A Travellerspoint blog

More from beautiful EL SALVADOR!

semi-overcast 30 °C

We are eating and laughing our way through El Salvador. Hope you enjoy the latest chapter...

19th August
Lazy day at home then we had dinner at Gracia and Carlos' home. Gracia is Mamiti's niece. Tio Ricardo was there which was lovely and the kids are so cute! Lovely evening catching up!

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20th August
Pedicures then a beautiful lunch with Mamiti and Papiti.
Yuri was off to Chaleco (his old school) after lunch with Netto then yummy dinner at Gourmet Burger.

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21st August
Lunch with Chamba's family today which was awesome! So good to see them all again ?.
After lunch we headed to Decameron for 2 days of sun and relaxation! This is our 4th time here and I don't think we'll ever get sick of it!

Decameron
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22nd August
After an awesome nights sleep we spent today by the pool swimming, drinking cocktails and chilling out. I had a 3 hr nap in the afternoon (as you do). Mamiti and Papiti had a blast.

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23rd August
Spent the morning swimming at the beach before checking out. Thanks Decameron, once again you did not disappoint!

Back home to Chalito's for a family BBQ which was also loads of fun! Mamiti and Papiti joined us as did Chalito's 4 brothers and sisters (2 of each) and 1 niece Rocio who spoke a bit of English which was a relief ;o).

Trying to understand and speak Spanish all day every day is pretty exhausting so I'm always grateful when I can speak English to someone ;-).

24th August

Breakfast with Chamba's family which was so much fun! They all get together once a month which is so cute!
After breakfast we picked up Mamiti and Papiti so we could go and meet Pipita, Lourdes and Tio Juan for lunch. We headed to La Pampa at El Boqueron and the food was delicious and the company amazing!

Breakfast with Chamba's family :o)
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Lunch with Pipita, Lourdes and Tio Juan
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25th August
Woke up not feeling the greatest today, just a bit of a cold nothing major.
We are going to be godparents! Yuri's cousin Felix and wife Anna have asked us to be godparents to their daughter Dayana which is just incredible. My Spanish is at about a 2 year olds level so I can communicate with Dayana just fine ;o). They have organised it for the 30th August - no mucking around!
Off to the shops to buy Dayana's baptism dress and shoes. After that headed to the mercado to for lunch. It was so hot in there and I felt as if I was going to faint so Yuri dropped me home so I could sleep it off... Yuri headed back out so he could visit Tia Nena with his parents.

26th August
Sick day - what I thought was just a cold has knocked me right out so I stayed home and slept all day. Yuri headed out in the afternoon so he and his parents could visit la compadres.

27th August
After 2 days of sleeping and not eating a lot at all I am finally feeling better!
Lunch at Chabelita's then coffee at San Martin (best coffee in ES)! Beatrice and Netto ran into us at the coffee place and had a coffee with us which was awesome!
Tia Blanqui and Tio Meme (Chalito's brother and sister) took us out for dinner up at El Boqueron at Las Brumas Cafe. The view from there was spectacular and we had a wonderful night!

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28th August
Spent the day at Club Tecleno at El Tunco beach. We had such a relaxing day lazing about in hammocks, swimming, eating and drinking!

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29th August
Back to Gladys' salon so Mamiti could get a cut and colour while I got a mani and pedi and spent sometime with Bella ?!
Out for dinner tonight with the fam (Chalito, Beatrice & Netto) while Yuri went out with some mates. We had a delicious Mexican meal. Good night!

30th August
We became godparents today! First time as a couple and in El Salvador which makes it extra special!
Felix (Mamiti's nephew) and Anna asked us a couple of weeks ago and we were so honoured.
We were up pretty early to make it to Rosario de Mora by 9 am for a 1.5hr class on how to be good godparents. It was all in Spanish of course and I was lost for most of it. My Spanish had improved a lot but not that much! It was the longest 1.5 hrs of my life... After that we had the ceremony in the same church that Mamiti and Papiti (Yuri's parents) were married in - how cool is that!?!
Then we headed back to Chabelita's (Mamiti's sister in laws) place for sopa de gallina, carne de asada, pastel and a celebration. We had such a wonderful day ???.

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31st August
Awesome day full of laughs. The 4 of us went on a Road trip today. First stop was Juayua for lunch. Every weekend the main square is set up with loads of food stalls and there's entertainment and market stalls as well. Loads of fun and the food is good and so cheap! After that we headed to Ataco (my favourite pueblo) for coffee and to take photos of all the artwork in town. Last stop was Chalchuapa for the best yuca ever (in my opinion)!

Coffee in Ataco
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Juayua
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Ataco
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We still have a few more weeks here and I'm sure it will be filled with laughs and food (lots of food)!

Posted by sandyandyuri 19:40 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

EL SALVADOR!

sunny 30 °C

El Salvador has recently been named the 10th happiest country in the world!

“Even though this country is overshadowed by neighboring Guatemala and Mexico as a hot tourist destination, locals are content with what they have: friendly neighbors, hearty comfort food like yummy pupusas and chicharron, and under-the-radar beaches,” says the Travel Channel. As an added bonus, while El Salvador has a bad rap for gang violence, a truce has helped dropped the number of incidents.

We heartily agree and whilst we may be biased as this is Yuri's birth country, there is no denying the warmth and love we have felt since we've been here and it's not just from friends and family that we feel the love. On our morning walks, we are greeted with "buenos dias" by every single person we pass. At my favourite restaurant in El Puerto, the chef came down yesterday to check if we had enjoyed the food! People are genuinely happy here and it really rubs off.

9th August
We are in El Salvador and boy it's good to be back! It's been 4 years but it feels like we were just here yesterday!
We were warmly greeted by Chalito, Beatrice and Netto which was awesome! We are staying with them whilst we are here which is really nice as we feel totally comfortable in their home. We chilled out for a little while before heading out for pupusas (yum)! Mamiti, Papiti, Isabel, Ronald (Mamiti's niece and nephew) and Jose Maria (Isabel's daughter) met us there and we had an awesome time catching up with all of them ?! It's been a few months since we've seen Yuri's folks and we are so grateful to be able to spend this time with them. They will be here with us for 6 weeks and then travelling with us to Mexico for 2 weeks. This = awesomeness!

10th August
After a wonderful sleep, Chalito and family took us out for a delicious breakfast at Los Cebollines. I had forgotten how cheap everything is here $4 for a full breakfast of eggs, beans, cheese, cream, bread, juice and coffee)! We then got SIM cards for our phones as we'll be here a while and then looked at joining the local gym (you may laugh but it's $10 a month so why not?).
Chalito dropped us off at Isabel's where Mamiti and Papiti are staying and we had a wonderful afternoon catching up! We took a walk to the mango man so I could get my green mango fix and the first thing he tells us is that he's famous. Why you might ask? He is featured in the ES 'Happy' music video! We then headed to El Puerto for a delicious, dirt cheap, seafood lunch. El Puerto is my favourite spot to eat in ES ?. Back to their place for more catching up over coffee and quesadilla before heading back home to Chalito's. Great day!

Breakfast with Chalito, Beatrice and Netto!
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Check out the 'Happy' video!
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Our mango man that features in the clip!
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11th August
Chill out day. Yuri took Papiti to get some things sorted while Mamiti and I shopped and then had a coffee!
In the afternoon we visited Mamiti's brother Tio Ricardo and nephew Ricardito. It was really lovely to see them again.
On the way there we stopped to visit Ingrid's parents. Ingrid's Mum has a bakery an we bought 2 big bags full of cakes for $9! Everything is so cheap here!

12th August
Fairly lazy day. Out for coffee and stopped by the supermarket to buy groceries for Papiti's family in Ilobasco and that's pretty much it! Dinner at home (Chalito's).

13th August
Road trip to Ilobasco to visit Papiti's family. There were 5 generations of Papiti's family there which was so nice! Yuri also got an old newspaper clipping about his abuelita who died at the age of 114! What a cute little town Ilobasco is! We stopped to buy some arts and crafts (this is what Ilobasco is known for) afterwards and we couldn't believe how cheap everything was! $2 for a casita - El Savadoreans will know what I'm talking about!

Papiti's family :o)
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14th August
We have been waking up really early to beat the heat an head out for a walk/run. We want to eat everything in sight so we need to sweat it out ?! Even though we try and beat the heat, we end up soaking by the time we're done... It's supposed to be winter right now and it's still avaeraging about 30 degrees - crazy.
Lazy morning after that doing washing and just chilling out. We then headed to Las Cascadas so I could get a mani and pedi. It cost me a whole $15!
After that we grabbed some lunch and then picked up Mamiti and Papiti for our daily outing for coffee. Mamiti and I went and did a bit of shopping after that. The skies opened up around 5 pm and we rushed into a bar to wait it out. Best move ever because it was happy hour and Mamiti and I enjoyed a mojito each for $2.99 (for both)!

After our dirt cheap cocktails, we headed to La Crucero de Don Beto. It's a pupuseria owned by Chamba's family. The most delicious pupusas and we got to see Tia Neña and Lety ?. Oh and dinner for 4 people cost us $7....

Us with Tia Nena :o)
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At home now having a couple of drinks and a chat with Netto ?.

15th August
Today we met the gorgeous Bella for the first time! We visited Gladys at her salon so we could catch up, meet Bella and so I could get a cut and colour all at the same time! Bella is adorable. Letty was there too an it was so wonderful to catch up with them ??.
Chilled out in the arvo while Yoz played a game of football with his 'biffo' Netto ?.
Out for dinner to a Mexican restaurant for Isabel 'Chabelita's' Birthday.
Good day!

The gorgeous Bella!
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Feliz Cumpleaños Isabel!
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16 August
Today we visited Mamiti's pueblo 'Rosario de Mora'. It's only about 40 mins from San Salvador but it felt 10 times hotter! We arrived to freshly made tortillas and an organic chicken heating over the fire in the outdoor kitchen! We had sopa de gallina (chicken soup) and it was delicious! We had such a nice day catching up with Chabelita (Mamiti's sister in-law), Anna and Ronald. We stopped past to visit a couple of friends of Mamiti and Papiti before heading back into the city.
In the evening we visited Ivette and sons, Niña Doris and Don Pito. Old friends of the family who were neighbours of the Lozanos. Again we had an awesome time catching up with them ?.

Rosario!
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Mamiti and Papiti catching up with old friends.
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Catching up with Ivette and sons, Niña Doris and Don Pito :o)
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17th August
Out today with Chalito, Beatrice and Netto!
First stop was Jardin de Celeste on La Ruta de las Flores. One of my favourite stops for breakfast and the coffee is amazing! After that we headed to Ataco. I absolutely love this pueblo and hope to head back there a few more times before we leave. Next stop was Ausoles in Ahuachapan where the liquid mud under the ground was literally boiling - interesting stuff. We stopped for lunch and then yuca before heading back into San Salvador for pupusas. So much food!

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18th August
Fairly lazy day. We headed to El Puerto with the parentals to have some delicious seafood at my favourite place to eat in El Salvador - so, so yummy! We then headed up to El Boqueron for coffee and cake.
Parque Nacional El Boquerón, or El Boqueron National Park, is located on top of the San Salvador Volcano at 5,905 feet. This tiny little country (the smallest in Central America) has 22 volcanoes, of which 6 are considered to be active. Crazy.

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Week 1 down in ES, 5 to go :o)

Posted by sandyandyuri 10:56 Archived in El Salvador Tagged volcanoes family coffee pupusas Comments (0)

Wonderful, amazing Colombia!

sunny 27 °C

Cartagena

23 July
Woke up early for a walk on the beach. 8 am and it is already 41 degrees - ay caramba!
This city is pretty eclectic. It's colourful, loud, tropical and city like all at the same time. You get constantly hassled while walking the streets or at the beach but you learn to tune that out and carry on - it does add to the character of the place though ;-). It's a lot cheaper than Bogota and we both love seafood so we are in heaven right now! We are liking it very much here!

24 July

Lazy morning and then off to the old city in the afternoon. What a beautiful part of Cartagena! We walked and walked till late afternoon when we headed to Cafe del Mar to have a couple of drinks and watch the sun go down. It's the perfect spot in Cartagena to do this. Dinner was at a very cool little restaurant called El Bistro. The food was amazing!

Yuri in Cartagena's old city.
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The walled city.
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Drinks at Cafe del Mar
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25 July

Playa Blanca - amazing!
Picked up at 8:30 am and transferred to the port which was absolute chaos! People everywhere trying to get onto a boat to take them to Playa Blanca or Isla Rosario. We were VIP for the day which meant that we were being taken to a secluded part of Playa Blanca - it was worth the extra pesos! We had the most peaceful, relaxing day on a stunning white sand beach with turquoise water. We had the place to ourselves and it was simply amazing!

Playa Blanca
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Yuri swimming in the Caribbean sea
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26 July

Lazy day. After a late start we headed out for lunch then coffee. We then had an afternoon siesta (I'm beginning to get used to those) ;-). In the evening we headed to the old city (love, love, love it there) to wander the streets and soak in the culture. We had dinner in Plaza Santo Domingo and watched some traditional dancing which was loads of fun. We then wandered around for a couple of hours before grabbing some ice cream and heading home.

27 July
Last day in Cartagena. We have loved our time here (a little too much) and we are a little sad to leave. We spent our last day in the old city because it's our favourite place here. We walked for hours in the scorching heat chomping on green mango, then watched the sunset over the wall one last time (just breathtaking). We headed back to Bocagrande to have dinner at our favourite restaurant and then took a final walk around our "hood". I really hope to come back here one day. Cartagena gave me a tan which I am forever grateful for ?!

Medellin

28 July
We are in Medellin and already we are in love! We are staying in a suburb called El Poblado and have a view from our apartment which I have no words to describe. Pinching myself as I type!

View from the balcony
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29 July
We are staying in the beautiful suburb of El Poblado where it's safe to walk around. I think I was a little naive to think that all of Medellin was like this... We jumped in a cab to take us to a tourist info centre that we had found on the internet. Once we left El Poblado, everything was not so nice anymore and it was a little scary. The cab couldn't find the tourist office so we asked him to take us to Plaza Botero (there was no way we were getting out of the cab to try and find the tourist office)! Plaza Botero was a lot nicer than what we saw from the cab... Anyway we walked a fair bit and saw the sights of El Centro and had a great day!

Plaza Botero
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30 July
Another great day in Medellin. We headed to the bus station to book tickets for Saturday. We are heading to the coffee region! We then booked a Pablo Escobar tour for Friday then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around La Zona Rosa.
Tomorrow we are heading out for the day to the town of Guatape!

31 July
What an amazing day! I say that a lot don't I?
We got up mega early and walked to Parque Poblado to meet the tour bus. We promptly fell asleepwhen we got on the bus until we got to our first stop for breakfast. They have chorizo for breakfast here! We got chorizo, chips, an arepa, fried banana and a hot chocolate for breakfast. Weird to be eating that so early but so yummy! After that it was back on the bus to head to the pueblo de Marinilla which was just a super cute town. Not much to see but so glad we got to visit! After tht we drove to the highlight of the tour, La Piedra del Peñon. A massive rock in the middle of a gorgeous little town called Peñol. 740 steep stairs take you to the top and the views from there are just magnificent! We had lunch in Peñol and then headed to the amazing town of Guatape for a walking tour. This gorgeous little town is just so beautiful! Each house and building in the town is individualised with a 'logo' as you can see in the photos. In 2012 the council provided each home and business with the paint and an artist to design their logo for them. The results are amazing. A really beautiful place to visit if you are ever in this part of the world.
The last stop on the tour was a boat ride in Guatape reservoir. A man made reservoir, created in 1978. This reservoir provides electricity not only to Colombia but also to Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. The town of Guatape was where the reservoir now is so they moved it. It's actually really beautiful and the mansions along the side of this reservoir need to be seen to be believed. Pablo Escobar owned an enormous property here as well as a night club. The property which was bombed in 1990 still stands there in ruins.

La Piedra del Peñon
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View from the top!
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The town of Guatape
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1st August
Last day in Medellin.
Today we went on a Pablo Escobar tour. It was a pretty heavy day emotionally as the Escobar history is still too recent and the scars haven't healed for most Colombians. Especially those like Paula who live in the cities affected. Our tour guide was 5 when Escobar was killed but still remembers feeling terrified and not being allowed to play outside after a certain time. The tour was in your face and to learn that drug trafficking is more successful now than ever here in Colombia (now run by the Army and Guerrillas) was a bit of a shock (call me naive). Having said that, drug trafficking and coffee exportation only accounts for 2% of Colombia's economy. This is a country that really has no need to import any product. They have clean water which flows from the mountains (you can drink from the tap here which is rare in South America).
I thought I knew a bit about Pablo Escobar before going on the tour but I've walked away with a tonne of information that made me quite sad.

Beautiful Salento

2nd August
7 hr bus ride to the coffee region today. What a ride full of twists and turns. Pretty modern bus with wifi and tv screens on the back of each seat like in planes. I was able to plug in a USB and watch a movie which was nice. We got dropped off on the highway close to Armenia as that bus didn't go direct to Salento. We waited on the side of the road for a little while with 3 other gringos till the chicken bus to Salento arrived.
Salento is just beautiful and we are staying at a lovely posada. The town is incredibly hilly so we'll be getting lots of exercise while we're here :-).

3rd August
4km hike to a coffee finca (farm) today. Such a peaceful walk in beautiful, beautiful surroundings! We walked into Finca de Don Elias which we had read about in a couple of blogs. As far as I'm aware this is the only organic coffee farm in Salento - all the work is done by hand and no chemicals used. Don Elias is such a cutie! The coffee was delicious which was to be expected!
We did the coffee tour with 2 Swiss girls (Leah and Annabelle) an a guy from California called Steve. We all got a long so well that we decided to have a beer together after the tour.
1 beer together turned into several and we learnt how to play the Colombian game Tejo. The game consists of throwing a metal puck/disc, weighing approximately 680 grams, across an alley at a distance of approximately twenty metres, to a one metre by one metre board covered with clay and set at a forty-five degree angle. This metal puck is the "tejo" itself. A chief characteristic of the sport is its use of small exploding targets that contain gunpowder, commonly known as "mechas". These usually triangle-shaped envelopes with explosive material inside are set on the edges of the pipe where on impact with the tejo explode loudly creating a sound similar to the one created by a small revolver upon firing.
It was loads of fun! I was terrible but we all managed to explode the target at least once!
The Swiss girls went a little nuts after we left the finca so we ditched them and spent the rest of the night with Steve and Juan Carlos who ran the bar at the finca and taught us to play Tejo. Such a fun day!

The view on our walk to the finca.
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Yuri with the owner of the finca Don Elias
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4th August
Amazing, amazing day hiking through Valle de Cocora with Steve (who we met the day before) it took us 4.5 hrs and it was pretty tough but we did it and it was so freaking worth it! Traditional food for dinner and then a few drinks with Steve.

Valle del Cocora hike
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We made it!
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Amazing wax palms!
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5th August
Up early for horse riding to Cascada Santa Rita. I totally shit myself to start with as I thought I was going to fall off! I eventually gained a little confidence and managed to enjoy the ride! Yuri jumped into the freezing cold water when we got to the waterfall just like a big kid ;-).
Yuri had a ball and I did too but will only ever go horse riding again if it is on a flat terrain!!!

Yuri swimming in Cascada Santa Rita
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6th August
Last day in Salento which makes us sad. This is definitely a favourite place and has made us fall in love with Colombia even more. What a magical 5 days we have spent here! Out bodies are aching from the hikes and horse riding but we have really big smiles on our faces!

7th August
We spent all day on a bus from Armenia to Bogota. The buses here in Colombia are super impressive and comfortable. Each seat has their own tv and the bus has wifi - I don't think we have that in Aus do we? We finally got to Bogota around 5 pm.

8th August
Last day in Colombia which makes us so sad. We didn't expect to be so enchanted with this amazing country. What a whirlwind of a month here but we have enjoyed every single second and I would come back in a heartbeat! The food was simply amazing as were the people and the coffee! Colombia gets a bad wrap but they are rebuilding and working really hard to make tourists and locals feel safe again. Did I mention we loved the food ;-). We have spent today eating our favourite foods ;o)

Next stop El Salvador where we will be reunited with some very special people - Yuri's parents!

Posted by sandyandyuri 14:11 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

World Cup Final, Colombia - Bogota and Cartagena!

sunny 37 °C

This blog covers our last couple of days in Rio and our time in Colombia so far. Enjoy!

Last days in Rio!

13th July
World Cup final!

After spending over a month here in Brasil and watching endless amounts of futbol, the final is here.!
Germany v Argentina! All Brasilians are rooting for Germany but with the thousands and thousands of Argentinians here it doesn't really matter. There are Argentinians everywhere and they are camping on the beach, in parking lots and we even saw a tent set up in a closed petrol station...
Athena and I spent the morning at the Ipanema markets which was loads of fun. Avenida Atlantica was closed so we walked along the beach into Ipanema. Athena picked up some gifts for family back home (and a couple for herself)!
After that we headed to Praia Vermelna, just next to Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf). We had made a reservation to watch the final at a restaurant called Terra do Brasilis which had the most amazing views (see photos). We were the only tourists there which made it fun. The views, atmosphere, food and company was outstanding. Athena and I finally found a restaurant with a wine list and enjoed a nice Brasilian pinot grigio and a Chilean Sav blanc - I have missed wine! We had a great day and it was a shame that Argentina didn't come out with a win but it was a great game anyway!
After the match we headed back to our apartment and shared a tub of "doce de leite" before hitting the streets of Copacabana. The streets were filled with Argentinians singing proudly for their country. It was awesome to watch and we got some really good video. We only saw a handful of German tourists walking around which I found weird...

This is Pao do Acucar (Sugarloaf) - our view for the final!
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Benny, Athena and Yuri. We've had such a blast travelling with them!
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We even got to see a photo shoot on the beach. This location had everything!
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14th July
Final day in Brasil.

Not only was this our last day in Brasil but it was also our last day hanging out with Benny and Athena (boo). We went out and had delicious burgers for lunch and then did some shopping. In the afternoon we headed to Parque Lage and then onto Jardim Botanico. We then walked back into Ipanema which seemed to take forever (so much walking on this trip). We stopped for a last supper at Boteco Belmonte and had a delicious seafood stew and of course a couple of chopp's!

What a grand old time we have had here in Brasil. We met some amazing people and host families. Hung out with old and new friends from home. Ate and drank a lot. Spoke very bad and broken Portuguese to the locals. Saw some amazing things and watched a hell of a lot of futbol!
Bring on Colombia!

Bogota, Colombia!

15th July
Today was long and tiring. Up at 6:30 am to leave for the airport at 8 am. 7 hr flight to Panama where I caught up on Game of Thrones and Offspring with Yuri snoring next to me! We got to Panama later than we were supposed to and missed our connecting flight to Bogota. It seems that most of the people on our flight missed connecting flights and so the customer service desk at Copa airlines was packed. It took ages but we were finally placed on another flight. We got into Bogota late and arrived at our hotel after midnight.
The hotel is awesome, the most luxurious we've had on this trip!

16th July
We woke up to a 5 star breakfast at the hotel and then went back to bed till after lunch - we now feel normal again!
From the little we have seen so far, Bogota seems very, very cool. The weather is cooler (16 degrees) but it's 88% humidity so it's really not bad. It is supposed to rain the whole time we're here but what can you do?
We took a walk around the Zona Rosa which is a cool little spot and we found green mango (alleluia)! We also found the coolest food court ever - it's really hard to describe but the decor is just so funky! They have seafood, burgers, chicken, juices, creeps and Arepas. We feasted on Arepas for dinner for $14 for two! We'll definitely be heading back there!
We feel very underdressed here. The people here are super dressed up - even to go to a shopping centre!

17th July
The people here are so polite and so softly spoken. Yuri definitely stands out here :-)
What an awesome day checking out Bogota!
We got up super early and headed to Mount Montserrat to take advantage of the clear day. We headed up to approx 3,000 m above sea level by tram (funicular) to have the most amazing views of Colombia's capital. We were out of breath and feeling a little light headed being so high up so we stopped to have a coca tea to help. We took a zillion photos and just took it all in - beautiful!
Once we got back to the bottom by cable car, we walked 20 mins or so into Bogota's Centro Historico, 'La Candelaria'. Cobbled streets and beautiful buildings. Plaza Bolivar reminded us of Plaza San Marcos in Venice and filled with just as many (if not more) pigeons. Birds freak me out so we had to walk the long way around ;-). Lunch was absolutely delicious! We had sancocho (chicken soup on steroids) and a tamale - yummo! We then stopped for a hit of strong Colombian coffee before heading back to the hotel to chill out before dinner.

Montserrat
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La Candelaria
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18th July
Another great day in Bogota. Went out for a delicious lunch of Sancocho and Cazuela de frijoles. After that we took a walk to Parque 93 for a coffee now back at the hotel to make our weekly calls home to the fam :-).

19th July
Today was amazing!
We booked a tour to Zipaquira and La Catedral de Sal but the tour company told us that as the group was already full, we would be getting a personal tour. In walks Henry, the best tour guide ever! He picked us up from our hotel pretty early to make the drive to Zipaquira which is only 27 kms from Bogata. We made a stop at the only functioning tourist train station on the way in Usaquen. It only runs on the weekends now and takes tourists to Zipaquira. The point of the stop was to show us a comparison of the old and new Bogota as right behind the station is a brand new high rise building. Next stop was La Catedral de Sal and all I can say is wow! We spent about 2 hrs in there walking through the stations of the cross and then attending a mass at the end. Henry was brilliant with his explanations and playing photographer for us. After the tour we headed into the town of Zipaquira to have lunch. Lunch wasn't part of the tour but we were hungry and decided to take Henry out for a meal. He took us to a typical Colombian restaurant and we enjoyed a delicious meal and chat. The tour was supposed to finish at 2 pm but we arrived back at the hotel close to 4 pm. Henry must have really enjoyed his day with us! He have us the CD of Colombian music we had been listening to in his car as we liked it so much! What a nice man! We will stay in touch with him and have sent him some photos of our day together :-).

La Catedral de Sal - underground cathedral made completely out of salt! Yuri with our tour guide Henry getting an indepth explanation...
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20th July
Market day.
We headed to La Mercado de las pulgas (flea market) in Usaquen and enjoyed delicious empanadas and Arepas :-).
For our last supper in Bogota we headed to Andres Carnes de Res. So many people had recommended this place to us so we just had to check it out! Wow! Firstly it's about 4 floors and secondly the menu is 70 pages long! There is a live band playing and the food was amazing! Yuri and I had been alcohol free since we left Brazil so we very much enjoyed a couple of drinks with our meals ?. Perfect way to end our stay in Bogota!

21st July
Cartagena - Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
The minimum temp in Bogota was about 10 degrees and we've arrived in Cartagena to a min temp of 27 and a max of 33 degrees! Bring on the sunshine!
We headed straight to the beach which is not the nicest beach but the water is amazing and almost warm! The annoying thing about the beach is the amount of people that hassle you to buy things. We hired chairs and a sun shade from Walter who warned us about this. People are selling everything from drinks to foot massages on this beach. It's also not just 1 or 2 vendors that approach you. In the few hours that we were there, I would say, 10 - 15 people apprached us trying to sell something. It doesn't make for a very relaxing environment but it's too hot here to avoid the beach ;o)

22nd July
We had a really great day today exploring Cartagena's old city or otherwise known as the walled city. It's absolutely beautiful! The main attraction of Cartagena is the well-preserved colonial old town with exquisite city walls, which was declared a UN World Heritage site. We walked for a few hours but in the heat it felt like much longer than that!
We stopped and had some delicious seafood and beers for lunch before heading back to Bocagrande (where we are staying).

Cartagena's walled city.
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Yuri taking a selfie!
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They named a university after us!
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Posted by sandyandyuri 09:11 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Rio de Janeiro!

Futbol, caiparinha's, sun, sand and friends!

Rio is a crazy, crazy place and we have been having an absolute ball exploring! The sucos (fresh fruit juices) and pastels (pastries with assorted fillings) are consumed daily as are caiparinha's and chopp's (beer from the tap)!
We walk everywhere and have clocked up the kilometres. We have watched A LOT of futbol - our schedule has worked around which games are on that day!

1st July
We didn't do much at all today. Got up had some breakfast, took a walk then had some lunch. We caught up with Steph & Steve again before she heads off to Buzios. Had a nanna nap and then had dinner...

2nd July
We did nothing today except laze about and it was awesome!

3rd July
We walked and walked today. Exploring Rio which is pretty amazing. We walked the length of Copacabana beach then up to Ipanema. You know how the song goes - "Tall and tan and young and lovely. The girl from Ipanema goes walking....."
I digress...
The corn (milho) here is delicious. You just have to step outside and take your pick from the various street carts. We caught up with Nick and Fred in the evening for dinner and drinks at Branche which was fun!

4th July

Coolest day ever!

We started this awesome day watching France v Germany at the Maracana. The game was pretty average but the atmosphere was amazing! One thing I learnt, both the German and Frenchies have worse chants than the Aussies! It was the Brazilians in the crowd creating most of the noise!
We then caught the train back to Copacabana with thousands of other people to find somewhere to watch the Brazil v Colombia game. We found a cool little beachside bar to watch the game and pray for a win for Brazil.....
What a game! Everyone stopped to watch this game. The market across the street had TV's set up which they were all glued to and when I went to the bathroom, the attendants had a TV set up as well! As soon as Brazil won, Copacabana went crazy! Fireworks, music, drinks flowing and all of a sudden it was a street party! We found a group of musicians who had stopped in the middle of the street and were just playing song after song. They had a massive crowd around them which we joined and we were all dancing in the street! When we eventually got home, the Birthday wishes had started coming through from Aus which was so beautiful! I spoke to my Mum and brother and then my Dad which was fantastic! I also received the cutest voice message from my adorable goddaughter Bella ?. What a FANTASTIC day!

5th July
My Brazilian Birthday!
We woke with sore heads from the night before but in high spirits. I spoke with my sister and brother in law which was awesome and then we headed out for lunch. We jumped on the train to Ipanema and found a packed boteca (bar) a to have some food, cocktails and watch the Argentina v Belgium game (yes, even on my birthday we had to watch the game)! The food was amazing and I had delicious pineapple Caiparinia's :-).
We then went to get Mani's and pedi's (yes Yuri got one too)! $30 dollars for the two of us and they treated us like a king and queen!
Back to the apartment to watch the nail biting Netherlands v Costa Rica game. Dinner was at a lovely Italian place in Ipanema capped off by a walk along the beach (how romantico)!
Fantastic way to celebrate my Birthday!

6th July
We headed to Ipanema market today and had lunch there before walking to the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (lake). It was Sunday or 'Carioca' day and the lake was buzzing with people out and about spending time with their families. Yuri and I hired out a paddle boat which was lots of fun and we took some awesome shots of Christo and sugarloaf! We then walked back through Ipanema up to Copacabana where we found the streets buzzing with people. They had closed off Avenida Atlantica to cars so there was a flurry of activity happening. People skateboarding, riding bikes, bands playing - you name it. So much fun!

7th July
We headed out on a day trip to Buzios today which is a beach town about 3 hrs away from Rio.
Buzios was beautiful but the tour was a bit of a let down. We were picked up at 7:30 am from our apartment but didn't actually leave Rio till about 9 am. A group of Chileans delayed us which was slightly annoying...
We finally made it to Buzios with minutes to spare before the boat took off. This boat was crazy, filled with about 150 other tourists and was seriously cramped. We cruised around for a couple of hours stopping a few times to swim. The views were amazing!
After that we had some lunch and a bit of a walk around town before making the journey back to Rio.

8th July

Happy Birthday Gabs!!!

D day for Brazil. What a horrible game. 7-1, who would have thought?????
It's like Mother Nature knew what was going to happen. There was thunder and lightening before the game started which continued right through the night. The streets of Rio were completely deserted after the game. We saw some riot police after the game but a there was no trouble at all.
We met up with Nick and Fred after the game and headed back to their apartment for some drinks. What a crazy, fun, night! Had so much fun catching up with the guys and we stumbled home in the wee hours of the morning.

9th July
Felt a bit worse for wear today after last nights antics but we finally got our act together to go and meet Nick and Fred for the Argentina v Netherlands match. What a game! So happy Argentina got through. Brazilians not so happy as I think the majority of them were cheering for the Netherlands....

10th July
Reunited with Benny and Athena!
We met up in the afternoon and headed to Santa Teresa. The weather was terrible so we really didn't get to see much. We stepped into a cool little restaurant to have some drinks and food before heading back to Copacabana. Our taxi driver was very cool and spoke English. He told us stories of working on movies and all the celebrities he has met. He said Michael Jackson was the nicest! He is retired now and I think he drives a taxi just so he can tell his stories and relive the memories!
We stayed up drinking in our apartment with Benny and Athena till 4 am - fun night with great people :-).

11th July
Woke up not feeling great at all but we had a Favela tour booked so I pushed through it.
We visited the Rocinha favela. Rocinha means "little farm" and is the largest favela in Brazil. There are approx 1000 favelas in Rio and of those 47 have been pacified. Our tour guide was a little dodgy (several toilet stops throughout the tour and we think he made up a few of the facts he gave us)! He grew up in this favela himself but now lives elsewhere. The views from up there are simply amazing but these people are living a tough life in very cramped and probably unsanitary conditions. The oddest thing our tour guide told us, "everyone here has cable tv so it's 5 star living now"...
After the tour we headed back to Ipanema and visited the "Garota de Ipanema", Girl from Ipanema bar. There was a long line to get in so we gave it a miss. We grabbed some dinner before having an early night.

Tomorrow (13th July) is the World Cup final, can't believe that 5 weeks in Brazil are almost over.......
I'll post a separate blog which covers our last few days and a recap on our time spent in amazing Brazil.

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Posted by sandyandyuri 21:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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