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Posts Tagged ‘Porto Alegre’

Brasil!

Brasil!

July 26, 2014

Well we’re finally back from our 35 day trip to Brazil to attend the World Cup so I thought I’d share some random thoughts on our visit.

The most common question I’ve received since I practically first set foot on Brazilian soil has been “How do you like Brazil?”. More on that one later.

I’ve been told by many people I’ve met over time that Brazilian people are some of the friendliest and nicest people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. For the most part I can attest to this. Just about everybody we met was very friendly and helpful. However, the dark side is most people don’t really realize how innately capitalistic Brazilians are. Sometimes the overly helpfulness is because they have their left hand in your pocket. I’m not saying this to be mean, just candid. This happens everywhere in the world and it certainly happens in Brazil. Just letting you know sometimes that smile is there because you’re being sized up on whether you’ll pay $50 or $100.

My goodness there are a lot of beautiful Brazilian people. You can’t stand on a sidewalk swinging a dead cat over your head and not hit 12 beautiful people with one swing. These are the people you see on your television back home. However, there are tons of people here in Brazil that are not quite as beautiful. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I’m the ugly fat Gringo here myself so I have nothing to say. But there are an awful lot of people like me down here. Stated otherwise, normal people.

On the heels of the above paragraph Brazil has some of the most stunning and beautiful landscapes you’ll see before you exit this spinning ball of ice called Earth. We saw mountain after river after ocean after waterfall after you name it. The Brazilians are truly blessed with some natural beauty you don’t see just every day. However, Brazil has a serious poverty issue as well. You can see equally ugly vistas around any corner. People living in a lean to, sleeping on a cot under a business door jam to avoid the rain, walking through two feet of water in their homes while you pass by on a brand new multi-million dollar subway line right above. This country has a lot of poor and a lot of squalor and without getting too political about this I think the government needs to step in and do something because sometimes only something as big as the government can fix something that is that badly broken. Enough said.

We were here for the World Cup and make no mistakes: soccer is religion here. Not only is it religion here it is religion for just about every country that played here during this tournament. These people take this very seriously. They will cry uncontrollably at a loss while the next guy in line will beat your ass because you’re wearing the jersey of the team that just beat his. So it is all fun, well and good but make no mistakes. This is a serious affair when you attend the World Cup and the deeper teams go into the tournament the more serious it gets.

If you really like pepper on your food then you had better bring some with you in your suitcase. Carry it around in your pocket every time you think you might be eating a meal. These people have a serious aversion to pepper. Something to do with trading with another country in their history and only receiving pepper in return. In any case, you’ll have a really hard time finding it on any table in Brazil and if you ask for it you’re going to get a small jar of pepper sauce similar to Louisiana or Tabasco or Sriracha.

Along the lines of the previous paragraph if you have a strong affinity for things like ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise then you might think about bringing those with you as well. If you ever find these on a table you’ll likely find a 1 gram packet of something that once upon a time might have resembled the condiment you’re seeking. Odds are pretty high it won’t even be there and if you ask for it you won’t get it. If you do, see above. It’ll be a 1 gram packet of suck.

If you are in a big city like Rio de Janeiro think long and hard about ever taking your cell phone out of your pocket while in public. The second you raise it to your ear I will just about guarantee you that you are now a made target waiting to happen. You might win, you might lose. In either case, I don’t think it is worth it. We saw this in action ourselves and it is quite fast and dare I say impressive to witness. If you really need to even carry your cell phone with you always step inside someplace to make or take a call or exchange text messages.

Along the lines of above plan on getting pickpocketed at some point in your trip. Take the necessary precautions to not get pickpocketed but plan on getting robbed at some point in your trip. If you do get robbed it’ll be done and over with and on you go. If you don’t, you’ll consider all things great and a wonderful vacation had. I don’t say this to be mean or negative but the reality is we stayed at several hotels across several cities and I heard several stories over the course of the trip of somebody getting robbed or pickpocketed. It just happens with a reasonable enough frequency here that you might get nailed so prepare for it and forget about it if it happens. All the normal rules apply. Don’t go anywhere alone, down dark streets, carry objects out in the open, wear any jewelry, dress flashy, etc… Same things you’d practice in any major city in the world. Some of the best advice I heard before this trip was “Don’t take anything with you in the morning that you want to bring back in the evening.”

If you’re flying inside the country TAM has made great strides in improving their fleet and service.  They are actually now part of the OneWorld Alliance they’re doing so well.  On the flip side Gol has fallen quickly and hard after their promising start.  I’d say avoid Gol at this point.  Azul is a bit of an outlier but I enjoyed both flights as they are a 2 by 2 leather seat configuration with plenty of room, live TV, etc…  Patterned after U.S. carrier JetBlue.  I also heard that if you can get it due to limited routes most Brazilians that want a quality experience use Avianca.

Brazilian drivers including your taxi driver love their cell phones while driving.  Make no mistake, everybody has a minimum of one cell phone stuck to their ear while driving, taxi drivers being professionals have two while they are driving.  Don’t fear for your safety.  They are properly distracted.  If they hang up the phone and see what you’re seeing while they’re driving they’d shit their pants in fear and kill you in a fiery crash.  Roll with it.  It is normal in Brazil.

So back to the original question. “How do you like Brazil?” The answer is I like Brazil just fine. It is a beautiful country filled with happy, tortured souls if that makes any sense at all. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Rio, explore the Iguazu Falls and visit Florianópolis which is the one city I wanted to visit that I didn’t get to visit on this trip. There are also a couple of minor areas like Paraty. So yes, I like Brazil and would go back. I’m just not in a hurry to return. After all, I have two more continents to visit.

Hope to see you again soon.

Tchau!

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Plaza Sao Rafael Hotel
Av. Alberto Bins, 514 – Centro Historico
Porto Alegre – RS CEP 90030-140 Brazil
Phone: (51) 3220.7000

June 27, 2014 through July 1, 2014

Plaza Sao Rafael Hotel is a business class hotel located in Centro Porto Alegre. It is an old, well regarded hotel that has been updated along the way with some modern amenities. Some of the amenities include an on premise restaurant and bar, inclusive breakfast, spa services, 25 meter lap pool, work out room, dry and wet saunas and the like. If you can’t exit your flight and taxi and feel a bit refreshed for business or pleasure within an hour then you might be a little bit demanding. The extras are here.

Our room was neat and clean with a few updates splashed here and there from the flat screen TV to the wireless internet (it was spotty for us…IT had to help and then it still wasn’t good) to the marble countertops in the bathroom. It is a bit dated in a few areas such as a closet that looks like the in house maintenance crew decided to piece together a closet with leftover 1/4″ plywood. There was nothing in the room that would keep me from staying again. I thoroughly enjoyed the hard bed for my bad back. My wife had the opposite reaction so your mileage may vary. I also don’t appreciate the central air and heat. When I set my thermostat to 19 celsius I want 19 celsius. I don’t want 25 celsius because every South American within a thousand kilometers thinks it is freezing outside. I could compensate for that with a cracked window but shouldn’t have to do that.

The staff and service were excellent from the front desk staff to the restaurant to housekeeping. There are absolutely no complaints on that front.

If I have one complaint about the hotel it is the location itself. It might be convenient to conducting business downtown in centro or visiting some historical sights for pleasure like the Mercado but when it comes to having an nice, dare I say upscale dinner it is lacking only because of the location. I strongly recommend that if you stay here do not hesitate to take a taxi to other areas of the city such as the near north side and eat at neighborhood eateries like Seasons which I posted on in this blog. You’ll be rewarded for what amounts to a $10 USD after conversion taxi ride.

Conclusion: I’d stay here again.

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NB Steak
Av. Ramiro Barcelos, 389
Floresta, Porto Alegre, RS
CEP 90035-004
Phone: (51) 3225.2205

June 29, 2014

Na Brassa is a small chain of churrascaria in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo, Brazil. They have some of the best variety of meat selections of any churrascaria I’ve eaten at in Brazil to date. In general the meat, sides and salad are prepared well with good flavor.

Unfortunately the table service sucks.

When we arrived we were pretty much slapped into our seats, drink orders taken that were quickly forgotten by our waiter and immediately assaulted with meat. Then our salad showed up after we had roughly four meats on our plates. Then appetizers and sides and more meats. Finally after being assaulted non-stop with meat I finally and quite literally threw my hands up in the air when the guy that was supposed to be our waiter finally passed back by our table at which point he finally acknowledge he needed to get our drinks. That’s when he told another waiter passing by to get us drinks. He was too busy to do so. This process continued all night long until I finally just quit eating and sipped on the remainder of my drink. There was an ever growing line outside wanting a table and we just sat there completely ignored. Finally after a long time of waiting our original waiter ordered yet another waiter we’d never seen to come by and close out our table, presumably to make room for the masses standing in the doorway. I promptly shut down any requests for digestif, coffee or dessert. I simply wanted my check and to get out of there. That is exactly what I got. Yet another waiter came buy with the bill, tapped her fingers on the table until I produced my credit card, quickly swiped it and gave it back to me without me even signing for a $250.00 dollar dinner tab. Off she went without a single word of acknowledgement.

That is a long winded way of saying what I’ve already said. The table service sucked. Plain and simple.

Although the food quality and selections were some of the best we’ve had in Brazil sometimes good food and good drink just can’t compensate for bad service. If they’d treat us as persona non grata then they’ll do it to you at the drop of a hat. Enter at your own risk.

I think there is wine service based on the other tables that had wine but we were never offered a wine list or even given the chance to ask for one. Try yourself at your own risk.

Reservations are accepted. Attire is casual. Major credit cards are accepted. But for the life of me I cannot fathom why you’d make a reservation to go here.

Conclusion: I won’t go back. I don’t need to feel assaulted then ignored during dinner.

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July 1, 2014

Today is our 21st day in Brazil. Today is a travel day so there isn’t really much to report. We had breakfast at our hotel in Porto Alegre and then worked until the noon check out time. Other than that we were traveling from Porto Alegre to Rio de Janiero. Fortunately our travel schedule worked out so that we could watch the soccer games as we traveled. We saw all of regulation of the Argentina game and almost all of of the U.S. game. We lucked out in that the taxi driver in Rio is a big soccer fan and had the game on a TV in his taxi. The drive to our apartment in Ipanema was just perfect timing to watch the first half in the taxi, the rest in our apartment.

After the game we went for a short walk around our neighborhood on a very pleasant evening here in Ipanema. We have a really nice penthouse apartment in what seems to be a very nice and safe location. We grabbed a quick dinner at a place close by called Bar Somethingoranother and then went to the 24 hour market less than half a block from our apartment to pick up some provisions for our apartment. Now we’re set to eat in a little, eat out a little, do laundry on our terms, relax, hit the beach, see the sights and watch our final three games in person.

Hope to see you here again tomorrow.

Tchau!

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Seasons Global Cuisine & Tapas
Rua Dinarte Ribeiro, 36
Moinhos de Vento
Porto Alegre – RS, CEP 90570-050
Brazil
Phone: +55 51 3508-7781

Seasons Oysters

Seasons Oysters

June 28, 2014

We’ve been in Brazil for 18 days at this point before stumbling upon Seasons. I have to say that was a heck of stumble. Seasons is easily the best restaurant we’ve eaten at since we arrived in Brazil. The focus at Seasons is fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared in a creative manner. The quality here is easily transplantable to any foodie town in the U.S. or the E.U. It is that good.

We opted for the three course dinner which includes an appetizer, entree and dessert of your choosing (R$98,00 or roughly $45.00 USD).

My appetizer of the evening was the Oysters in Champagne mignonette topped with Parmesan and Minced Chive. I was surprised to find oysters on the menu as I had not seen any since we arrived in the country and wasn’t even aware of Brazil as having an oyster harvesting industry. The oysters were freshly sourced the day before from an adjoining state where oysters are harvested daily throughout the year. Everything was fresh and flavorful and with a little squeeze of lemon to provide a balancing acid component it was good to really good. I’d recommend it.

Seasons Duck Three Ways

Seasons Duck Three Ways

My entree for the evening was the Duck Three Ways. Here was another pleasant surprise. This was the first duck I’d seen on a menu since arriving in the country. The roasted duck croquette was good with a nice moist center and a crispy, flavorful exterior. It was also my least favorite on the plate. That should say something when I like it and it is still my least favorite. Well beyond that was the seared duck on an onion and greens compote. This was excellent. Perfectly prepared and flavorful I could’ve eaten an entire breast prepared this way and called it an evening. However, barely edging it out in my opinion was the smoked carpaccio of duck wrapped around fresh local greens. Subtle to sublime, delicious smokiness and briny flavor had me hooked from the first bite. This dish is obviously highly recommended.

My dessert for the evening was the Sticky Toffee Pudding which was more of a cake like consistency than a pudding. It was full of toffee flavor with just enough sweetness that you’ll keep digging your spoon back in again and again until you find you’ve eaten it all without thinking. Recommended.

Seasons Sticky Toffee Pudding

Seasons Sticky Toffee Pudding

The service was very good. We always had somebody available at a moment notice without ever hovering.

Seasons has a nice, serviceable wine list made up of thoughtful selections from around the globe. Prices on out of country wines are fairly high due to tariffs imposed by the Brazilian government but if your exchange rate is favorable such as ours is at the moment then they are certainly reachable. The cocktail and whiskey list was focused with a really good assortment. I particularly liked my Cosmopolitan. The best I’ve had in quite some time.

Reservations are accepted but not required. We made one to be certain we got in on Saturday night as many restaurants including Seasons are closed on Sunday. Attire is casual to dressy casual. I was dressed in nice jeans and a button down shirt and felt perfectly comfortable. Major credit cards are accepted.

Conclusion: I’d return to Seasons without a doubt and I would encourage you to give it a try yourself if you’re ever in Porto Alegre.

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June 30, 2014

Rainy Porto Alegre

Rainy Porto Alegre

Today is our 20th day here in Brazil. Guess what? Yep, it’s still raining. So out of 20 days spread across 4 cities over thousands of miles of territory we’ve had 4 days of full sun, 16 with enough rain to kill at least half our day short of getting soaked in a monsoon.

Thank goodness we’re moving to Rio de Janeiro tomorrow. The odds of sun return to our favor starting tomorrow. Let’s say a little prayer to the sun gods.

Today we spent just about all day working in the room since it was raining anyway. Cynthia is a little behind on her work and we’ll likely play more once we get to Rio so today is make up some time day. Plus she’s not feeling so well today. It got down to 55F here last night so the hotel with central air and heat thinks that everybody in this hotel must be freezing to death since they are freezing to death so even though we had our a/c on it blew nothing but seriously hot air all night. Stifling in the room. So we opened the windows which allowed the polar bear front to blow right across our bed. I’m thinking the combination of surface of the sun and PJ party on the South Pole did the dirty deed.

Congratulations to Germany on advancing to the Quarterfinals. Algeria played an excellent game against them. Nothing but respect for the Algerian team.

Hope to see you here tomorrow.

Tchau!

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June 29, 2014

Stress Therapy

Stress Therapy

Today is Day 19 here in Brazil. Today is Sunday so just about everything in Porto Alegre is closed. However, you can’t necessarily close a six square block city park. Farroupilha Park is basically their “Central Park” here in Porto Alegre. The sun was finally shining this morning so we decided to take a nice walk down to and through the park this morning after breakfast.

The park was fairly soaked in most areas due to the recent rains in the area. However, throw a little sunshine on the situation it seemed as though every resident of downtown was in the park in full celebration of a break in the rain. Locals seem very found of their parks and especially their dogs. Seems as though every other person you see is walking a dog. You have to love a city that loves their pets so much. Warms the heart.

You have to love the smile on this little guy!

You have to love the smile on this little guy!

Every Sunday local artisans setup stalls on the far end of the park to display and sell their crafts. We walked around to each one (it took well over an hour there were so many) but didn’t find anything that we just had to have. Maybe, but not required. So we left the market area empty handed this time. We’ll hit the historical downtown market tomorrow and do some more shopping there. Hopefully we’ll score something we can’t leave town without.

Also interesting to note is just about every other if not more frequent Brazilian carries around a “gourd” or “cup” of Yerba Mate. Yerba Mate is a green, herbal tea that is supposed to have medicinal purposes. When you look at it the stuff looks like a giant wad of pot on top of a bong with a metal straw sticking out. It also smells and taste like shit. Why these people not only carry this crap around all day but also a second thermos of hot water to continuously fill it throughout the day is beyond me. Maybe they’ll live forever but they’ll smell like shit hauling this crap around all over the place. Oh well. Live and let live.

Balance of the afternoon was watching the soccer games and trying to score some Germany tickets.

Did I mention it is raining again? Yep, our flood zone is getting yet more rain.

Dinner tonight was at Na Brassa Churrascaria. I’ll try to do a write up later.

Hope to see you here again tomorrow.

Tchau!

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