Brasil, the last stop

By design, the Bossa Travelers decided to finish the world tour in Brasil, where we would visit my family. The interesting part is that for the kids the trip really finished in London. They both mentioned that Brasil is like our second home, so they wouldn’t count as part of the world trip. Regardless of the emotional tie with the country, it was a really nice visit, filled with wonderful food and quality time with family and friends.

We were fortunate to have good weather in June (winter) and there were some awesome beach days in Rio. It has been 3 years since our last visit, way too long. Everyone was craving some rice and beans. Chris and I also went to our favorite meat restaurant in Rio – Plataforma – which never fails to impress us. We visited my best friend Karina, who lives in Petropolis, and spent a very nice weekend with her family, enjoying the mountains and playing volleyball.

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Karina, Filipa, Leti & Louisa

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Our Welcome to Brasil feast!

Chris and I had a side trip thanks to my parents. It was our first time to Iguaçu Falls, boarding Argentina. We stayed at the fantastic Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, located right inside the National Park. Wow, it was so special, we felt we were in our honeymoon. Incredible nature surrounding us, these massive falls in the middle of a jungle! It certainly made me realize how big Brasil is with so much beauty from North to South. The National Park is very well conserved and clean. We went on early morning hikes, where we were face-to-face with the falls, just the 2 of us and pure nature. We also did 2 recommended activities: the Macuco Safari, which is a boat tour that goes under the falls, and the helicopter tour, taking it all in a 360º view of the park and falls (Brasil and Argentina sides). Iguaçu Falls was certainly one of the highlights of our world tour and we are very glad we got to visit this special place.

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We also had Christmas in June as my parents showered us with bags of gifts from Christmas and a number of birthdays – yes, all together. We caught up with several friends that we have not seen for many years. Rio is always special to visit, despite a chaotic traffic, it continues to be the Cidade Maravilhosa for us!

Next stop – back home to Florida

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Familia Cabral

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Cousins in Rio

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Copacabana Beach

 

London marathon

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I don’t recommend a London crash course weekend! Yet, that is exactly what we did thanks to my poor planning. We flew from India to London for 3 nights/2 days before our final destination, Brazil. While we maximized our feet walking 26+ miles and seeing some wonderful history and culture, London deserves more respect and I hope that someday we may stay longer.

Double-decker Bus

Take a deep breath, put your power walking shoes on, and enjoy the snapshot. We essentially took 4 walking tours in 2 days:

Walking shoes

During a typical London fashion rainstorm, we trooped through with our free guide (but not so free) who entertained us with royal history on Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and a canceled changing of the guard – when it rains…

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The second tour was a night trawling for the grim reapers of London’s dark side. Sebastian & I saw criminal history including Jack the Ripper.

 

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Our third was a self-guided walk of Kensington Palace & Gardens where the most talked about royals, Prince William & Kate, reside. This included a lovely fashion exhibit showing the royal styles over the years including many Lady Diana dresses.

Nice hips!

Nice hips!

Kensington Garden

Kensington Garden

Fashion Rocks

Fashion Rocks

Finally, London would not be complete without a Tower tour. The fortress that guards the Crown Jewels and has kept many aDSCN6555criminal jailed as well as queens and consorts that fell out of favor. The Nepalese Gurkha guards happened to be on duty which reminded us of our times in India and the shakes of Nepal’s earthquake only weeks earlier. We walked across London Bridge to Borough Market for a fantastic lunch on whatever your heart desires. Louisa and I shared a meat pie from The Pie Minister while Sebastian and Leti chowed down on pulled pork and dogs.

Nepalese Gurkha

Nepalese Gurkha

London Tower Ladies

London Tower Ladies

Borough Market

Borough Market

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For our big night out, we went to the Royal Drury Lane Theater for Charlie & Chocolate Factory. Despite our nosebleed seats from above, the show was fun and entertaining for the whole family. CCFAnd if that’s not enough, we did our best to eat like kings. We dined on burgers and beer at famous Patty & Bun – something we all craved. Leti ate her favorite meal – chicken livers while I enjoyed a classic fish & chips at the Royal Automobile Club where we stayed. The girls had a chance to spend an afternoon shopping and English tea at 5 star Brown’s Hotel while the boys climbed Monument that is like a lighthouse in the center of the city with great views!

As you can imagine, we departed London in exhaustion and ready for some Rio beach time!

English Tea @ Brown's Hotel

English Tea @ Brown’s Hotel

English Tea @ Brown's Hotel

Love the dress!

Royal Automobile Club

Royal Automobile Club

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The Red Box

The Red Box

Horse Guard

Horse Guard

India’s Kerala

Our initial plan was to spend 2 months in India, covering both North and South. However, our visas were granted for 1 month only which forced us to leave India at the end of 30 days in the country. Good thing so many travelers had suggested a visit to Sri Lanka, as it made for a convenient stop before our re-entry to Kerala, in South India.

We began our trip in Fort Cochin, a slow paced cute area protected by water. We had a wonderful hotel, Fort Abode, with 2 spacious rooms and pleasant service. The staff helped arrange additional places to visit in Kerala. We took a car to Munnar, which is the tea region of Kerala, with cooler temperatures and tea plantations covering the hills. We wanted to have a homestay experience and booked 2 rooms at the Rose Gardens Homestay. To our surprise and, considering there were so few hiccups during our previous 8 months of traveling, the Rose Gardens we booked was not the same one that we were dropped off in Munnar. Yep, same homestay name, but different town. The “new” Rose Gardens homestay was booked up and also a lot more expensive than the one we (thought) booked. Not a good start in Munnar…Our driver then took us to another homestay that we did not like and it was getting late with pouring rain. Everyone was exhausted from the winding drive and unfortunate accommodations but we finally found a hotel in town for the night; not great but 2 beds to rest and a good meal.

Munnar is cute and we enjoyed the Tea Museum despite the crowd of tourists. We also managed to reserve another homestay where we stayed for 2 nights with a nice family and cute 3-month old puppy that the kids loved. We ate all of our meals with them – delicious local food, very tasty, and home cooked!

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Tea Plantations of Munnar

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From Munnar we went to Thekkady and stayed at the Beaumont Plantation Retreat. It was indeed a retreat, such a relaxing place that we certainly did not want to leave. Ironically, this stay was unexpected on our part and thanks to the staff at Fort Abode for putting it together. Between hikes, eating, sleeping and eating more, we did not do much other than enjoy the views and tranquility. Louisa and I had a culinary demonstration and learned how to make some of the yummy dishes we ate. The hotel was also on the boarder of Tamil Nadu state, with wonderful views.

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Tamil Nadu in the background

 

Our next stop was Alleppey, where we stayed for 2 nights in a forgettable place – it was bad and it was cheap. We went to the beach but did not go in the ocean as there are strong currents. Nobody was swimming either and the beach was packed of fully dressed Indians – we were the only foreigners. After 2 days in Alleppey, we started our Backwaters trip in a Houseboat, which is one of the main attractions in Kerala. Our Houseboat was quite comfortable with 2 bedrooms and a nice living area where we lounged for hours just watching the beautiful scenery. The most amazing part was also the South India food that the staff cooked for us on the boat – plenty of delicious meals for the 4 of us. We wished we had stayed one more night!

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Alleppey beach

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Our houseboat

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Backwaters of Kerala

 

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Houseboat Banquet

Our trip was coming to an end and we headed back to the same place in Fort Cochin. Chris had these wonderful healing Ayurvedic massages during the 1st stay which really helped the tightness on his shoulder. Amazing how a good natural massage can heal your body. We had our Farewell dinner at a great Indian restaurant that we found while walking around Fort Cochin – “51”, at the Xandari  Harbour Hotel.

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Ayurvedic massage

On our last day in India we went to an Amusement Park – WonderLa – at the recommendation of our Australian friends. I will let the kids do a separate blog on WonderLa as it was a very unique experience for us to be in a “Disneyland” type of place with hundreds of Indians and the only foreigners being our family. We had to stop every 30min or so to take group pictures with the locals, so fun. We all loved our day, it was the perfect way to finish our stay in India.

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Farewell to India at WonderLa