Brazil, The World Cup, and Traveling With Your Bros
About a year ago, four of my friends and I had the idea of going to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. It was one of those things that seemed doomed from the very beginning: coordinating vacation time, getting visas, finding accommodation during the world’s largest sporting event, and getting the expensive flights were just a few of the many obstacles.
Personally, I didn’t have much faith that we would actually get our shit together and pull it off. Planning a trip by yourself is one thing, corralling a bunch of cats and dogs to do the same is another. But little by little, the plan came together: we bought our flights, won the match ticket lottery, got our visas, and booked the accommodation.
As the days ticked down to my departure date, I realized that I was soon to be in Brazil, often said to be the spiritual center of football, for the greatest sporting event in the world, with four of my best friends. This was going to be a whole ‘nother level.
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I landed a day early and checked into El Misti House in Copacabana. A smaller hostel, it had the infamous Brazilian triple bunks that may put you in an eternal sleep if you fall off from the top. Fortunately, I had chosen a quadruple room with only double bunks. Last time I was in Rio, I stayed in Ipanema so this was actually my first time sleeping in Copa. While geographically close, I found the two neighborhoods to be very different.
Ipanema is a much higher end neighborhood and generally seems quieter and cleaner. Despite the fact that it was a bit more run down, Copacabana had a much livelier atmosphere. Everywhere you went you saw corner juice stores, sandwich shops, and people hustling and bustling. Ipanema, in comparison, seemed like a ghost town.
Other than my change in locale, I felt like not much of Rio had changed, at least based on what I remembered from ’09. There were still a ton of local restaurants, the people were just as friendly, and they still loved their Brahmas and meat. For me, the most noticeable change was the absence of the “colectivos” that used to run down Avenida Atlantica, the main road connecting Ipanema to Copa. There were many nights where I got home by jumping in a shitty run down van, squeezing in with a bunch of other drunkards, and holding on for dear life. Fast forward five years and a World Cup bid, Rio had clean city buses running the route. A part of me missed the white knuckle thrill ride but at the same time, it was nice not having to risk my life every time I wanted to get home.
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I sat in the hostel lobby the next morning eating breakfast and nursing a hangover. We had gone out in Lapa the night before and I had drank my fair share of caipirinhas and beer.
Lapa is the party spot in Rio and is famous for it’s distinctive aqueduct and cobble stone roads. On Friday and Saturday nights, the entire district goes nuts. Foreigners and locals alike pile into the neighborhood to party in the streets and bars. Not only is it packed, it’s also surprisingly cheap. Street vendors hawk ice cold beers and ridiculously strong caipirinhas for a few reais each. Sounds like a dream right? However, with that many people, and that much booze flowing, it’s inevitable that it all has to go… somewhere. As such, some streets in Lapa are literally rivers of piss. Lapa is fun, just be careful where you step.
As I finished my breakfast, I heard a familiar voice behind me ask Victoria, the receptionist, “We’re looking for our friend Paul, he’s staying here.” Nonchalantly, as if meeting them at home vs. thousands of miles away in a foreign land, I turned around.
Brian and Devon had arrived. The party was… half on. After they put their stuff away, we immediately hit the beach. Copacabana was as gorgeous as ever and because the World Cup had yet to start, it was not completely overcrowded either.
One of the best feelings in the world is having an amazing time at the start of a trip and realizing that it’s only day one. While the rest of our friends were back at home working and going through the normal day to day life, here we were, in Rio de Janiero, for the World Cup, on a world famous beach, frolicking in the water like goddamn school girls. It’s one of those moments where you can’t help but smile like you just won the fucking lottery.
Weston and Misha finally arrived in the afternoon. The crew was complete. Against all odds, these knuckleheads had made it. 2014 World Cup Brazil, was actually going to become a reality.
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The easy thing about traveling with guys is that choosing a place to eat is usually pretty easy. When in Brazil, you have to have eat BBQ so the first dinner we had was at Braseiro. An old fashioned type of place, manned by guys who know the grill inside and out, Braseiro was probably one of the best places we ate during the trip. The BBQ was plentiful, tasty and cheap; the service excellent; and the beer ice cold. All of which explains why we went back another two times.
With food out of the way, the main activity of the trip came into full focus: drinking. With five dudes all looking to party, it wouldn’t be light drinking either. The day before, in the midst of a terrible jet lag due to the complete lack of sleep on my flight, I had discovered an energy drink unique to Brazil by the name of “TNT”. This mixed with rum or any sort of liquor would soon be dubbed a “stick of dynamite” and would follow us for the rest of the trip.
Back in our room, with a bottle of Ron Montilla rum and five sticks of TNT, the drinking got underway. Music blasting, bullshit flying, and liquor flowing, I thought to my self, “My god… it has begun.”
The tone of the trip had been set. This wouldn’t be a relaxed, laid back trip. No, this was going to be a completely different animal.
When in Brazil? Game on.