Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gringo Nate: Recap of Week 1 in Brasil

We're trying to make sure my baby brother, Nathan, gets a thorough introduction to Brasil during his two weeks here. And he's been a very willing participant so far. Whether it's traveling by overnight bus, trying out new food, or throwing out some Portuguese words, he's happily gone along with all of it. And if you've never heard a South Georgia boy with a rather thick southern accent trying to speak Portuguese . . . well, you've really been missing out. The Brasilians have been most entertained by my brother.

We started off his trip last Sunday by taking him to a family cookout at the home of one of our friends and introduced Nate to the carnivorous ways of Brasil. We also got to watch the USA vs Brasil soccer game with them.

Then on Monday night we went to Baby Beef, a churrascaria (Brasilian Steakhouse), where Nathan nearly ate his weight in beef.

On Tuesday we took a trip out to Betim to Vale Verde, an ecological park and cachaça-making facility. He ate a big lunch of steak and fries, sampled the cachaça (both the bottled stuff and some coming straight from the distilling tanks), and met the local wildlife.

He started off feeling okay about having a rather large bird perched on his arm.

Then he got a little nervous as the critter started climbing up his arm.

Then he started his nervous laugh as the bird approached his head.

And then he started laughing uncontrollably which was his subtle way of saying "HELP!!!" as the bird started pecking at his head and trying to pull the button off the top of his cap.

Gabriela, for one, thought the whole thing was pretty funny.

On Wednesday, Gabriela and I along with my friend Megan, took Nathan on the obligatory tour of Ouro Preto. Walking the cobblestone hills and touring the churches and museum, he got to work off some of the food he'd been consuming since his arrival.

We met Eric at Mallongos, a restaurant near where he works, for lunch on Thursday and dined in the company of monkeys.

(Notice two of the monkeys above Nate's head)

He quickly learned what wild monkeys who frequent local dining establishments prefer to eat . . . dessert.

Thursday night, we hopped an overnight bus to Vila Velha in Espírito Santo. Last time Eric and I went, I swore I'd never take another bus on that mountainous road. But the flights were pretty pricey, so we found ourselves on a bus once again. This time though, we decided to upgrade to the leito bus as opposed to the semi-leito we've taken in the past . . . totally worth the extra R$40 (US$20)! The seats are wide and plush and fully recline and you have tons of leg room. (Geez, would someone please explain why my husband and I are such tightwads sometimes and didn't try this earlier?!? Please learn from our mistakes. Fork out the extra cash and get a decent night's rest!)

Anyhow, we arrived in Vila Velha at 6:00 am, checked into our pousada, and were on the beach by 8:00. Nathan quickly developed an appreciation for the service at the beach: refreshing coconut water, ice cold beer, and lots of meat on a stick brought right to you while you sit in the chair next to the umbrella that the helpful folks on the beach brought down and set up for you and all for a total bill of R$17 (US$8.50) per person.

He didn't actually want two coconuts (though it did make for a nice photo op), but when he asked for a "coca", as in Coca-Cola, he received another "coco". Sometimes his southern-accented Portuguese doesn't always work out.

He also developed an appreciation for Brasilian swimwear.
(Although he wouldn't wear the sunga I bought especially for him - his excuses included something about white thighs, scandalousness, and a fear of pictures on the world wide web.)

Besides lying around on the beach eating kabobs of filet mignon, Nathan also partook of some frescobol with Eric.

And some play time with his niece.

We took the train back to BH on Sunday. It was a long ride (14 hours), but we were able to sleep some, eat lunch in the restaurant car, and play some Scrabble and Phase 10 around the desk/workstation, and be entertained by Little Miss Gabriela, so we moved around a lot and the time passed rather quickly. And it was a really pretty trip through the mountains of Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais!


Tony said...

Looks like ya'll are having a good time. Nathan's white thighs in a sunga is an image I... can't... get... out... of... my... head!

Ray Adkins said...

Dear Emily,

Gabriela is so cute it hurts...
On another note, how would you compare the Train versus Leito Bus option on that route? Which one was your favorite and how long did the bus took versus the train?

Thank you


Emily said...


There are some pros and cons to each:

Train: smoother ride, we slept better than on the bus, seats in the executive class are fairly comfy and recline nicely, A/C kept the executive cars quite cold (needed a blanket), scenic route through the mountains, duration of trip: 14 hours 7 am - 9 pm, cost of one-way ticket in executive class: R$70

Leito Bus: very curvy and rough road through the mountains so you get tossed around a lot while you try to sleep, very comfy seats (think lazy boy recliner!), the fact that you have the option to travel overnight is nice, cold A/C (but not quite as chilly as the train), duration of trip: 8 1/2 hours, cost of one-way ticket: R$114

Ultimately, I suppose it depends on your purpose. But if you are just doing it once and you have the time, I think doing the train one-way and either a bus or plane the other is a great way to travel between BH and Vitória/Vilha Velha.

Ray Adkins said...

I will definitely try the train, I have always wanted to do that scenic route.
Thank you very much for sharing.


Rogério Penna said...

hey Nate, dont feel bad for not wearing a speedo! South of Rio de Janeiro, only about 20% or less of men wear them. I NEVER use those... only bermudas that go down to my knees!