Ciao! Goodbye, Brazil

Brazil Travel post #13: Ciao! Goodbye, Brazil (intro post is here).

For our last night on the Tucano, the crew picked up a samba singer and dancer and we had a party on the top deck. The night was beautiful and one of the guides taught me how to make the perfect caiprinha. 

We had so much fun, we bought their music album to take home. (photo by Jerry Peek)
Caught me sampling an appetizer (photo by Jerry Peek).
Saúde! Cheers! I make a mean Brazilian cocktail…(photo by Jerry Peek)
It was a beautiful farewell (photo by Jerry Peek).


The day we disembarked, we went for a city tour of Manaus before our afternoon flight. Below you’ll find the entry sign for CIGS; which is both a public zoo and a military installation.

The Jungle Warfare Training Centre – Centro de Instrução de Guerra na Selva (CIGS)

Here soldiers train for intense, jungle warefare, and at the same time have devoted themselves to protecting wildlife from poachers.

It doesn’t get much cooler than talking via parrot.
Thankfully, these are the only anaconda we saw.
There are manatees in the river, but seldom seen. Photo taken at INPA, a science center.

As we continue our Manaus tour, we saw the famed Teatro Amazonas, an operahouse built by the first Portuguese settlers so they could still enjoy European-style High Society when they weren’t busy exploiting locals into rubber production. Sure is a beautiful spot!

It has been repainted several times, most recently to this original color.
The opera stage (photo by Jerry Peek).

That’s all she wrote! Or in my case, all he wrote. 16 days total spent travelling, and almost that long telling you about it. Was the trip worth it?

You bet! I’m always ready for adventure.

And now we have a baker’s dozen Brazil posts. I might as well put it all in one place:

Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Anyone out there read all the way through?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!


Brazil: Welcome to the Jungle!

Brazil Travel post #9: Welcome to the Jungle! (intro post is here).

Okay, here we are, finally heading into the jungle. And great timing too! One of our fellow travelers, Gerald Peek, took some amazing photos and I was able to access them yesterday. He graciously agreed to let me use them for this blog, so you’ll find a mix of Schannep and Peek photos below.

Getting ready to embark. (Photo by Jerry Peek)
And here’s the group we’ll share this journey with. (Photo by Jerry Peek)
This will be our home for the next week. (Photo by Jerry Peek)
Here we are, like you, being told a bit about how the trip will go. (Photo by Jerry Peek)
Our private bunk.
The crew of the Tucano (guides not pictured).
Our fearless guides, Souza (left) and Edgivan. (Photo by Jerry Peek)
The dining cabin, where we’ll share our meals. (Photo by Jerry Peek)
Goodbye, Manaus!
Hello, adventure!

I’m still sorting through the photos, so that’s all for today, but coming up we’ll have jungle hikes, boat excursions, and river night life! Stay tuned.

Click to continue to: Brazil: The Mighty Jungle.

Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Ready for some jungle stories?

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Brazil: Cristo Redentor — Wonder of the World

Brazil Travel post #8: Cristo Redentor (intro post is here).
Many locals see the statue as watching over their city.

For our last stop in Rio de Janeiro, we’re headed to the top of Corcovado mountain to see one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (two down, five to go!). Cristo Redentor translates to “Christ the Redeemer” in English, and is one of the most iconic statues on earth.

Not to mention a top tourist destination since its construction in 1931.

In MURDERED, you head up to the top for a major clue in the interactive mystery, and if you so choose, you can take the tourist cog train to the top.

So, of course, I made it a priority to do so myself. You’ll find plenty of warnings out there about how hard it is to get tickets day-of (during a holiday! When the cruise ships are in port! Oh my!), but when you’re travelling in a pair, things can go your way. As soon as we got to the station, the ticket salesman informed us there were two more tickets available for the next train. Despite an afternoon rainstorm, we went for it.

Yeah, this poster is not to scale. Like…at all.

The cog train takes you through the Tijuca forest, up the side of the mountain, and offers several in-car views of the city below.

Not too crowded for a selfie.
View from the train car.
First glimpse!

Once you make it to the top, you’re shuffled past a half-dozen souvenir shops and multiple restaurants.

Keep walking, sir.

Eventually, you’ll make it to the top.

Look up, look up!

And what will you see?

Carved from soapstone, He stands over 100ft high.

And once you’re done trying to take your picture in the same pose, you can look out over the city yourself.


That’s it for Rio. Click to continue to...The Jungle!

Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Worth the wait or “big deal”?

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Brazil: Sightseeing (Part 2)

Brazil Travel post #7: Sightseeing 2 (intro post is here).

Today, let’s head back into the Atlantic Rainforest for some super amazing views.

This isn’t even the view we’re shooting for; we’re just getting started!

Tijuca National Park

It’s likely that some of you noticed the lush and verdant Rio scenery and after yesterday’s post thought, “That’s only 10% of the original forest? Whoa.”

Whoa, indeed. But that’s because what you’re looking at isn’t the original forest. The Brazilian government actually brought the jungle back, replanting nearly 12 square miles of forest, thereby creating a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the largest and oldest man-made forests, having been restored in the late 1800s after concerns that the massive deforested farm lands were sucking the area dry of drinking water.

We enjoyed this restored rainforest with a guided jungle hike up a storied trail, all the way up the mountainside to the best view in the city. I must say, if I hadn’t been told, I wouldn’t have known this was “new” jungle.

You know, there just aren’t enough hiking maps made into tile mosaics these days.
The aptly-named Tijuca Falls.
One of many trail markers.
The cicadas were very active, singing and molting.
Bizarre relative of the banana tree.
The trail was clear and wide for the most part, but you still had to watch your step.
And watch your handholds too…
Cicada sighting.
Near the top, our guide said these steps were put in to impress the visiting King of Norway, who loved climbing mountains.
Not for the faint of heart (like me!).
Now thats a panoramic view!

Escadaria Selarón — The Tile Steps

After a late lunch we went to the famed tile steps, known as the Escadaria Selarón. The steps are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who began by simply repairing the steps in front of his own home with brightly colored, ceramic tile. The project eventually consumed the artist and continued to grow, expanding even to this day.

It was difficult to get a shot that wasn’t socked-in with other onlookers.

There are literally thousands of tiles, brought in from all over the world, so here you’ll see a small selection of those pieces that caught our eye.

Arches National Park — weve been there!
The project began in 1990, but I suspect some of the tiles are much older.
Though his neighbors originally mocked the idea, the stairs are now a source of national pride.
When I said brought in from “all over the world” I meant it!
Must be interesting to call this your front steps.
Chat Noir.
“Eclectic” doesn’t even begin to describe the style.
Buncha kids.

That’s it for today!

Tomorrow? Let’s finish up our Rio sightseeing tour with a grand finale….

Click to continue: Brazil: Cristo Redentor–Wonder of the World.

I know where we’re headed, and we’re so close!

Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Which of the two seems like your kind of climb?

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Brazil: Sightseeing (Part 1)

Brazil Travel post #6: Sightseeing 1 (intro post is here).

From the outset, I can tell you I’m going to have to split this topic into multiple parts. There were sooooo many sights to see, especially with a “MURDERED Bucket List” in my back pocket.

Jardim Botãnico — The Botanic Garden

Rio de Janeiro was once home to the expansive Atlantic Rainforest, a different type of jungle than its more famous Amazonian cousin. Once Rio was declared the capital of Brazil, the city flourished and the rainforest dwindled to roughly 10% of its original size. This was largely intentional, as Brazil became an important produce exporter, and as demand grew, so did the demand for farmland.

The botanic garden was founded in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal (Brazil was in the Portuguese empire at the time) who decreed that a garden should be built to see which foreign plants might best thrive in Brazil’s climate. Thus, the botanic gardens were born, and once that job was completed in 1822 they became a public site.

Today it is a beautiful park full of exotic flora, including 900 varietals of palm, as well as wild monkeys and hundreds of jungle birds. Here are a few of the fantastic images we captured:

Shall we?
Shall we?
A beautiful spot for locals and tourists alike.
Dr. Seuss would be proud.
Monkey in a jackfruit tree.
Monkey in a jackfruit tree.
Just one of a billion flower photos Michaela took.
Just one of a billion flower photos Michaela took.
Serenity before lunch.
Serenity before lunch.
See the statue on the hillside? I'll give you three guesses what the last stop on our sightseeing tour will be....
See the statue on the hillside? I’ll give you three guesses what the last stop on our sightseeing tour will be….

MAR — Museu de Arte do Rio

From natural beauty to created beauty. The MAR holds some of Brazil’s most impressive artistic pieces. Let’s see a few.

Shall we?
Shall we?
Hashtag seen in real life. #CIDADEOLYMPICA
Theres something about a painting I dont understand captioned in a language I dont understand.
A painting I don’t understand captioned in a language I don’t understand.
Slice of life from 1940s Brazil.
Powerful perspective.
Disney’s short-lived Brazilian character, Jose Carioca, which roughly translates to “Rio Joe.”
These were actually TV shots of monkeys arranging bananas, meant to look like they were spelling…something.
Quite stunning.
Brazil’s take on “The Thinker.” It’s a monkey contemplating a turtle.
Not creepy. At all.
Patently bad-ass.
Ostrich selfie?
Does this guy trot? Because that would be amazing.
Does this guy trot? Because that would be amazing.
Presumably found in a serial killers basement.
Presumably found in a serial killer’s basement.

Click to continue to: Sightseeing Part 2.

Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Are you more a museum type or a garden type?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Brazil: Food & Drink

Brazil Travel post #5: Food & Drink (intro post is here).

Brazil was a culinary delight. Travel not only serves to open one’s mind, but to broaden your palate as well. Join me now as I show the best this self-proclaimed foodie discovered on our trip.


Brazil is known for red meat and a “Churrasco” is the ultimate steakhouse experience.

Stock photo because I was drooling too much to take a picture.

It’s a special experience where young men (sometimes dressed in traditional cowboy garb), bring choice cuts of meat to your table, slice you off a bite, and continue on. You choose how much you’d like, which cuts, and if you’d like to make room for the salad bar. Hint: you’re not here for salad.

This type of experience can be found in MURDERED if you choose to go to São Paulo with Agent Bertram:

 “Ever have churrasco?” Agent Bertram asks when he picks you up. Before you can answer, he adds, “There’s a great place near here.”
Flames leap out from the kitchen, kissing the meat as the chefs rotate each skewer, trying to keep in as much of the juices as they can. You’re in the Churrascaria now, a high-end restaurant dedicated to Brazilian beef. Churrasco is synonymous with barbeque in this country, and they have a specialized way of cooking it. The sizzling spit from the grill and the smell coming from the kitchen is intoxicating and on an empty stomach, you start to salivate.
“You’re in for a treat, Hotshot. Good luck looking the same at steak back in the US ever again.”

While we weren’t able to make it to São Paulo, we did go to the famed Churrascaria Búfalo in Manaus. If you’re in the area, go.

For dessert? Flame-roasted pinneapple with a sweet-spiced glaze.
For dessert? Flame-roasted pineapple with a sweet-spiced glaze.

High-end Cuisine

As mentioned, the exchange rate in Brazil is currently very favorable for those with American dollars to spend. To this end, we went for a gourmet sushi experience for our first night in Ipanema at a restaurant called Tenkai. We ordered specialty sake cocktails that blended Brazilian tastes with Japanese style. The Brazilian-made sake with lychee fruit was to die for. We couldn’t quite decide what to eat, so we opted for a 60-piece sushi feast. It was so big, they had to sail it in on a boat…

Another stock photo because I suck at pictures when I’m hungry.

Traditional Brazilian

Aside from red meat, if you’re eating like the locals, you’re eating seafood and some variation of manioc (a root that’s a staple of the diet). Stews are ubiquitous, usually accompanied by rice. Breaded and fried entrees are common.

One of the best places for this type of food was at a restaurant in Urca called (wait for it)… Bar Urca.

I did it! I managed to take a picture before we ate!
I did it! I managed to take a picture before we ate!


Unlike most countries with a large oceanic border, Brazil seemed to serve primarily river fish. With the largest freshwater waterway in the world, this isn’t very surprising, but the entrees themselves certainly were. We tried many variety of fish on our Rio Negro boat tour (blog posts on this topic will arrive eventually, I promise!), and each one was new and exciting. If you’re someone who’s not into seafood because of that “fishy taste” — I’d recommend trying some river fish.

Piranha! Very different, very good. In fact, for me, piranha tasted more like poultry than fish. Everything new tastes like chicken, right?

Bebidas — drinks!

Brazil also offered a full array of new and exciting drinks, from coffee to fruit juices to alcohol.

Everyone loves Calvin and Hobbes!
Everyone loves Calvin and Hobbes!

The drink you’ll find everywhere is the caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. Sugarcane rum, lime, ice, and more sugar.

Ready for tourists!

Beer is also common, and even those imported from outside of Brazil could be exotic to us.


To end our drink experience, we decided to try to the Brazilian take on Colorado craft brews:

Our Brazilian Airbnb hostess was quite taken aback by the darker beer. Not common in Brazil, apparently.
Our Brazilian Airbnb hostess was quite taken aback by the darker beer. Not common in Brazil, apparently.

That’s it for today. I tried not to retread over the food/drink mentioned in previous posts (like the amazing breakfast at the Copacabana Palace!) or spoil too much for the future (piranha fishing! piranha fishing! OMG, piranha fishing!).

Click to continue: Let’s go sightseeing!

Thanks for reading! Do you have an adventurous palate? What would you most like to try?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Brazil: Into the Favelas!

Brazil Travel post #4: The Favelas (intro post is here).
Come on, let's explore the winding alleys and hilltop views of the favela together.
Come on, let’s explore the winding alleys and hilltop views of the favela together.

Today, we journey into one of Brazil’s favelas. What exactly is a favela, you ask? At it’s simplest, a slum, but the favelas are so much more than that. 11.4 million people live in one of Brazil’s ramshackle hillside communities. Let’s explore exactly what makes a favela so unique.

The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are world renowned stacks of poverty, drug use, prostitution, and violence. Rivaled only by the slums of Mumbai, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than in the favelas of Rio. Or at least that’s how it used to be.

First, some history.

View from Rocinha favela.

Before “favela” became a generic term, it was the name of one particular village. The first favela was formed at the turn of the 20th century, after the War of Canudos, the bloodiest military-on-civilian massacre in Brazil’s history. The soldiers killed nearly every man, woman, and child in a 30,000 person settlement in a military action dubbed a civil war.

When these 20,000 soldiers, many of whom were suffering from what we would today call PTSD returned to Rio, they found no government assistance nor any place to live. They founded the first favela, and it was named after a skin-irritating tree found in the massacre region.

From these inauspicious beginnings, more favelas cropped up as more poor citizens were displaced and found no other option but to band together and fend for themselves.

Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio.
Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio.

If your choices in MURDERED lead you to work with Agent Danly, and his subsequent investigation leads him into the favelas, it’s a prospect so dangerous that he’s hesitant to allow you to accompany him.

“Listen, you’re doing great, but I’m not sure you should stay with me. I aim to get to the bottom of this, even if that means coming head-to-head with the drug cartels in the favelas. You can’t even imagine what it’s like in there—gangsters dance in the clubs while shooting AK-47s in the air. Even the kids are armed and they won’t hesitate to shoot you if they think it’s worth a laugh. I can’t put your life in jeopardy like that…”

So if these place are so dangerous, why were we crazy enough to visit?


In preparation for 2014’s World Cup and this summer’s 2016 Olympics, Brazil has made a considerable crackdown on crime, and this includes “pacification” of the favelas. Pacification is a hostile take-over of the slums in a military operation. Elite special forces are sent in to take out any violent resistance, and then a permanent police force is left to keep the region free of drugs and firearms. In fact, once a favela has been pacified, the Brazilian flag is placed on a high building top — to show that the government has conquered this foreign territory within its own borders.

So while I was expecting this:

What we got was this:

A favela musician and his "manager." The man spoke perfect English and includes favela children on his albums.
A favela musician and his “manager.” The man spoke perfect English and includes favela children on his albums.
A vibrant city market attracting customers from all over, much like a farmer's market in the states.
A vibrant city market attracting customers from all over, much like a farmer’s market in the US.
Might want to cook your meats well-done, just to be safe.
Might want to cook your meats well-done, just to be safe.
"Jackfruit" is common, but has a love-it-or-hate-it taste.
“Jackfruit” is common, but has a love-it-or-hate-it taste.
Pet fish?
Pet fish?
Fresh fruits, spices, everything.
Fresh fruits, spices, everything.

Rocinha is one of Rio’s older pacified favelas, having been pacified in 2011, and our visit was full of unexpected experiences. The people who live there can range up to middle class, our guide informed us, and in addition to pacification, the city government has helped the community receive clean water, free electricity, even wi-fi.

We were a bit wary of a visit, not because we thought we’d be unsafe, but because we didn’t want to offend or exploit people or go on some sort of voyeur tour.

The visit was anything but. Our guide is a well-known figure in the community and the tour company gives back a portion of every ticket, totaling to tens of thousands of dollars donated thus far. There were smiling faces waiting to greet him by name, and we were even given a trip to see the schools they support.

Stepping into another world.
Our guide, Alfredo, in the school.
Our guide, Alfredo, in the school.
Even English classes provided.
Even English classes are provided.
Feliz Natal (Merry Christmas!).
Who knew the kids were fans of the zombie genre? (heh)
Who knew the kids were fans of the zombie genre? (heh)
The locals take pride in the unique look of their communities.
We did!

In addition to the portion of our tour price donated, we bought jewelry made by the students, music and paintings made by locals, and even the “best caipirinha in Rio” at an alley shop.

If you ever get the opportunity, I’d highly recommend a visit to the favelas. Just make sure the one you go to has been pacified, use a reputable guide, and don’t go at night. Just because improvements are made, doesn’t mean those elements that gave the favelas their reputation are gone completely.

That’s it for today. Up next? I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry. Let’s check out Brazil’s food and drink!

Thanks for reading! Did you enjoy your trip into the favelas?

Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to share and subscribe!


Brazil: Graffiti

This is post #3 in my Brazil Travel series. If you haven’t kept up from the start, you can check that out here.

Graffiti has a big role to play in MURDERED. In fact, taking a picture of a graffiti mural is the whole reason your tourist character leaves a public street and becomes forever embroiled in a murder mystery. While the mural I describe in the book exists solely in my mind, the real street art of Rio inspired my imagination:

“In the preview on the LCD screen, you notice there’s the beginning of a graffiti mural sticking out from the adjoining alley. You peek around the corner to see the full image. It’s an angel, larger than life and in stunning detail. His hair is long and his face is placid, much like a beardless Christ.  Yet this is a dark angel; his wings, not feathered, are formed from two AK-47 machine guns divided in broad symmetry. Two snakes wrap around his legs, originating from behind his ankles and enveloping his lower half like the caduceus, their heads biting his wrists and spreading his arms. A nuclear mushroom cloud which serves as his halo bursts forth from behind his flowing mane. In stylized calligraphy, the caption above reads, ‘Vou testemunhar.’

It’s called anything from vandalism to street art, but no matter what you call it, tagging can be a powerful method of expression in large cities, specifically by its poorer citizens. While I don’t think this justifies someone putting their initials or callsign wherever they can, I do think that some graffiti transcends into art. Here are a few examples that stuck out to me during my travels. Unless otherwise noted, all pictures are from Rio de Janeiro.

Manaus traffic circle. Child with the colors of the Brazilian flag.
Manaus traffic circle. Left unfinished by choice or circumstance.
A simple Merry Christmas, or deeper meaning?
A simple Merry Christmas, or perhaps a deeper meaning?
Favela stack design painted on an actual favela stack in Rocinha. So meta.
Favela stack design painted on an actual favela stack in Rocinha. So meta.
Rocinha. Great use of colors and perspective.
Rocinha. Great use of colors and perspective.
Taken in Rocinha. A deeper meaning might be gleaned by those who read Portuguese.
Rocinha. A deeper meaning might be gleaned by those who read Portuguese.
The juxtaposition of Brazilian pride and abject poverty really spoke to me.
In some favelas, there are so many alleyways that they decided to give them street names. This "heart labyrinth" is beautiful.
This “heart labyrinth” is beautiful. Note: In some favelas, there are so many alleyways that they decided to give them street names.
Brazilian mascot for the World Cup.
Brazilian mascot for the World Cup.
Love the expressions, and the use of color.
Its always interesting to me where youll find graffiti. Like this dirt lot on the other side of a neighborhood.
It’s always interesting to me where you’ll find graffiti. Like this dirt lot on the other side of a neighborhood.
Looks inviting, right?
Mural Part One
Mural Part One.
Mural Part Two
Mural Part Two.
Full sign was "Money is Violence" but I like "Bus Violence." It s rare to see murals in English.
Full sign was “Money is Violence” but I like “Bus Violence.” It’s rare to see murals in English.
St Sebastion the Martyr is a common image, here re-imagined as a beach bum. The pattern on his board shorts is also recurring theme in Brazil.
St Sebastion the Martyr is a common image, here re-imagined as a beach bum. The patterns on his board shorts are also recurring theme in Brazil.
Michaela says she has seen this "oil angel" several places in South America.
Michaela says she saw this “oil angel” several places in Rio.
Dracula and zombies. Nuff said.
Dracula and zombies. Nuff said.

Good one to end it on? Sure, good as any. The point is, it’s not like I asked a cab driver to take me around to all the best graffiti in the city. The stuff is just everywhere! These are all designs I just happened to see as I explored. In face, over half were taken from moving taxi windows. In my humble opinion, it adds character to the city. A certain depth and color, both literally and figuratively.

Click to continue: Brazil: Into the Favelas!

Thanks for reading! Where do you stand on graffiti? Eye-sore or art?

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Brazil: All about the Beaches

This is topic #2 in my Brazil Travel series. If you want to start at the beginning with the intro post, you can check that out here.

It’s impossible to think of Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil as a whole, without thinking of the beaches. And seeing as how we left Colorado in December, it’s one of the parts I was most looking forward to. Here’s a picture taken the day before we flew out.

The dog was warm, at least.
The dog was warm, at least.

And here is the view we found after landing:

Photo taken from outside the Tropical Resort.

River Beaches

I’ve mentioned that Manaus is a port city, but what you might not have known is that it’s solely a river port. And these are river beaches. In fact, the area of the Rio Negro where we visited is the largest freshwater archipelago in the world. That’s how big the rivers are down here!

Meant to show scale, but if you look closely, you can see heron flying along the water and a caimen swimming as well.
If you click and zoom in, you can see a heron flying along the water and a caimen swimming center left.

The water is full of predators, as small as bacteria or parasites, famous like the anaconda or flesh-eating piranha, large and aggressive like caimen, or dangerously stealthy like the river stingrays lurking at the bottom. In MURDERED, I mentioned that the biggest bull sharks are known to swim upriver to hunt in fresh water.

But the absolute worst thing down here is the candiru, a parasitic fish that seeks out the smell of urine and will swim up your urethra if you pee. Plus, it has barbed fins so it can’t be easily pulled back out.

So, of course, we decided to go swimming in the river.

Aggressive river animals HATE selfies.

Since my mom is probably reading this, I will say we swam by a sandbar, which is safer because the animals are attracted to vegetation and a sandbar is essentially the desert of the river. Didn’t stomp around on the bottom, didn’t wiggle my toes, didn’t swim near anything that looked like a log, and definitely didn’t pee in the river.

The real beaches, however, are those famed spots found in Rio de Janeiro.

Ipanema Beach

Good luck going to Ipanema without this song in your head.

This place is a world-renowned paradise. They have a wonderful beachfront walkway, including a sepearate bike path. During peak daylight hours, the whole side of traffic nearest to the beach is closed off for pedestrian use. People walk along, tan themselves on the beach, play volleyball or soccer (or a mix of both) and generally enjoy life. It’s legal to consume alcohol in public in Rio, so many enjoy drinks on the beach as well. Check out the view for yourself:

That's a favela on the far hillside. A great irony here is that the poorest neighborhoods often have the best views.
That’s a favela on the far hillside. A great irony here is that the poorest neighborhoods often have the best views.

There are, of course, a few downsides. Crowds, for one. Another biggie is the poorwater quality. According to the Associated Press, the bacteria and virus levels are about as high as swimming in raw sewage. While we saw quite a few people in the water, we skipped this swim. Remember that urethra fish? Yeah, we would rather swim around that guy than go in the ocean in Rio. A fact that is made all the more painful by how oppressively hot it is down here. And I mean hot:

So, there’s a lot of sweating involved. Yet the perfect solution is waiting for you every quarter mile in the form of snack & drink stands. The perfect treat for my money was “Coco Verde”–a green coconut split open with a machete, ready for you to plunge a straw inside and taste the sweet, cool coconut water within. The first I tried was probably one of the most refreshing experiences in my entire life.

R$6, or under $2 USD at the time of our visit.

Sweet nectar of life.

Copacabana Beach

Connected just down the road from Ipanema, but if you’re not careful, you won’t even notice the transition.

Equally famed, this part of Rio does get it’s own earworm worthy song too:

During our visit, Copacabana beach was getting ready for the New Year celebration, which included some great sand castle art like the shot below:

Christmas, New Years, Christ the Redeemer, and the Olympics–this sand castle had it all!

Yet it isn’t all fun-and-games and sight-seeing. Rio can still be a dangerous city, even with the massive police crackdown that’s been going on since the World Cup and has ramped up for the Olympics. Opportunistic thieves are still prevalent in popular areas, and with so many people, the police often have to deal with violent outbreaks.

One such day, as we were walking on Ipanema beach, riot police stormed down to the shore. I couldn’t see what was going on, but a helicopter circled above with militarized police hanging out the sides, machine guns drawn.

Stock photo because I’m not brave enough to lift my camera when armed military police are running past. Sorry, not sorry.

We chose to keep walking without exploring the scene. What ever happened? I’m not sure, and I can’t find anything about it in the news either. Who knows, maybe I passed up a chance to work with Rio cops and DSS agents to try and solve a murder….

Click to check out the next topic: Graffiti.

Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Should I have swam in the ocean? What about deciding to do so in the river?

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Brazil: Resort, Hostel, Palace, Guestroom

For the first post in my Brazil Travel series, we’re going to talk about lodgings. If you missed yesterday’s intro post, you can check that out here.

These are the places we stayed: A resort, a hostel, a palace, and a guestroom. As mentioned, we also stayed on a boat for a week, but that’s a post for another day.

Eco-Resort Hotel Tropical

Before we embarked on said boat, we stayed at a resort. When we flew into Brazil, our first stop was the port town of Manaus. The boat trip met at the lobby of this particular hotel, so we decided we should splurge and stay here. It’s unfortunate that Brazil’s economy isn’t doing so great right now, but as a result, this resort cost about as much as an average night in a chain-hotel in the United States. And here’s what we got:

I didn’t take this photo, but it gives you a sense of the amazing location.

What a fantastic way to end 22 hours of travel (three flights, each with layovers that required us to exit the terminal and go through security again at a new part of the airport. Not fun. I’m calling you out, Miami and Brasilia!). Everything was reasonably priced and they do mean “resort.” Three restaurants, two bars, tennis courts, massive swimming pool, private beach, and a mini-mall on site. This place even has its own zoo!

If you ever end up in Manaus, stay here. Just don’t use the taxis parked out front. Once in Rio de Janeiro, we quickly realized that the Manaus resort taxis were probably charging 3x what the city taxis would have cost.

Because we stayed in Rio from December 26th through the 31st (one of the most popular travel times in Brazil, matching up the holidays with summer in the southern hemisphere) the hotel situation was rather difficult. I wanted to stay where “you” stay in MURDERED, and I managed this to a point, but we couldn’t stay there the whole time due to the location’s massive popularity. We were forced to move around, which ended up being a lot of fun once we embraced it.

Hostel Che Lagarto Ipanema

Here’s where your American tourist character is staying with friends at the start of the book. Back when I was doing research, I picked this location because it’s a popular spot for young, unattached travelers, and it’s a location in the thick of things. It’s also recommended in the Lonely Planet tourist guidebook I consulted, so it seemed likely your character might have done the same.

As you can see in the hostel’s Facebook post above, I told the staff that I wrote a book featuring their location and they were very appreciative. The manager didn’t believe me at first, but once I showed him in the text, he flipped out. In a great way. He started off by showing all the workers on duty, then he moved on to showing all the guests who were present in the main lounge. That skin tone is due in part to the tropical heat, but mostly because it was a little embarrassing.

"Behind the scenes" of that facebook post.
“Behind the scenes” of that facebook post. In addition to the photos and handshakes, I left a signed copy of the book at the hostel too.

The hostel itself does what it says on the tin, and they’re quite good at it. They host events that change every day, ranging from parties to sight seeing. Each evening, there’s a “happy hour” where you get as many free drinks as you can down in half an hour (Caipirinhas, specifically. They’re the sugarcane-rum-based national cocktail). That, of course, is only the beginning of the party.

We’re a few years older than the target demographic, so we opted for a private room rather than sharing a communal area of bunkbeds and showers that is the signature of hostel lodging. If you decide to visit, bring earplugs. And ask to see the book!

Heres the master at work.
Here’s the master at work. Needless to say, it’s a busy 30 minutes for the man.

PS — If you so choose, in MURDERED you can end up back at your hostel on the first night and meet the bartender at this very location.

The Copacabana Palace

Here’s how the next hotel is described in the book:

“The government SUV pulls up to the city’s most famous hotel, the Copacabana Palace. Only three miles up the road from your old hostel in Ipanema but three times the price for a room, you’re greeted with all the pomp and circumstance of a visiting rock star. The white façade is something out of the 1920s, and to be quite honest, it looks more like a presidential home than a hotel.”

Wanna come check out a friggin PALACE?! Yeah, me too.
Wanna come check out a friggin’ PALACE?! Yeah, me too.

Your other lodging choice in the book is getting set up at this luxurious hotel located directly on Copacabana beach. The center-stage for the New Year’s celebration known as “Réveillon” was set up on the beach directly in front of the hotel and a private archway was constructed so guests could move to and from the party. The rates for the holiday (New Years is huge in Brazil) were higher than the already normally pricey rooms.

Turns out…we didn’t actually stay here. It was way too expensive for us–BUT, we did manage to come for the poolside breakfast, and if you get the chance, I would highly recommend doing so yourself. A smorgasbord of fruits, pastries, and other exotic treats awaits.




If you’re able to afford it, I’d recommend you not miss this spot. And if you stop by to visit, they have a signed book too, so ask to see it!

Airbnb by the Sea

For our final lodging, we found a diamond in the rough. And by rough, I mean we rented a spare room in an affluent neighborhood right next to the ocean. Check out this view!

View from our window.
View from where that dude was standing.

Go ahead, zoom in on that last picture. Just across the bay…it’s the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue! How amazing is that? We picked this place because it’s (a bit) out of the way, and because we could check out the other half of the city. The room is called Urca with beautiful view!!! and the deal is impossible to beat. Clean, and beautiful indeed, with a great price to boot. If you go, tell Cissa we said hi! She has a copy of the book too.

Click to continue to the next topic: All about the Beaches

Thanks for reading! Where would you most want to stay? Questions for me?

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