We're back from our excellent adventure to Brazil and have a load of good memories and a few photos. Thanks for all of the Brazil tips you and the website provided. The whole experience was smooth and pleasant. This was my second visit to Brazil and Pocone since leaving in 1966. It was my partner Susan's first trip, and she enjoyed it immensely. She's a great traveler and is ready to go back and see the rest of Brazil. We both listened to Portuguese CD's (Pimsleur) several months before the trip which was very helpful. I was also able to get a copy of the spiral bound Oral Brazilian Portuguese by Hoge & Lunardini that many of the early Brazil bound PC training groups used ("O bonde Lapa passa por aqui?"......."Passa sim, senhorita").
We took advantage of TAM Airlines Brazil Air Pass which provided 4 stops anywhere in Brazil for $600 per passenger. We landed in Sao Paulo and flew to Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba and Rio. Not only did the TAM Air Pass work well, we didn't have to pay for meals or checked baggage like you do for most US domestic flights today. We began the trip by spending 3 days in Ouro Preto to recover from the 36 hour trip from San Francisco, and really enjoyed the leisurely sight seeing. We then went to Brasilia for a belated observance of the 50th anniversary of its dedication, and then on to Cuiaba and Pocone, Mato Grosso. Central Cuiaba was barely recognizable due to the numerous tall buildings (pop. 500,000+). We took the bus from Cuiaba to Pocone (2 hours) and found that the 2 main pracas had been landscaped, paved and illuminated, but the town was still (unlike Cuiaba) quite recognizable. It appeared to have prospered, based on cattle ranching and Pantanal tourism. In fact, there were a few upscale fashion shops. We didn't find anyone I knew or worked with in Pocone, but managed to get together with some old friends who now live in Cuiaba. I was able to contact a few more people when I visited in 1986.
We wrapped up the trip with 3 great days in Rio, staying at the new Hotel Florida with a pool and bar on the roof. The bartender was friendly and made excellent caipirinhas. We booked through "hotels.com" and got a very affordable rate. The Catete/Flamengo/Gloria neighborhood was better than some of the entries on the "expcvsbrazil" website had led us to expect. We took advantage of the "new" Metro system, boarding one block away from the Hotel Florida at the Catete Station. It was inexpensive, fast, safe and easy to use. We also took the trolley across the aqueduct to Santa Teresa, which provided great views. The food and drink were outstanding throughout Brazil, and we were introduced to banana pizza with a chocolate/cinnamon syrup topping at a restaurant in Rio featuring a pizza rodizio. We also had bacalhau pizza a couple of times.
One thing that didn't change at all in the 44 years since leaving the Peace Corps and Pocone was the outstanding hospitality of the Brazilians. What most struck Susan, who has traveled to several countries, was the way Brazilians would go out of their way to help us, even when we didn't ask.
For any returned PCVs from Brazil who haven't returned, I highly recommend a visit. It's a great nostalgia trip and an excellent opportunity to witness profound economic development. You can also keep sharp by brushing up on your Portuguese.
I'm attaching one photo of me holding my stomach in at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia.