Sunday, May 1, 2011

Road trip to Peró, Rio de Janeiro (Cabo Frio)

We had planned to visit Rio de Janeiro for the first time in January, but very unfortunately, we had to cancel our trip. Since then, I've been dreaming of the beach.

I honestly think that the beach is the perfect vacation spot for our family. There's something to keep everyone entertained, you can make a big mess and be loud and no one cares, and there are lots of things to try and explore. So, I kept pestering my husband about going. After studying our school/work calendar, I realized that Semana Santa (the week before Easter) was going to be the only time (besides Christmas) that we had the same vacation time. So I pushed some more, and finally my dear husband relented.

Since we were still recovering from the shock of buying school supplies, and our rent and condominium rates went up (arggggg) we decided to keep it on the cheap. Plus I'm just cheap. I spent a lot of time online looking for an apartment to rent, so we could do our own cooking. I mostly looked at Alugue Temporada (or it's English version, Home Away). A LOT of time. Like hours, and hours and hours. What I did was find a town/beach, then just start emailing all the owners. What happened was that many people responded quickly, but they would not remember to include pertinent details. Like the price. Or how close to the beach it was. What I learned: just call when planning for a vacation rental. Brazilians are still getting used to using email/the internet for selling and promoting things, and (in my opinion), because this is such a relational culture, it's just better to talk to people. After the 2nd rental didn't work out, I started getting panicky because our vacation was just a month away. I started calling people, and that's when I really made any headway. Another word of wisdom: never believe that you have a place reserved, until you've paid and you get confirmation from the owner.

We finally decided on this place. The price was right, it was outside of Cabo Frio, so a little calmer, and close to the beach.

The other way we decided to save on money was to drive. I'd looked into taking a bus, but with a family of 5, it really starts to add up. Plus, it was a chance to take a road trip with the Fusca (the bug).

Yes, we drove over 1000 kilometers with 3 children in a foreign country in a Fusca.

We are crazy. And it was great.

But it would have been better had 2 things happened. 1. Somebody besides Shelley was in charge of maps/directions, and 2. driving in Brasil wouldn't be so difficult. I am what some might kindly refer to as "directionally challenged." My husband asked me once if I always have to turn around when I drive. I can get lost in our parking garage. I could get lost in my hometown of 2500 people. I can't tell you which direction north is. Give me a map, and you throw in a whole other series of problems. You'd think that both my husband and I would know this, but apparently we are slow learners. I printed probably 20 pages of maps and directions. And we were fine until we got to our first major turn of the first freeway (thankfully this was about 5 hours into our trip). Another thing I learned on this trip: freeways and streets are usually not marked here. But there are signs that tell you which way a road might take you. So, it's helpful to have a map that indicates which towns you will pass through and go by when you are traveling in Brasil.

We weren't sure where to get from one highway to another, stopped and asked someone for help. Granted, stopping to ask for help was asking the random guy standing in the middle of the interchange. He gave us the wrong directions, which we accidentally didn't follow, and somehow ended up going the right way. But I second guessed myself, and we turned around. We had to pay to go through a toll booth, and essentially wasted an hour driving around. Grrrr. After we finally got going the right way, it became clear that we weren't going to make it to our destination before dark. We left at 7 AM, expecting to arrive well before 5:00 pm. But Google maps must give time estimates for cars that drive well over 110 kph, and it doesn't take into account that every little town you go through has at least 2 massive speed bumps that you have to practically stop for. Nor does it take into account the huge hills, getting stuck behind a truck full of chickens going 10 kph up that hill, and horse drawn carts (of which we saw seven). That last 2 hours was the worst, because it was abundantly clear to me that I really had no idea where we were going, that we were going to be driving in the dark, and that my maps and print outs were not going to do ANYTHING for us. I'd like to say it was all rainbows and flowers and happy thoughts in the car, but....well, it we just weren't at our best. But by some miracle, we made it through Cabo Frio proper, and then stopped at a gas station for directions to the praca by the house were we were staying. And we made it. 12 1/2 hours later.

Thankfully I'm not the only one that has suffered through traveling in Brasil--Danielle in Brazil talks about driving to a new place in Brazil here. It's hard to redeem that kind of trip with a beach, but after 3 days, I think we had recovered from our drive.

So that's the road trip part (at least the way there). Coming soon--pictures! Descriptions of the beach! Fun stories! Stay tuned...

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