Saturday, August 9, 2014

Brazil 2014 - Days 0 & 1 (6/12-13/2014) - Getting to Curitiba

This vacation started after a half (or a little more) day at work, trying to wrap up a few loose ends and hand off some work before leaving.  Claire drove me to work, and then Kevin (Whitworth, a coworker) took me to the airport.  Our flight was at 4:40, but Raj had to work at Barnes until 3.  Of course, we were originally planning on leaving on Saturday (6/14), but two American Airlines schedule changes somehow each caused us to bump up departure by a day.  In any case, I was at the airport by 2:30, and waited for Raj at the only place I could find with TVs outside the security checkpoint - The Pasta House Co.  Despite some initial resistance from a very busy waiter (who seemed to be working the whole place alone) I was eventually able to have the TVs switched to the opening game of the World Cup...about 10 minutes after the 3:00 kick-off.  I missed the shock own goal that put Croatia ahead, but was able to see Neymar's equalizer before heading out to meet Raj.

We checked in for the flight to Miami and then went through security, before camping outside the busy Chili's where we could get a view of the rest of the game on TV.  Raj also had some work to finish up by phone while we watched the game and waited for our late-departing plane.  After a fairly uneventful flight to Miami, we caught the shuttle (after a long wait) to the Days Inn Miami International (which AA had arranged for us, at our cost, when they "forced" us to spend the night in Miami).  Being a Days Inn, my expectations were pretty low for the hotel...and it met those low expectations.  But I can't complain too much, as we just needed a place to sleep.

After a pretty terrible night of sleep (probably partially to blame on not being able to sleep on my left side due to a scrape on my hip sustained during a soccer game a couple of nights prior, and partially on anxiety about waking up in time) we took the shuttle back to the airport around 8:00.  We somehow got into the TSA Pre line at the security checkpoint, which made for an easier experience getting through (e.g., no removing shoes or liquids from bags).  Our 10:30 flight departed just about on time, and the flight to Curitiba took 8 hours.  Unfortunately, our plane was a fairly old 767, so it had only common TV entertainment (on some old-school CRTs) and no WiFi.  Despite this, the flight wasn't bad.  And there were plenty of other soccer fans on board traveling to the World Cup.  Raj sat next to a very friendly guy from Sao Paulo, named Alex, who provided a bunch of helpful advice/information, and even gave us his contact info.

Once through immigration and customs at the Curitiba airport, we wandered around looking for the "executive" bus into the city.  We eventually found it with some help from a World Cup information desk.  We bought tickets (R$12, or about USD$5 per person) for the bus and then caught the 8:47 express.  We got off at the second stop, the Estação shopping mall, which was a short walk from our Hotel Aladdin.  We went inside the mall, which was quite impressive, especially in terms of the food selection.  Raj got some items from a by-the-ounce buffet, while I struggled mightily through ordering a sweet banana and cream crepe.  After eating, we walked to the hotel and checked in.  Up in our cozy room, we caught up on soccer highlights on TV (including Spain's incredible 5-1 drubbing by the Netherlands) and other activities on the complementary WiFi before turning in to prepare for another early morning.

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