Last week, my semester in magical Florianópolis sadly came to an end, but my adventure wasn’t quite over.
First things first, I of course couldn’t leave without having an emotional breakdown in the airport; one of my lovely Brazilian friends dropped me off and didn’t let me go before buying me a drink and giving me the most thoughtful gift of a compass with the position of Brazil marked so that when I miss it I can look that way and ‘know that I have a lot of friends there thinking of me and missing me.’ (I told you Brazilian people were extremely kind!) So many nice things were said that I felt like I was in movie, I could barely get myself through the security procedures because I was just crying so much!
Once I had pulled myself together (I had a 26 hour journey ahead of me, I couldn’t cry all the way) I decided to start thinking about what I would do with my flight connections. I know I wrote a lot about how to make the most of a long wait in an airport, but hearing that I had 5 hours to wait in Rio de Janeiro, and then 5 hours in Madrid really stirred up the adventurer in me, especially since they are two cities that I have never had the opportunity to visit before.
My trip into Rio had to be timed to perfection; I decided that an hour and a half long coach trip from the airport to the Copacabana, about 20 minutes on the beach, and another coach trip straight back to the airport was my best option. It sounds tedious to do the extra travelling, but driving through the streets of Rio and taking photos of the view was like going on a super-quick tour of the city, and was much more interesting than waiting around in the airport would’ve been. I managed to see the favelas, the Maracanã stadium, Sugarloaf Mountain, and even a glimpse of Christ the Redeemer!
It seemed strange to drive past the favelas and through impoverished and dilapidated areas, then occasionally see a big brightly coloured sign proclaiming “Rio 2016: A New World!” It was definitely a very eye-opening demonstration of the contrast between rich and poor in the city.
My time on Copacabana was short but sweet. It was hard not to stick out as a blatant tourist amongst all those people in skimpy gym clothes or beachwear while I was sporting my huge backpack and snapping photos every five seconds, but I luckily managed to not get robbed. After a little look around, and a lot of smiling to myself about the fact that I had made it, I realized I was parched… and what better way to spend my last bit of time in Brazil than to drink an ice cold Antartica beer on the Copacabana!?
But, just as I had my first refreshing sips, the bus to the airport came along! I couldn’t risk waiting for the next one as the traffic in Rio is notoriously horrific and I might not get to my flight on time, but I couldn’t take the big bottle of beer onto the bus either, damn! I told the bar lady that I guess the rest was for her, I had to go!
And what happened? The kindness of Brazilians strikes again! As I was taking my backpack off and settling down onto the coach, I realized that someone was shouting ‘Moça! Moça!’ at me, I turned around to see a happy waiter in an apron at the front of the bus, with a great big smile and his arm extended towards me, what was in his hand? A huge plastic cup with the rest of my beer! Everyone else on the bus must have wondered what was going on as I took the cup and thanked him, then flashed a cheesy grin and thumbs up to the bar lady through the window. I sat down and proceeded to enjoy my journey back to the airport, with cold beer in hand, and a permanent smile on my face… what a perfect way to end my Brazilian adventure.
The next day, after a long and sleepless flight, I finally arrived in Madrid, where yet again I planned my connection time to perfection. I surprisingly managed to master the Spanish metro system with ease, and found my way to the Plaza de España, where I found a cute couple struggling to take selfies that made a little deal with me; I took photos of them in the square then they took photos of me. Once we were happy with our mini photo-shoots, we went our separate ways…only to accidentally meet up again on the other side of the square, where we did the same thing again!
By then it was definitely time for food, and where better than Tapaspaña, a Tapas bar right by the square (I couldn’t really visit Spain without eating Tapas now, could I?) After my fill of delicious calamares and patatas bravas, I just about had time to grab a frozen slushie (the heat in the city was nearly unbearable that day) before hopping back onto the Metro and back to the airport.
My last flight was from Madrid to Birmingham, and my journey ended in an emotional breakdown even bigger than the first one! The plane hadn’t even touched the ground before the tears began; I cried as the plane landed, I cried waiting to get off the plane, I cried all the way through passport control, I cried waiting for my suitcases… by the time I got to my family I was an uncontrollably whimpering mess!
So, my 24-hour adventure was definitely an overwhelming roller coaster of emotion, but it was also a chance to get just a little bit more exploring done before I return to England for a while. At the moment, I am really enjoying being at home with my friends or family, but you can bet that I will be planning my next trip soon enough… so watch this space! 🙂