Monday, April 18, 2011

Miami with Kamalich and Meme and the Mondrian Hotel Upgrade...

Hello Friends,
I haven't been to Miami for 11 years.  I used to come here for the Calle Ocho Music Festival where they feature Latino and Caribbean Music.  It is often called the nation's "largest block party and hispanic festival.  This festival took place last month so I just missed it.  What I have noticed on this trip to Miami is how different Miami looks to me as I am now older.  Before, I would be all over south beach and visiting all the clubs and parties.   Now, I took a more chilled out and relaxed vacation to Miami with my friends.  Kamalich and Meme are staying at the famous Mondrian Hotel for the week.  They were nice enough to let me stay in their room and get a pull out bed for me.  

This is considered a 5 star boutique hotel.  The prices of the rooms are insane and the food is ridiculous but it is one of those trendy, modern hotels that do offer some luxury that the other big chain hotels do not.  The entire hotel is basically all black white with flashes of color to pop the decor.  Our friend Meme is quite the talker and was able to convince the nice hotel to give us an upgrade to a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite with a bay view balcony.  Thanks Meme!  :) What a way to stay on my last night in Miami before heading home!


Meme and I on the balcony


Meme, Kamalich and I

pool side sunset

Pool side

Pool side at sunset

Mondrian lobby

Kamalich and I

Sexy Mamas.. Meme and Kamalich

We are so excited about our huge upgrade to our 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite!!!

Our living space

Our Kitchen

One of the bathrooms

One of the bedrooms

Our balcony

View below from our balcony

Kamalich and I

I am finally back on the mainland and wanted to visit my brother in West Palm Beach before returning back to Chicago.  My brother has been living in Lake Worth, Fl for the past 7 years.  He has been working at this Cuban/Nuevo Latino restaurant, named Cabana and took me there for lunch.  It was delicious!  Thanks Manoy.

Manoy and I

Camarones de Coco

Coconut dipped shrimp with a maduro mash

Tostones Relleno: fried green plantains stuffed with chicken sofrito and ropa vieja

arepas con queso:  corn meal cakes with queso blanco (white cheese) melted on top

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ola amigos! My trip around the world is almost over.....

Hello friends,
I wanted to enjoy Rio and the rest of the city before I return to the mainland tomorrow.  I can't believe that my journey is almost over.
I woke up early this morning so I could catch a bus to Corcovado.  This is where the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Rendentor) is located.

This is the second largest Art Deco statue in the entire world and is probably the most photographed image of Rio!  it is made of concrete, soapstone and stands at an amazing 130 feet tall. It is located on top of Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park.

Chist the Redeemer
It was great to finally get to the top.  The humidity was so overwhelming.  I am smiling but my shirt is dripping in sweat!  

Brazil's National cocktail made of cachaca  (distilled alcoholic beverage), sugar and lime

Tram that took me up to Christ the Redeemer

View from Corcovado

After seeing the statue, I went into the City Center and visited the areas of Santa Teresa and Lapa.
Santa Teresa is a district filled with artists, writers and creative minds.  It's an 18th century hillside town filled with lots of historical architecture.  Lapa is known for it's aqueduct arches and it is the mecca of Rio's nightlife since the 1950's.  The areas were filled with lots of culture but the streets were often crowded with homeless people and people sleeping in the streets in the middle of the day.   It was quite a different atmosphere from the touristy beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

Arcos da Lapa

Catedral Sao Sebastiaod

Pedro's mom!

When I got home, my host Pedro took me for one last motorcycle ride around the town.  I'm still not used to the speed of his bike and his weaving in between cars but I trusted that he would get me back safe.  The rush of being on his bike was exhilarating and exploring Rio with him will always be remembered.  

What a way to end my 6 month trip around the world.  During this time, I have been to Dominican Republic, South Korea, India, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Hawaii and now I am heading to Miami to visit my brother before heading back to Chicago.  It was 13 countries and I have no idea how many flights and miles, trains, cars, automobiles, motorcycles and rickshaws that I have used.

I can't say how my trip has changed me but it has.  I can definitely say that I am a lot more crazy, more courageous and appreciative of how short life is and how I want to always live it to the fullest.  All I can say is time definitely flies by when you are busy having fun and exploring the world.  I have met some of the most fascinating, intelligent, well traveled, enlightened individuals on this journey and they have ALL made my experience around the world something that I will never ever forget.  

My experience of CouchSurfing and the people who have hosted me in 9 different countries have given me a new meaning of what it means to be selfless and to give unconditional generosity of their time, home and lives to a complete stranger.  I have met an amazing friend on my journey and I will continue to travel the entire west coast on the road with her when I get back to Chicago.   I have decided to extend my journey for another month when I get back.  It's funny where life takes you.  

To be continued......