The rest of the world is going to have to work pretty darn hard to impress me, now that I have been to Iguazu Falls. Bordering Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu Falls should be a must-see for anyone traveling through South America. I stood literally right over the falls as they plummeted with such force below me, stood on a platform as they came crashing down beside me, and stood at the bottom of the falls staring up in awe, yet somehow, it is still hard to grasp that theywere real. Their beauty was so jaw dropping, it felt like something right out of a Stephen Spielberg movie. As though they were something someones creative mind made up for Avatar as opposed to something that Mother Nature actually created for us.
The falls literally surrounded you with their vastness, seemingly going on forever, never ending as you walk the trails through the National Park. The wildlife in the park only serving to add to the beauty, the birds coming to land beside you and sing, watching you with the sme curiousity you are looking at tem with; the South American version of raccoons watching you for signs of food, ready to grasp it from your hands should you reveal any; the butterflies coming to land directly on you, making peace with moving with you as you walk. All of it is something to be experienced, and a memory that will stay with me forever.
When we first decided to include Argentina in our Around-the-World itinerary, I had little expectations of the country, primarily because I knew none of its history. I didn’t know what the people were known for, what they were like, the living conditions, nothing. I, to my embarrassment, assumed it would be much like Brazil. So after spending four weeks in Brazil, hearing from everyone how we won’t like Argentina, the people are mean, the city is ugly, everything is expensive, my expectations dropped even more. Yet when I arrived here, walking around exploring the brilliant European influenced architecture, taking in the plethora of monuments to San Martin and other important Argentinean figures, and seeing the smiling faces, I felt more at home in just one day than I did in my entire month in Brazil. I no longer had to look over my shoulder constantly. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already spent so much time in Europe that the familiarity of it all is making me feel at home here, but it’s a wonderful feeling. From my first day here, my heart has just been happy, despite how sick I’ve been. The weather is abnormally gorgeous for this time of year, everyone we have been has been so incredibly helpful, and as I have mentioned in past posts, having a couchsurfing host to provide us with a home when we arrive makes a world of difference (Thanks Gerardo!)
We did two walking tours both by Buenos Aires Free Walking Tours, which I would highly recommend to anyone coming to the city. The first began at San Martin Plaza, and covered many of Argentina’s architectural gems and provided so much history on why the city has such a European influence, which is a fascinating story. The second began at Congress Plaza and covered much of the city’s political history and growth. It was the perfect introduction to one of the largest city’s in the world!
Then of course we did the must-do’s, visiting Evita’s mausoleum in La Recoleta Cemetery, making our way to the colourful area of La Boca (the only time we were cautioned to be alert of our surroundings) and my most favourite, taking part in an Argentinean cooking class. We made empanadas, lentil stew and alfajores all from scratch at a very fun and entertaining class hosting by a lovely woman named Norma. Definitely the highlight of my time in Argentina, which I have no doubt my friends and family will be thankful for as well when I make it for them!
Finally, no trip to Argentina would be complete without a proper ‘futbal’ game! Now I opted out of going to an actual game, mostly due to the price and the renovations I’m currently having done at my rental property back at home, but I did make it out for the now infamous Boca vs. River rivalry game that turned to chaos. To say Argentineans love their soccer just as much as Brazil would be such an understatement.
I have just arrived in Iguazu Falls, which will be our final site seeing before we head off to South Africa for an entirely new experience. I seriously can not even imagine what the next week holds for us, as this past week has been so incredible.
To see more of my photos from Argentina and what I am up to, check out ThisBlondeAbroad!
I am at an actual loss of words for how when people talk about traveling, they’re not yelling “GO TO URUGUAY!” Uruguay has been one of the most amazing countries I ahve been to – didn’t see that coming. To be honest, I came here because I thought ‘it’s just a ferry away from Buenos Aires and it will be another passport stamp!’. Honestly, that’s the only reason I am here.
So imagine my surprise when I arrive in Colonia Del Sacramento and discover this safe little haven of preserved architecture and history. A UNESCO World Heritage site as it turns out – again, who knew? This quaint little town is the kind that just brings a peace to your heart, the perfect remedy for whatever may be ailing your mind or soul. To walk around the cobblestone streets, taking in the old buildings, the lighthouse, the sunset over the water and the shops, it’s a kind of natural peace of mind state whom so many are paying to find. Well, someone should tell them that it’s here in Colonia. Add on to this that you can explore the entire town with a rented mini-Cooper golf cart? It really doesn’t get better than that!
When I left Colonia for Montevideo, my expectations were low, as Colonia made such an impact in such a short time that I felt a big city could not complete. And while it was definitely a different vibe, the history of Montevideo was brilliant. It has so many monuments (I’m a big monument fan!) and amazing pieces of history to walk and explore. Plus an awesome Montevideo sign. Big sign = happy tourist.
If ever anyone is planning a trip to South America, Uruguay is definitely a must see. And if you weren’t planning a trip to South America, it’s probably time you start. For more pictures of beautiful Uruguay, check them out on my albums at ThisBlondeAbroad
It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Rio De Janeiro for almost a week now, two weeks into our around-the-world. So much has happened, yet at the same time, we have yet to see many sites. Funny thing, that. Alas, that will all change tomorrow, as we take on Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain both in one day. It will be a post in and of itself.
Preeya and I arrived in Rio last Friday, April 24, after taking a quick seven hour bus; quick being relative to our bus to/from Florianopolis of course. Our host Gabrielle, our saving grace in Rio, met us at the bus terminal as soon as we stepped off of our bus, which provided us with an immediate sense of ease, as opposed to having the usual concerns of language barriers, transit chaos and personal safety. A quick cab later and we were at her house already discussing plans for the evening. The verdict: jump right into Lapa.
It seems Lapa is a bit of a controversial area, being both a must-see and a watch-your-bag-at-all-times kind of place. But with a Portuguese speaking local on our side, we had no issues at all. Immediately upon jumping off the bus, visitors to Lapa are taken back by just the view of it. Vaguely reminiscent of the arches of the Colosseum in Rome, this was the first time of the trip where I genuinely felt like a tourist, taking in the sites. We wandered the streets of Lapa, stopping for a drink at one place, taking in the jaw-dropping Escadaria Selaron steps, and just mingling with the locals. A few drinks later at an outdoor pub and we were ready to call it on our first night in Rio. It was a perfect introduction to the city.
The next day Gabrielle, Preeya and myself ventured down to Copacabana for some sun and pure relaxation. For those who know me, you know I am obsessed with reading. I can get through an entire book in one day if I’m into it enough, and this is what my beach days have entailed. One of my goals for 2015 is to read twenty four books by the end of the year and I am already well on my way to completing that before mid-year.
Day 3 of Rio was the most interesting day of our trip so far. We decided to go back to Escadaria Selaron to take some photos during the day time and thought walking there would be the perfect orientation to the city. We headed out on our way and about 20 minutes into the walk, we unknowingly found ourselves on a street by ourselves. Female Safety 101 completely out the window, on the streets on Rio De Janeiro no less. Personal safety is something we most definitely take for granted in Canada, as times where you need to be ‘looking over your shoulder’ are the exception, not the rule. Reverse that for Rio. I make sure to pay attention to the people around us and their behaviour, so the first time a guy rode by us on his bike, I took note but gave it no thought. However, the second time he rode by my gut immediately knew something was wrong. In hindsight, yes, we immediately should have gotten ourselves back on the main road, and moving forward I absolutely will be. But sometimes you can think things that logic tells you is silly so you don’t listen to it. Canadian logic failed me in Brazil. I mentioned to Preeya the second time he went by, wondering what possible reason would someone on a bike have to be riding up and down the same street? As we continued to walk and didn’t see a sign of him again, we stopped to pull out my iPod for directions, as we were at a fork in the road. This is when the boy on the bike came by us a third time, much closer, much slower, circled around us and heading back to where he came from. This was enough to scare both of us into an abrupt stop, at which point a man came out along the side of a building and started yelling at us in Portuguese. Realizing we couldn’t understand him, he started motioning exactly as we feared: the man on the bike was about to mug us, having seen we’re alone on the street and that we had smart phones, we had made ourselves the perfect victims. The man motioned for us to run back to the main road and we didn’t hesitate for a second. We bolted up the side road closest to the main street, looking back to thank the man and noting that he was watching us to make sure we made it safely. We practically ran to the main road, where once again surrounded by the safety net of people, we took a moment to take in what just happened. Doing our research before we left, it seems being mugged in Rio De Janeiro is practically an initiation to enter the country, so if this is our only encounter, which will force us to be smarter moving forward, then I will take it.
Deciding to take a cab to Lapa until we better knew the neighbourhoods, we went, took our photos, and just spent some time both exploring and stopping to enjoy some Brazilian restaurants. We had a quiet evening in, which was the perfect ending to a day that started off with so much excitement. The next day we again relaxed at Copacabana, exploring more, taking more photos, then enjoying an evening out with new found friends from the north of Brazil. As we were heading to Barra Da Tijuca the next morning, we had a lovely evening on our last night with Gabrielle, whom I can’t thank enough for her generosity. Another couchsurfing win for the books!
The locals here call Florianopolis ‘magic island’ and it is not hard to understand why. Beauty surrounds you everywhere you look, whether it’s out to the ocean, to the mountains, or to the country side. It’s a beauty I am breathing in with every moment I am here, sensing that in five, ten years from now, the island will have become so developed that much of this natural beauty will be filled with condo buildings and businesses.
It’s an interesting dichotomy. On one hand I want to tell everyone it is a place they absolutely need to experience before this mass development takes place. On the other hand, doing so would contribute to a quicker pace of development. It’s like I want to keep this magical little island all to myself, yet here I am posting about it for the world to see. The hyocrisy of it all hurts my brain.
We arrived from Sao Paulo after taking a twelve hour overnight bus and jumped right into our day. And by this I mean, we headed straight to one of the fifty stunning beaches the island has to offer. The atmosphere was just perfect; the music I could hear playing at restaurants just off the beach, the sound of the waves, all of it just overwhelmed my senses with the feeling of ‘this is what I was dreaming of’. Now I am hardly a beach bum; in fact, I usually prefer doing something active as opposed to laying there. But in this moment, it was just that feeling that takes over you and says ‘every decision I have made to get here was the right one’.
That evening, Preeya and I went to a rugby game, cheering on our couchsurfing hosts team, then out to a club to celebrate afterwards. While everyone knows I am more of a pub person than a club person, I had a great evening as we were absolutely spoiled. We had VIP at the club and free bottle service, both of which were arranged by the team. To say we entered Florianopolis in style would be an understatement.
The following days have been spent in true island style. I can now say “I enjoy long walks on the beach” without being facetious about it! Long walks on the beach, cappuccinos in quaint little cafes, everything that makes for a calm heart and a happy soul. I soon head to Rio and know this calm will be taken over with adventure and excitement, making this current feeling that much more precious. Until Rio, loves.