmas on the beach, I am looking forward to getting some sun and a tan. Contrary to what you may think, the weather in Brazil is not always nice. Since returning from the UK 5 weeks ago, we have probably only had 5 nice sunny days. Lots and lots of cloud, many thunder storms and rain most days. Not much different from what it is like in the UK apart from being around 10-15ºC warmer. The rainy season apparently usually starts in late December or January and not November so I am hoping it will end early this year as well. 

That about wraps up my news. I’ll write again after New Year’s depending on our plans. Have a great Christmas and New Year.

Abraço 

Steve 

Steve’s Newsletter 2 (2005)

Tuesday 11 October, 2005

An Oscar Niemeyer building in Belo

Well it has taken a bit longer than intended for me to get around to writing my second newsletter, but here it is.

In truth one reason for not writing sooner is that not much new has happened since I returned from my last trip back to the UK. However I am about to embark on another trip to the autumnal UK. I found out last week that my visa application has been approved and is ready for me to collect at the Brazilian consul in London. Now that I have arranged the shipping of personal belongings to Brazil, I have been able to book a flight ‘home’.

‘Home’ is a bit of a mixed concept for me. In one sense the UK is my home and I think I always will have a feeling that this is where I am from, but I now live in Belo Horizonte with Eneida so this is also ‘home’. I think once I have the visa in my passport, have a job and, most importantly, feel that I am able to communicate in Portuguese with the Brazilians then this will feel increasingly like my only home.

Since I last wrote here, I have been attending Portuguese lessons 4 times a week at the local public university UFMG. It is in a neighborhood called Pampulha which is about 30 minutes drive from where we live in the area called Gutierrez. Having attended various other Portuguese lessons and also having tried to study at home, I am pleased to say that I am finding these classes very helpful. The pace is good, but what I think is the most important thing is that I have classes 4 times a week for an hour each. It gives me many chances to practice and of course it helps living being surrounded by people who mainly don’t speak any English.

A street in Gutierrez (where we lived)

The size of the class varies quite a lot. Since I joined I reckon there have been over 20 different students attending, but the average daily class size is around 10. There backgrounds and nationalities varies greatly. There are people from as diverse a selection of countries as USA, Australia, Mexico, Holland, Germany and Indonesia! There is in fact only one other British student.

Last week I also registered my presence here in Belo Horizonte with the local British consulate. The official we spoke to said that there are about 80 British families living in the Belo Horizonte area mainly associated with the mining industry. this is the main industry of Minas Gerais the state we live in. He also said this number is declining as the British involvement with the various local mining companies diminishes.

I am also pleased to say that spring is now showing signs of arriving. Although ‘winter’ here is very mild by our standards, there have been days when it has felt chilly but unlike the locals I have not needed to wear a jacket or sweater. In fact t-shirts are the order of the day. The last few days have been glorious sunshine with hardly a cloud in the sky and temperatures into the mid 20’s Celsius (low 80’s Fahrenheit). I am led to believe that the temperatures are now set to gradually increase until Christmas time but also that the wet season is also about to start and believe me when it rains here it rains. Because the altitude of Belo Horizonte is roughly 950m (3100ft), the temperatures are lower than would be typical in other areas at a similar latitude (20º S). In fact I would describe the climate here as more mediterranean which is also quite similar to what I experienced when I lived in southern California. However I have not really been here long enough to judge these things properly.

A view of a hill on outskirts of Belo
BH’s stadium, Minerão, and Pampulha lake

The area we live in is very hilly as is most of Belo Horizonte. When it rains the local roads become like raging torrents with rivers running down them. One day I hope to take a picture to include in one of these newsletters to show you, but so far the heavy rains have always been at night.

Belo Horizonte is a ‘planned’ city established by the Brazilian government just over 100 years ago. 

Downtown Belo
A favela

Why they chose to create the city and not one of the flatter areas close by remains a mystery. The other remarkable feature of the planning of the original city is its road layout. The main avenues run roughly NE-SW and NW-SE with the minor roads running at 45ºs to them in a north-south or east-west direction. It leads to some interesting traffic junctions and confusion until you come to understand the principle.

I the photos give a good idea as to the feel of the city. It is a mixture of the quiet middle class suburbs and the less well off areas including a number of favela’s or favelinha’s (small favela).

Last weekend we drove to a city about 330km away called Governador Valadares to visit some of Eneida’s family who live there. The main reason for going however was to see her brother Luiz Fernando be awarded the title of ‘honorary citizen’ (translated) an honor similar to being given ‘the keys to’ or ‘freedom of’ a city in England. He was given this in honor of the work has done for the city and its leaders both as an individual and a director of a local firm that produces various dairy products.

Fernando receiving his award

Governador Valadares (Valadares as most people call it) sits on the edge of the River Doce which is very big by UK standards. The climate there is much hotter, about 5-8ºC average, due to the fact that it is much closer to sea level than Belo and although I liked the city, the temperatures make it unpleasant. 

Tomorrow we have been invited to a Golden wedding anniversary. There will be a service in a church (a catholic service will be a first for me!) followed by a party in the venue where we got married and had our wedding party. It will no doubt feel a little strange returning.

I think that is all our news for the moment. I expect I will write again once I am back from the UK with my visa. I must then start the process of acquiring all the things that one really needs for living in Brazil (eg ID card, bank account, drivers license). This will no doubt involve waiting in many queues, take lots of time and cause much exasperation. However it will be worth it. Brazil is a lovely country with lovely people well worth a visit.

Please don’t forget to write me.

Steve

Steve’s Newsletter 1 (2005)

Welcome to my first newsletter about my move and life in Brazil. I am writing this whilst back in the UK during a trip to apply for a visa. From now on I will try to write a newsletter every 4-6 weeks so please check back. 

Having left my longtime job at Imagination in the UK at the end of March 2005, I then packed up my stuff, sold my car and other bits and I left for Brazil in early May. I am not regretting this decision at all as life in Brazil with Eneida is great. 

Life in Brazil is needless to say very different to that of London. The pace of life is much more relaxed specially for me as I am not able to work there for the near future or until I get a visa. In fact I am in essence a long term tourist until my I have a permanent visa. 

After arriving and settling in, Eneida and I set about sorting out things for the wedding as well as the various documents that were required for the wedding and for me stay. This organisation seemed at times to take up most of our time, but some how we did make time to eat out and have a few Caipirinha’s! 

The food in Brazil is very very good, particularly the steak. As someone who had largely given up eating steak in Europe, I can not recommend it enough. It is also remarkably inexpensive. A meal for 4 people with drinks, desert and coffee at a nice restaurant is about £30 -£40 total.

The Brazilian people are also very welcoming and hospitable. They have all made me feel extremely welcome including virtually all of the numerous officials I have had dealings with since my arrival there. A welcome change to the typical attitude you find in the UK. It makes me sad to think why the police shot Jean Charles de Menezes on the tube. I am sure they had there reasons at the time even though it now looks like they were very flawed. 

Of course there was also the small fact of the language. I took some Portuguese lessons and tried to study in the evenings when Eneida was working. Although I am making progress, it is very slow. I had hoped by now to be able to hold a simple conversation, but unfortunately no! When I return to Brazil I will enroll on a course at the local Federal University designed to teach Portuguese to foreigners. I also hope that I will be able to use these classes to make a few friends.

There was also the small issue of our wedding of course. I am very pleased to say that everything went very well and according to plans. Many thanks to Julian and Eneida’s Swedish friends for making the trip all the way across the Atlantic to give us their support. 

The experience itself was more than a little strange but I hasten to add very enjoyable. To start with, it was the first Brazilian wedding I had been to and they do differ considerably from those in the UK. Then there was the question of language and hardly being able to say more than a few words to most of our guests. Finally it was also the first civil wedding I had been to in any country.

I would like to thank Eneida’s mother, Maria Helena, for all her help in organising the wedding both before and after my arrival in Brazil. 

The wedding itself was a small informal affair held at the same venue as the reception. It was followed by cocktails and then a buffet style dinner as per Brazilian customs. We then partied until the small hours before going to our hotel leaving a few family and friends to carry on until 4am. I think everyone had a good night. You can see some photos elsewhere on the site. 

The Friday night before the wedding we had a family and friends meal at a local favorite restaurant. Finally to finish the weekends festivities there was a lunch the next day at the wedding venue. After 2 nights of partying, there were a few sore heads there. After this Eneida and I then went home and opened the remaining wedding gifts. Thanks to all those who bought us something. And then it was a quick pack ready to leave for our honeymoon to Aruba and Curacao the next morning.

We had a great time and a very relaxing one whilst away. First we went to Aruba which has many fine beaches to be recommend along with the Buciti hotel where we stayed. The emphasis on this island is to cater to the American tourists that make up around 90% of the visitors. On the other hand Curacao has a more European feel. Curacao however was a strange place. A much more industrial island that also relies heavily on tourists. We were there in low season and most shops shut early unless a cruise ship was docked. This was a bit sad, but our hotel was however excellent.

After getting back from our honeymoon I had a few short days at home before flying to the UK to apply for my visa. The visa application appears to have gone ok and I just have to wait now for a few more weeks to hear back as to whether it has been accepted. I fly back to Brazil shortly to await the news on my visa. It has been a strange trip back to the UK being separated from Eneida for so long so soon after our wedding. I am looking forward to seeing here again.

So that concludes my news so fay. Please get in touch if you want to know more. I’d like to hear from you. 

Steve