Sunday, 7 March 2010

A belly full in Porto Alegre and Gramado

 Trivia -
Q. Which country do the Faroe Islands belong to?

TUESDAY 2 MARCH – The football blogger arrives but speaks no English so Beatriz gets to practice her translating skills even though he and Steve manage a good bit using the international language of football which seems to involve throwing around players names.  Beatriz wants to show us the ocean beach so we head off to the coast stopping en route at “Restaurant do Renato” for a delicious all you can eat fish lunch, R12 (£4) pp.  Cassino Beach is the longest in the world at over 250km and the sand is hard and flat enough for you to drive all the way to Uruguay.   

We don’t have time for that but make it to an interesting ship wreck and also see a large dead turtle.  The Embaixador bus to Porto Alegre, $43.70 (£15) leaves at 4pm.  It is a very comfortable bus and Beatriz has told us the company is one of the best in Brazil as they treat their employees really well lending them money to buy houses and helping with their children’s education.  Arrive a little early at 7.20pm and we are really happy to see our host Daniel waiting for us as Porto Alegre bus station is enormous.  He drives us to his apartment where we have the spare bedroom with sofa bed.  Daniel is very well travelled and has been to many countries we would like to visit so we can pick his brains.  A short walk from his apartment is an Italian restaurant, Nono Ludovico.  First you visit the sushi and salad bar then sit back and wait to be served pizzas.  There’s a triangular card that you put out to indicate if you want savoury, savoury and sweet or just sweet pizzas.  The waiters come round, exuberantly describe the pizza on their tray and invite you to take a slice.   There are also lasagne and other Italian dishes so you are almost spoilt for choice.  Worse still are the desserts ones, white and milk chocolate, strawberry and meringue, condensed milk, strawberry and chocolate, pineapple and condensed milk, banana and egg, coconut, and that’s just the ones I tried.  Back home Daniels friend Vera calls round and they show us the DVD of their recent cruise to a glacier in Chile and it looks magnificent. 

WEDNESDAY 3 MARCH – Daniel drops us in the city when he goes to work.  We set out to see the sights and find a few impressive things, the Italian style cathedral, a monument with a dragon climbing the steps and many attractive buildings.  It is still only lunchtime when we catch the bus back to his apartment.  In the evening he suggests the vegetarian restaurant “Especiarias” and the veggie curry goes down a treat although it is very quiet there and last night’s restaurant was far more entertaining.  Daniel shows us photos of his travels and his pictures of Easter Island make it look much more interesting than we thought and he also adds some islands off Venezuela to our thoughts of places to visit, will our list never end?

THURSDAY 4 MARCH – After being dropped at the bus station we catch the 8.45am Canela bus to Gramado, R$26 (£9).  It takes 2 hours to travel up into the mountains to the alpine resort.  Couchsurfing hosts Brian has arranged for his Dad to take us out and about.  Evair and his girlfriend Francine arrive in the car and take us straight to the Black Lake.  They speak little English but we manage to learn a bit as we walk around the lakeside.  Brian joins us and we head to “Mini Mundo” owned by Evair’s friend we get in for free.  It is a model village with scale models of many places in Germany and others in South America and interesting to see.   
Next Brian takes us off to visit “Parque do Caracol” R10 (£3.50) where we see an impressive waterfall, there are also other falls and lots of walking tracks but we don’t have time to do them.  We meet up with Evair and Francine for lunch at “Belavista CafĂ© Colonial”, one of the typical ones for this town.  After sitting down our table is piled up with plates of food, homemade jams and cream, hot food, cold sandwiches and loads of cakes.  The minute we finish something the plate is replaced with more.  There is also red and white wine and grape juice that also gets replaced the minute they are nearly empty.  I work my way through the savoury items then just take a small slice of each of the 10 cakes. This backfires on me when I realise these are not the desserts and there is a large fridge with 22 more for you to help yourself to.  Hot chocolate and coffee round of the feast and we fairly waddle out of the restaurant.  Brian has to return to work but his Dad continues the tour taking us to the cathedral in Canela then to a lookout down the valley.  We’ve just arrived back in Gramado to look at the cathedral when the heavens open up.  Return to Evair’s home where he puts on a video about the folklore dance shows that he produces and directs.  Heading to the bus stop there is just time to look at the area where they are setting up for the weekend chocolate festival, now why didn’t I do my research and find out about it?  What a wonderful day out, lovely people, plenty of nice things to see and delicious food.  Daniel is out at masons meeting in the evening so unfortunately we don’t get to see him.

   A. Denmark

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Why are Uruguayans born with a bent left arm?

Trivia -

   Q. Which African country has exactly the same name as its capital city?

There is a standing joke down here - Why are Uruguayans born with a bent left arm?  To carry the flask for their mate.

So what is this mate thing all about.

Travel around Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil and you cannot fail to come across it.  Yerba mate is a kind of

Friday, 5 March 2010

Greedy Glen in Gorgoeous Gramado

,Trivia =
   Q. Big Ben is the name of the Bell in the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament. What is the name of the tower housing it?
Gramado is a delightful mountain village a couple of hours from Porto Alegre by bus.

Much of the architecture is Swiss style

There's a Germany in miniature at mini world

A very attractive Black Lake

Way too many chocolate shops

                                                                                                              And worst of all our wonderful hosts Evair, Francine and Brian took us out to lunch.  At Bela Vista Cafe Colonial they just keep bringing more and more plates of food to your table, plus re filling the jugs of wine

Following that you find out there is a dessert fridge where you can help yourself to 22 different ones, so of course we ate way too much and have to say "the diet starts tomorrow"!

A. Saint Stephen's Tower

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A visit to the longest beach in the world

   Trivia Q. Which of the continents has the most countries?

SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY – It is a poor morning which makes it easier for us to leave. We catch the 1045am COT bus to Chuy, U$50 (£1.60). You have to ask if you want to stop at the Uruguayan border as it is about 2km before the town. After getting off the driver tells us we must make our own way onwards. Exit formalities involve a quick stamp in our passports. The official tells us it is 4km walk to the Brazilian border; there are no buses or taxis available. We set out walking and try to hitch a ride. The 3rd vehicle pulls up and he offers to take us into Chuy town. With our luggage in the back and 3 of us huddle into a 2 seater cab we set off. He speaks no English but we learn he is a dairy farmer and appears to know everyone in town judging by the number of people waving at him. He asks where we are going and we tell him the name of the city in Brazil. Next thing we know he tells us we are now in BRAZIL and a block later he drops us at a bus station. Tickets to Pelotas R$37 (£13) with the bus leaving at 1pm. Perfect timing as it is now ¼ to 12. I walk up the street to find an ATM and realise the central strip of the main “dual carriageway” is actually the border between the two countries. On each side of it cars are moving in both directions but there are no border controls. After getting my money I return and find that Steve has worked out Brazil is now 1-hour behind (3-hours behind England) so we have a 2-hour wait. Walking around we spend the last of our Uruguayan money on drinks and stuff to eat. There are few people on the bus but a couple of km out of town we pick up more at the Brazilian exit border. The driver has taken our passports and quickly deals with entry formalities. We now realise that this point would have been the 4km walk from the Uruguayan border but going into the city was a little shorter but still happy we got a lift. Our journey continues through very flat land with cattle, rice and soy fields and wetlands. The bus stops almost every 1km to pick up or drop off a local so the journey is slow. In the wetlands we see many capivara, a rodent that is as big as a pig plus and a wide variety of birds. In Pelotas we phone our host Beatrix who arrives a few minutes later. She is a 40-year old single lady and very chatty. Her home is a very old building near the centre of the city and she has given us her room and moved into the single spare bedroom. Her English is perfect as she lived in USA for 5-years working as a nanny to save money and improve her English. She could earn more money doing that than working as a lawyer here in Brazil. Now she has returned and bought a couple of houses and works as a lawyer and English teacher. In the evening she takes us for a drive around the city where we see some very nice architecture. The wealth of the city came

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Plans don't always work out

Q. What is the largest island in the Indian Ocean?

 We love it when a plan comes together but this doesn't always happen and it is good to have a contingency plan.

So when Steve didn't get tickets for the football world cup  we figured we would have to swap South Africa Table Mountain 

 For Brazil Sugarloaf Mountain

 and hope he can get some for the world cup in 2014

A. Madagascar

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Travel for free by crewing

Fancy trying out a bit of cruising on a small personal boat without buying one?

Find a crew is a great web site where boat owners advertise for crew and crew advertise to find a boat.  You can sign up for free.

There are paid, unpaid and contribution positions.

Skilled, unskilled and just companions required.

Durations from 1 week to 1 year plus.

Boats of all shapes and sizes.

Within 3 days of placing a post we have found ourselves a catamaran travelling up the coast of Australia from May to September.

The owner wants companions and is happy to teach us sailing skills whilst we help out where needed and pay for food a drink. So this summer we will be cruising around the Whitsunday Islands, how cool is that?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Hungary to visit the dentist

Trivia -

   Q. The White House is the most visited house in the USA what is the second?

 We are no longer registered with a dentist in England so have to get our dental treatment whilst travelling.

There are many countries offering good treatment at a reasonalble price.  We have visited dentists in New Zealand, Hungary, Morocco, Malaysia and Mexico.

This year we are going back to Hungary as I need a few crowns replacing.

Luckily we have friends there so just need a flight.  Using which budget I established which cheap airlines flew to Budapest.  I then did price comparisons and found that Wizz Air offered the best deal from London Luton airport. I played around with the days and finally got return flights for less than £65 including taxes and on line payment.

The next thing we needed was a bus connection from Yorkshire.  Mega bus offered a coach from Leeds to London for £5 each and from the arrival in Victoria coach station we can connect to Luton airport.

Each crown should be over £200 cheaper there so you can see the savings and we get to visit friends as well where they will book us in with their local dentist.

There are many companies such as "save on dental care"who will organise a whole package for you including flights, hotel and treatment. 

   A. Graceland