Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 30 - Match Day in Brasilia - allez les blues!

I woke up in my functional, relatively cheap, but basic accommodation near the airport in Brasilia to find that the breakfast was surprisingly good and that there were many other guests there. I tried to start a conversation with an Argentinian from a place near Terra del Fuego but he clearly wasn't in the mood for a laboured conversation with someone who didn't speak Spanish.

I ordered a taxi to my next AirBnB place in the city and, again there were a few dramas. The taxi driver seemed almost to refuse to take me because the AirBnB address didn't include a block letter. Eventually, I managed to persuade him that it didn't matter. Just take me there and I'll find it on foot. Honestly, what's the big deal?

Rafael and Danielle both work at Banco do Brasil and so were out when I arrived. They had given the doorman the keys and once I'd got those, everything went very smoothly.

Brasilia is a very modern city built with very grand designs. The main thoroughfares take the shape of an aeroplane and out on the wings are where the residential areas are. They're all named very logically - SQS 415 is mine - in a rather Soviet kind of way. But the suburbs are all very pleasant, with trees and parks everywhere.

SQS 415 Block E
The flat itself is lovely and clearly the loving home of a young couple with an adorable little boy, Benice, who is about one and a half years, who was at the crèche for the day. I felt a bit like an intruder arriving at their home alone, so I carefully left my stuff in my room and then set off to explore Brasilia, taking my match ticket with me.

I took a 10 minute walk to the nearest metro station and was whizzed to Centro where I got out to the place right at the cross in the middle of the airplane. This was the place featured in the SBS program "This is Brasil". It really isn't a very attractive place, a bit like a huge modern bus station but from there you get a really good impression of the way Brasilia is laid out. From the top left you can look down "the fuselage of the plane" to where the government buildings are. My plan was to walk down to the famous modern church, designed (like seemingly everything here) by Oscar Niemeyer. That is a spectacular building, particularly rom the inside. The stained glass is stunning. Next to it is a modern art gallery, again shaped in an ultra modern way.

I must admit that I'm not really into this style of architecture or modern art, so I got on and walked down towards the "tail" past a big "Eiffel" tower structure towards what is definitely my kind of modern architecture, that fabulous renovated National Stadium of Basil.

My new favourite stadium

On the way there a street sales men managed to persuade me to part with R$35 for a small model of the World Cup which I used as a prop in a few selfies.

I wanted to maximise my time in the ground, so I went there straight away and found my seat - the best view so far. The game itself was quite a tense affair and Nigeria looked like they might pull off a shock before France gradually started to dominate. As seems to be a recurring pattern in the round, the group winners eventually won quite comfortably in the end.

I supported France - as I think they have a better chance of beating Germany than Nigeria and because I know my nephew Dary would love to have been there. So this one's for you, Dary! "Allez les Blues!"

I was sat next to a typical World Cup group. An Indian guy to my left, a beautiful Bolivian to my right and a sprinkling of Brasilians all around. It did feel a bit weird to be congratulated by Brasilians when France took the lead, but I'm taking any reflected glory I can from this World Cup!



Happy with my Sony Cybercam - It can take these

Day 29 - Sight Seeing in BH and then off to Brasilia

I had probably the best night's sleep of the holiday at Tatiana's. I was literally out for about ten hours solid and woke up pretty refreshed.

My host had prepared a very nice breakfast with a huge assortment of goodies, including a delicious banana cake. Most impressive for me, however, was that she had a box of English Tea Bags! It was so nice to have three big cuppas.

Breakfast with Tatiana

Her view of BH

Lift to the Museum

I wanted to fit in a bit of culture around the football, so Tatiana drove me to the Metals and Minerals museum and we had about 40 minutes to get a glimpse of what was there. It's a highly impressive museum, funded by the local mining industry, and you could easily spend a whole day there. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time but this was another example, for me, of better to see something, than nothing.

Tatiana's boyfriend, Gustavo, came to meet us after the museum and they went to have lunch after dropping me off at the Backer place we'd looked at the day before, where I sat at the bar to watch Holland v Mexico. The beer was as nice as I remembered from Ouro Preto. A table soon became free so I moved there and ordered some food - a meal with a few of those little burgers and chips.

As usual, they arrived with stacks of chips (actually these were more like crisps) and meat and cheese and no greens and no salad. I took a bite of my first one and it tasted a bit odd, but I thought it was just me not being used to some ingredient so I carried on. The second one tasted better but I soon lost my appetite.

Feeling suddenly very rough

The one on the left was dodgy

The game went Mexico's way and the first half and they looked like they were going to pull off a major surprise. I don't think it was anything to do with the football, though, that caused a bizarre episode mid way through the second half. Watching the game in front of me, I suddenly felt very sleepy and found it difficult to keep my eyes open, moments later I felt dizzy and almost blacked out.

You might want to skip the next paragraph if you're eating!...

Next thing, I threw up, but being in a rather nice restaurant packed with people I somehow managed not to let anyone know and swallowed it back down. (Not nice!) I got up asked where the toilets were and went there instead. Relief. Bizarre incident. I felt ok pretty much straight after that.

So, I returned to my seat, and the match, and within minutes I was feeling absolutely fine, thank you. I wonder what that was. A bit of food poisoning, perhaps? I did a little experiment later and had another Backer Pale Ale to check it wasn't that, so I can only conclude it was a dodgy burger.

Anyway, I started talking to a nice couple about football. The guy was an Atletico Mineiras (current Brasilian champions) fan and his wife followed their local rivals Cruzeiro. Tatiana joined us for a moment before driving me off to do a bit of sight seeing.

She took me to a beautiful look out where you can see where the city got it's name. We watched the sun set before going back to her place to get packed and watch the last half of Greece v Costa Rica. I missed the sending off drama but saw Greece equalise in their typically dogged style and almost win in in extra time.

Belo Horizonte

I didn't have time to watch the penalty shoot out (Costa Rica won it) as it was time to go to the airport. Tatiana and Gustavo drove me there too. It did cost a bit to get chauffeured around like this but I was happy to pay as it was an opportunity to talk with a local Brazilian who spoke English and the rates were the same as I'd have paid with a taxi driver anyway.

The plane boarding, again, went smoothly and the short flight to Brasilia was notable only for the fact that, for the first time ever, I sat in the first row and that the air host guy (what do you call a male air hostess?) had the same cheap Casio watch as me.

In Brasilia I had another frustrating taxi experience. I booked a room in a place that was as close to the airport as possible so I really didn't expect there to be any grief finding it but, again, the taxi driver, had no idea where it was and no GPS to help find it. He called the hotel and got some instructions but somehow missed it. I ended up paying R$35 to get there. Anyway the hotel was basic and my room functional. The worst thing was that the beds had no blankets and it was pretty cold so I had to take the sheets off the two other beds and use them to keep a bit warmer.

So that was another day of travel over.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 28 - Ouro Preto return to Beaga, vamos Brasil!

I am getting old. In a few weeks I’ll be 55. That used to be retirement age in England, and indeed, some of my contemporaries at school, who went into the police retired a few years ago. When travelling and generally being a tourist, watching football, drinking beer or eating nice food, one doesn’t feel one’s age. If anything, being older makes it better. I know more about the world now than I did when I was, say, 26 so I can appreciate the places I visit and the things I see better. I am more philosophical about the game than I used to be. England and, to a lesser extent, Australia getting knocked out so early would have upset me a lot more as young man than it does now. I enjoy a proper pint and good food more now than when I was happy to drink any old lager and eat any old burger before.
But today, I was reminded of the down side of getting older. Having got up nice and early (thanks to a group of noisy dogs, I hardly got any sleep anyway) packed, and had brekkie I was off to the bus station to get back to BH. At the bus stop I bumped into another Forest fan (called “Blue” I think) who was clearly a young dude who fancied himself a bit. Immaculately dressed, short styled hair with a stubbie beard. His mate, Rich, from Swindon, was a bit more nerdy. Some young dudes are great with older people, they are blind to age and just treat you just as another person. Many of my friends in Perth are like this. But sometimes, you just get the impression that they’ve dismissed you as just some old man. Maybe it’s just me being over sensitive but I got that first impression from Blue. Upon chatting it turned out that he knew my next host, Tatiana, and had stayed with a friend of hers a few days earlier and had met her and that we would probably all meet up again later. So, that put a bit of a negative thought in my paranoid mind on that. Never mind… the adventure continued.

Too cold for a dip

Ouro Preto Hills

Bus Station

Green Bird Arrives

Journey back to BH
The bus journey went fine and I got some shut eye before getting off early, the south side of Belo Horizonte where I would get a taxi to Tatiana’s apartment. I asked a security guard where the taxi rank was and he called a colleague who walked me straight to it across the shopping mall. Brazilians are always so kind and helpful. The taxi rank was empty though and a queue of people soon grew – behind me. After waiting 15 minutes I called Tatiana to suggest she might have to come and pick me up but then a taxi came, so there was no need for that. Tatiana is lovely and so is the apartment. She quickly showed me around before we left for the big match which would take place at the Mineirao where I’d seen England just a few days ago. The whole city was focused on the match and most restaurants where closed. Tatiana was keen to eat at a nice place so we walked around trying to find one, but to no avail. All tables had already been booked or the restaurant was closed. So, just in the nick of time we arrived at her chosen venue to watch the match with her friends, Jack Rock café. It‘s a cool place for music loving dudes and I was very impressed with the big screen and the sound. We made it just in time for the lovely Brasilian National anthem, which is surely the best in the world, unlike England’s embarrassingly crap one.
It was a great match that was played out on a knife edge and went to the first penalty shoot out of the tournament. Even then it went down to the last kick, Jara (ex-Forest play) hitting the inside of the post (but not inside enough for it to go in) to send Brasil into ecstasy. It was a great experience to be part of all the hugging and joy of that moment. Lovely.

BH Shopping

Backer Bar Has Televisions

Jack Rock Bar - A great venue
Key moments... Jara misses by a fraction

Happy Brasilians and three pasty guys from the UK

Ouviram do Ipiranga as margens plácidas
De um povo heroico o brado retumbante,
E o sol da Liberdade, em raios fúlgidos,
Brilhou no céu da Pátria nesse instante.

Se o penhor dessa igualdade
Conseguimos conquistar com braço forte,
Em teu seio, ó Liberdade,
Desafia o nosso peito a própria morte!

Ó Pátria amada,
Salve! Salve!

Brasil, um sonho intenso, um raio vívido,
De amor e de esperança à terra desce,
Se em teu formoso céu, risonho e límpido,
A imagem do Cruzeiro resplandece.

Gigante pela própria natureza,
És belo, és forte, impávido colosso,
E o teu futuro espelha essa grandeza.

Terra adorada
Entre outras mil
És tu, Brasil,
Ó Pátria amada!

Dos filhos deste solo
És mãe gentil,
Pátria amada,

After the match there was a bit of awkwardness as Tatiana’s friend Maria wanted to join the throng on the streets of Savassi whereas Tatiana and a few other friends didn’t. I was keen to see that too so I offered to go with her. We ended up finding a bar to watch Columbia v Uruguay. I could feel myself slipping into a bit of a mood, especially with so many people packed in the bar. It took 15 mins to queue to go to the loo and it would have taken another 15 to queue up to pay for a ticket to buy a slice of pizza or a beer. I really should have stayed with Tatiana at the Rock Café place but I couldn't help feeling like an old man there with so many beautiful young Brasilians everywhere. Bloody age! Oh well, you live and learn. At half time I decided to go off on my own anyway and wander through the incredible throng of merry Brasilians before deciding to call it a day. I’m not feeling 100% at the moment – some kind of cold from Ouro Preto, I think – and the lack of sleep there caught me up. I called Tatiana, who I presumed was still in the Rock bar, but no reply, so I got a taxi back here and crashed out. Lovely.

Streets of Savassi Packed with Happy Brasilians
Belo Horizonte