Viva Brasil!

Brasil  Is love and PeaceThe last several years I have traveled extensively in Brazil on business, attending trade shows, meeting with prospective customers, and tending to my first few customers there. Its been a very interesting set of experiences and has all been made quite enjoyable by the efforts of my agent and good friend Marcelo Diaz in Sao Paulo. Also, my wife has traveled with me for two of these trips. And given Linda’s penchant for adventures, this always makes things a bit more lively.

Now photography is not my specialty… not by a long shot. And most of these pictures were taken with my phone, not even a real camera. So if you are a denizen of Linda’s blog sort of stumbling around and finding yourself here, I warn you that this is a whole different kettle of fish — er, photography. But there are some interesting bits here. Take a hundred pictures and you’re bound to come up with at least a few that are not too bad. So here goes… with anecdotes to follow after the snazzy gallery display.

Welcome to Rio. Right off the red-eye flight to Rio de Janeiro with my wife in tow, Marcelo picks us up in his car and starts showing us around the city. On the hilltop separating the Copacabana from Ipanema beaches we come across a police road block. The cops are sporting serious-looking assault rifles. So a tense conversation starts up between Marcelo and the police. When he gets back in he has a ticket for some sort of safety violation. He says they asked him for a bribe and he refused. I say “Marcelo! They were armed with automatic weapons… pay the bribe!”. A perfect introduction to getting by in Brazil.

Into the Favela. If you are familiar with Brazil then you know about the favelas; the lawless slums ruled by the drug lords. Obviously these neighborhoods are looked down on by the rest of Brazilian society. In Rio de Janeiro, the favelas are very close to the beaches where the travelers tend to go. And, as a result, you better watch your ass when you’re out for the evening. So, one day while I’m off at a customer’s site, Linda just has to contract with a local drug dealer for a tour of Copacabana’s nearby favela. I think Marcelo just about fainted when he heard about this later.

Blame it on Rio. Now that  I think of it, all the really outrageous stuff happened in Rio. We took another tour (together this time) with a flamboyant and very gay tour guide through downtown Rio … visiting all the cabarets even though they were closed. But our guide was very explicit, filling in details about what sort of action was available in which place etc. During this trip we took a little tram to an artistic (spelled “beat”) neighborhood. Unfortunately, the outskirts of the neighborhood abutted a favella, and I had to swat away a street urchin who was running alongside the train making a play for the camera of a Canadian woman who was sitting next to me. Among other thrills on that trip, Linda witnessed a drive-by mugging and saw a pedestrian hit-and-run. But with all of that we had a wonderful stay there and loved most of it.

Olinda and Recife. Olinda was the first capital of Brazil I hear. Today its sister city Recife is far larger. Olinda has been relegated to suburb status but is definately the old town area. It is very well known for the giant costumes the locals wear during Carnivale as they parade down Olinda’s pitched, cobble-stoned avenues. We stayed in a very nice pousada (bed and breakfast) and really felt that we got to know this very special place.

Salvador. Linda didn’t get to see this place but  I attended a trade show there. It had a very large historic area that Linda would have loved. I guess Salvador was a slave trade center and, in fact, most of the residents are black. The traditional garb looks a lot like an Aunt Jemima outfit. The food is out of this world! Spicy and full of flavors.

Curitiba. Pronounced kur-ih-chee-ba. The further south you go the more modern it gets. Sao Paulo is a giant city and very cosmopolitan. Curitiba is a very modern mid-sized city — probably Denver-sized — to the south. I found it a lot cleaner than the other Brazilian cities I have visited but, somehow, lacking personality. Maybe future trips will change my opinion.

Belo Horizonte. Pronounced bella-hor-eh-zonch. An interior foothills type of city, I had the best pizza ever in my entire life in this city. And it looks like my next big customer is signing on in that city. So yeah, I’m a big fan.

Paraty. Leaving the best until last, Linda and I went to this little fishing village for a weekend refuge from Rio’s craziness. This was one of the most picturesque and special places I have ever been. Our pousada was small, artistic and perfect. The old gold town’s port was lazy and serene. The people were friendly and welcoming. It was a wonderful sojourn that I will never forget. Perhaps in retirement, I will return to that place (as long as they get better internet access). Unfortunately I cannot find my Paraty pictures. I’ll keep looking and will post them when I find them. Or perhaps I’ll grab a few of Linda’s shots.

I think Brazil is a very important and vibrant place. Its become my favorite place to visit and I think we are going to grow a significant business there. And now that the rial has fallen so much against the dollar, its also a bargain travel destination. I would highly encourage anyone who has an opportunity to visit (and a sense of adventure) to get yourself on down to Brazil pronto.

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