Friday, April 4, 2014

Brazilian Coast - 4 Unmissable Towns of Costa Verde And Beyond

Our mini itinerary along Brazil's diverse coastline included 4 unmissable towns. Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande, Paraty and Floripa; few faces of Brazil's feature-full 7500 km atlantic shore. 

Rio De Janeiro

When one visits Rio de Janeiro for the first time, one or more of the following things can happen in the first hour:

  • Portuguese suddenly sounds so damn cool. 
  • You generously use and distinctly pronounce Obrigado (Thanks) and instantly feel like a tourist. Cariocas conveniently skip both O's.
  • You expect to find Brazilian reggae and bronzed ultra good-looking people salsa on the streets. But you don’t. 
  • When you gaze at the sky, you wonder where the friggin’ frigate birds are that you came so far to see. And then you see dozens.
  • There’s no time to waste. You head straight to Ipanema beach after dropping your bags. Swimmers are in your carry-on. 
  • Acai Berry juice is no longer an exotic drink. You order a large with granola. This time you say brigaaad.
  • You can’t stop staring at .. the dramatic backdrop of two brothers mountain :)
  • You wonder what took you so long to visit Rio.
Ipanema Beach
The "Steps" - Escadaria Selaron (with an attempt to impersonate Pharell from the soundtrack "Beautiful")
Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain - Worlds's largest Art Deco Statue till 2010
View of Rio from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Ilha Grande - An Island Life

We arrived on the pristine preserved island of Ilha Grande via a short 80 minute boat ride from Angra dos Reis to Abraao. “Short” depending on of course, how experienced your ferryman is. Center decks filled first but we were now shrewd at seizing best seats!  As the hills of this untouched Atlantic rainforest rose in the background, we overheard other tourists discussing its history. Pirate hideout turns into leper colony, turns into infamous prison, turns into one of Brazil’s best destination starting from mid 1990s. None of the island’s history was visible when we alighted amongst the crazy scramble of bare-foot tourists, sandy streets, handout flyers for pousadas (accommodation) and the kind of island-life vibe that in 3 days time would become extremely hard to leave. Home to one of Brazil’s best beach Lopez Mendes and unspoiled lagoons, we took a half-island boat tour to Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon), Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), lunch at Maguaraquissaba, Praia do amor (Lovers Beach) and Feiticeira. 

Green Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

Historical Paraty

The first distinct evidence of Brazil’s colonial past was seen in culture-rich Paraty, a town with a unique position in gold exports along the Gold Route. Its elegant historical centre made a pleasureful stroll through cobble-stone streets closed for motorists but open for unique galleries, art shops, baroque churches, coffee shops and friendly native kids. Art often showed the reflection of the city in water from high tides in Paraty but none seem to capture the very social common marmoset monkeys? One primate in particular arrived precisely at lunch time to be fed three-quarters of a banana at lunchtime each day! 

Fun in Florianopolis

We saw Floripa through primary colour glasses. Probably because we stayed and spent all days within the 5km radius of Barra da Lagoa  - one of the beach districts of Florianopolis. A fishing village intersected by the Barra channel carrying tons of fresh fish and turtles, its sandy beach was flourishing with local tourists, wind surfers and several beach front restaurants that served massive meals even too big for our cast iron stomachs! Bus transport to Barra from the Central Bus Station (Terminal Rita Maria) required a change at Lagoa da Conceição. But that wasn’t a problem. It was clinging on to the seat while the roller coaster bus rose and fell on the hill that separated central town and the lake - people with motion sickness take good note! 

Barra da Lagoa


Saturday, January 11, 2014

At Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Viewers (worshippers) of the TV series Game of Thrones will understand the thrill of visiting real-world filming locations of its sets in Dubrovnik, Croatia. 

While the city blew us away with its war-struck orange terracotta tiles, impressive stone and wild seas, it seemed perfect posing as King's Landing and parts of Qarth with high-rising cliffs and a stunning ancient city wall overlooking the Adriatic sea (i.e Blackwater Bay in the series).

With the help of screenshots from Game of Thrones Season 1, Season 2, Season 3 handy, we set out looking for exact locations to reconstruct scenes. We didn't bump into King Joffrey, Daenerys or Tyrion Lannister but surely walked where they did!

Scene: King Joffrey causes a riot in public when returning from Marcela's send off (Location: Pile Gate)

Scene: Tyrion Lannister and Varys talking like "intelligent" human beings (Location: City Wall overlooking Fort Lovrijenak)

Scene: King Joffrey's naming ceremony (Location: Fort Lovrijenak)

Scene: Cersie Lannister speaking with Peter Baylish - Power is Power (Location: Fort Lovrijenak)

Scene: Spice King refusing ships to Daenerys Targaryen (Location: Rector's Palace)

Scene: Marcela being sent off to Dom (Location: Through Park from Pile Gate) 

Scene: Shae and Sansa with Peter Baelish (At the quay)

Scene: Gold cloaks killing babies (Location: At the bay to the left of Fort Lovrijenak)

Scene: Anti-Joffrey sentiments brewing in the streets during Tyrion's investigation of wild fire (Location: Placa Street as seen from City Walls)

Scene: Daenerys Targeryn at House of Undying (Location: Minceta Tower)