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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FIFA World Cup 2014 - Salvador, Brasil

Yes, I realize World Cup ended almost two months ago but I've been a busy girl so I'm just now getting down to writing about it.  It's going to be more appealing to those that attended with me since it really boiled down to a raucous party trip with little sightseeing but perhaps it will impart to those who haven't been the shenanigans you are likely to encounter.

All I can say is that two months after this trip I am still so happy to have reconnected with those I knew before and embarked on adventures with the new ones I met.  I dedicate this blog post to you!  For those who haven't been to Salvador, Brazil and are reading this as a tourist I've provided maps and links for you too.

Doc - throwback to Australia
Mum - for keeping us all straight and getting us moving everyday
Cuntz - for mumbling your name when I first met you
Mr. Pocket - so many T-shirts with tiny pockets
Hangry - you were always "in need of a feed"
Sis - as the only other girl in the house
Blackberry - people still use those????
AZU - for your impressive face-painting skills
Ponyo - throwback to Croatia
Frogger - your amazing taste in YouTube videos
Horatio - one of many nicknames but possibly most "tasteful"??
The BirdMan - for the many birds that flocked around you

Map of Salvador:


I arrived Sunday morning smoked from my eight hour flight from NYC including a six hour layover in Sao Paulo.  Apparently that's what you get for booking your flight to World Cup two weeks before you depart.  I'd rented a car service since I was arriving by myself and Brazil is not the safest place for single white females traveling alone and turns out it was about as good a deal as a taxi ($75 US round trip).  However, we had a hell of a time finding the house I were I was staying.

But when I saw about ten guys standing in the yard drinking beers I had a pretty good feeling I had arrived at the right place.  When I ran smack into Mr. Pocket, who I hadn't seen since college, I KNEW I was in the right place.  What are the odds we'd reconnect on another continent after so many years??

True to form, I'd just managed to say my "hellos" to Doc when Mum rolled by letting us know it was time to head out to the club.  The club had no line and cost about $40(?) Reals to get in.  Girls tickets are cheaper and the gender is printed on the ticket so make sure you were sold the right one - one of the boys ended up with a female ticket... "I'm a Masculino!"

Inside the bar ran along the entire back wall and the center area featured a stage.  We immediately opted for a bottle of vodka that we could pass around as we danced.  "We don't need a table!"  Turns out you DO need a table to have a bottle of vodka and were soon downing the vodka as fast as possible to avoid having to be seated.  Luckily, the boys are flirts and managed to keep the waitresses at bay.  A full night of dancing ensued.  Definitely a solid precursor for the week to come.


Monday morning and it was time for our first futbol game - Germany v. Portugal.  Cuntz had made some fancy shirts for us to wear so that we'd "have a real go."  We took a cab to the stadium which is about 20 minutes away and wasn't terrible expensive split five ways.  As the sole girl I ended up laying across the three boys in back.  I was told I had my head in the wrong lap which caused the rest of the cab to erupt in laughter and me to immediately sit upright for the remainder of the ride.  Damn boys.

We were dropped off fairly far from the stadium, Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, which is built along a small river.  It was actually kind of nice to walk up to the stadium along the water because it added to the atmosphere and excitement not to mention the scenery was beautiful.  Once we reached the stadium, Mum looked around furiously for The BirdMan but couldn't find the HH gate.  I pointed out that maybe it was outside the main gate.  This fell on deaf ears from all 31471890414 boys I was with.  Thirty minutes later with no success we realized... what for it... "It's outside the gate! The woman is right!"  Sigh.

 A few large beers later we arrived at our seats.... in the VERY last row.  This was hilarious to us and immediately encouraged us to stand on the seats the whole game to the annoyance of the people sitting behind us - OH WAIT.  The English dudes sitting in front of us were pretty epic as well.  Ronaldo spent most of the game staring as his cool shoes instead of playing futbol and Germany won by a landslide.


We wandered back outside to lounge around, drinking more beers, on the lawn outside the stadium so that everyone could meet up (we only had seats in groups of four at the most).  While hanging on the lawn I was approached by a Brazilian wearing light pink shorts.  He landed loudly on the ground next to me, slung his arm around my shoulder, and proceeded to tell me how beautiful I was and "did I have a boyfriend?"  I waited for any number of my "knights" to arrive and carry me to safety but they chose to stand around like donkeys and giggle at my distress.  Finally, Pink Shorts cousin approached and fended him off.  This was how we met Horatio who would be our Brazilian Shepherd, showing us all the best places to go in Salvador. 

He took us down a bunch of streets to Largo Terreiro de Jesus ("The Shrine of Jesus").  This square was a hot spot for World Cup festivities so we decided to eat at a local restaurant in the square for people-watching purposes.  The food was okay... I'd come to find that most of the food in Salvador is "okay."  Only on a couple occasions did I enjoy my meal but then again it's a coastal city known for its shellfish, which I can't eat, so I'm probably a bad judge.  Here's a picture of the restaurant from Google Maps since I have NO idea what it was called.  Horatio introduced us to aipim and bejidas for dinner.

Photo of Restaurant from Google Street View


We jumped in cabs to go to the FIFA Fan Fest area near the Museu Náutico da Bahia, which is a lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Salvador on the water.  They'd transformed most of the hill and the avenue below the lighthouse into the giant Fan Fest area.  The game had just finished so we wandered down Avenue Oceanica looking for a good time.  We ended up at a bar/restaurant instead a hotel called Bahia Flat where we sat and watched the USA game.  You could order giant platters of shellfish which everyone shared so I ended up with a sizzling platter of steak and potatoes (this would be my go to dish for the trip).  Very salty but filling.


We then hopped in ANOTHER cab and continued on to Rio Vermelho, another area of Salvador the boys had been to before I arrived.  Largo de Santana would become an infamous square for our group.  When we arrived it was PACKED with people celebrating in the square.  While the majority of the boys decided to wander down the street to Pink Elephant Club, Doc, Horatio and I decided to stay in the square.  After all, I live in NYC with some of the best clubs in the world.... World Cup street parties happen every four years!  We had the best time drinking caipirinhas, dancing and meeting Tom Brady.  Haha just kidding, he just looked like Tom Brady.


By the end of the night Doc kept turning to me saying, "Let's get a cab!" and then as soon as one pulled up he'd say, "Why are we going home??!?!" to which I'd say "YOU asked for the cab!"  This happened three times before he finally decided to get in one.  Silly kid.

Inside Jokes:
Whore Barons
F Square 
"I love a ciggie in a third world country"... "Is this who you are now?"


We got a late start after the craziness of the night before and jumped in cabs once again to head to Fan Fest for the Brasil v. Mexico game.  Even though it wasn't IN Salvador, the streets were still flooded with supporters.  We first tried to get into Caranguejo do Farol, also known as "Crab Bar" by boys, but we were FAR too late.  Even our friend, Da Vinci, couldn't convince the bouncer to let 11 people into the bar.  So we cut the line waiting to get into Fan Fest and made our way onto the hill below the lighthouse.  It was nice because it was a beautiful day, it was a beautiful view, the screen was huge and easy to see and it was just crowded enough to add atmosphere without feeling pushed around.  At one point Doc and I tried to get beers from one of the vendors and it took her SO long to register us for us to pay that we finally gave up trying to pay.  Free beer!  The game was an intense match ending with a tie with a lot of amazing goalie saves.  And the sunset around us was unreal.

After the game we tried Crab Bar again and managed to get everyone in with some creative accounting.  I snuck in without paying the 50 reals for a wristband but then when I tried to get Doc and Hangry in the bouncer called me out.  Whoops.  I had my customary steak and potatoes dish which was MUCH better here.  In fact everyone else tried to steal some.  We spent the rest of the night dancing with Da Vinci and her friends.  This included her forcing me on stage for one of the sexier numbers.  EEK.

 Photo from Google Street View


We got pretty rowdy and ridiculous and by the end of the night Blackberry had taken the mobile credit card machine and was pretending to make phone calls on it.  He'd walk up to random girls, point at the machine and motion that they had a phone call.  The Brazilians were VERY confused but nonetheless thought he was funny... if not a little weird.

Inside Joke:
Sticky Balloon 


I woke up blurry-eyed to the sound of strangely familiar voices coming from the foyer.  I walked out to find Ponyo and Frog standing by the dining room table (for those of you who know me or read this blog I met these two fools in Croatia years ago and then visited them two Christmases ago in Australia).  The look of surprise, confusion, and excitement on their faces said they were having the same thoughts as me.  Frog goes, "I saw the flabongo on the table and thought of you and then turns out... IT IS YOU!"  Doc taking in the scene joked, "You are known internationally for your party paraphernalia?"  I smiled sheepishly.

Once Mum had everyone corraled and ready to go we headed back to Avenue Oceanica to watch the Australia v. Netherlands where Tim Cahill smashed a first-time volley in off the underside of the crossbar... with his LEFT foot.  Considering I was sitting with mostly Australians you can imagine the ringing in my ears after that cheer went up.  We watched the game at a restaurant called Caranguejo de Sergipe which was right on the water and had probably the best food and drinks thus far.  We had caprioska with passion fruit and empanadas filled with chicken and cheese.

 Photo from Google Street View

After the game we all sort of broke off since a lot of people decided to head back and nap.  AZU, Cuntz, Doc and I ended up, you guessed it, back at Crab Bar where we found the only remaining table with a half-view of the Croatia v. Cameroon game.  Being sneaky I noticed an older gentleman sitting at a large table next to us with a perfect view of the TV so I wandered over to make friends.  Within minutes Keithy invited us to join his table.  He was literally the coolest guy ever, from London, who told us that in 1982 his wife had stood in front of the  TV during one of the World Cup games and that's when they'd known their marriage was over.  Sad but hilarious at the time.

We then got into a whole conversation about traveling (the game was a little dull since Croatia murdered Cameroon).  Doc mentioned that he'd done a sail trip from Panama to Colombia which sounded amazing and we found out that AZU has been to over 70 countries.  That's insane.  I feel well traveled and I just broke 30?

Once the game was over I sneakily paid for everyone's drinks and Keithy was NOT happy.  He insisted that he pay for his own and I told him that I guess he'd just have to come out with us for the rest of the night in order to repay me for my kindness.  I think he was a little shocked that we wanted him along.

We wanted to try out a new area so we hopped in a cab and went to Largo do Pelourinho, a large square in the "main" area of town.  It was a madhouse with people dancing and drinking in the streets.  Keithy, fancy man that he is, bought champagne and chocolates for all of us to share.


As we wandered the streets we found this tiny square with a stage that was filled with people dancing.  We spent the rest of the night there being absolutely ridiculous.  It was my favorite night thus far.

Inside Jokes
Black ciggies  


There weren't any games until later in the day and I'd had yet to see an actual Brazilian beach so we decided to go to Praia do Flamengo which was recommended by The BirdMan.  Too bad we had no real idea how to get there other than that it was near the airport, which was quite far away.  He'd also told us that it was a holiday so we should hit up Barracado de Lor, an awesome beach bar on the water that would be hopping with locals.  To save you the pain that it caused me I have provided the address and maps because it's an AWESOME bar and impossible to find.  This isn't NYC where taxi drivers actually know where they are going.  These guys are going to need step-by-step instructions to get you there.

Rua Desembargador Manoel de Andrade Teixeira | Praia do Flamengo, Salvador, State of Bahia 41603-135, Brazil

Unfortunately the weather was about as cool as the bar so not a lot of people ended up showing up but we still had a fabulous time and it did eventually clear up a little.  We drank out of coconuts and I had this chicken and rice dish that was fantastic!!!

The bar also had an indoor area where they'd set up TVs so we spent the late afternoon and early evening watching the England v. Uruguay game.  It was a great scene and the Picanha Argentina steak with onions looked and tasted great (I stole some).  The only annoyance was they were so crazy with futbol fans and so short staffed that it was difficult to get drinks and food.  It was also difficult to get a cab back but we finally found one.

A little tired from the shenanigans from the week, Doc and I decided to change course and scope out an awesome place for dinner that wasn't... STEAK AND POTATOES.  We wandered around Rio Vermelho looking and looking but nothing stood out.  We then came around a corner and viola the perfect little bistro with outdoor seating.  We didn't even need to look at each other to know it was exactly what we'd been looking for.

The bistro was called Boteco de Franca and the food and WINE (yes they had wine!!!!) was amazing.  They had this florentine fish that was perfectly cooked.  We ended up getting rained out so we finished the wine on the stoop and then wandered home to pass out early since tomorrow would be a game day and we knew how crazy that would get.


This time around we elected to enter the stadium area from a different direction and then bailed on the cab because we could walk faster.  It meant that we came in through this awesome area to enter the stadium.  It was France v. Swiss and the French KILLED.  It wasn't even a game.


Low and behold though who should we run into but Keithy!!!  And then low and behold another Keithy (Mum's uncle).  All these excited meant we had no choice but to return to our favorite location... P Square.  The boys were obsessed with yelling "Laura's last night! Laura's last night!" while pummeling me with beers.  The square wasn't that exciting and I think everyone felt like having "family time" so the entire massive group of us headed back to the house for a pool party.

Inside Jokes:
"Kind of"
She wee
Christmas in Cape Town


I woke up to my alarm telling me I had about 30 minutes to shower, pack and say my "goodbyes" before my car arrived to take me to the airport.  I was so upset to be leaving especially since the rest of the group could continue on for a couple more weeks traveling through Brazil together.

I went downstairs to give everyone hugs and before I knew it found myself fully clothed in my airport the pool.  GODDAMNIT.  Right at that moment Doc came around the corner to tell me that my car was here and looked a little confused that I was standing there dripping wet.  I rushed upstairs, threw on new clothes and ran for the car.  It wasn't until I was halfway to the airport that I realized in my rush I'd left Winston (my flabongo).  Winston has been to every country with me... NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

The next 48 hours were grueling as I flew to Sao Paulo, sat through 8 hours of delays and layovers, arrived at Newark airport to find out the Airtrain was down so I had to take a bus to a train to two subways to a cab to get home.  What hell.

Two months later the memories from this trip are still with me and just as vivid as if it happened yesterday.  I got to check off a life check-box by going to FIFA World Cup, I walked away with new friends and reconnected with old ones.  I've even seen a couple of them since!  For those of you reading that were there... thank you so much for making me a part of the futbol family... I'll never forget you guys!  And to Doc... thank you for that innocent little text message that started it all.

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