FiFA Fan Fest - Main Video Screen (BRA vs. CRO)

Thursday | June 12, 2014

After Carlie’s workout in the scary hotel gym and a very nice hotel breakfast (buffet style), we ventured up to the historical district of Salvador da Bahia, referred to by the locals as the “Pelourinho” or simply “Pelo”.  While both sound like names you might see on the back of a jersey down here, it’s actually a very charming collection of very narrow (and hilly), centuries-old cobblestone streets (as in watch your ankles) lined with churches, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and street vendors.  Very much in the European style (think “mixed commercial / residential” in terms of zoning, if any), here is a wonderful little place Salvadorans have called home for centuries.

Arriving by taxi to the “upper town”, which is connected to the port-side “lower town” by the Elevador Lacerda, we proceeded to visit the  Catedral Basilica (photos to come) on the main village square, but first there was a distraction by way of a nice photo op (see below).

Carlie, Bahia Style
Carlie, Bahia Style

The cathedral was stunning, especially given the time of its construction (1657).  You have to hand it to those Jesuits, who arrived here in the 16th century and immediately began work on a church and, guess what else, a college.  In the 17th century they built the subject church, a few interior photos of which are shown below.

Catedral Basilica - Apse
Catedral Basilica – Apse
Catedral Basilica - Altar
Catedral Basilica – Altar

Of some historical note, Salvador was the first Portuguese colonial capital of Brazil, and is among the oldest cities of the New World (1549).  Pelourinho means “pillory”, and is so named for the whipping post once used for disciplinary purposes in the central square, primarily (but not only) for the many African slaves that arrived to this Atlantic port during colonization and helped build this great city.

From prior experience, and despite measurable attitude adjustment over the years, I knew better than to proceed to the second religious site on my list, so we instead walked across the bustling (and raucous) central square and spent an hour or so wandering up and down the numerous side streets that make up the Pelourinho.  I procured a Brazil national team cap (a sensible choice for later) and Carlie sat down for a colored (threaded?) braid, done in support of the red, white & blue (also sensible, but for much later).

Carlie being braided in Salvador
Carlie being braided in Salvador

Having taken in what we could, and with our eye on the clock and the 5:00 PM kick-off, we headed back across the square and rode the “elevador” what seemed like 15 stories down to the port-side lower  town.  We did peek over the “overlook” beforehand, which immediately increased our appreciation for the “lift” (a bargain for RS 0,15), given the extreme steepness of the slope and number of “switchbacks” it would have otherwise taken to navigate the trip.

Elevador connecting the upper and lower towns
Elevador connecting the upper and lower towns

For our last stop here in the old town we visited the Mercado Modelo, which is directly across the street from the elevator egress. Here we found a large indoor market resembling an airplane hangar, lined end-to-end and side-to side with local arts & crafts, souvenirs and many other items we perused but opted not to acquire.  It was definitely worth a quick visit, and if nothing else it illustrated how quickly the weather changes here.  Bright and sunny on the way in, and after a very short time pouring rain on the way out, a pattern that would prove to repeat itself during our time here.  Given the rain and dearth of taxis in the lower town, we rode the lift back up and quickly found transport back to the Monte Pascoal.

We saw these "fellas" on our way back from the historical district.  This sort of thing is just not advisable.
We saw these “fellas” on our way back to the hotel.  Game day or not, this level of coordination is just not advisable, right?

After picking up Subway sammies (I know, I know, but it’s right across the street from the hotel, and besides, only the cheese and lettuce looked familiar) and enjoying a brief in-room respite, we headed down the boardwalk to the insanity that is “FIFA Fan Fest”.

On the line to get in we met Myles, Joe, Theo and another young gent whose name we’ve already forgotten.  We’ll just call the four of them “the Australians” for ease of reference, since that’s where they live, sort of.  While Carlie sipped on the Smirnoff Ice, 5% alcohol by volume, she acquired (with my authorization) from one of the boardwalk vendors lining the route, the Australians kept us entertained as the line crept forward down the boardwalk–and as they dragged their disposable cooler along with them.  I gave an assist for a few hundred yards, and we became fast friends,  or maybe it was because Carlie was there.

It’s hard not to be envious of these 20-somethings on an extended holiday which will take them, among other places, to Los Angeles, then clear across the Sunbelt through New Orleans to Florida, and up the Eastern seaboard to New York, which they expect to hit some time in December.  We are thankful to have met the Australians and have given them an open invitation to visit us in Phoenix, or if they prefer, Flagstaff.

FIFA Fan Fest - Video screen on the way in
FIFA Fan Fest – Video screen on the way in
FiFA Fan Fest - Main Video Screen (BRA vs. CRO)
FiFA Fan Fest – Main Video Screen (BRA vs. CRO)

Some of you may be wondering whether or not the Australians made it into the venue with their cooler.  Check back here later for the GoPro video clip to see how the policia handled that one. 

Carlie with the Australians - FIFA Fan Fest, Salvador
Carlie with the Australians – FIFA Fan Fest, Salvador

Match Note:  Although we were still in the line  to get in when Croatia scored first, we did see the Brazil equalizer on the big screen, and everything after that.  The penalty was a gift (Fred took a dive), as I’m sure you have seen by now and just nodded in agreement, and with the disallowed Croatia goal being questionable the result for the “Purinas” seemed unjust.  We saw the result through “safety glasses” though; we did not want the multitude of Brazilians to leave unhappy, so no one in our group was complaining.

The final whistle came shortly after 7:00 PM local time, so we stopped in to an Italian place we had spied earlier along the boardwalk, Pizzeria Quattro Amici, for some sustenance.  Communication was a bit challenging here (no bread for me, apparently, even though I knew how to say it), so we gave up and just ordered pizza, which turned out to be delicious.

The pizzas...YUM!
The pizzas…YUM!

Apologies for the long post, but it was a long day, and we were happy to turn in early as we headed into our first official Match Day (ESP vs. NED) on Friday.

Final score: Brazil 2 – Croatia 1


Forte de Santo Antonio and Lighthouse, also the backdrop for FIFA Fan Fest - Salvador

Wednesday | June 11, 2014

Apologies, but we are catching up on posts here after a couple of days in Bahia, Salvador.  Upon arrival here around mid-day Wednesday we checked into our accommodations at the Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel, situated on the Atlantic Coast side of the peninsula.   Finding the room cozy (but adequate for our purposes) we decided to stay.  I jest, of course, since our other choices would likely have been outdoors.  We do have just what we need here, but nothing more really.  The plumbing seems to struggle a bit, and the WiFi works best out in the hallway or down in the lobby, where we are presently stationed, but we are not complaining.

Our room at the Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel, Salvador
Our room at the Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel, Salvador
View from our balcony - Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel
View from our balcony – Monte Pascoal Praia Hotel

After some in-room down time to recover from the 25-hour, 3-flight odyssey (PHX-MIA-GIG-SSA), we ventured out along the “boardwalk” and strolled down to the Bahia Lighthouse , which forms the backdrop for “FIFA Fan Fest – Salvador”, the free public venue where all matches can be viewed on multiple, enormous video screens (more on this later).

Forte de Santo Antonio and Lighthouse, also the backdrop for FIFA Fan Fest - Salvador
Forte de Santo Antonio and Lighthouse, also the backdrop for FIFA Fan Fest – Salvador

Having thus scoped out where we would enjoy the Opening Match between Brazil and Croatia the next day, we headed back towards the hotel and enjoyed a very nice (and somewhat overdue) meal under the covered patio at Caranguejo do Farol.  After ordering the “Muffins w/Queijo” (not muffins as we know them, but round balls like Spanish croquettas filled with cheese), Carlie enjoyed an enormous filet w/onions on a “skillet” of sorts, while I tucked into the Shrimp Risotto (see photos below).  Service was painfully slow, but both were delicious and worth the wait.

Carlie's filet w/onions, on a hot plate of sorts
Carlie’s filet w/onions, on a hot plate of sorts
Jeff's Shrimp Risotto
Jeff’s Shrimp Risotto

During our stroll back along the beach to our hotel we came upon a what can only be described as a most  spirited “pick-up” game of beach soccer between two local sides.  These guys were fast (and ripped), skilled and definitely took the game a bit more seriously than I think we both expected.  It seemed like they played to 3 goals (first to 3), and a 3rd team rotated in for the losers of the first game.  We watched that one too.  It was just as entertaining, but I would not describe it as a “friendly”.

Night time beach soccer, Salvador
Night time beach soccer, Salvador

Exhausted, we tucked into our matching full-size beds for some well-earned rest.   What actually happened though, was Carlie got to experience my high decibel snoring firsthand, and so she slept fitfully and thought it would help to pelt me with pillows and other soft objects, including “Turtie”.  We will attempt to resolve this issue in the future with earplugs, unless anyone has any better ideas.

Tomorrow (Day 2), and only after Carlie’s mandated pre-season Fordham workout in the hotel gym, we plan to visit Centro Historico,  see some old churches and take in some of the pre-World Cup vibe before joining the madness at the FIFA Fan Fest for the opening match, pitting Brazil against Croatia, at 5:00 PM local time.

Sunrise over Rio de Janeiro

Tuesday | June 10, 2014 (Getting There)

Hello Friends and Fam,

We made it to Miami (MIA) and are passing significant time in the Admiral’s Club before our overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro.  From there we will catch a 2-hour flight that should put us into Salvador by 11:00 AM tomorrow, June 11th.

P-Wags chillin' in the Admiral's Club at MIA
P-Wags chillin’ in the Admiral’s Club at MIA

We have already seen and talked to many other soccer fans headed to different cities in Brazil, including a couple of Brits that will attending two of our games.  Such nice chaps!

Over and out until we get off the plane in Salvador, check in and reestablish a good Wi-Fi connection.

TAM is Brazil’s main airline, and ours too until we return to the U.S. on the 24th of June
6+ hour layover, officially over.
6+ hour layover, officially over.
Carlie - Comfy 'n stuff?
Carlie – Comfy ‘n stuff?
Sunrise over Rio de Janeiro
Sunrise over Rio de Janeiro…almost there…

We will try our best to keep this up-to date, and interesting, so please let us know if you are following us…

Jeff & Carlie