Spirit Airlines Review

Flying somewhere nowadays can require some financial planning. Airfare can be expensive for the days and times that you are  looking for. I’ve spent weeks looking for a good deal on airfare from Washington, DC to Chicago, Il and would always come across lower $300 tickets. Every time I looked online I thought to myself “I could find something better than this!” Until I did find something better – Spirit Airlines offered airfare round trip for $150. Amazing price – I didn’t even think about the catch.

Here’s the catch:

Flying with Spirit, you are responsible for paying for your luggage. So yeah, no free carry on. However, they do allow you to bring one free personal item.

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The check in process is paid if you do it at the airport. Free if you do it online.

Seats – they are also paid IF you want to choose where to sit. If you are flying solo and don’t care where to sit like me, no need to purchase this.

The airplane was ok, like any other. The crew was actually really nice and made the announcements comical in the beginning. The crew also gives a “lucky winner” 5.000 miles to use toward another airfare.

The duration of my trip was 4 days, so packing was tricky but possible with that one free personal item (I will review my packing bag on a future post).

Overall, Spirit wasn’t that bad. Great price range if you are planning to pack incredibly light.

 

 

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Santiago de Chile

 

Greetings!

I have been so caught up with school lately and did not have the time to post about this amazing trip. Well, here I am!

Back in August, Nick and I traveled to South America to visit my family in Brazil. We had issues with our flight on our way there, which resulted in the loss of an entire weekend. Due to ‘weather-related issues’ our flight from Washington, DC to Miami was delayed for 3 hours, and once we finally arrived in Miami, our connection flight had already left. Because of the Olympics, we could not get rebooked right away which made wait for three days until the next available flight. Anyway, it was a very ‘bumpy’ start but once we arrived in Brazil we had a good time. We spent a total of 21 days overseas – 16 days in Sao Paulo, Brazil and 5 days in Santiago, Chile.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Santiago is the biggest metropolitan city in Chile. The city is beautiful, very European like. Although it was winter season, Santiago felt warmer than Sao Paulo. The Andean mountains surrounding the city were breath taking. Everywhere you went in the city you could view the snow tops if you looked up. People were very friendly and welcoming. There was a lot of history, poetry, and street art all around the city. As one could expect, the Pisco and wine were amazing there! We rented a small apartment through Airbnb close to Santa Lucia metro station, to make the access easier.

Here is the itinerary we planned for the 5-day trip:

Day 1 – Santiago Highlights

We arrived in Santiago at 2:00am. So we took a taxi to the aprtment, rested, and left later in the afternoon to go on a free [tip based] tour in Santiago. This tour is called Santiago Highlights and it gave us an overview of the city as we walked around to explore. The tour requires booking online, but it is free and easy.
http://tours4tips.com/tour/santiago-highlights/


Day 2- Valparaiso + Grafitti Art + Pablo Neruda

Next morning we left early to go to the bus station and catch the bus to Valparaiso, at the coast of Chile. The bus station is metro accessible, the tickets cost about $15 dollars round trip for the two os us, and the ride took about 2 hours. The main purpose of this trip was to explore the grafitti street art on the hills of Valparaiso and visit La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house. I strongly recommend booking the grafitti tour in advance for the morning time and leaving Neruda’s house for the afternoon. The tour has a lot of walking involved and the view from Neruda’s house is amazing after noon time.

Turbus https://www.turbus.cl/wtbus/indexCompra.jsf
The link for the graffitti tour is http://www.valpostreetart.com/walking-tours.html
The link for La Sebastiana is http://www.fundacionneruda.org/en/la-sebastiana/visitors-information ( Tour can be booked there, no need to be booked before hand)


Day 3- Santiago offbeat + San Cristoban Hill + Pablo Neruda’s house

Then again, we used Tour for Tips to take the Offbeat tour. It was really refreshing and we felt like we were exploring the town as locals. We learned some political history from the Pinochet’s era and visited a historic cemetery. The tour ended at a bar, with a drink called Terremoto. It was delish!

Later that day we headed to San Cristoban Hill where we took the tram up top and enjoyed the beauty of the city skyline. The panoramic view was breath taking! Pablo Neruda’s house is located by the foot of the hill and I strongly recommend combining the two once you go there.
Link to Santiago offbeat tour http://tours4tips.com/tour/santiago-offbeat-walk/
Link to San Cristoban http://santiagotourist.com/cerro-san-cristobal-spectacular-panoramic-view-of-santiago/


Day 4 – Concha y Toro + Souvenir shopping

We felt like visiting a winery was a must on this trip. We decided to visit Concha y Toro, probably the most popular winery in town. To save us from falling on a tourist trap, we did not book a paid tour for this. We planned to take public transportation to the last metro station of the blue line (Plaza de Puente Alto) and from there we took a taxi to Concha y Toro. This way is much more economic – the metro cost C$1600 pesos round trip for each of us and taxi came to C$13000 – 15000 pesos each way.

I am a souvenir junkie. I always reserve some time in my trips for souvenie shopping! Surprisingly, the best souvenir and handmade market was 5 minute walk from our apartment in a place called Santa Lucia Arts and Crafts Market. They have it all, go there! The best souvenir I got was a replica of an Alpaca with real fur. I come to find out that I am allergic to the fur, but I loved it anyway. Brought him home! Also, alcohol is relatively cheap there so we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and Pisco to bring home.

Souvenir shopping ( By Santa Lucia metro) http://santiagochile.com/santa-lucia-arts-crafts-market/
Concha y Toro Vina http://www.conchaytoro.com/tour-wine-experience/reserva-tu-visita/
GraFREEtti art tour in Santiago (if time allows) http://www.stgostreetart.com/walking-tours.html


Day 5 – Cajon de Maipo 

This trip took the entire day and it was booked through Viator.com. The tour company picks you up at the hotel, as long as you are staying in the metropolitan area, and they provide food and wine. We had a small group of tourists in a van, they were all from different countries – Italy, Spain, Brazil, US, England, and of course, Chile. We spent all day together so we had an opportunity to get to know each other and I got a chance to practice my Italian skills too, which was very nice! During the trip we went to Cajon de Maipo, by the snowy mountains. It was very cold there, appropriate attire is needed!
The trip cost $100 dollars for each person, but it was worth it. I don’t enjoy skiing but if you do, I’d take this day for a skii trip to the mountain. Cajon de Maipo was my next best alternative to snow fun!

Cajon de Maipo trip https://www.viator.com/updateShoppingCartItem.jspa?itemId=581787894

CURIOSITIES AND INTERESTING FACTS:

DOGS – There are a lot of dogs in Santiago. You will see that they seem to be all well fed and most wear clothes. People in Santiago care for their furry friends and help them survive during the cold weather by feeding them and providing them with both shelter and clothing. At parks, you can see little houses placed there for the doggies to sleep. Very cool!

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MONEY CONVERSION – That took awhile. In Chile they use pesos and high numbers. While American dollar and Brazilian real can be comparable and easy to calculate at a rate of $1: R$3; converting dollar or real to pesos was hard to do so in the begining. I had to look up what they converted to and practice my math skills. At the stores, I calculated everything to make sure I was getting a good deal or not spending too much. Always took my time!

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – Santiago has a very functional metro system. The price is the same all around. When choosing your hotel, choose to stay close to one. It will make your trip way more efficient!

FOOD – Santiago is a somewhat expensive city, and that was proven through the price of food. Don’t keep yourself from trying different restaurants, in fact, that helps make the experience richer. However, if you can, try balancing your expenses with food by buying items at the store too. We bought some things at the store to have breakfast at the apartment, and sometimes we would pack food for lunch too so that we could spend more at dinner. That will help you keep have the best for the least when you travel on a budget.

FOOD LABELS – One thing that I found very interesting was that at the grocery stores, most food packages had large labels in front indicating whether the product was Alto en Calorias (high in calories). I asked someone why and they said that Chile is a country with a high diabetic population and that the labeling was required to be displayed in order to help minimize the issue and help the ones who already suffer from it.

UBER – Uber was actually cheap to use, when you converted cost to dollars. It was also very easy to use and we had a good experience with it. On our way out, our flight left at 7am so we had to leave the apartment at a reasonable time to make it to the airport. I was nervous to rely on an Uber at 4 am, but I took a risk and it all worked out fine. I recommend!

METRO MAP

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Sao Paulo in 72 Hours

By population, Sao Paulo is the biggest city in South America. São Paulo state has 645 municipalities and a population of approximately 40 million inhabitants. According to the latest statistics by IBGE, Brazil’s main government research institute, the population in the city of São Paulo (also the capital of Sao Paulo state) is about 11 million inhabitants  (Forbes).

I was born and raised in Sao Bernardo do Campo, in the state of Sao Paulo.  The state of Sao Paulo is a great representation of the urban scenario  with a lot of traffic, street art, difference in social realities, and lots of people who make the streets mean but also very charming. I compare it to New York, despite the lack of lights. The city that never sleeps.

I wouldn’t say that Sao Paulo has as many tourist attractions as Rio de Janeiro, but it surely has a lot to enjoy.  People usually come to Sao Paulo for layovers or business reasons. In this post, you will find a guide to a 72 hours in Sao Paulo.

Let’s start with the basics:

Metro
Sao Paulo has a large coverage of public transportation. The metro, covers the majority of the city and it is very easy to navigate. Here is the 2014 Sao Paulo metro map for your reference

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Stay
It is always a good decision to opt for convenience when you don’t know much about the place that you are visiting and have little time. I strongly recommend to book a hotel room by  metro station. The spot that I find most convenient is anywhere by Paulista Avenue. This busy street is the heart of Sao Paulo, close to many metro stations, theaters, restaurants, bars and to a shuttle stop that connects you to the International Airport of Guarulhos. When we traveled to Sao Paulo with my in-laws, we stayed at a place called Trypp Hotel by Paulista Avenue and a block away from Augusta Avenue and Consolacao Metro Station. By staying closer to a metro, you become a more independent tourist and you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving.

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Things to do at a metro radius

Mercadao Municipal de Sao Paulo (bacalhau pastel, bologna sandwich)

The Municipal Market of Sao Paulo (Mercadao) is a must for everyone. This is the most traditional gourmet hub of the city with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, sweets and foods in general. The building  was designed by the architect Francisco Ramos de Azevedo in 1926 and it was opened on January 25th in 1933, the day of Sao Paulo’s birthday.

When you go to Mercadao, go hungry. There are two traditional foods that everyone should try, Bacalla fried pastry and bologna sandwich. In case you are not a meat eater, there are several other foods to try, including a long variety of fresh made juices!

Among the gourmet places, we have traditional Italian and Portuguese restaurants serving the most delicious food. The “lanchonetes” serve the three items I mentioned above and it is beyond delicious. Check it out!

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Mercadao is open:

Monday through Saturday from 6 am to 6 pm.
Sundays and holidays from 6 am to 4 pm.

Metro Station:
Sao Bento – Blue line

Augusta Street(Restaurants, Bars, shops)

Augusta Street is a “travessa” from Paulista Avenue. It has a more hip vibe with nice restaurants, bars, and many co-op type of shops.  In those shops you can find mostly artsy items, hand made by a young adult population. Some street art and one of a kind accessories can be found at Augusta Avenue.
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Paulista Avenue (Masp, Livraria Cultura)

Paulista Avenue is like the Wall Street of Sao Paulo. Thousands of people go there to work every day, making this location very crowded at times. But Paulista Avenue is not only the financial heart of the city but also the most loved address of the people from Sao Paulo. Museums, cultural centers, street art, restaurants and bars make this place special. After work hours, the bars a filled with people who want to avoid rush hour traffic and metro clutters. After all, we can always use a happy hour after work!
Here are some of  the main attractions around Paulista:
Masp, Centro Cultural São Paulo, Casa das Rosas, Itaú Cultural Institute, Centro Cultural Fiesp, Sesc Paulista, Museum of Image and Sound, Museum of the Brazilian Home, Brazilian Museum of Sculpture, Caixa Cultural Galeria Paulista, Galeria Ouro Fino, Shopping Frei Caneca, Shopping Paulista, Shopping Center 3, Shopping Pátio Higienópolis, Trianon, Orthodox Cathedral, Consolação Cemetery.

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The one place you must eat at is Black Dog. This is a hot dog place but with a Brazilian twist. The hot dogs are created on a similar system as Subway; you choose a style of hot dog and add the toppings you want. All hot dogs are pressed. This is a must!
http://www.blackdog.com.br/

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Batman Alley (Street Art)

Sao Paulo is the home of many wonderful street artists such as Os Gemeos, Alex Senna, Rodrigo Branco,  Zeh Palito, L7M and Tikka. Street art can be found all around the city of Sao Paulo, but there is one place that is a must see if you enjoy street art, Batman Alley.
Batman Alley (Beco do Batman) is an open air gallery situated in Vila Madalena by the Clinicas metro station. The art space started back in 1980, when a drawing of batman was found on the wall. The location is well preserved and very desired by the artists. Street artists contribute to their artwork on the alley walls on a regular basis, so each time you visit you may see something different.

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When visiting this area, also check out the store La da Venda. It is located right at the adjacent street to Beco do Batman, at Harmonia Street. They sell handmade, vintage and one of a kind items.

Street art galleries can be found around Batman Alley and you can also purchase prints at A7MA gallery.

Choque Cultural is also a gallery worth visiting. It is small, but free. It features some artwork from local street artists.
https://www.facebook.com/ChoqueCultural

Beco do Batman
End.: Rua Gonçalo Afonso e Rua Medeiros de Albuquerque – Vila Madalena – São Paulo.

Lá da Venda
End.: Rua Harmonia, 161 – Vila Madalena – São Paulo.

A7MA galley
Rua Harmonia 95B Vila Madalena Sao Paulo
http://a7ma.art.br/

Feira Benedito Calixto

This is a open air market located at Square Benedito Calixto and it is about a 12 minute walk from Batman Alley.
This fair features handmade items, vintage and clothing collections by one of a kind artists. It is almost like an Etsy fair! Worth checking it out  to find some treasures to bring home.

Praça Benedito Calixto, 158/162 – Pinheiros – São Paulo – SP

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Hey It’s Mi Blog

Martinelli Building (First Skyscraper of Sao Paulo)

Giuseppe Martinelli was an Italian immigrant who migrated to Brazil in search of  prosperity. He was very successful and he built a respected “equity” in a little over two decades.The building  Martinelli was the first skyscraper of Sao Paulo. It was built in the beginning of the 20th century, with about 30 floors and  a 360 degree view of the city of Sao Paulo.

The building is open for visitors Monday through Friday 9:30am-11:30am and 2:00pm – 4:00pm.

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Liberdade (Little Japan)

Liberdade is Sao Paulo’s little Japan.
In the beginning of the 20th century, not only the Italians but also the Japanese  migrated to Brazil in search of a better life. Since then, the Japanese immigrants concentrated in the region of Liberdade and their culture has been preserved to this day. It is estimated that about 400 thousand Japanese and later generations live in Sao Paulo (Cidade de Sao Paulo).

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In Liberdade you can find all sorts of Japanese food, grocery stores, department stores and architecture. At the stores everything is displayed in both Portuguese and Japanese languages.

The Japanese language has been taught through generations and majority of people of Japanese heritage who live in Liberdade are able to speak Japanese fluently.

On weekends they have a street market where they make food on the spot like fresh Yaksoba, sushi and fried ice cream. Yes, fried ice cream!

http://www.cidadedesaopaulo.com/sp/br/o-que-visitar/atrativos/pontos-turisticos/200-liberdade

I hope you can make your time in Sao Paulo fun!

Tee

 

 

10 Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro

 

Sugarloaf

This is one of Rio’s most beautiful landmarks and probably one of my favorites. The Sugarloaf Mountain is comprised by two separate mountains. In order to visit, you must ride a cable car from the base to the top of the first mountain and then you need to ride another cable car to the top of the second mountain. Once you get to the second mountain, there is a relaxing small park with a trail around it. If you are lucky, you might encounter a couple of little monkeys and beautiful birds.

The whole visit should take you approximately 2,5 hrs. to complete. I would recommend combining that with a visit to the Red Beach at the bottom. This way you can fully experience the Sugarloaf from the bottom to the top.

I recommend starting in the morning by visiting the mountains first then coming back down for the Red Beach and the trail. I feel like you can enjoy more this way.

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Christ the Redeemer – Corcovado

This is a must see in Rio!
You don’t need to be religious to enjoy this landmark. This place is fantastic and provides you with a 360 degree view of the city of Rio! You take a train up to the top and once you get there, you must walk flight of stairs to get to Christ’s base. There’s a chapel inside the monument but unfortunately a trip into the arms is not available to the public.

It can be very crowded during the day making it stressful to take a perfect picture with the Christ or to take pictures of the landscape below.  I recommend going in the morning or late afternoon to avoid big crowds. Also, choose to go when the day is clear. You can’t see much when the day is cloudy.

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Escadaria Selaron

This is one small spot in Rio that is worth seeing. At Escadaria Selaron, take time and see the different countries represented and artists honored on the staircase. It is usually a very busy place, so people are always around. Lapa, Escadaria Selaron and the Santa Teresa Tram station are walking distance from each other, so you can plan an afternoon to see all three.
R. Joaquim Silva, S/N – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20241-110, Brazil

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Santa Teresa Tram

This tram goes through Santa Teresa and on top of Lapa Bridge into the other side. The tram is yellow, very vintage like and small. The ride is free so expect lots of tourists to be waiting at the station for a ride. Each tram can take up to 40-45 people.
You can plan to visit Lapa, Escadaria Selaron and walk up to the tram station for a ride. You can also do the reverse itinerary, leaving from Rua Lelio Gama which is very close to Metro Carioca Station.

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Forte de Copacabana

Located a few blocks south from Copacabana Palace, Copacabana Fort is a former military base that provides you with a beautiful view of Copacabana. For about $2 you can walk around the grounds and visit their museum and café. Make sure to walk all the way to the end of the fort so you can enjoy the best views of Copacabana!
http://www.fortedecopacabana.com/historical-museum-of-the-army-and-copacabana-fort.html

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Feira de Sao Cristovao

Located outside of Rio City, in Sao Cristovao, this is an attraction for the ones who wish to see more of Rio. It is a great place to buy souvenirs for cheap and to experience some of the culture from the North of Brazil. This place is of a size of soccer stadium and is full of tents, where people sell all sorts of things. There are a couple of restaurants serving food from the Northern region and stages where people perform typical dances. It is very entertaining!

Rua Campo De Sao Cristovao | Sao Cristovao, Rio de Janeiro,State of Rio de Janeiro 20921-440, Brazil

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Maracana

Maracana is among the five biggest soccer stadiums in the world. Recently renovated for the World Cup, Maracana is able to host about 78,000 fans. We went to Maracana to watch a match between Fluminense and Gremio. The teams were from different states so the match was friendly and energetic. When the teams from the same state play against each other, the matches can become more heated. Either way, it will sure be a good time!

Av. Pres. Castelo Branco, s/n – Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20271-130, Brazil

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Jardim Botanico

This place is stunning! Jardim Botanico (Botanic Garden) hosts some of the most beautiful tropical flowers and plants worth seeing. Jardim Botanico is a place to unwind and breathe fresh air. However, it is a popular place and the line to buy tickets can get very long. If possible, try visiting the park on a weekday.

  1. Jardim Botânico, 1008 – Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22460-030, Brazil

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Copacabana Beach

This is the most popular beach in Rio, and possibly in the world! Like all other beaches in Brazil, Copacabana is a public beach and is open to its visitors 24/7. Obviously, the beach is very busy during the day with people exercising and bathing. When the sun goes down, the entertainment is moved to the edge of the beach where various tent bars open so people can get some food and drinks. In Copacabana beach you can get coconut water and alcohol anytime.  Beautiful sand sculptures are displayed for the tourists by South American artists. It is free to take pictures but the artists expect contributions.

You can also rent a bike and ride up and down the famous wavy boardwalk of Copacabana.

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Praia Vermelha
Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) is located at the bottom of Sugarloaf Mountain. There you can enjoy a more intimate beach or a nice walk around the sugarloaf. At the trail you are able to see various birds flying around and little monkeys jumping from tree to tree.

 

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References and Tips

Stay:
When looking for a hotel, give preference to the ones located at the beach front so you would be closer to the main attractions.  At Atlantica Avenue, there are several options that you can choose, ranging from two to five star hotels.

Safety:
As with many big cities, it’s so important to be cautious and responsible. To prevent any bad experiences, take into consideration some helpful safety tips:

  • Look like a local – when traveling in Rio, dress as basic as you can. Avoid flashy types of clothes, watches, jewelry and electronics in public. Look like a local.
  • Watch the drinking – make sure that you are in a safe place with safe company before starting the heavy drinking. Illegal substances easily circulate in the nightlife scenario, so it is important to be cautious when it comes to alcohol.
  • Pick up a map – before heading to Rio, make sure to learn about where you’ll stay and the surroundings from a map. Once you’re there, try to plan your routes before heading out of the hotel instead of utilizing a map in the middle of the city.

Currency and Money:
Right now it is a great time to visit Brazil as the exchange rate is approximately $1 to R$4.00 .When going to restaurants and paying for entrances at attractions, you can and should use your credit card. Most of the financial institutions in the U.S. do not usually charge you any fees for using your card abroad. Make sure to consult your credit card company before leaving home. When in Rio, bring your credit cards but also bring cash with you. You will need cash to buy a metro ticket or delicious coconut water at the beach!

Transportation:
Take advantages of tours when available. If you’d rather do each attraction on your own, I recommend using taxi cabs. The concierge from the hotel should be able to call a cab for you.
When going to farther places, you might want to take advantage of the metro system, too. Sometimes they can be quicker than cabs.

5 days in Ouro Preto

I am originally from Brazil. Although I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, the majority of my family is from another state: Minas Gerais. Last summer, my husband and I took a trip to Brazil where we spent about six weeks visiting family and friends. During our time there, we took a few days to visit the Cidades Historicas de Minas Gerais (historic cities of Minas Gerais) to include Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Mariana, Sao Joao Del Rei e Congonhas. We took 5 days to make this visit perfect!

I don’t usually drive in Brazil, so we rely on public transportation for the majority of our trips in the country. It is usually available and it makes the adventure more fun when we are there. So, to get to our main location, Ouro Preto, we took a flight from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte (Capital of Minas Gerais) and then we got a shuttle from the airport to the bus station and a bus from there to Ouro Preto. IT DOES seem like a lot, but there’s no other way to get there, unless you drive.  About driving – you might not want to drive in Minas Gerais, especially in Ouro Preto. This state is known for its mountain landscapes therefore the roads can be very sinuous to drive on. Ouro Preto in particular, is a very hilly city, very tricky to drive. So I left it to the locals.

Well than here it would be Day 1:

  • Flight from Sao Paulo to Pampulha Airport (Belo Horizonte)
    1 hour $150
  • Shuttle from Pampulha Airport to bus terminal
    30 min  FREE
  • At the bus terminal, take bus to Ouro Preto with the company Passaro Verde
    2 hrs R$30

We are huge advocates for AirBnB. We stayed with an amazing host in Ouro Preto. Beautiful house and amazing reception. With Airbnb you can get wonderful rates and an amazing experience. So, before searching for hotels, take a look at Airbnb to see if you find something you might like and message the host for further information. The communication with our host was wonderful and he was very kind to come and receive us at the bus station to take us to his home. There he showed us the house and the room where we going to stay. He gave us a key and a map. He was by far the  best hosts we ever met through Airbnb.

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So as far as Day 1, get settled, get a map and go out to hunt for a place to eat.

Ouro Preto means Black Gold in English and it is a city listed on the world heritage list of UNESCO. It was founded at the end of the 17th century, and was the focal point of the gold mining in Brazil’s back in the 18th century. With the exhaustion of the gold mines in the 19th century, the city’s influence declined but many churches, bridges and fountains remain as a testimony to its past prosperity and the exceptional talent of the Baroque sculptor Aleijadinho (UNESCO). This extended to the nearby towns along the Estrada Real (Royal highway) to include Mariana, Congonhas, Sao Joao Del Rei and Tiradentes.

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Since our stay was in Ouro Preto, we decided to take tours to the nearby small towns so we can optimize our time and learn about the architecture of the places. We found a very nice day-long tour that took you around the other historic towns.  The tour takes up the full day, only about 5 people come at a time and the driver picks you up at the place you are staying. Tours like that are not too hard to find online and most hotels will facilitate booking for a tour. We decided to take two tours.

Day 2: Tour Ouro Preto e Mariana
This was our second day in Ouro Preto. We were picked up at the house at 8:00am to join the other group members to initiate our tour. During this tour we made a couple of stops around Ouro Preto to include one of their smaller mines, the artisan market, a gem jewelry shop and a couple of churches. The biggest highlight of this tour for me was visiting the Francisco de Assis church, it is lovely! The church of Saint Francis of Assissi is a rococo Catholic Church, with the entire inside art done by the most famous sculptor of the state, Aleijadinho. The church is located in downtown Ouro Preto and is open for visitation most days of the week from 8:30am – 5:00pm.
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In Mariana, we visited some of their other churches. You will see that there are a lot of churches in this area. Lots! But each one has so much art and history inside that it is beyond amazing. The tours are often offered in Portuguese, but I believe that English tours are also offered. Our tours were in Portuguese so I would translate all to my husband.

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The tour ended about 5:00pm that day and it was becoming dark, what I call, dinner time! Downtown Ouro Preto there are so many cute little restaurants serving typical state food in a large variety of dishes. There are a couple of places that serve Italian and American, too.

A taxi cab from any point A to any point B will cost you R$20 (reais). So, plan to spend that much at least once a day. Going down the hills is easy; going back up is more challenging, especially after having had a lot of good food!

Day 3: Tour Congonhas, Sao Joao Del Rei and Tiradentes

Sao Joao Del Rei is the farthest destination of this tour, so we decided to take this tour on day 3 of our trip. Again, the van driver came to pick us up at the house by 8:00am so we could initiate our tour. In this tour we got to see a variety of places to include some of Aleijadinho’s paintings and golden plated interior churches, visit the house of a famous wood sculptor and go in a bigger mine by the end of the tour. It was a beautiful day and worth every minute!

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We were dropped off at downtown Ouro Preto and it was time to hunt for a place to eat. This night we went to this tavern called Restaurante Café Gerais, which is a very intimate and romantic place. There, my husband and I got to try one of their local brews, Ouropretana.

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Day 4: Explore Ouro Preto on our own
On Day 4 we woke up at around 9 or so. Mornings can be chilly in the Mineiro winter! So we showered, had breakfast and went down the hill towards downtown.
As we got to the downtown area, we went to a the Casa da Moeda where in the past it served as money printing house but now it functions as a museum/ art gallery free of charge. When you visit the upper floor, the view from there is simply charming.

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We went up to Tiradentes Square and decided to grab something to eat. On the way out of the restaurant we passed by a Cachacaria shop (Rum factory shop). They were offering a Cachaca (Brazilian rum) tasting that day. I felt like we had to stop and go in. There were about six kinds of cachaça to try, and as a good ol’ rum you just drink up as a shot. We were feeling great after leaving the cachacaria!
The name of the place is Cachacaria Milagre de Minas. Worth checking out and buying some rum!
After that we went uphill and visited the Museum of Science and Technique of Ouro Preto. It offers a great photo opportunity from up there! The museum is supported by the Federal University of Ouro Preto and displays different expositions of natural history and science. My favorite part was the gem stones section. We were able to see several variations of gem stones found in the mines nearby and state wide. So many different colors and names!

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By the time we were done visiting these two places, we were ready to have some food and drinks. I cannot remember what place we went to that night but I guarantee it was good.

Day 5: Souvenir shopping

On day 5 we went to the Confidencia Museum and Our Lady of Carmo church, both by Tiradentes square. The museum walks you through a timeline in Brazilian history displaying original artifacts from that era. Lots of royal and colonial objects can be found there.

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Our Lady of Carmo church was another church to visit. Not surprisingly, an amazing interior full of history and art was there to be appreciated.

We stopped by an ice cream shop after leaving the church. It seemed appropriate 🙂

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After that I made sure I took some time to do some shopping. I confess that I am a big souvenir person, but I like grabbing things that represent the culture and the place. Since I live far from home, those little things kind of bring home close to me here in the U.S. Among the things I made sure to bring home were banana rum, a bottle of Ouropretana beer, cookies, wooden sculptures, magnets (of course) and a homemade bath mat. At the artisan market place you will see lots of limestone works; they are beautiful and reasonably priced. The reason why I did not purchase any of them was because I did not want to carry too much weight back home since we each had a carry on and a backpack.

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Day 6: Head home.

Quick references and tips:

Stay:

Find something interesting at https://www.airbnb.com/

Our Host in Ouro Preto and his listings can be found at:

https://www.airbnb.co.in/users/show/11807212

Year calendar of events:

http://www.ouropretomg.com/ouro-preto-events

Packing:

Pack light

Student discounts:

Most churches require a fee. Most of them accept student ID’s for 50% off discount. Bring that with you, if you have one.

Tours:
http://www.ouropretomg.com/ouro-preto-tours

Cheers,

Tee