Upon entering the somewhat scary hotel gym in Salvador for the last time, Carlie thought she should snap a few pics of the “fitness center” to illustrate the level of her determination to stay on the pre-season training regimen. These are primarily for Don, Carlie’s trainer at the Center for Athletic Performance in Scottsdale, and of course JC and KM at Fordham if they are following along.
Since this was our last day at the Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel we thought we should mention how good the complimentary buffet breakfasts were. The coffee was very good—a necessity for me—and Carlie thought the orange juice was delicious (not so much on the guava juice though). She also really liked the eggs, which says something because she’s very picky about eggs and typically avoids them. The highlight though would have to be the many different fruits on offer. We didn’t recognize all of them, but the ones we did try were very good. The pineapple was excellent, and the cantaloupe was such a bright orange color I may have been eating something else entirely. I didn’t care, and it made me feel adventurous.
We decided to depart the hotel at 10:00 AM for our 1:30 PM flight, an allowance that was no doubt on the conservative side for a Saturday, but we were taking no chances with the unusual traffic patterns we had become all too familiar with. Our taxi driver took the coastal route up to SSA, so we were able to see a part of the city we had not seen before, and the traffic was very light. So after a quick and uneventful check-in for our flight to Rio we found ourselves with well over 2 hours to kill, and no earlier flight to catch.
Anyone familiar with Carlie’s eating and snacking habits (i.e., pretty much every two hours) would not be surprised to hear that, despite our 9:00 AM breakfast she was already hungry. And so we wandered around the shops and restaurants that line the terminal outside the security entrance, looking for an acceptable food option and thinking we also might find a place where to re-stock for Carlie’s “Panini” supply. Not the sandwich, but the national team sticker book published for each World Cup. The cost of the book is insignificant (like a cheap cell phone), and comes with a few “starter” players that can be affixed immediately, but these are just teasers. The remaining 600 or so required to complete the set are sold in small packs containing 5 or 7 for between $0.50 and $1.50 depending upon where you get them. The cost of completing the Panini in terms of both time and money will ultimately be dictated in part by dumb luck, and in part by Carlie’s determination to find good trading partners with whom she can exchange her small stack of “dupes”. See the photos below if you still have no idea what I’m talking about.
I must say I have enjoyed being witness to Carlie’s excitement when she pulls a favorite player, a well-known player or even a random Japanese guy that’s missing from her nearly completed Japan pages. This activity is good clean family fun, suitable for all ages, and I highly recommend it for anyone who, like Carlie, does not yet have a day job. And we did find a bookstore in the terminal with Paninis hidden behind the counter (we had to ask), and they were about ½ the price we paid in Miami (the max so far), so we reloaded with 20 packs. Carlie also reloaded with an American-style cheeseburger at Bob’s Burgers, which satisfied the 3-day hankering she developed when we first spotted one of these places across the street from our hotel.
Another small world moment (I know, it’s really getting old). Sitting at the gate, Carlie was tearing apart Panini packs and studiously affixing here new finds, while I wrote some notes for the “blog”, if that’s what you call this. With some level of excitement she pulled a Cesc Fabregas, and the young guy sitting next to her, said “Oh, are you a fan of Spain?” To which Carlie replied “Yeah, that’s my favorite team, and my favorite player is Sergio Ramos”, or something like that. Then he asked Carlie what her favorite club team was, and of course she said “Real Madrid” It’s a Ramos thing, obviously.
Rewind to Memorial Day Weekend. We watched the UEFA Champion’s League Final between Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid up in Flag. Our good friends the Marottas were visting for the weekend, so they watched with us, and yes, we got them into Larry’s Pants. Anyway, late in the game the “real” Madrid side made a late substitution, and a young striker named “Marota” came on. We joked about the name similarity, and that was that, other than that I wrote it to the hard drive, like I do most things soccer.
Back to the Present. The young man next to Carlie, handsome as he was, then proceeded to mention that his little brother plays for Real Madrid. Yeah right. “He’s not a regular starter”, he said, “but he did get to play in the UEFA Champion’s League Final, coming on in the 75th minute….his name is Alvaro Morata”. Naturally we pretended not to be too impressed, and continued our pleasant chat about soccer, noting how nearly perfect his English was. He went to school in London, works for Twitter in Madrid, and was in Brazil on business. Sounded uninteresting enough, until he added that he’s there consulting with the Spanish National Team, particularly those that like to tweet in English. Keeps them out of trouble, apparently. He had just left a meeting with Sergio’s brother. Sergio likes to tweet in English, but according to Carlie, who of course follows him, some of his English tweets don’t make any sense.
He took off his iPhone case, which has a funny (as in inside joke) Twitter hashtag on the back, gave it to her, she put it on her iPhone, and they proceeded to do whatever it is two people do on Twitter to enable them to follow each other. I usually ignore people in airports, which I guess explains why I never meet interesting people like this. I also have a Blackberry.
So enough about that. Once on board for our flight to Rio, Carlie immediately noticed that the older gentleman and young woman in the row behind us were working on their Paninis. I’m pretty sure they were Dutch too. Soon after a 3-way trading system ensued that produced an impressive haul for Carlie, including Lionel Messi, Mix Diskerud, Tim Howard and Jozy Altidore. Given how sparse her U.S. team pages were at this point, it was all very exciting and made the flight pass by very quickly. Get the picture now?
Once we collected our bags in Rio we met our driver and tour guide for our five days here, Marcos, a young Brazilian we found through the hotel. We had communicated via e-mail from Salvador, and so I knew his English was very good, and that turned out to be the case. We agreed to meet up at 1:00 PM the next day to see some sights for a few hours, with the goal of being in our seats for the Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina match at least an hour or so before the 7:00 PM kick-off.
It was right around 5:00 PM when Marcos deposited us at our hotel, the Mar Ipanema Hotel just off Ipanema Beach. Conveniently, there is a casual dining restaurant just off the lobby featuring numerous flat screen TV’s. We were not only hungry, but had planned to watch the Italy vs. England match at 6:00 PM anyway, so we had found our spot.
Those who watched know it was a very exciting game, with Italy striking first and England equalizing two minutes later. The crowd in the hotel bar was mixed, perhaps leaning slightly towards England but not by much, With the score 1 – 1 at the half we chatted up the young British couple sitting next to us. English soccer fans have a very long and different history with the game and their national team compared to us. In a few words, they’re a pessimistic lot, always fearing the worst and setting their expectations for the team very low. Based upon the chances they created in the first half, among other things, and I had more far more confidence they would beat Italy than they did, especially given Italy’s cast of aging stars compared to England’s youth movement, but I should have listened to them.
Final score: Italy 2 – England 1