Archive for the 'Chile & Brazil' Category

19
Jan
07

The Beach: Redstar’s Travel Guide for Upwardly Mobile, Childless 30-Somethings

(Updated on 2/5/07 to remove photos due to possibly related spam issues. Please see this post for full photo regalia)

Given we’re prolific (if typically local) explorers, and especially of the urban neighborhoods and corners others would rather skip or don’t even know exist, the M.A.S. and I talk frequently about authoring a travel guide more suited to our tastes. Turns out on this 18 day trip to South America, we were also looking for travel buddies. Seems urban or overseas tourists are either in their study-abroad or retirement periods, with not enough exception. Other than a random Alabaman siting, some enthusiastic Kiwis traveling round the world, some missionizing college-age Pennsylvanians, and a lone male Floridian looking for a Brazilian site to watch the college football championship, we crossed paths with very few travelers that might have made suitable, fleeting companions for an afternoon or two. At lunch one day the M.A.S. asked, “does no one travel in their 30s because they all have kids?” Good question, and one I couldn’t answer after multiple glasses of Sauvignon Blanc.

(pic o’ wine belongs here)

But I think he’s on to something. What follows is a recap of our adventure that won’t show up in the male-dominated, thrifty, hippie trekker-oriented Rough Guides and Lonely Planets (i.e., we didn’t ride the bus and thus didn’t linger in stations of any kind), and hopefully is not as aged as a Frommer’s recommendation.

As urban planners and afficionados, we’re not looking for a strictly beach vacation. While we’re seeking R&R and nooky like any couple who escapes from home for any period of time, we need a lot of intellectual stimulation, if also some space to roam. Thus, this trip of exploring foreign cities and their surrounding coasts worked well for us.

With roughly a week each in Santiago, Chile and Recife, Brazil, we had a couple days each week to devote to the beach, tanning, reading and at least one night of an intense UNO showdown (This game really needs 4 people, especially if 2 of them are Tergie and Mrs. Goofball, heckling each other until Mrs. Goofball is totally salty!). As mentioned, the Pacific Ocean along which Chile lies is too cold for most sane individuals (e.g., me),

(fab photo of penguin islands belongs here)

and the urban beaches of Recife are not clean enough (and smell as such) for most Americans. The one suitable strip of Recife is the up(per)-scale Boa Viagem, which also offers enough people-watching; snacking on fried cheese-curd popsicles (The Cheeseheads are stirring….), fresh pineapples and shrimp, hot dogs, the local firewater cachaca, and of course, tasty coconut milk; and the occasional shark scare to keep any beach goer engaged for an afternoon.

(great shot, beach strip)

(signage: “you are at a greater than average risk of shark attack”)

In Brazil, we ventured out of Recife for an afternoon to the cleaner beaches in the South, fleeing the initial destination of Porto de Galinhas (Rooster Beach, “rooster” being a code name that stuck for a secret slave delivery point long after slavery was outlawed in Brazil) when we discovered how touristy it was (we literally could not move on the beach it was that crowded; seems all the pristine, spare guidebook photos were either taken at dawn or in 1948 before the site was developed) and ended up at Calhetas, a much more secluded (though hardly sparse) and chill beach cove where we befriended Recifens Emilio and Theresa – a cop and physical therapist – and drank cachaca with them all afternoon while we tried to describe to them Brazilians in Boston and I admired Theresa’s amazingly waterproof red lipstick. After several cachacas – which, when not in a caipirinha, is poured like a tequila shot and sipped slowly – Emilio got stuck on the notion of the M.A.S. tying the knot and spent the rest of the afternoon demonstrating to me how to catch my other half by grinding and turning his thumb and second finger against his opposit open palm, as if putting the screws to something. His point exactly, I suppose. I told him that just as he encouraged us to take our cachaca – “SLOWLY, SLOWLY” he repeatedly chanted – so did I approach my relationship (never-minding planning an almost 3 week trip with your new boyfriend). Nothing like drinkin’ with an off-duty cop for a few laughs and free rounds.

In Chile, we spent one afternoon sunbathing with the traveling fashionistas in Cachagua, where our MIT bud and la novia (“bride”) Francisca’s family has a home.

(M.A.S. in hats and bathing suits, lying blissfully in the sand)

A couple hours north of Santiago, Cachagua has a worse rap in some of the guidebooks (of the Rough Guide/Lonely Planet breed) as a vacation spot for Chilean society types, but mostly it reminded me of an upscale, Spanish version of the area of Falmouth on Cape Cod where my aunt has owned a home for years. Roving packs of teens, families that all know each other, a walk to the beach, sitting around at night with beers and the grill going, the place was not unfamiliar. Leaving out the logistical nightmare that cut short our stay in Fran’s house, the M.A.S. had a wild New Year’s Eve there, complete with grilling, boozing, dancing and even fireworks. I was memorialized in a few minds for crowing “I love fireworks” with a 6-year old’s innocent enthusiasm as the display kicked off, but it’s true. I love fireworks!

(fireworks….oooohhhh….)

The rest of the Chilean coast speaks for itself, and might leave you speechless. We went from Zapallar through Cachagua down to Vina del Mar (certainly the Jersey Shore of Chile if one exists there) and on to Valparaiso.

(The Vina strip)

As mentioned earlier, we were almost mugged in Valparaiso while lost via the popular “creaming” strategy in which tourists are “egged” (our case) or hit with some equivalent murky substance so as to be approached by lingering cons posing who appear helpful with tissues, etc., and then offer to take you somewhere – in our case, into an abandoned elevator shaft – so that they might mug you. We got away with our wallets, cameras, etc. intact, but with our pride and confidence wounded. I’ve lived to tell, but like Jamaica, Valparaiso is forever sullied in my mind. Nonetheless, we got some cool shots, had a great lunch, and rode the rickety old, monumental elevators with the best of ’em.

(Valparaiso cityscape; Valparaiso elevator)

Despite the sunny, turquoise allure of the photos, that’s about the extent of our beach vacation. The rest of the trip was spent exploring urban, cultural terrains. Subsequent chapters of the Redstar Guide to come.

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18
Jan
07

Check out my Photos

but feel free not to join my LinkedIn account…

Seems I was relatively prolific despite being on a pseudo-honeymoon for the last 2.5 weeks.  Take note of the new sub-category in my “Travel” section – “Chile & Brazil.”  Knew I was feeding my blogging addiction while I was away, but didn’t quite tally up that it amounted to almost every other day!  We’ll have to see if I can cut the cord should the M.A.S. make it to an actual post-nuptials vacation!  (Settle down all you romantics out there; we’re goin’ strong as ever, but such an event will be no time soon, if for no other reason than we’ll be paying off this trip for some time to come!  Sadly, the end-of-the-year graduate student performance bonus just doesn’t make the same dent it used to…)

So the photos have gone live, check them out on Shutterfly:

http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AZNWjlq5ZOXEg

You don’t need to sign-up to view them, which is a new(er), and the best, feature of the Shutterfly site (cuz it sure ain’t their upload and organizing functions).  I tried to join the Flickr fabuloso’s, but trying to fit in over there while also trying to learn how to better exploit the features of this blog proved too much, and I just gave up on both.  Better to just hunker down with all the mom’s on Shutterfly and save the hipster free photo-sharing technologies for another time. 

Speaking of mom’s, for those of you following along here, consider the ~100 photos posted as ~6 months of the baby shots I faithfully look through (and enjoy!) each month.  As for the rest of you, I don’t have much to guilt you with, and hope you’re just into snapshots of urban vistas and cheery, slightly sauced Americans cavorting in warm climes while you’re cursing the rapidly falling mercury. 

The trip, once again, was rad.  Accompanying posts to follow. 

17
Jan
07

Massh*les

Apparently, I planned my homecoming perfectly with the Golden Globes, landing in Boston in time for a pre-awards show dinner followed by an awkward hobble to my couch in time for some of the more touching awards speeches (Ugly Betty, the fabulous America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker, and of course, Shonda Rimes).  As I catch up on sleep and neurotically examine my now deflated feet for further tell tale signs there’s a blood clot cruising around inside me, I embrace being home with energetic perusing of the post-Globes fashion analysis that acknowledges the true competition behind these awards shows.  Best Actress, no problem; Best Dressed, now that’s another story.

There are multiple reasons I love the fashion coverage.  A) I love clothes.  B) I crave fame.  C) I love lists.  D) I love criticism.  Watching these women parade around and listening to the increasingly waxy Rivers women and their fashion industry colleagues “ooooohhhh” and “aagghh!” over the outfits is much more fun when imagining what I’d turn up in in my fantasized red carpet moments.  I have no doubt I’d pull off sleek and elegant in the early years before being slammed as tacky and excessive once I started to get comfortable with the coverage.  Those who’ve known me a long time should easily recall my puffy socks and Reebok Princess hi-tops in junior high, with oversized peace symbol earrings, garguantuan earrings of bubble-yum boxes, and huge smiley face danglies as well.  Alternating pink and blue trim on the hi-tops kept pace with alternating pink and blue glasses that my old friend Dave lovingly told me resembled Sally Jesse’s.

(this is the same guy who, when he saw me in my back brace from my Jamaica fall at 25, immediately mimicked the scoliosis chick trying to get a drink of water in Sixteen Candles. With friends like these!…)

So imagine my sympathies this morning when I discovered one of my favorite celebrity Massholes on MSN’s Worst Dressed list.  Everett-born Ellen Pompeo being likened to Donald Duck, though she apparently came so close to looking good (unlike this filly, who none of us should ever hope to keep company with in fashion’s post-game wrap-up).  Hopefully I fared slightly better than Ellen at the Santiago wedding that was the impetus for my 2.5 week vacation from which I’m now recovering (minus the rock-hard abs, of course):

 Golden Girl

After all, it’s important to keep up with glam friends… 

Wedding Arch 

La novia y el novio 

Reception

and amazing scenery…

Zapallar

Chilean Coast

And now I’m back, sitting in my pj’s at my kitchen table, listening to NPR while the M.A.S. (who, btw, also looked fabulous at the wedding but who’s identity I must protect) reunites with home by reading the Herald. 

More to come.  After all, I have over 650 photos to share.

15
Jan
07

Miss Me?

I know you did, thanks kids, it’s good to be back.

Ham HocksI am lying on my couch, with giant 20-hour-flight-ham-hock-swollen-feet as if I’m a 58 yr old overweight, diabetic cashier in America’s heartland and not a neurotic Northeasterner obsessive-about-foodie who can’t get over the fact that she has swollen feet from traveling for the last 48 hours straight.  And is in desperate need of a shower.  But is immediately, happily, sweetly, and gratefully seduced by coming home to a warm home with the Golden Globes and touching America Ferrera win on the tv tonight (I loved her in Real Women Have Curves, and Weboy has been urging us all to watch this show for months.  The award speeches indicates it’s got some real immigrant&Hispanic spirit underpinning it.  Perhaps I should be tuning in.).  I’ll soon be giving over my attention to last week’s Grey’s on abc.com, but not before watching to see if my Grey’s picks up any Globes.

I know, I know, I should be talking about my trip!!! Where to begin…Weboy, that fabulous, timely, fashionable guest blogger got a run down tonight after picking up the M.A.S. at the airport and sharing dinner with us at the West Side Lounge outside Porter Square.  My brain is so fried after four flights, including 2 overnights, since Saturday afternoon, and I want to get my pics up on line.  There’s Santiago and Chile’s Central Valley; Recife, Brazil; the culture and development of each country; the urban experience of the 2 cities; the travel with the boyfriend for 2.5 weeks – our first major trip away; the latest Richard Ford I read; my own future plans and ruminations inspired by the trip – where I want to travel for “work” v. pleasure; what I expect in a vacation; general complaints about being away from the States and reliinquishing control over one’s diet, movement, etc.; the sheer pleasure of watching 2 hours of Law & Order from 6-8 every night in Brazil after navigating its foreign, uncertain experiences, or tuning in late night to odd US flicks in Chile before bed after nights on the town; drinking and making native drinks – Pisco Sours (Chile) and Capirinhas and Cachaca (Brazil) – with new friends; learning some basics in Portuguese and then struggling to flip back to Spanish when passing back through Chile en route to the U.S.; spending all one’s American $$ in the Miami airport during a long delay en route home because the thrill of being back on home soil is so heady (yes, I’ll take the People and the US Weekly, thank you Hudson News employee; or, if you’re my better half, the NY Times and National Geographic), etc. etc. etc. 

Assuming there’s no pulmonary embolism coursing through my veins and I’m feeling less like a weeble tomorrow, and I’ve gotten some sleep and recovered from the travel and award-ceremony-pandering going on in my living room right now, then I promise, I’ll be back up and running with some thoughts on urban travel in this New Year, dos mil e seite.  (I think that’s 2007 in portuguese, but who the hell knows…)

09
Jan
07

The Ugly American, Part Dos

This is less about cultural gaffes than it is about confronting the uglier side of yourself exposed by traveling, relationships, traveling in a relationship?  It´s hard to say.  All I know is that in the last 4 days, I´ve had 2 full-on tantrums.  Bursting into tears, hurling myself onto my bed, and burying my face in the pillows.  Apparently, this is how the-ever-poised-Redstar blows off steam.  I´ve known for a long time about myself that my tears typically are delayed in tough situations.  For instance, when a friend of my Deis girls freshman year died unexpectedly, I was there for them and cried much later, in private, to my boyfriend at the time.  Last week, as we narrowly avoided being mugged in Valparaiso, my immediately feeling after the incident was one of exhilaration.  How cool!  We almost got mugged!  A total natural high from the fright of it.  Only much later, after a very very long day for the M.A.S. of trying to shake off the incident, make the best of the city, and drive a couple hours back to Santiago, did I finally lose it.  That night.  Rushing out of our hotel´s cafe to sob on the bed.  The other half of the M.A.S. was understandably tortured by his girlfriend´s tortured antics. 

But then yesterday, around 6am, when my luggage still hadn´t arrived, the same outburst occurred.  I was crying before I even hit the reception desk to inquire about my bag, and the M.A.S. was woken up 20 minutes later by my heaving flop onto the bed, my feet up by his head and my own face buried under pillows at the foot.  Good morning.

Of course, the reason I can blog about this now is because my luggage showed up last night, and we had a great day of seeing some of the inexplicable downtown of Recife (I´m working on trying to put it into words), some quality pool time, and an amazing seafood dinner last night.  So there is hope yet for this trip!  And our relationship endures.  But I´m more than a little mortified about my behavior, whether it´s understandable or not.  31 year old temper tantrums.  I suppose I have more in common with my friends raising young children than I thought!

07
Jan
07

The Other Northeast

Meanwhile, in the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife (He-cee-fe), Redstar stands at a hotel PC in her bikini and big red hat, slightly sauced from 2 caproeinas (sp??), some sun, and the stulfying supportive cheeriness of a Redbook magazine snagged from her Miami-Santiago flight a week ago.  You have to hand it to the MAS – they certainly know how to travel together.  I think this is what all these women´s mags mean when they chatter on about the notion of team and partners.  Thus far, we´ve survived perusing Chile sans tourist cards – having incorrectly filled them out on the aforementioned flight; finding no room at the Cachagua inn that this whole trip was planned around to begin with; almost being mugged in Valparaiso in what turns out to be such a typical con job that my Lonely Planet Brazil lectures me on it several days later; unannounced flight changes and stops on the rather-developing-country-bus-like Tam Airlines; and of course, my lost luggage.  Welcome to South America!

Stay tuned for a possible post in memoriam of my clothes lost somewhere b/w Santiago, Asuncion, Paraguay; and Sao Paolo.  And you really haven´t traveled thru the airport until the head of the Policia International (one hot chick in a fab white pants suit with a gigante badge around her neck) has to give you diplomatic status to whip through immigration because your flight is 90 minutes EARLIER than you thought.  And after yesterday´s tour of South American airports and experiencing the special brand of chaotic languishing for which Americans are especially unsuited, I stand corrected on thinking Miami needs to make any improvements to their airport.  They are right in line with their Southerly sisters, and probably saving a hell of a lot of dinero to boot.

 

04
Jan
07

Living la Vina Loca

Somewhere in this blog I have a post describing myself as living like Lindsay Lohan, and earlier this week at the Orly in Santiago, I felt that way all over again.  The M.A.S. South American version of the Chateau Marmont, my luggage exploded all over the junior suite we snagged as an upgrade at the hotel.  Since then I’ve been slightly more tidy, but not much else has deteroriated in terms of the glam quotient of this trip we’re on.  The central Chilean coast is some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, and we’ve been living it up from private homes to hotels built into cliffs overlooking the ocean to hotels perched along the boardwalks of Chilean resort towns.  Think Hamptons, Atlantic City, Venice, CA and Miami all interspersed along an absoluting stunning coastline that is public and accessible and filled with vacationing Chileans, Argentians, and the occasional gringos (that’d be yours truly).

I’m in Vina del Mar at the moment, en route to Valparaiso shortly.  Vina is really cool.  A city with real personality.  The boardwalk and beach is crowded with Chileans and vibrant.  There is so much public space, parks, etc. here and everwhere we’ve been.  Chile seems to emphasize this.  It is quite impressive.  As you walk away from the hotel, along the water south, and cross over a bridge, and it feels more urban and local, the main local shopping district, etc.  Not as touristy.

It’s amazing that these are summer holidays.  The water is icy cold / the kind that makes your ankles and feet ache immediately, and it gets cool at night / light pants and sweaters.  It is like CA.  Hot in the day, cool at night.  Santiago is not far, b-w one and 2 hours, so if you came to Vina for the week you could also go there. There´s also vineyards all around Central Chile, and more coast south of Valparaiso to explore.  So you could do a lot of day trips from here, but you´d probably want a place with a pool for any swimming, since only polar bears like the other half of the M.A.S. can go in this water. 

This is really a nice vacation. This country is easy to navigate, and the people are polite, helpful and honest, if not overly friendly. There are hardly any English speakers anywhere, though we just met a family from Alabama at a tapas bar.  Random.  The father looked like my dad would, like he was there to support his kid and making the best of it.  Paying bills, etc.  But the pinched look on his face and his later admission that he was dying for an english language newspaper reminded me that were my dad in his shoes, he’d be calculating the minutes until he was back to his Herald, Globe and WEEI sports radio.  There is also a casino in this town, quite glam, but I haven’t been inside to win my tuition for the spring. 

I am not crazy about the food, an emphasis on seafood, but not the stuff I’m used to, more prawns and conger.  It´s ok.  But really a stunning country, and the exchange rate is roughly 2:1 (Chilean:US).  

We are cruising in a tiny red Fiat – go rojito go! – and it makes getting around quite fabulous.  The best place we’ve stayed so far is a tiny, absolutely gorgeous and fancy town called Zapallar, which means “gourd squash” in Spanish, though our guide book isn’t quite sure why that’s the town’s name.  Homes built into the hills completely naturally, making use of natural materials, rather than pouring concrete down the side of the mountain as I imagine Americans would be incline to do for their steps to the beach.  Public art adorns a lot of places, and I cannot wait to get some pictures up on line.  Could even be an occasion to embrace the Flickr masses. 

We are off to Valparaiso now, a city foreshadowing the future of New Orleans, I think, as it has only been partially redeveloped since the biggest earthquake on record kicked its ass about 10 years ago.  You’ll probably here from me again from Santiago, and it’s a good thing, cuz where’s my guest blogger????  Cruising in the turquoise queen, no doubt.  

Happy New Year, for the last time!!