Finally, after years of planning, I woke up this morning in Rio De Janeiro on the morning of the World Cup. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since. It’s hard to put into words how much I’ve looked forward to this day but it suffices to say that all the money and time I’ve spent to get here are completely forgotten.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get too excited just yet, I had to move to my new accommodation. I knew I was staying in a place called Leme, just at the end of Copacabana but apart from that I didn’t have a clue. Needless to say, I was getting twitchy as the directions from random passers by took me into the depths of a Favela. This was my first experience and I was particularly nervous as I had all my valuables and possessions with me. For those unfamiliar with favelas, they are the slums in Brazil and historically are categorised as the most dangerous places for Gringos (tourists) in Brazil. However, a few years ago the government began a campaign to pacify the favelas which has been largely successful and now tourists can enter on tours and even stay in accommodation with relative ease.
My new place is absolutely incredible. It may not be in the quietest of areas, it may not have a thick mattress, it does require a long ass walk up the hill every day, but the whole thing is worth it for the view from the common area. You can see across the whole Favela and down to the coast with the mountains in the background, it’s pretty spectacular. I love the quirkiness of it as well. I’m actually living in the Favela! A place where you could have been shot on sight a few years ago. This probably doesn’t fill the family back home with too much confidence but I assure you its safe as van be.
After dropping my bags we headed to the Fifa Fanfest, an area set up on Copacabana to accommodate the 20,000 fans that head to the beach daily. After a lot of drinking the Brazil game kicked off and the world cup was underway. I was completely shocked to see that having stood for hours of the pre match shows, a huge number of Brazilians sat down to watch the game and shouted at others to do the same. It only lasted twenty minutes before people got fed up and stood up again but when combined with the early goal Brazil conceded, it definitely killed the atmosphere. Obviously Brazil went on to win the match and the celebrations resumed in fairly good style, but definitely not what I’d expected from the local fans.
A little underwhelmed, we headed to Lapa. By now I was travelling with a fairly substantial group although we were staying in various different hostels around the city. Lapa was always going to be the meet up point. The nightlife there is second to none, especially on Friday nights where the street party gathers numbers into the tens of thousands. Today was Thursday but we expected a fairly good crowd to be heading there after the game. We weren’t disappointed when we arrived and ended up joining a live band procession before eventually settling under the Arcos Da Lapa. Suddenly people arrived from every direction carrying the most bizarre assortment of instruments I’ve in one place.
We danced the night away, attempting and failing dramatically to Samba like the locals. Although the alcohol was partly responsible I could definitely feel the sheer bliss of the moment waive any normal inhibitions that I have and it felt completely liberating. I finally had some insight into that part of the Brazilian lifestyle and I absolutely loved it. How could I ever leave this place?
I met a girl in Baltimore. I had just got off the coach from Philadelphia and I caught a local bus into downtown. I was completely lost and without the confidence to use my tablet in public I really didn’t know what to do. The bus driver had given me a rough indication on where I needed to get off but from there I was clueless.
Sitting there panicking away to myself, I noticed a girl glancing at me from the other side of the bus. I didn’t think about it too much at the time with everything else that was going through my mind. I got off the bus at the stop I’d been told I needed and the girl soon followed. She asked me if I knew where I was going and I confided that I didn’t. She took the address I was staying at and told me that I needed another bus out of downtown and the stop was a couple of miles away. She said she could walk me there so I duly followed.
It turns out this girl had spent the last few years travelling and volunteering in Africa and South America. She’d returned a few weeks ago to resume her studies in Baltimore. She had noticed my backpack and the pained look on my face and it had reminded her of when she’d arrived somewhere new for the first time.
The whole walk she asked me about my trip, where I’d been, where I was going and listened throughout, enthralled about what I had to say. In truth, I was more interested in her tales as volunteer work in Africa is about as fascinating as it gets but she kept returning the focus to me.
We finally arrived at my destination and she asked me if I had any other questions to which I said no. She said goodbye, wished me luck and turned on her heels and walked back the way we’d come, to her house by the original bus stop. We didn’t even exchange names.
That’s the sort of kindness that is not common enough anymore but its also the sort of kindness that stays with you. “Look Up” reminded me of that event and how fortunate I was that the girl didn’t have her head buried in her IPhone and was able to notice me. Hopefully one day I can pass one the favour.
Having been to Walmart to stock up on some Road Trip essentials we were in no hurry to get to the Grand Canyon as we wanted to arrive for sunrise the next. Consequently, we decided to stop off and visit the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.
The Dam is a pretty magnificent sight and a great test for Vertigo. It’s also the point where California meets Nevada. However I was far more impressed with Lake Mead:
After spending the afternoon at the Lake we moved onto Williams for an overnight stop before moving on to the Grand Canyon.
(This post is not in order so don’t get confused that I’ve magically moved from the Grand Canyon to San Francisco)
I thought it was going to be a lonely day in San Francisco when I set out in the morning to the official Arsenal Supporters Pub: Maddie McGarrys. Although I’d enjoyed the Blind Pig in New York, the turnout had been fairly low as the game meant nothing for Arsenal’s season. I wasn’t expecting the turnout in San Francisco to be any better.
As I made my way up Grant Street, a sea of red appeared on the horizon. Bear in mind that this is San Francisco where it’s so hilly that half the time the horizon is only a few metres ahead of you so it’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds. Anyway, it quickly became obvious that any preconceptions I had on Arsenal support overseas were completely off the mark. The pub had been full for a good half an hour and the crowd gathered outside was growing rapidly. Needless to say I was pretty devastated. Had I really come this far from Wembley to try and find a good spot to watch the game, only to be left jumping at the back of a swarm of arsenal fans trying to catch a glimpse of a television 30 metres away? I hadn’t even brought my glasses.
I snuck through the crowd to the front of the line to speak to the bouncer. He was adamant that no one was going in and that their sister pub a couple of miles away was my best bet. He then proceeded to repeatedly let people in that he knew or people inside knew. I guess this is payback for all those years of favouritism I showed working at the nightclubs in Oxford. I tried everything, even the “I came all the way from London!” to which he replied “Why would you come all the way from London to San Francisco to watch a game at Wembley?”. I think I must have been half asleep when I worked out the logic on that one. Eventually I gave up and slumped against the wall and put on the most pathetically resigned face you’ve ever witnessed. It must have been fairly tragic because he took pity on me just a couple of minutes after kick off and I pushed my way through to take up my place at the bar.
The rest is history to those who actually want to know about the game. The rest of the day was spent celebrating, hugging random strangers and excessive amounts of drinking. God I love the Arsenal.
I wanted to make it clear in my last post on New York how I changed my opinion on Brooklyn but I haven’t posted it yet and I think as it stands I may annoy some people so need to set the record straight. Brooklyn is a fantastic place and I wasnt staying in a bad area. I only write what I felt at the time and arriving in pitch black in Brooklyn is pretty intimidating no matter which area you go to! By the time I left I was than happy to walk anywhere. The only reason I was intimidated in the first place is the preconception that television and films give people of the Brooklyn area.
I’ve also been told that I did not in fact cross the Hudson but the East River, apologies!