Pulpology: Mark & Sonia's Intercontinental Absurdities!

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08 February 2013
Photo Friday: beautiful shiny Carnaval

It's Carnaval time! Zoinks, it took me forever to get all the pics posted from our Feb 2012 trip, partly because there were soooooooo many of them, and partly because... well, life gets in the way...

samba ball

Now seems like a great time to look back on this epic trip, which was primarily a celebration of my 40th birthday. (Mark tried getting them to move the party back to November, but alas it didn't work.) And why not ease the pain of this big milestone by hitting the biggest party on the planet? Brazilians know how to do it right, that's for sure.

Mangueira Samba School performs at Rio Scala Ball
Mangueira Samba School performs at Rio Scala Ball

In addition to attending a traditional samba ball, we splashed out on some fabulous front-row seats to the parades in the Sambadrome. Unreal. Gigantic floats, elaborate costumes, and nonstop smiling-singing-dancing from every single person in the parades and in the stands. For like eight hours straight.

warrior tigers
warrior tigers

are we having fun or what?
are we having fun or what?

sing it, sister!
sing it, sister

My siblings contributed to the birthday celebration by booking us a scuba junket in Arraial do Cabo. While it wasn't the most fabulous diving we've ever done, it was nice to get out of the city for a bit, and the scenery was divine.

and life is good
and life is good

We also managed to fit in a few standard touristy things, like...

the Big J
taking a trip up Corcovado to see The Big J

Sugarloaf at golden hour
checking out the jaw-dropping views from Sugarloaf (Pão de Açúcar)

and loving life on Ipanema Beach

Choosing just a handful of "best of" pics was almost painful! There were just so many beautiful shiny things as far as the eye could see. (See below for links to the rest of the photos, as well as all the blog posts from that trip.) Someday it'd be great to go back and see Rio in its natural state -- y'know, without a troupe of singing and dancing M&Ms crammed onto the subway at all hours of the day and night -- but it sure was fun to experience it in all its partyrific glory.

For more fabulous travel snaps, check out Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

* browse all Brazil pics
* browse all parade pics
* browse all Arraial do Cabo pics
* browse all Corcovado pics
* browse all Pão de Açúcar pics
* read all Brazil posts

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

20 March 2012
We had trouble in getting to Solla Sollew
the best of times and the worst of times in Arraial do Cabo

Scuba. In a quiet beach town. And accommodations at a swank hotel. After all the hustle and bustle of Rio during Carnaval, this quick side trip seemed just what the doctor ordered.


So we set off for Arraial do Cabo -- where they never have troubles, at least very few -- in our crappy little rental car. Which may as well have been a One Wheel Wubble drawn by a camel, as what should have been a 2-hour journey took us almost four. We got out of Rio with surprisingly little fanfare, but then proceeded to take a wrong turn at Niteroi, hit lots of random traffic on the 106, and almost missed the big turnoff at Araruama. Hey, at least we didn't have to face the Perilous Poozer of Pomplemoose Pass. Considering we were armed with only a handful of Google Maps screenshots, I think we did pretty well.

Arraial do Cabo beach
Arraial do Cabo beach

As we arrived in Arraial, things began to look up. The beaches shone, the breezes blew, and our hotel was indeed a big step up from the sketchy motel we'd been staying at in Rio. For this I have to thank my siblings, who booked this scuba excursion for me as a birthday present. They did their homework! Pousada Caminho do Sol is a beautiful guesthouse just a block from the beach, with a stunning tropical garden and an award-winning restaurant.

penthouse suite  Pousada Caminho do Sol  poolside view

After checking into our lovely penthouse room, complete with jacuzzi and beach view, we took a quick snooze before meeting with our divemaster Marcelo. The fact that he came to our hotel was a promising sign. We've had mostly excellent dive experiences, but a hard-learned lesson has taught me to trust my instincts when it comes to choice of divemaster and shop. Here again, the sibs did their homework and managed to select an affable guy who genuinely seemed concerned for our comfort and safety. He answered all our questions, gave us clear instructions for the next day, and left us feeling confident about the whole endeavor.

We had a strange encounter with pink stuff for dinner and then called it an early night, getting a pretty decent sleep despite the increasingly windy conditions outside.

to the harbor!
to the harbor!

In all fairness, the scuba debacle that ensued wasn't entirely Marcelo's fault. That week's unusually windy weather made for water temps even colder than usual, necessitating thick wetsuits. Sausage time! Plus the visibility was terrible. We're spoiled, having done over 50 dives in mostly warm, clear, beautiful conditions. I much prefer to dive in just a bathing suit, and hate the feel of being stuffed into a full wetsuit. Maybe if we had our own gear it wouldn't be so bad, but since we don't, it's akin to wearing someone else's bowling shoes. All over your entire body. Bleh. Add in the fact that we got sent off with another divemaster who (a) didn't speak English, and (b) was more concerned with maneuvering his fancy underwater camera than monitoring our safety, and you've got two more strikes. When I had a bit of an equipment malfunction and started surfacing uncontrollably, that was almost the final straw. I wasn't that deep, and managed to ascend fairly slowly, so I didn't get the bends or anything. But I was still pretty freaked out. I almost didn't do the second dive. But since we'd come so far and this outing was so meticulously planned, I decided to go for it. The second dive with Marcelo was a much better experience, until we began to surface and both Mark & I got really nauseous. We're still not entirely sure what caused that bizarre reaction -- tainted air? ill-fitting wetsuits? -- but it's never happened to either of us before. Admittedly not our finest hour.

epic sunset
cheese on a steek

That night we celebrated our adventures with the best sunset we'd seen in a while, and cheese on a stick. The wind continued to rage.

Rather than come back for a second day of diving, we relaxed on the beach. A wise choice! Not a Quilligan Quail nor a Key Slapping Slippard in sight.

* browse
all Arraial do Cabo pics
* browse all Brazil posts
* WanderFood Wednesday: fried, fried, pink stuff, fried
* Impersonal Jesus
* The sun sets on another epic trip

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments

14 March 2012
WanderFood Wednesday: fried, fried, pink stuff, fried
you win some, you lose some... culinary adventures in Arraial do Cabo

crack in a can
crack in a can

There were several times during this trip where we bumped headlong into the realization that we really should have learned more Portuguese. Getting a handle on the local language is typically something we enjoy doing as part of our trip prep. For whatever reason, it didn't happen this time around. We got by with charades and a phrasebook and just plain ol' winging it. For the most part, this worked OK, but it backfired a few notable times.

scary clownsscary clowns
the scary clowns shoulda clued us in

One such time was our first evening in Arraial do Cabo, a beach town outside Rio where we'd arrived for a scuba junket (more on that in a few days). We weren't in much of an exploratory mood after a long battle with our crappy rental car, so we found a brightly-adorned place near our hotel for a quick bite. The menu listed something called "misto de frango," which purported to be an aggregation of three different types of chicken. Sounds harmless enough, one please!

The waitress proceeded to launch into a lengthy discussion in Portuguese that made absolutely no sense to us, but she seemed trustworthy so we stuck with our order. And this is what showed up:

frango mixto, or just mixed up?
misto de frango, or just mixed up?

Let's ignore the fact that the third item is french fries, and not chicken of any sort. What in the world is that pink stuff in the middle? Our best guess was some awful mashup of ketchup and mayonnaise. Ew. We dumped plenty of hot sauce in there, plus some "African" sauce Mark found on top of the buffet table, and that did improve the pink goo a bit. We were hungry, so we ate it, what more can I say? All in all, not a total debacle, but hardly a wildly satisfying repast.

On the other hand, we did have some great meals in Arraial do Cabo. One of my favorite things to do in a new city or country is browse the grocery store aisles for unusual local treats. (Side note: This is particularly fun in places with non-Western alphabets where you may have no idea what's inside the package but are still seduced by bright colors and shiny happy graphics.) By far our best Brazilian find was Cheese on a Stick, known locally as queijo de coalho.

on a steek
on a steek

Normally this would be grilled -- common fare at street stalls -- but since we were sans hibachi at our hotel, we just ate the cheese straight from the package, with crackers and some excellent Chilean wine. Ensconced in snugly hotel robes and enjoying the nighttime views of town, this was the perfect way to unwind after our scuba adventures.

life is good
life is good
(and photogeeks, check out that bokeh!)

The other stellar meal in Arraial was, unsurprisingly, at our hotel's restaurant. We thought about giving the clowncar restaurant a second chance, but instead went with the swankier option. A wise choice, rewarded by a lovely view of the pool and gardens, a nice cold bottle of wine, and some delicious fresh seafood dishes. Redemption!

swanktastic lunch
swanktastic lunch at Pousada Caminho do Sol

Be sure to check out Wanderlust & Lipstick's WanderFood Wednesday for more mouth-watering travel foodie posts.

* Impersonal Jesus
* The sun sets on another epic trip
Photo Friday: Sambódromo favorites
Dois Gringos em Dois Irmãos

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments