Brazil is not for beginners. So, that's out. It is a statement that I have heard regularly, but which I actually find very unqualified. Was my first visit to Brazil intense? Absolute. Would I like to go back again? Very sure!
How did I end up in Brazil? In the time I have been with Carine I have already heard many stories about the country. Crazy stories, beautiful stories, funny stories, bizarre stories. It became very clear to me from all these stories that it is a completely different world than the Netherlands. Don't get me wrong, the Netherlands definitely has its charms and we have many privileges here. Things are well organised, we have a great infrastructure, nice cities and beautiful nature reserves. It's safe and predictable. Brazil is in many ways the opposite. It is a huge country with equally great contradictions, chaos, more uncertainties and unpredictability. A beautiful country with wonderful beaches, vast nature, beautiful landscapes and bustling cities. But I think the biggest charm is the rich and vibrant culture. And the food of course. I get the feeling that, precisely because of the uncertainties and difficulties, Brazilians always want to get the best out of their lives. They are bon vivants who love music, dance, drinks, sun and good food. As a Burgundian Limburger par excellence, I naturally see some similarities there. I felt an attraction.
On Christmas Eve I met Carine in Madrid. She had flown there from London, and from Madrid we would fly together to São Paulo. I brought a mini Christmas tree with lights and a small bottle of bubbly for the plane. During the flight I transformed the folding tables into a very modest, small-scale, yet festive Christmas dinner. You have to do something, right? After arriving in 'Sampa' we immediately flew to Porto Alegre, in the south of the country. There I would finally meet my in-laws. That is an exciting moment in any case, but especially after a journey of almost 24 hours in total, in a country on the other side of the world where you do not speak the language. Despite frantic Duolingo attempts to learn a little Portuguese, speaking the language is a completely different story. But everything in due time. I was warmly welcomed by Carine's family. After returning home, I was able to immediately score points with the stroopwafels and Tony's Chocolonely. Of course the orange version. Because thanks to my insider information I knew that Brazilians have quite a salt tooth.
Despite the language barrier I felt at home. Fortunately, with a few words and a lot of hands and feet work, you can go a long way in communication. And fortunately everyone speaks the universal languages of music and food. I thoroughly enjoyed the literal and figurative warmth, the conviviality and the always good atmosphere. We all went to the beach in Florianópolis for New Year's Eve. About 6 hours in a packed, small car. Memories of the past when I used to go on holiday to Renesse with my parents and sister in a fully packed 'duck'. In Floripa we were met by some of Carine's best friends and a nice cold glass of tonic. Strange tasting tonic, I thought. So it turned out to be a gin and tonic with a lot of gin. The tone was quickly set! It was the same story with every person I met: I was literally welcomed with open arms. Brazil is alive, and I really felt alive.
After a week at the beach and adding a few shades, we headed north to Rio de Janeiro. An AirBnB on the Copacabana was waiting for us. I couldn't wait to experience Rio, and it did not disappoint. A beautiful city that doesn't feel as big as it really is. Our first day on the Copacabana beach quickly taught me that you can easily stay there for a whole day without having to leave your seat. Because for cocktails, food or a new pair of sunglasses or bikini, you only have to raise your hand at one of the many vendors walking around. It was busy, but nice and busy. These were the last days of our trip, and one big party still awaited us. Preparations for Carnival were already in full swing and although we would not be in Brazil during the party itself, we were able to attend a rehearsal of one of Rio's largest samba schools. Trying to dance samba all evening with an injured foot (I'll spare you a long story) is definitely not for beginners, I can tell you. But the necessary beer and painkillers (not a wise combination, I know) helped me get through it.
I traveled home again with some melancholy. Carine would stay for a few more weeks, but I had to go back to work. Fortunately, my return would not be long in coming. A year later I stayed there again for two months. The photos of that will follow. Brazil will always have a special place in my heart.