Salvador for the first time

I have to admit that I’ve tried getting to Salvador before but wasn’t really successful.   I made reservations for San Salvador instead.   But this time I made reservations for the right city and country.  We flew Azul Airlines from Sao Paulo.   I really liked this airline.   They have in-flight  entertainment and some really yummy snacks.   It think it’s a sister airline to JetBlue.

We stayed at the Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel at the Barra beach.   The hotel was okay.  It was clean,  it had a great location and really good breakfast.   I didn’t like that there were no connecting rooms and there were no pool or beach towels or hand towels.   The beds were a little firm but not uncomfortable.   There was a large screen tv and several English channels.

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I loved the breakfast.   It had all the usual items such as breads,  ham,  cheeses, cereal,  eggs but in addition there were tons of tropical fruits,  local dishes such as cuscus, tapioca cake and bolinho de estudante.  My favorite was that every day there was a different type of juice.  I liked having the chance to try exotic juices on my own. I really liked cocoa, caja, umbu not so much and liked mixing acerola with orange juice.

The best thing is that this hotel is beach front and it has a nice little pool for night swimming. Every morning I’d run on the beach.  Then I joined one of the many exercise classes available.  I paid only R$15 for an hour of personal training.   They worked me really hard and did something different every day.   I will miss it so much.   The only thing is that I don’t think the trainers speak English.   If you prefer a group class there were several available that have circuits.

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My kids really liked this beach.   The shoreline in Bahia is very rocky but this beach has some nice swimming spots.  Like everywhere else in Brazil you can rent chairs and umbrellas and order food and drinks.   Too bad the hotel doesn’t provide this service.

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Sao Paulo traffic

First of all if you are planning a trip to Brazil to see the FIFA World Cup let me warn you that you might never make out of the airport. The traffic is so bad that you will be stuck at the Guarulhos  airport for most of your first day.

We landed at 11:38 am and din’t make it to my sister’s house near the Congonhas airport until after 4:15 pm. Why? The usual delays of getting through immigration and getting our luggage. But the Sao Paulo exclusive was the line for the taxi. We waited for over 1.5 hours.

We found out why. Even though they had extra cabs working the airport, the traffic was so bad that it was taking the drivers about 4 hours to get back to the airport.

It took us 2.5 hours to get to our destination which normally should take no more than 45 minutes. At least the cab driver was extremely nice. He was so nice that my husband even asked if all the cab drivers in Brazil were this nice. To tell you the truth all the cabies in Brazil were nice. Maybe we have something to learn from them. Be nice to your customers no matter the traffic.  You can’t control the traffic but you can control how you react to it.

Conference in Miami Beach

I hadn’t been in Miami for nearly 30 years.  When I used to go as a little child, the inhabitants of Miami beach were senior citizens with flowered swim caps.  Much has changed since.

But one thing hasn’t.  Fontainebleau is still the beautiful maiden.  When it was built it was the place to stay and it still is.  It is a huge resort but because there are so many towers and expansive grounds it doesn’t feel crowded.  I had a conference and I didn’t think it was too far to go up to my room to change during lunch and go for a dip in the pool or a walk on the beach.  Some places it takes you half hour to get anywhere.

My conference was great in part due to the great catering. Every morning for breakfast we had a great variety of fruits, bread, eggs, bacon, chicken sausage and a huge selection of pastries.  There was also a great selection of juices plus coffee and teas. For lunch we had several different salads everyday. My favorite was a green salad with a mango vinaigrette. It was delicious. We also always had several different meats, potatoes and other dishes for vegans.  The best part was that there was always a great dessert buffet. For snacks every afternoon we had something different. One day they had different types of popcorn and cookies and the next day they had pretzels and several different brownies.  Yum

I have to say I was very impressed with the room we were given. We stayed in the Sorrento tower. We had a corner 1 bedroom suite. It was lovely.  It had a living room and a dining room and a full kitchen including a washer dryer. The bathroom was beautiful and the bed was very comfortable and most importantly the curtains shut off all the sunlight. But the best part of this fabulous suite was the beautiful bathroom. It was a marble dream with two sinks, jacuzzi tub and and a separate will rain shower. It was simply beautiful.

While I was bored to death at my accounting conference my husband spent most of his time sitting out on the beautiful wrap around porch. We had ocean front views and from the side we could see all the pools and the grounds at the hotel. I was very surprised when I got this room. The lady at the front desk wasn’t very friendly. But we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the room. My impression of FONTAINEBLEAU is that it is a beautiful hotel with a lot of great features however, it does have some stuff missing. For instance in the room we didn’t have slippers or a bathrobe to wear and there was no turn down service.  The people at the front desk and at the concierge desk very professional but not friendly. They didn’t offer any extra information or provide any gesture to make my stay more comfortable. For instance upon check-in we could have been told about the resort fee and what that what perks that gave us. We only found out about it when we wanted to use to chairs at the beach.

The guys at the beach took care of us and explained about the fees and asked us to go to the front desk next time we wanted to use the service. I also have to go out of my way for a towel at the pool even though there were some employees just sitting around. One thing I did notice that they had everywhere was a lot of water. It would its a nice feature in a  hot day to be able to just walk a few steps and get a cup of ice cold water.

This hotel is in North Beach so it is far from all the South Beach action.  However, the hotel has some very nice (and expensive) restaurants.  The lobby bar was happening on Sunday night and the night club is supposed to be one of the best in Miami.  But for me and my budget it was a little out of my reach and I had to walk really far to get anywhere.

But one day we did take the bus to South Beach. It is a party place, not the refined atmosphere of the Fontaineblue.  Lots of restaurants, bars, shops and a lot of crazy people there.  I’m glad were weren’t staying down there because I don’t think I’d get much sleep.  It was like being back in Las Vegas.  A big tourist trap with all the things tourists want.  Too bad I’m not a tourist.

We did find a great Cuban restaurant called Havana 1954.  I ate the best chicken in my life there.  It sits on the corner of a small little passenger street and it felt like I was in Barcelona. The only annoying thing was that the Mexican restaurant next door was playing really loud mariachi music. Otherwise, I want to go back for some wonderful chicken, rice, beans and yucca.

The only thing I wonder is why people live anywhere else.  It was paradise, warm, beautiful and with great food.  What else is there to life?

Back from Brazil (almost didn’t make it)

I will be posting several things about our latest trip to Brazil but I had to comment on my flight back from Sao Paulo.  It was a nightmare.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get home to Chicago.  

We were on the Sunday flight and every thing seemed to be going okay until the crew came to the gate and just sat there and sat there and sat there.  After a long time they simply left because they were told that the flight was cancelled way before we were.  Of course by then all the other flights to the US had already departed.  Thank you United!!!!

So we have to go back through passport control, get our bags, get in a gigantic line to get our vouchers and get rebooked.  I called the customer service line and they got me another flight on Copa through Panama better than the airport crew but it had a long delay in Panama and I wasn’t up to it so I told them I would wait for the direct flight.  Finally at 1:30 am we made to our hotel.  It was good but they put our whole family in one room even though we had separate reservations.  Oh well.

The next day we get to the airport and we have a gigantic line.  Come to find out that United cancelled the scheduled flight from Sao Paulo to Chicago and just kept our flight.  So they were busy trying to get people from two flights to their destinations.  Simply idiotic.

But we had our seats and got aboard.  But little did we know that the plane wasn’t quite fixed yet.  So we sat there waiting…. When it was finally done we had to wait for air traffic.  So we were delayed a mere 26.5 hours.  That’s a new record.  Thank you United.