Cuiabá – Brasilia – Rio de Janeiro
Thursday, June 26th – Cuiabá/Brasilia
Last day in Cuiaba. Breakfasts are so good in Brazil! Especially the cheese breads and sausages at the cute and highly recommended Deville Hotel. After exploring Mãe Bonifácia Park, which was very dry, we just saw one animal that could not be identified from far away, and some birds. While coming back to the hotel area, we got kind of lost and no taxis were around. The park was approximately one and a half miles away, walking back wasn’t that bad after all it was just very hot and humid.
We got ready for more soccer and the last meal at Plaza Popular. Picanha for two, please! Feeling nostalgic to leave this wonderful small city that opened its friendly doors to the world.
Our flight to Brasilia was delayed little by little up to four hours. A nice surprise was when we saw our new Colombian friends waiting for the same flight. We relaxed, laughed, talked about soccer, and more soccer over a few beers at the gate.
Friday, June 27th – Brasilia/Rio de Janeiro
Finally we arrived at the hotel, but it was the wrong one! There were two Mercure’s close by. We walked a couple of blocks to the other one where the reservation was found at Mercure Brasilia Eixo. Happy again that our bags were just one carry-on and a backpack, small and light. I have stayed before at a Mercure hotel in Sapporo-Japan and sadly the experience here was completely the opposite. The hotel looked nice on pictures and the reception was ok, but the room was not clean and had a weird smell. I was too tired to complain. I just sent them a bad review and they apologized. The early tour in Brasilia was canceled; one day in Brasilia was making us think about booking an early tour.
Going to Paranoá Lake, Pontao do Lago Sul, just twenty minutes away and the kind taxi driver offered to pick us up in three hours to take us to the airport. Not much public transportation around the lake. Great view and delicious food at Café Antiquario! International style restaurant; for lunch we had fish, mash potatoes, risotto, filet mignon, and coffee –is always good! It is a beautiful place for a walk, meal, and nightlife.
RIO DE JANEIRO
Landing in Rio de Janeiro and staying at the Windsor Asturias Hotel in downtown Rio, it was really handy for seeing Colombia play against Uruguay in the 16th round the next day. Definitely everything happens for a reason. The last three nights in Rio, we were supposed to be at a hotel next to the beach and relax for the last couple of days. Kayak, one of my favorite search trip engines, called me a few days before coming to Brazil saying that there was an error and the hotel was overbooked. Great! Right? Obviously no hotels were available at the beach, only in downtown Rio. And there we were in downtown Rio in a twin double bed room and far from the beach. One of the beds ended up for my husband’s old friend. He made last minute changes to his original plan to be in Rio for Colombia’s 16th round and the hotel was in close proximity to these three main objectives: Maracaná stadium, tonight’s special dinner at Porcão Churrascaria, and Lapa nightlife! Transform inconvenient moments into perfect timing ones!
Porcão Churrascaria in Flamengo, it was recommended by friends and hotel staff. It is one of the best rodizios in Rio. Nice dinner, a bottle of wine, steaks, and more steaks for a fixed price (drinks and desserts were not included). They also had a big buffet with salads, sushi, pasta, breads, cheeses and more. The highlights were the Picanha cut and fried yucca, and for dessert, the best caipiroskas made right next to you with natural and fresh ingredients!
Meeting up with friends in Lapa at Carioca da Gema. A live samba band played at a delicate and sensual pace. The atmosphere is irresistible, filled with people from all over the world, live Brazilian music, drums, sweet singer voice, and one-two-three slowly samba moves. Mojitos, beers, and caipiroskas helped hydrate the warm, energized, and overcrowded two-story bar.
Walking around Arcos da Lapa, looking for a late snack before going to bed. A huge street party still continues! Party in Rio is like nowhere else; from hip-hop to samba the city is completely alive. For others, who live on the streets, life is not that fun but buying him a local hot dog with all he wanted on brought a sweet obrigado smile.
Saturday, June 28th – Rio de Janeiro
Ready for another big day, 16th rounds of the World Cup! Colombia Vs Uruguay, but first Brazil is playing Chile. The city is going to stop soon, it is better to be closer to the Maracaná and watch the Brazil game in a restaurant/bar that is walking distance to the stadium.
Everyone in Rio was wearing yellow! Brazilians and Colombians watching Brazil’s game first, then is Colombian’s turn. All the bars were full, making us glad our Seattle friends saved us seats. Brazilians are getting crazy! Their team was winning and now tied 1-1. A final opportunity for Chile and they almost scored. People were upset, making noises, and shouting at the screen, referee, and each other. The situation was a little out of hand and penalty kicks started. There were many emotions, passion, and uncertainty. Will this be the last hope for Brazil? Thankfully, it was not! Everyone was happy, Brazil won!
Nerves are on edge; Colombia has never passed to a quarter final in its history. Will Colombia beat Uruguay? Walking to the stadium, raising and waving flags, thinking, hoping, and dreaming about what is going to happen in this legendary stadium, the Maracaná.
Almost kick-off time! The Colombian anthem starts, heartbeats are high, singing is loud, and tears are streaming down. This is one of those moments when you feel a strong energy not just coming from you, but from thousands of people. A moment when the world looks smaller and wiser, when we all look the same, stars conspire and conjugate, even if you don’t see them, and you are so alive!
“Two touches from heaven, and just two seconds later*...” James Rodriguez scores! Goooooooal! And the Maracaná was going to collapse along with our hearts. The best goal of the World Cup and we cannot believe it. Se va a caer! Se va a caer! El Maracaná se va a caer! And the Maracaná exploded!
Colombia is making history at the first World Cup that I have been of hopefully many ones to come. First time advancing to the quarterfinals. One nation, one country, one jersey, and one dream. Thank you, tricolor! Thank you, Colombian soccer team.
Celebration for Colombia and Brazil! Samba and cumbia are dancing together in Copacabana, Lapa, and Ipanema. Copacabana beach is full, everybody sings, jumps, and smiles. Lapa definitely doesn’t sleep at all! The celebration goes on and on. Here people are out of control, streets are full, there are queues everywhere, and hard to even walk. Dancing, drinking, and smiling for a sweet victory.
Sunday, June 29th – Rio de Janeiro
Time to check out so we went to spend the last night at the Rio Design Hotel at the border of Copabana and Ipanema beaches, before Mexico Vs Netherlands game started. I noticed online that my debit account was in red —a huge negative balance. I called the bank while trying to watch the game at the hotel’s restaurant. Meanwhile, I am completely frustrated with the bank situation. Good coffee and freshly-squeezed orange juice made the situation less tense. I still had my debit card and somebody totally swiped it even when the credit card was the one primarily used. And yes, the credit card was also swiped and used after we left Brazil. One hour later, on the phone, the problem was partially solved. The card was canceled, then I realized we just had a few reales, just enough for two metro rides. Walking to take the metro for the first time and walking some more to get to our last hotel’s stay. Again, so good that at least the bags were small and light!
Checking in at the nice and cozy Rio Design Hotel. Relaxing afternoon, after some stress from the debit card situation.
Walking around, looking for a pleasant authentic dinner. Feijoada to share, a couple of fresh strawberry caipiroskas, and great company. Meeting North American friends this time. Breathing the fresh air coming from the open sea while having a nice, relaxing, and delicious dinner by the beach. It was a smooth and special night around Ipanema. Coming back on foot in the middle of the night after some walking, dancing, and exploring this front beach neighborhood. It felt very safe thanks to the local polícia and nice area.
Monday, June 30th – Rio de Janeiro
A usual great late breakfast, freshly-squeezed orange juice, fabulous espressos, fresh fruit, and this time a club sandwich. Time for soccer, check out at the hotel, and getting ready for our last walk on the beach. Saying goodbye is never easy after such a great experience.
Walking barefoot the beach one last time. Feeling the sand and the energy of the earth during a cloudy and nostalgic day in Rio de Janeiro.
The end of this fabulous journey, it is almost the end. Ten days of incredible emotions, dreams, feeling more alive, meeting great people from all over the world —old and new friends, discovering new foods and drinks, exploring cities/neighborhoods/beaches, dancing, walking, running, hotels, and airports hopping. Ten days full of magical and unforgettable memories. See you in Russia 2018!
Live hard! Live wise! With Simply Green.