Latin America

Country #31 - Brazil Day 2

The Redeemer

After a super long (but definitely worth it) day yesterday, it was so nice to be able to sleep a few extra hours this morning! I flew from Foz do Iguaçu (IGU), the airport on the Brazilian side of the border, to Rio de Janeiro (GIG). I arrived in Rio around 1:30pm with a very tight schedule for the day: my only goal was to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue, but my flight back to the United States left at 8:30pm, giving me approximately five hours until I needed to be back at the airport.

I left my luggage at the left luggage counter in the airport (bless every airport/train station with left luggage, it makes life so much easier) and grabbed an Uber straight to the base of Christ the Redeemer. I found Uber to be pretty cheap in Rio which was super helpful for my crazy day. I arrived at the base of Corcovado Mountain, where I then took the Trem do Corcovado to the top. If you buy your tickets in their app you get to board early (which I did) so I had a view in the front of the “train”. It is an almost hundred year old system that takes you up the mountain and into the clouds. When you reach the top, you are literally above the clouds.

After climbing a few stairs (or taking the elevator if you are in a time pinch) you reach the top with a view out over Rio and are right at the base of the Christ the Redeemer statue. It was so cool to see in person - it is giant and such a unique sight. There were so many people, but also it’s peak tourist season. I walked around for a bit taking tons of pictures of the city, the clouds, and of course the statue. The statue is so tall that there are mats on the ground that you can lay on to try and get a picture of the entire thing. There is also actually a church in the base of the statue, which I had no idea. It is very small, but it’s there!

I met a cool new friend from the U.S. who I asked to take my picture. She had always wanted to visit Brazil, saved up, and made it happen! I really enjoyed talking to her on the train ride back down the mountain, and am very jealous that she’s headed to São Paulo - next trip, I guess! After reaching the bottom I grabbed an Uber to get a quick dinner. I also really wanted to see Copacabana Beach, but was running short on time. So as a quick fix I asked my driver to drive along the beach on the way to dinner, which worked perfect! I got a great burger, fries, and a brownie shake to go, and called another Uber to the airport.

There was, of course, traffic. It made the ride a bit more expensive and made me worry for a few minutes, but I eventually made it to the airport with an hour and a half before my flight. Not ideal, but I speed walked and arrived at my gate as boarding began. I was flying back to the U.S. on an American Airlines family pass (I’ll call it flying non-rev), which depending on the day can be an awesome experience (inexpensive business and first class seats) or a nightmare (getting stranded without a confirmed seat). Today was one of the more stressful days, but it could have been worse.

I made it on the flight, but had a middle seat in coach. Not ideal for an eight hour flight. I had no idea the flight from Rio to Miami was eight hours - longer than it takes to fly to Europe from the east coast! I was so tired, though, that the seat didn’t matter. I was between two nice ladies and, other than the people the row behind me who didn’t know how to turn off their light and kept accidentally calling the flight attendant, the flight was fine. I slept on and off for a few hours, arrived in Miami at about 4:30am, and then had to walk forever to immigration and customs (in Miami definitely take the train to reach immigration and customs!!). After finally arriving at immigration the process took about two minutes (thank goodness for Global Entry). However, I quickly realized the rest of my day was going to be more complicated than I had planned.

The flight I was going to take to Charlotte had filled up, and I was worried that the direct flight to Birmingham might do the same. I had also reached the point of being so tired after a month and a half straight of travel that I needed to keep moving. Collapsing in the hectic Miami airport didn’t sound like fun, so I called my dad and we began searching for every option. It was about 5:30am, and the Miami airport was packed with people, which was not ideal. After looking at every option out of Miami, and then Fort Lauderdale, I finally found an option! It was out of West Palm Beach Airport (PBI) in two hours, and it would take an hour to get there.

I never thought I would think an $80 Uber would be worth it, but in this instance it was. I fell asleep and woke up an hour later in West Palm Beach. The airport was nice, small, and best of all, empty! The flight to Charlotte was uneventful, and once I was in Charlotte I was excited to find a Chick-fil-A that was still serving breakfast because it was still so early. My flight to Birmingham was then, of course, delayed. I decided to change to a different flight that was scheduled to leave at the same time as my now delayed flight, and boy was that the right call - I got first class and when I landed in Birmingham my original flight in Charlotte still had not left (this was an instance where flying non-rev definitely paid off).

I landed and found my family actually on time at the airport, waiting in the terminal, which I don’t think has ever happened before - they must have missed me after a month and a half of the Caribbean and Latin America, I guess! I’m definitely glad to be home for a few weeks so that I can rest and get ready for my next trip where I’ll be headed to Cuba!

31 countries down, 166 to go.

Read about my first day in Brazil here.

For more information on Brazil click here to read my guide.

Country #31 - Brazil Day 1

The Falls

This morning was filled with a crazy few hours of travel to make it to one of the coolest sights that I have ever seen, Iguazu Falls! I had a 4:30am flight out of Paraguay that was as painful as it sounds into Buenos Aires EZE Airport, where I then took the transfer bus to Buenos Aires AEP Airport. The transfer bus is much cheaper and easier than a taxi or Uber would have been. It took about an hour to get from one airport to the other, and I then flew to Puerto Iguazú (IGR) airport in Argentina. Iguazu Falls is situated on the Argentina/Brazil border, and as a result, there are cities and airports on both sides. I then took a taxi across the border to Brazil.

I took an official taxi from the airport, and my driver was really helpful without speaking a ton of English. She knew exactly how the border crossing worked, and it was really easy! First, she showed her taxi license and I showed my passport when we were leaving Argentina. Then, when going into Brazil, we stopped, walked into immigration where there was no line, and had them stamp my passport. The drive was probably forty-five minutes total to my hotel, Hostel Paudimar Campestre, near the falls on the Brazilian side.

There is definitely a difference depending on which side of the falls you decide to visit. Argentina supposedly has more falls while Brazil has better access to the main waterfall, Devil’s Throat. I chose Brazil because it is a lot to see in a more condensed area, and I had a short time frame to visit. I arrived at my hotel on the outskirts of Foz do Iguaçu that was only about five minutes from the entrance of the falls. After checking in I quickly made my way over to the falls by taxi because it was already 3pm. There is a reliable bus system to take advantage of, but with little time to use I had to take a taxi.

I bought my ticket online ahead of time so I walked right to the line for the bus into the park. You ride a double-decker bus from the entrance down to where the falls are, and there are a few other stops as well. If you wanted to, for example, you could ride a boat near the base of the falls. The bus took about ten minutes, and from the moment you are let off you can see the falls. And then you keep seeing them for as long as the eye can see. Just a heads up, there are going to be TONS of pictures throughout the rest of this post, because words alone really cannot do Iguazu Falls justice.

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From the first time I saw them I was just awestruck, and it only gets so much better throughout the walk. You are dropped near the end of the falls on the Brazil side, and the walk takes you up towards Devil’s Throat. All along the walk, for over twenty to thirty minutes, you just see a giant, stunning waterfalls. Most of the walk you are looking out at them from the walking trail, but towards the end, once you reach Devil’s Throat, is where it gets really exciting.

 The Falls are all along this walkway

The Falls are all along this walkway

There is a walkway that goes right up into the falls. You are not right under it (because that would probably kill you) but you get really close! Close enough that I was completely soaked after maybe five minutes. Thank goodness I remembered to bring my rain jacket! I spent about twenty minutes out on the platform, and I think it was the coolest part of my trip so far, right up there with Machu Picchu. It is unlike anything I have ever and will ever see again, and was so cool to be so close to. It’s hard to imagine how amazing it is to have major waterfalls surrounding you for as far as the eye can see, but let me tell you it surpasses whatever you can imagine!

 Looking into Devil's Throat

Looking into Devil's Throat

After walking out on the platform, taking a million pictures/videos, and facetiming with my family, I then took the elevator up to a viewing platform out over the falls. This was really cool because you could get a lot closer to the main waterfall and see just how much water was pouring over it, and you could also see the winding river above where all of the water was coming from. If you looked in the opposite direction you could see the waterfalls as far as the eye can see that you had just walked past on the walking trail.

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After taking a few last pictures I walked up to the bus stop and gift shop. During your time at the falls, likely near the beginning or end of your walk, you will likely walk past a coati. They are a cute animal that looks kind of like a mix between a raccoon and a lemur, maybe? Anyways, they are very cute but will scratch so definitely don’t try and touch them! This area is up at the top by the river, but what I found cool was if you looked really hard across the river, you could see tourists visiting the falls on the Argentina side! I walked around this area for a bit, bought a few souvenirs, and then boarded the bus back to the main entrance.

I was able to spend a full three hours at the falls, which felt like enough time to fully see the Brazilian side, so I was very glad that I chose it over Argentina. However, I would love to come back to Iguazu from the Argentina side in the future! After an absolutely exhausting day, I headed back to my hotel and ordered a pizza there, before going to sleep very quickly. I’m excited for tomorrow, though, as I’m headed to Rio to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue before I fly back to the US!

31 countries down, 166 to go.

Read about my second day in Brazil here.

For more information on Brazil click here to read my guide.

Country #30 - Paraguay

Relaxing

It was a good thing that I went to sleep so early last night because I had another early morning today. I took an exorbitantly expensive hourlong Uber to the airport, so I don’t recommend using Uber in Montevideo or in Uruguay in general. The airport itself was really modern and had cool seating inside. I waited a short while before boarding and then had a painless flight to Asuncion, Paraguay. Upon my arrival, I took an official airport taxi for the thirty-minute drive to my hotel, Hotel Le Moustier.

I was really excited for my stay at Hotel Le Moustier because I was able to meet my first "fan," Meli! She wants to work in travel and to travel more, and she emailed me when she heard about my journey. It was so great and exciting to meet her in person! I can't thank Meli enough for reaching out to me so early in my planning process - it was so encouraging! I got to meet her upon my arrival which was really exciting!

Meli helped me to my room where I was excited to shower and rest for a bit. My room was really nice and next to a balcony overlooking the heart of Hotel Le Moustier. I spent my day a bit differently than I had wanted to, no thanks to LATAM airlines. After my first bad experience with the airline where they stole $100 from my luggage flying from La Paz to Santiago and not caring, they were now charging me twice for my flight tomorrow. And it is a pretty expensive one, so I had to spend unfortunately a few hours sorting that out. Thanks to LATAM for again being the worst!

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It was nice, though, once I decided to stay in Hotel Le Moustier for the day to just have a day to relax. And Hotel Le Moustier was a great place to do so. I cannot thank Hotel Le Moustier enough for sponsoring this night of my stay! It’s a picturesque place and it was really enjoyable to spend the day there. I had a really yummy lasagne for lunch out on the patio which was really nice with the perfect sunny weather. Afterwards, I headed to my room to spend some time working on things. Another thing keeping me from the heart of the city was the lack of transportation options. I would have been able to take a taxi from my hotel, but I was a bit apprehensive about then being able to find a reliable taxi back to the hotel from town.

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While I definitely wish I could have seen more of Paraguay and Asuncion specifically, I had a really great day anyway. I loved being able to enjoy Hotel Le Moustier and also getting to know the people who worked there. It was really great finally meeting Meli too! Sometimes you just need a day to catch up on things, and while I wasn’t really planning on that being today it was definitely a welcome change of pace for a day. Especially before my busy day tomorrow. I cannot wait to visit Iguazu Falls!!!

30 countries down, 167 to go.

For more information on Paraguay click here to read my guide.

To learn more about Hotel Le Moustier click here.

Country #29 - Uruguay

The Ferry

It was another really early morning - I was up before breakfast at the hotel even started, which is never a good sign in terms of if I got any sleep. I had the hotel call a taxi instead of taking an Uber because I had some extra cash to spend. The taxi ride was quick as there was no one out on the roads, and within minutes we arrived at the end of Puerto Madero at the ferry terminal. A company called Buquebus runs daily ferries between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, which is what I was going to take.

 After picking up my ticket and going through security, I waited in a departure lounge similar to that of an airport until boarding. Boarding was interesting because you have to wear little slip on things over your shoes to help protect the floor of the ferry. It was not a hassle, just funny to watch everyone walking around in the awkward foot covers.The ferry itself was so nice! It was really fancy and had really nice seats and even duty-free shopping and room to walk around. It was definitely a nice change of pace from all of the flights I have taken so far! Thanks to the size and spacing of the countries I have been to so far, as well as logistics, this was the first time I have been able to enter a country using a method other than an airplane.

I grabbed a window seat (there was no assigned seating) and the ride itself was smooth. It was really pretty to watch out over the water, and apparently, it was pretty soothing - I fell asleep within ten minutes. Before I knew it a little over an hour later we were arriving at the Buquebus terminal in Montevideo, Uruguay. I deboarded and then attempted to walk to my accommodations for the day, Montevideo Chic Hostel. There is not a clear exit by foot from the terminal, but a few other tourists were walking out as well and we eventually walked out of the car exit. The heart of Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja, or Old Town, is not very big and right next to the ferry terminal, so it was very easy to walk to Montevideo Chic Hostel.

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I soon discovered how strange Old Town Montevideo could be, though. Within five minutes of walking, I stepped in dog poop on the sidewalk. I then obviously became more aware and noticed that there was dog poop literally everywhere on the sidewalks. I don’t know what this was about, but it was a mainstay throughout my day and was pretty gross honestly. I found Montevideo Chic Hostel and checked in. I had a big room to myself which was nice. The accommodations themselves were definitely dated, but if you need a place to stay overnight near the ferry this fits the bill. Also, the people in charge were very kind which was nice after my already long morning. Thanks to Montevideo Chic Hostel for sponsoring this night of my trip! 

After checking in I headed out to explore the town. It didn’t take long for my second strange discovery - there was literally no one out walking anywhere in the heart of the city. I don’t know why, other than it was the weekend so people were not at work in the old town, but it was still very strange. I was actually okay with it though because I felt very safe and it was enjoyable to see the city from that unique perspective. I walked first to Mercado Del Puerto which is a local meat market in town filled with restaurants. And good news, I found the people! Mercado Del Puerto was packed, and with good reason.

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I decided to eat at El Palenque, and it was one of the best steaks I have ever had. You watch them make it, along with all of the other meats, right in front of you. It was a very enjoyable lunch followed by a walk through the rest of Mercado Del Puerto. After lunch, I walked more through the streets of Ciudad Vieja before heading to Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral. It was not open but had a beautiful facade.

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From there I walked to Plaza Independencia. Plaza Independencia seemed to be the heart of the city. There were actually people out, and there were a few sights to see in the area. The first was Puerta de la Ciudadela which is a stone structure that is what is left of the original gate to the city. I made a new friend, originally from Venezuela but currently living and working in Switzerland, when I asked him to take my picture with the gate. It was interesting to spend a few minutes talking with him about the region, Venezuela specifically, and he was really interested in my trip.

Next, I visited the Artigas Mausoleum, which was really unique. Artigas helped found the country and is a very important figure. So much so that he has the most unique grave that I have ever seen. On the outside, you see a giant statue of a man (I assume Artigas) riding a horse. You then see steps to go down, and there is a giant tomb-like area that is dimmed. There are quotes around the wall and it is guarded at all times.

After walking through I headed to look at Teatro Colon, the main theater in town. It was beautiful on the outside but unfortunately was closed on the weekend. I then headed to a local grocery store to stock up on water and a few snacks. I headed back to my room really early from there and laid down for what I thought was a nap. I guess I was really tired though because I ended up sleeping through the night! Looking forward to Paraguay tomorrow!

29 countries down, 168 to go.

For more information on Uruguay click here to read my guide.

To learn more about Montevideo Chic Hostel click here.

Country #28 - Argentina Day 2

Buenos Aires

I had an amazing day exploring Buenos Aires, Argentina today! It was pretty chilly in the morning so after a great breakfast at L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique, I took an Uber to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes where I met up with Josefina (Jose for short)! Jose is one of my best friends from college, Courtney’s, distant cousin who lives on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. It was so nice to have someone to spend the day with and I was really looking forward to it!

We started the day walking through Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes which was amazing in itself. The collection featured a broad range of art, from classics to impressionists to modern art. It was a great time just walking through and talking to Jose. I loved getting to know her! She is currently in college studying engineering.

After the museum, we headed to Recoleta Cemetery which was absolutely stunning! It was the perfect day to walk through as well, as the cold and dreary weather fit the cemetery nicely. The cemetery is home to many famous historical figures in Argentina’s history. The tombs are each so immaculate it is no surprise that many people consider Recoleta to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. I had a lot of fun walking around with Jose as she loved using the GoPro to record!

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From the cemetery, we headed across the street (past an absolutely giant tree) to grab some coffee and hot chocolate. I had hot chocolate, of course, and it was in the more traditional Spanish style where it is literally chocolate placed in hot milk. It took a while to cool down but was so worth it once it did. We sat and talked for a while, but it was, unfortunately, time for Jose to head out as she was in the middle of finals. I was unable to meet her sister, Cami, due to her having a final! Finals in July is definitely something different.

As we walked towards Jose’s stop we passed through a cool market where Jose pointed out a lot of traditional Argentinian things. She then gave me a few recommendations for the rest of my day and we said our goodbyes. I was sad that she had to go as I had an amazing time getting to know her and exploring Buenos Aires with her!

After we headed our separate ways I walked towards Buenos Aires Latin American Art Museum, otherwise known as MALBA. The walk was really nice and I passed a really cool giant flower statue that opens when it is sunny out and closes when it is cloudy. MALBA was really awesome. It was, obviously, a modern art museum. There were only a few small floors open but there were some really cool pieces, including one that was a giant room with polar bears in the middle.

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After MALBA I took an Uber back towards the center of town, to Congregación del Santísimo Sacramento. It was unfortunately closed but the outside was really pretty. I then walked towards Teatro Colón but I made a few unplanned stops along the way. The first was to take pictures of a building with “Harrods” written all over. It was closed down, but did you know that the only other Harrods, the famous UK store, to ever open was this one located in Buenos Aires. It goes to show just how influential Buenos Aires was during its prime. Not that it isn’t now, but it definitely experienced somewhat of a Renaissance earlier on as the country has experienced economic issues lately.

I then walked through Galerías Pacífico. I had no idea what it was at first, other than it looked like a mall and would allow me to walk a block or so inside instead of out in the cold. What I found was the nicest mall that I have ever been in. There were people to open the doors for you and then the inside it was just stunning. The architecture is amazing and it has to be one of the most unique malls in the world. My favorite part was the paintings lining the atrium area - it makes you forget that you are in a mall.

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I finally then made it to Teatro Colón, the famous opera house in Buenos Aires. It is considered one of the best in the world. However, I’ll have to add it to my to-do list for my next visit. The lines were very long and I still had a lot that I wanted to see in the city! I left and walked down the famous 9 de Julio Avenue that it is situated on. 9 de Julio Avenue is the widest avenue in the world which is pretty amazing. I really enjoyed walking down it to the Obelisco de Buenos Aires which looks exactly like a mini Washington Monument. I was able to get a great picture with the Obelisco and the giant BA letters out front. I really loved walking in this area as it is very lively and modern but the streets are lined with historic buildings.

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I walked from the Obelisco to Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires. This cathedral is pretty special, as it was the church of Pope Francis when he lived in Argentina before he became Pope. The church was fittingly beautiful and I loved seeing the Pope’s original church. From there I walked out onto Plaza de Mayo which Casa Rosada, the President’s office, sits upon as well. I got some pictures and then headed to Museo Casa Rosada. I just happened upon this museum, but it was free and the architecture was really cool. However, all of the exhibits were in Spanish so it was a really quick stop.

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From there I walked to Puerto Madero. Along the walk, I passed a building that looked identical to the Plaza Hotel in New York, but here it was actually a military building. Puerto Madero is an awesome area with restaurants lining the water on both sides. At the end of Puerto Madero is the terminal I will use to take the ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. Puerto Madero is also home to the famous bridge, Puente De La Mujer. I walked around the area for a bit and then found a place to eat dinner and look out at the water.

For dessert, I had to stop at McDonald's. Weird, I know. But it was because they had a Toblerone McFlurry which I have never seen before! It has been really interesting to just look at the different menus around the world because there is always something unique. This is the first time I have given something a try, though, and it was pretty tasty! I could have walked back to L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique from Puerto Madero, but it was too cold so I took a quick Uber. I had a long, but amazing, day today in Buenos Aires. There was so much to see and do and I really loved just walking around the city. I also loved getting to meet Jose and getting to walk around with her! It was a really great but exhausting day. I went to sleep quickly as tomorrow I have an early ferry ride to Montevideo, Uruguay!

28 countries down, 169 to go.

Read about my first day in Argentina here.

For more information on Argentina click here to read my guide.

To learn more about L'Adresse Hôtel Boutique click here.