Porto Alegre

Next stop on our S. American tour was Porto Alegre, Brazil. We arrived several hours late from Montevideo due to several flight delays on the BQB Airline flight. Never really knew what the hold-up was but suspected it might have been a flight crew issue rather than weather or mechanical problems. Once in the air the flight went well and the service aboard was friendly and attentive.

After landing at the Salgado Filho airport in Porto Alegre we checked thru immigration and customs as usual and started looking for Stephanie and Mire. Since we had no way to contact them from the Montevideo airport we were concerned that they might have given up waiting and returned to the apartment we had rented to wait. But they were there smiling and waving to catch our attention as we exited the customs portal.

Then we all moved to the car rental desks where we expected to pick up our car from Hertz. Surprise, surprise the gal at the desk said that the full size car we had reserved was not available. We would have to take a smaller car. And the price we were quoted was more than had been posted on the website where I made the reservation. After a few minutes we decided to take the smaller car and get going. On arriving at the pick-up lot we knew right away that we had a problem. The car they had for us was large enough for probably three travelers with bags. We were five with bags so back into the airport to the Hertz counter to make a change. On the way back Mire saw a local car rental desk where he spoke with the young ladies manning the kiosk. After a few minutes he returned and told us he had gotten a better deal for a larger car so we dissed Hertz and went over to the local guys. The car we got was large enough for all of us with our bags although it was packed tight when we finally departed the airport, and it was almost new plus it cost less than the smaller Hertz car.

We arrived at the apartment we had rented through Stephanie located very near the football stadium where we would watch the soccer games the next day. The owner of the apartment lived there and was a friend of Stephanie and Mire. It was actually a fairly large house with several bedrooms and baths so accommodated all of us well. Her friend is an attorney and has her fifteen year old daughter living with her. After unloading the bags and finding our rooms we headed for the kitchen as all of us were very hungry. The lady had prepared a few tasty snacks that we really appreciated. After a bite we decided that we needed to go food shopping so off we went to a local supermarket.  Selection and price was good at the market with most foods costing about half of what would be paid in the US. Of course many of the brands were unfamiliar but after living in so many countries we had gotten used to shopping by intuition which involves making educated guesses as to what you are actually buying supported by the ability to read a few of the ingredients in the foreign language or English if offered and occasionally asking the locals what you were about to put in your cart. With Stephanie and Mire along it was a no brainer so we got our goods and headed back to the apartment.

Next day we were up early to have breakfast before getting ready for the trip to the football stadium. The breakfast custom in Brazil is more towards the American menu than the European. Fried eggs, bacon, toast are typical items along with the really delicious local fruits and juices. Coffee, tea or hot chocolate were available. We felt well fed and had a long and humorous breakfast table chat before getting ready to head out to the game.

The Estádio José Pinheiro Borda (or the more commonly used name,Beira Rio (by the river)) where the World Cup 2014 games were held in Porto Alegre was about a mile from our apartment. Porto Alegre is blessed with two outstanding football teams, S.C. International and Gremio. Both have stadiums. Our host recommended that we take a local bus from near the apartment to the stadium as traffic was expected to be heavy. We found the bus stop and waited about fifteen minutes before the bus arrived. It was filled with happy folks wearing all sorts of colorful shirts, hats and paraphernalia promoting their favorite teams and players. As one can imagine soccer is the national sport in Brazil and the fans are vehement in their enthusiasm for team Brazil. Mire was in the traditional green and yellow football shirt while Sasch was sporting the German team colors, black, red and gold. The game we were about to watch was played between the Netherlands and Australia. As it turned out these teams were among the best and worst in the tournament. The Dutch team finished third overall in the world cup and clearly outclassed the Aussies. But to give them credit the lads from down under played their hearts out in defeat. The following link provides a thumbnail of Porto Alegre.

Florianopolis & Garapaba

Our drive north to Florianopolis and Garapaba took about five hours. Along the way we got a good look at the southern Brazilian countryside which reminded of drives along the southeastern seaboard in the US. Rolling green hills, occasional river estuaries wetlands typically found along coastal highways in the Carolinas and Georgia. We were impressed by the modern and quality of the main highway that was every bit as good as any in the US or Europe. We felt safe and secure during the journey that took us north on route 10 into Santa Catarina State. Santa Catarina

Arriving in Florianopolis midafternoon we continued on to the fishing village of Garapaba, Stephanie and Mires home town. Our hotel was across the street from the town beach. Our second floor rooms each had balconies facing the town beach which was still being used by the local fishermen who parked their boats above the high tide line using an ingenious method of short log sections made into rollers. As the boat reached the beach, someone on shore would run out with a few logs placing them under the bow as the boat was push up on the beach by the fishermen. Eventually the entire vessel was moving up the beach on the logs. As the stern of the boat rolled off a log it would be moved to the bow and so on until the boat was parked at the desired place. I’d never seen this technique used and found it really interesting, but then I’ve spent my working life as an engineer….. go figure.

The catch was cleaned and either sold on the spot or packed into coolers. We had a kitchen in our hotel suite and I’m not sure why we didn’t take advantage of the fresh fish supply. Probably because there were three seafood restaurants within a block of our hotel. One of them served a buffet lunch at a fixed price. The place was always busy. We opted for the café on the beach which was more expensive and sold cocktails and beer. Paid a bit more but it was quieter and had an ocean view. The Caipirinhas were magnificent. For those who have not tried this Brazilian concoction here is a basic recipie:


Our planning for this trip had a few flaws. The biggest one in my opinion was not allowing sufficient time to visit Iguassu Falls. It could have been done by flying from Florianopolis but the cost of the flight and a hotel there got too high as we had not booked this tour in advance. Instead we had a couple of layover days in Garapaba that challenged our imaginations to use to see closer places of interest. We decided to visit the nearby hot springs near Florianopolis and have lunch at a famous local beach restaurant on the island of Santa Catarina. Unfortunately we did not achieve either of these objectives because the hot springs were private and closed to visitors unless staying at the hotel who owned the springs. We arrived at the beach restaurant at lunch time. It was packed. Food was served buffet style and it all looked very tasty but there was virtually nowhere to sit together. Rather than eat our lunch at separate tables we decided to move to a nearby restaurant with more space. It turned out fine but eating at the busy one would probably have offered more choices. The cost at the not so busy place was certainly less.

Stephanie and Mire invited us for a fresh caught fish dinner at their house near Garapaba. A friend and Mire had built the house just after they married. Having an open concept layout with a sleeping loft on the second level it is a unique arrangement that works well for them. Instead of the usual living room furniture they have a hammock supported between to vertical columns that is large enough for two. The epitome of togetherness is achieved. The kitchen is equipped with a new refrigerator/freezer and a propane gas range top. Cupboards are open and spacious. Counter space with a kitchen sink provide good working space for food prep and dishwashing. Clothes are washed and dried outside in the utility room that is accessed via a sliding glass door from the kitchen. The exterior of the house is stucco. Roof is orange clay tiles. The concrete floor is covered with ceramic tile. A wooden staircase leads up to the loft. Mire has mounted the hull of a wooden row boat to the side of the staircase to be used as a alcove for hanging clothes, certainly one of the most creative uses for a retired boat. Around the house are a multitude of Stephanie’s art, paintings, tapestries, and lots of bright colors. Their home decoration style is the definition of eclectic. Ziggy, their dog, a mix of various breeds, is a cute, dynamo of energy and provides a measure of advance notice of new arrivals by barking vigorously when anyone approaches their house. Living on the fringes of the village road system, their next door neighbors are a wood working shop and other new homes that sit along the unpaved road that ends at their property. Another neighbor owning the property behind their place keeps a cow that is suspected recently of grazing on the banana plants growing along the fence line that separates their property from the pasture. The entire scene including their house, its setting and the neighborhood are congruently in rhythm with the rural Brazilian lifestyle.


Our next adventure took us to the far northeast corner of Brazil to Recife where the USA and Germany met in the World Cup competition. Lana had departed a day earlier so only Sasch and Greg made the trip. Germany was heavily favored of course and went on to win the world championship. The USA team had managed to stay in the competition by drawing a tie with Italy after defeating Ghana. The Germans had demolished their opponents and were favored to be one of finalists in the cup. We flew out of Florianopolis on-time and arrived late in the evening after a five hour flight. Recife is Brazil’s fifth largest city. Our trip to the hotel from the Guararapes–Gilberto Freyre International Airport took almost an hour so we arrived quite late to the Holiday Inn Hotel, Porto De Galinhas. where Sasch had booked us a room. Even the taxi driver had a little trouble finding the hotel as it sat back off the main street among many other buildings. After checking in we found a table in the lounge where fans from both the US and German teams were watching re-runs of previous World Cup games on TV and having their night caps from the bar. We were hungry so ordered sandwiches and beer.

Next morning we dressed, ate breakfast and caught a taxi into the city where we boarded one of the many shuttle buses taking spectators to the Stadium Pernambuco which is Recife’s FIFA football venue. Stadium Pernambuco

The weather was a factor as heavy rain was threatening to continue and cause local flooding. There was even consideration being given to cancelling the match. The ride from where we caught the bus near the port area took about half and hour. We arrived during a break in the rain and headed for the stadium. I had with me my trusty compact umbrella that had served me well on several occasions in Europe. As we navigated through the crowds into the stadium we passed thru one of the many gates where tickets were needed to pass. Just as we entered through a gate a ticket taker gal told me I could not bring my umbrella into the stadium. What??? Apparently some security puke had decided that umbrellas were potential weapons (like finger nail clippers on airplanes) so had ordered that none could be carried into the stadium. Another thought that cross my mind was that this  was some kind of scam wherein the ticket trolls would collect the discarded umbrellas and re-sell them to black market street vendors. Had I known in advance, I could have stuffed it inside my jacket where it would never have been detected. But I could not so had to throw mine into a large barrel that contained many others. I was really pissed, but since I’d only paid about $3 for it Germany I managed to rationalize myself out of a desire to ignore the rule. Besides, it had stopped raining so temporarily I was dry and resigned to never make that mistake again going to another sports event in Brazil.

The stadium as you can see from the photos in the link is quite new and very comfortable. I was impressed with how well done and clean it was. The crowds were more or less behaving themselves and moving into their seats. We had good location at mid-level where one could see the game without binoculars. I was impressed with how many fans were present from both teams. Soccer in the US is still a sport that struggles for recognition so having such a large turnout in Brazil was a pleasant surprise. The creativity of dress on both sides was amazing. How many ways can you wear the US flag? The German fans were obviously more experienced as were their players as they sported their team’s success with buttons and patches displaying their success in previous World Cups. To give them credit that was due the Americans never gave up and continued to press the Germans even though they were clearly outclassed. The game ended with only a one point difference and for a few seconds in the last minute of the game it looked like Team USA would achieve a tie and take the game into penalty shot overtime play, but their best chance disappeared when the shot on the German goal bounced off the horizontal cross bar and back to a German defender. Games are won and lost on such monents of good or bad luck. But to really be a serious contender in world soccer the Americans will have to improve their game skills until they can play with the finesse and control that the German team demonstrated. The German team went on to become the World Champions and deservedly so. They were clearly the best team in this World Cup.

The rain stopped and the sun came out as we headed back to the bus and into the city. We had arranged a taxi to pick us up at the downtown bus station and as agreed it reappeared and took us back to the Holiday Inn. Next morning were were up before day break and off to the airport for our flight back to Buenos Aires.  We had a couple hours layover in Sao Paulo that was not time enough to leave the airport, but nice to have a break in the long flight. Arriving back in Buenos Aires we arrived at the Hotel Boca Junior

Sasch booked this one. His interest was to stay in the hotel that celebrates the Argentine football tradition by naming itself after the famous football club that has spawned so many of Argentina's world famous footballers. Who has not heard of Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Ubaldo Fillol, Javier Zanetti, Carlos Tevez, Juan Roman Riquelme, Gabriel Batistuta, Mario Kempes, Daniel Passarella and Alfredo Di Stefano? Or heard of at least some of these outstanding players that date from the 1920's. The Hotel Boca Junior celebrates these famous athletes and more with memorabilia, shits, shoes, balls, tickets, and many other items that link to some of the most famous players of the game of fooball. The hotel itself is a statement of modern decor as one can see if you follow the link above. We shared a room that was a statement of luxury with a price that was quite reasonable. It was an appropriate way to spend our last day in Argentina and we enjoyed ourselves entirely.

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