Sunday, August 10, 2014

Brazil 2014 - Days 14 & 15 (6/26-27/2014) - Porto Alegre, then Home

It was a rainy day in Porto Alegre, which threatened to put a damper on our plans.  As Raj led us out on his planned walking tour of the city, I temporarily vetoed the idea of walking about in the rain for hours.  We stopped at a cafe for breakfast and to consider our options.  Since I couldn't come up with any better ideas (I had let Raj do most of the sightseeing planning the whole trip), and the rain had died down a bit, I yielded to his better judgment.  He suggested that we take the bus into the center of town, instead of walking there, and so we did.

When we arrived downtown, we went on a ramble to various of the sights that he had picked out from his various sources.  One notable stop was Santander Cultural, where an exhibition of Vik Muniz's work was currently showing, as well as the adjoining Praça da Alfândega.  We also entered the Meseu Militar, before finding a side bar to have lunch and watch the USA vs Germany match.  It seemed like all the bars/restuarants in that part of town offered similar "a-la-carte" menus that provided few vegetarian options, but we found one with a TV and grilled cheese sandwiches (they were actually ham and cheese tostadadas, but we ordered them without the ham).  As for the match, the US lost 1-0 but still progressed to the round of 16 since Portugal beat Ghana 2-1.

After eating we walked over to the Gasômetro, situated next to the ginormous Lagoa dos Patos.  After some searching and some asking, we found the art terrace that overlooks the north tip of the lagoon (and just the north end looks expansive by itself).  Unfortunately, the dreary weather on that day did not allow the greatest of views.  After leaving there, we took a bus down to the Fundação Iberê Camargo (Iberê Camargo Foundation).  I wasn't a huge fan of this museum, but I couldn't complain too much since it was free to enter.  And after that we returned by bus to the hotel.

We regrouped for a bit in our room before deciding to walk to a nearby Arabian restaurant named Baalbek.  It was among the classier joints that we ate at during the trip, and the food was pretty good, particularly the felafel.  We also shared some hummus (it was purely chickpeas, so I didn't enjoy it as much as the oily versions that I've come to love), a Lebanese cheese thing (which I also liked quite a bit), and a thinly-sliced fried eggplant dish.  For dessert we split a couple of baklava-type (but not quite) pastries, and took a couple of Turkish-delight-like (but not quite) treats for the road.  We returned to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours before checking out and taking a taxi to the airport around 10:30.  Note that we had book the room through the next day, but an American Airlines schedule change had moved our flight up to 12:30 in the morning (from sometime in the mid morning).

I managed to get a bit of sleep on the 9 hour flight from Porto Alegre to Miami.  We both made the mistake of eating some of the dinner that was served an hour or two into the flight, after having stuffed ourselves just a few hours prior.  When breakfast was served close to arrival, I couldn't consider partaking, but Raj was able to take it down like a champ.  We had a 4.5 hour layover in Miami, though a chunk of that was taken by going through immigration and customs.  Raj also found out that a fraudulent transaction had been attempted on his credit card in Brazil, but that it fortunately had been declined.  Unfortunately, though, this meant that his card had to be canceled.  The flight back to St. Louis was on a fairly new 737, which impressed me quite a bit (go Boeing!).  My dad (who had just got in from Kuwait a few days prior) picked us up at the airport, and the vacation came to an end.

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