Monday, December 31, 2012

Brazil Day 11: Spunky Rio giveth and taketh on New Years Eve

**There will not be many photos from today as I somehow "misplaced" my camera just as the New Years festivities were kicking into high gear. You're missing out on a very suave photo of me in my all-white New Year outfit drinking a white fruit juice**

Brazil has some of the most interesting New Years traditions we have encountered on our travels. We prepared by packing an all-white outfit, which will bring good fortune. The color of your underwear also determines your destiny for the upcoming year, so I went with red-white-blue boxer shorts to cover all bases while showing American patriotism. Concessionaires have got into the game by selling cotton candy in luck-infused colors as well. Olga describes this really well in her blog post.

Queuing up Copacabana the beach for festivities

We had reserved a bike tour online, and although we were charged and received a receipt and a booking code and a survey, we didn't get a reconfirmation email. Apparently this is because the tourguide wasn't able (or didn't bother to) head to the city for today's tour. No matter, we were there at Copacabana beach in the afternoon, right where we planned to be again for New Years Eve festivities, so we made our own walking tour of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon beach areas.

It turned out to be way too hot for a bike tour anyway, so we ducked into a fruit juice bar where we had a really wonderful fresh Soursop juice, and then Devassa brewpub in Ipanema. Devassa had two beers that looked interesting: Negra, which was nothing special compared to the other mass-produced Brazilian Negras (hints of dish soap and burnt marshmallows with an aftertaste of Kvas) -- and the Sarara Hefeweizen, the first locally-brewed one we've had in Brazil. The Hef was quite good, lemony, effervescent, with what Olga described as tastes of "bread, pollen, and apricot". Brazil can make a good Hefeweizen! If you make it, will they come?


Around 8pm we started getting hungry for dinner, and noticed that all of the restaurants around Copacabana were closed or had switched to serving alcohol-only. After a bit of searching, we managed to find a nice little pub and ordered some Brazilian bar food: Fried cod fillet, pastel de queijo (cheese empanadas) hard boiled quail eggs, and a Cervejaria PetrĂ³polis Petra Escura Premium. I think we've definitely already tried the best dark beers in Brazil. The best mass-produced Brazilian dark beer is probably Bohemia Cerveja Extra Escura, which we had in SobreNatural in Rio. The highlight of the meal wasn't the food or the drink, it was the slightly toasted Angolan man who set at the next table over and wouldn't stop talking to us. At one point, when the food arrived and we had to focus on eating and making a plan for the evening, I turned my back on him because I couldn't find any other way to stop this gabbing in mixed French, Portuguese, and broken English. No matter, it didn't seem to phase him at all, because moments later he tapped me on the back repeatedly and started jabbering again. In fact maybe he liked that I was ignoring him, because when he check arrived, he snatched it from the hands of the waiter and insisted on paying for our meal!! Nothing I said could dissuade him. The waiter made of gesture with his hands indicating that our hands are clean - I even looked over to the bar owner with a shrug and he looked back nodding that yes this is legitimate and I should accept it. If this keeps up, we're going to have a lot of Brazilian Reale bills left over at the end of the trip! :)

We got to the beach around 9pm, it was a very chill scene considering 2 million people were expected. Copacabana is a long-enough beach that people aren't packed in too tightly. Compared to Times Square NYE, which has 'only' 1 million participants, prohibits alcohol, and locks people into a pen for about 6 hours during which time you can't leave or even move, Rio's scene is absolutely relaxed, with people selling reasonably-priced drinks on the beach. In fact we didn't see any violence or drunken behaviour. It's a model for other cities to investigate!

After-party in Ipabema. Look at all the people in white!

We relaxed, made phone calls, waded in the water, and bought drinks until the magic hour when all 2 million people (or at least the 1.3 million Portuguese-speaking locals) counted down from dez to um and the fireworks started. Actually it sounded to me that the counting wasn't even, it had more of a samba beat to it, like DEZ---NOVE---OITO-SETE-SEIS---CINCO---QUATRO---TRES-DOIS-UM---ZERO-FELIZ ANO NOVO!!! We happened to be right in the middle of what looked like 5 side-by-side choreographed firework displays completely in sync with each other. It wasn't the highest but it was the wide/longest fireworks display we have ever seen!

Sunrise, back in our flat, ready for bed.

The next place to be, according to those in the know, was a beach between Copacabana and Ipanema. We walked about an hour to get there (the beaches are very long and a little far apart) and enjoy the scene of mostly 30-somethings chillaxing, dipping in the ocean, and listening to samba and other local music. We left there about 4:30am, and by the time we got back to our flat, the sun was already well into rising. It just dawned on us that we should expect no jetlag upon returning to SF. Going to bed at 6am in Rio is midnight Pacific time. Pretty perfect transition!

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