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).

Manaus

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?

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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.


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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.

Churrascaria

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!

Fish

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.

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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.

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Ready for tourists!

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

Cervezas!
Cervezas!

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?

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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
Manaus traffic circle. Child with the colors of the Brazilian flag.
Manaus
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.
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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.
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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.
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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: 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.

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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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