3000 Miles, 3 Cities, 1 Crazy Week

I’m currently writing from Brazil’s “Capital of Happiness” known as Salvador, BAHIIIIAAA. Here’s a map of our progress from this past week…and as always…photos…

The most livable of cities

No offense to the other cities I’ve been to in Brazil…but I’ve finally found a city I could truly live in (for more than a few months that is).  Belo Horizonte (or BH as its more commonly known) is located in the mountainous state of Minas Gerais and over the past decade has become one of the economic powerhouses of the Brazilian economy.  Home to delectable pão de qeijo, Brazil’s best cachaça, stunning views, ground-breaking architecture, well-dressed people, the most bars in Brazil, the current President, and one of the more endearing accents you’ve ever heard…BH certainly has a lot going for it.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?), many foreign tourists either don’t know about it or choose to go to coastal cities like Rio, Salvador, or São Paulo instead. It certainly doesn’t fit the image of beaches, thong bikinis, and samba music that most foreigners have when they choose to visit Brazil and as such it’s no surprise that BH is one of this country’s “best-kept secrets” (if you can call a city of four million a “secret” at all). In any event, here are a few highlights from my time in BH…

  • Peace out Amazon: After being surrounded by dense jungle for nearly five months…words cannot describe what a breath of fresh air it was to…get out of the jungle.  Pleasant cloudless days (that don’t suck the life force out of you) and cool nights…WOW.  Amazing what four hours by airplane will do!
  • Modern Architecture: BH has some seriously iconic architecture. We spent a good part of Monday walking around the famous Pampulha Complex and taking in some of Oscar Neimeyer’s (he’s Brazil’s most famous architect, one of the fathers of the modern architectural movement, and actively working…at the age of 104) famous work.  Apparently, the Catholic Church refused to consecrate the controversial Saint Francis of Assisi Church for 16 years because of its groundbreaking, modern design. For lovers of cool, crazy architecture…GO to Belo Horizonte.

  • UFMG: I’m beginning to get back some of my faith in the Brazilian higher education system (although only partially).  We spent a few hours at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and I can finally say that I’ve seen a real, resource rich school of learning in Brazil.  UFMG is one of the two best in Brazil and looks like a proper college campus in almost everyway possible (minus dorms of course…Brazilians live at home…forever).  Nonetheless, while I was certainly impressed with what I saw, it was hard not to draw comparisons with UFOPA and see in full view all that our school lacks (the vet school at UFMG is larger than all of UFOPA combined).  I just don’t know how the Brazilian government can justify the GROSS inequality sometimes.  Suffice it to say that my time at UFMG left me part uplifted, part frustrated, and part disgusted…
  • The Minerão: BH is going to be one of the main World Cup host cities.  It’s famous Minerão stadium (located in the Pampulha Complex) is set to host a semi-finals match and despite most cities being really behind in their preparations…renovations in BH look to be well underway. I look forward to watching Landon Donovan play there in less than two years (I can dream…can’t I?)

  • Views: Absurd. There’s a wealth of breathtaking look out spots in the mountains surrounding the city. So kewl.

Ouro Preto:

My love affair with Ouro Preto only lasted for 36 hours…but while it lasted…it was SO good.  The former capital of Minas Gerais (and colonial mining town) is one of those places that Brazilian tourists frequent (similar to Alter do Chão) and is an absolute hidden gem (for the American tourist at least).  Nestled in the mountains two hours southwest of BH, Ouro Preto provides visitors with historic sights (including about one billion beautiful churches), throw-back-in-time Baroque architecture, and an unforgettable setting.  Just a magical place…with delicious food.  What could be better? Combined with BH, Ouro Preto has convinced me that if you come to Brazil and ignore Minas Gerais…you’re being plain silly.

…only down side to Ouro Preto…the hills. Mount Everest 2.0. Getting fit for Copacabana Beach though!

Natal:

Beaches and dune-buggys…need I say more?

…alright…I’ll say more. Located on the northeast tip of Brazil, Natal (quite literally “Christmas” in Portuguese) is home to perfect 80-degree weather, massive sand dunes, and a ton of…out-of-season Christmas decorations. After jetting around Brazil for a solid six days, Donovan and myself took in some serious R + R on the beaches of Christmas (seriously…how absurd would it be…if you named a major American city…Christmas?) for a couple of days. According to just about every travel website I read, Natal has some of Brazil’s best beaches. My time in the Christmas City did nothing to disabuse me of that idea. Good food, perfect beaches, not full of foreign tourists…yesssssir.

…oh yeah…I went dune-buggying…and IT. WAS. AWESOME.

…Thirsty much?

Other happenings:

  • Who watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies? Who was totally confused by the 42 million dollar strange, bizarre…STRAZARRE show that London put on? Donovan and I sat there watching the whole spectacle absolutely dumbfounded.  Just donate the money to charity…or the European rescue fund…seriously.  The only good thing about that show was Paul Mccartney. At 70 years young (and despite having 1 million face lifts), that guy can still rock.
  • Watching the doctors navigate Salvador for that past couple days has been rather entertaining.  My dad stopping, staring at everything, and falling behind the group (we don’t call him Turtle Man for nothing) every two seconds…hilarious. More stories next week.
  • So…Wednesday is August 1st…how the bleep did that happen?
  • It’s been so nice to finally stay somewhere for more than two days.  As great as the first 10 crazy days of the trip have been…some real R +R was much needed.

I’m sitting here writing this post by the pool in a reconstructed 15th century convent-turned-hotel with delightful jazz music playing in the background. Decent life. On that note, have a nice week!

Gringoly,

Andy

P.S I PROMISE to post photos of Manaus, BH, Ouro Preto, and Natal at some point on Facebook in the next few days. Andyinhat.tumblr.com will also be updated with new, exclusive content.

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