Category Archives: 2014 – Panama, Chile, Argentina, Brazil

Last day in Sao Paulo

After a great day and game in Brasilia, we returned to Sao Paulo for a day before heading to Rio de Janeiro. While a bit tired from all the travel, we were all very excited to watch the USA vs Belgium round of 16 match.

We purchased some face paint to show our USA spirit and excitement. We also checked in to our apartment, which was in the Paulista area of Sao Paulo. The couple we rented the apartment from, were very nice and the place was clean.

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After quickly changing and suiting up into USA gear, we headed to Fifa Fanfest to watch the game. The Sao Paulo FIFA Fan Fest took place in a square in the middle of the city, and can accommodate over 30,000 people.

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The atmosphere was electric, as most of the locals were also supporting team USA. The game was very tight, but unfortunately the USA came up a bit short. Disappointed, we grabbed a quick dinner and called it an early night, in preparation for our early flight to Rio de Janeiro the next day. Rio goes to be the most relaxing and stress free part of the journey! Hopefully……

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GAME DAY!!!!

France (1E) vs. Nigeria (2F). June 30th, 2014. Brasilia, Brasil.

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The day we had been waiting in anticipation for months finally arrived. With a 1:00 pm start time local time, we woke up and headed off to the stadium (Estadio National).

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Quick facts about Brasilia stadium courtesy of Wikipedia:
Max Capacity 69,349.
Second most expensive stadium in the world at 900 million USD.
Renovation was completed in 2013, in preparation for the World Cup matches.

We reached the stadium and saw crowds of people hanging out outside of the stadium, prepping for the match.

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The number of French fans definitely outweighed the ‘true’ Nigerian supporters, as they were clad in the French red, white, and blue.

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Face paint, masks, and odd hair pieces were only some of the best pieces of costume wear we noticed at the game. The best was definitely a Nigerian supporter wearing a Zebra costume in the stands.

After making our way into the stadium, we found our seats and took many pictures of the crowd and enormous stadium.

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Our seat neighbors were a group of rowdy French supporters, chanting ‘Allez les blues” (Let’s go blues) for the majority of the match.

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The first half was slow with both teams drawing to a 0-0 tie after 45 minutes. France picked up the pace in the second half to eventually firing in the go ahead goal in the 79′ minute. As expected, the crowd went crazy (!) and we were right there to join in with their French celebrations.

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We even saw one guy climbs up the stands 5 – 10 rows to meet up with another French cheering section.

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With a cheap second goal in extra minutes, France firmly secured a 2-0 final result to advance them to the Quarterfinal round (where they will await the fierce German squad).

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The rest of our day was hanging out with the multitudes of football fans from all teams and parts of the world, enjoying the areas of downtown Brasilia and Pontao do Lago Sul (a very nice region of Brasilia alongside the Lakeshore with many restaurants and places to go out). After a very very long day, we made it back to our hotel room, packed, and were ready to head back to Sao Paulo.

Brazil Madness

Two days ago, we flew to sau palo for the start of our one week journey in Brazil.

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We had all been waiting for this leg of the journey and true to form it took us just a few minutes to realize that our high expectations were justified and would be met. From all the FIFA volunteers to billboards to apparel, it was clear that this country had only one thing in mind!!! We immediately went to the FIFA ticketing station at the airport and got our tickets for the June 30th match in Brasilia – France vs. Nigeria!!

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After this, we went to the hotel. As we came into the city, we quickly realized just how large Sao palo is. It took us 1.5 hours just to get from the airport to the Hyatt hotel where we were staying. As we later found out, Sau Palo is composed of many little towns and districts, thus lending to it’s overall large size. We quickly left the hotel and went to an outdoor restaurant/bar to enjoy the Brazil vs. Chile game. We were praying for a win as we wanted to witness a true Brazilian celebration. While the game was nerve wracking, Brazil ended up winning on penalty kicks at the end and the celebrations started!!

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People were yelling and screaming in the middle of roads. Vuvuzela sounds could be heard from every direction and the celebrations were surreal!!

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We then went to the party district of Sao Palo – Villa de Madeleina. We were not prepared for this as the celebrations exceeded our wildest imaginations. Streets were just closed down with people openly celebrating, screaming, and yelling throughout the streets. Thank god Brazil won as we could only imagine what the mood would be like if they had lost! Two things we noticed here:

1) When they say that Brazilian woman are beautiful, it is an understatement
2) Indian people seem to be very popular here, both from a cultural and religious viewpoint. We saw many people with Om tattoos, Sanskrit tattoos, and a few even had Lord Ganesha tattoos. People immediately noticed that we were Indian and were very friendly with us.

After hanging out at Vila de Madeleina for a bit, we then went back to the hotel to freshen up. After that we headed out to a local Mexican joint for dinner, and then experienced the Sao Palo nightlife for a bit before calling it a night and returning back to the hotel.

Our second day in Brazil was mostly lost to traveling, as we had to fly to Brasilia for our match the following day. We ended up watching some of the Mexico vs. Netherlands game, before heading out to the airport.

Next stop – France vs Nigeria and the experience of a lifetime!!!!!

One Week Down: Our last two days in Buenos Aires

Sorry for missing a post yesterday everyone. We have been exploring the city of Buenos Aires and taking in our fill of the ‘futball’ in the local country. We started yesterday off celebrating my 25th birthday (its me, Chirag) by finding a local American owned sports pub to watch the USA – Germany game.

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Filled with tourists (such as ourselves), expats, and students studying abroad, we outnumbered the German fans by the hundreds. U-S-A chants filled the viewing arena. Even though the US lost to Germany 1-0, it was still an overly joyous crowd, as the US moved on to the round of 16 with a better goal difference over Portugal. We made many friends with the pro-USA crowd, celebrating the win and the birthday throughout the day.

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Our third and final day in Buenos Aires was another day of too much sight-seeing (never a problem!). We caught lunch at another local Argentine / Italian restaurant (which we found out was due to the influx of Italians that make up the Argentinian population), with a co-worker / friend (shout out to Curtis) of mine and Nav’s who was in Buenos Aires for work.

The next part of the day was planned to be a walking tour of the city. However, we realized that covering the second largest metropolitan area in South America by foot would be too difficult. Alternatively, we found a hop on / hop off tour bus that took us through the city on what turned out to be a blustery ‘winter’ day in Buenos Aires. Pictures can be seen below, but included stops at the National Congress and Boca Juniors soccer stadium.

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Best thing about Buenos Aires is the multitude of different neighborhoods, with each ‘barrio’ having a very distinct look and feel – some were dirty and not so safe while others were of very expensive and modern variety.

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Nightcap was the four of us starved boys finding an Indian restaurant to get our fill of non-Argentinian food. Then we came back to the hotel, packed for Sao Paulo, and then Sanch and I beat Nav and Nikhil in a game of Euchre.

First week was definitely a success. Thanks to everyone for following the blog for the past week as we are looking forward to the next seven days.

BRAZIL – here we come!!!!!

Hello Argentina

Yesterday morning, we flew from Santiago to Buenos Aires to embark on our three day journey in Argentina.

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Ten minutes after take off, we saw some breathtaking views of the Andes from the plane.

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The plane was quite empty so we each had our own row and were actually able to play euchre on the flight!

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After we landed and as we drove in to the city, one thing we quickly realized is how large the city is. Additionally, we did not realize just how obsessed the nation is with Lionel Messi!! His name is everywhere in the city, from billboards to posters to newspapers, etc. Chirag who was wearing his Messi jersey, immediately got a shout out as soon as we arrived to the hotel. Seeing this, Sanchit and I decided that we needed Messi jerseys asap so we soon went shopping and bought Messi jerseys as well!!

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We then went to a sports bar to watch the Ecuador vs. France game and enjoyed some traditional Argentinian pizza. It was quite different from pizza in the US as the pizza did not have any tomato sauce and just had different vegetables and toppings every other slice.

After shopping some more and them going back to the hotel to freshen up, we later went out again for dinner and decided upon a local Argentinian joint that is known for serving different kinds of cuisine from all over South America. Argentina is also known for it’s wine so we made sure to try some excellent Malbec wine at dinner!!!

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After this, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night. Today happens to be Chirag’s birthday so we know we have a long day ahead especially with the US vs. Germany game. GO USA!! #webelieve.

Last stop in Chile – Valparaiso

Our final stop in Chile was the beautiful coastal city of Valparaiso. Valparaiso is about 100 km northwest of Santiago. We decided to rent a car and make the 2 hour trip to the city.

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Valparaíso played a very important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. The city lost its status as a major stopover for these ships with the arrival of the Panama Canal.

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Though nearby San Antonio has become the country’s most commercially viable seaport, the port of Valparaíso continues to be a major attraction among tourists. It was declared as a UNESCO heritage site in 2003.

After grabbing lunch in the dangerous part of the town (which we learnt about later during the day), we headed over to the city center to meet up with our tour guide, Felipe.

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As with any other city tour, we saw multiple government institutions, monuments, churches, and cultural establishments during the 3 hour tour. Four things that stood out about the city – stray dogs (the city is full of them), graffiti (there are beautiful murals all over the city), vehiculars (the city officially has 27 out of which only 7 are functional today), and the terrain (very similar to San Francisco).

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After grabbing some vegetarian empanadas, we ended the trip at the port of Valparaiso.

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Upon arriving at the hotel in Santiago, we walked to a local mall nearby for dinner. As much as we “wanted” to eat local food, once we stumbled upon Taco Bell, there was no turning back!!

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We ended the night playing Euchre with a deck of Chilean cards in our business executive suite (yes we had a conference room in our hotel room).

Santiago city tour

Yesterday was a very relaxing day. We began the day with a nice breakfast in the complimentary Executive Lounge and then made our way to downtown Santiago Plaza de Armas to watch the Chile vs Netherlands football match. After grabbing a cup of coffee we found a local pub to watch the game at, and met some fellow Americans as well. The local crowd was quite disappointed in the 2-0 result, but Chile will still advance to the next round.

After the game, we headed back to Plaza de Armas to begin our Free “Tours for Tips” walking tour. The tour was led by a Bolivian man  named Joaquin, who proceeded to take us around the city for 4 hours. During the tour we stopped at numerous government buildings, parks, cultural establishments, air force club, opera house, local universities.

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Joaquin had us try a traditional Chilean drink called “Pisco Sour”, which has grape liquor and lemon juice. Nikhil also sampled a beef empanada.

After the tour we headed back to the hotel to sample some local Chilean wine and some hors d’oeuvre.

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So far during the trip, we have yet to find a good local meal and have struggled to find good options. Perhaps, we just need to find the right locations.

Next stop – Valparaiso city on the coast of Chile

Breathtaking Andes Mountains

The four of us decided to spend our first day in chile by going to the Andes mountains.

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We decided to rent a manual car and drive to Valle Nevado – the ski resort near one of the highest peaks of the Andes.

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Our drive was a bit scary as the roads leading to the top were very narrow and full of curves, but we made it up just fine. The drive was breathtaking and the scenery was amazing!!!

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Chirag kept saying “the scenery was so real and breathtaking that it just seemed fake”.

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After coming back from the Andes, we freshened up at the hotel and then headed over to a sports bar to watch the USA vs Portugal game. We were quite outnumbered by the Portuguese fan base. Little did we know that the Portuguese ambassador to chile actually organized an event at the sports bar to ensure that all the fans would show up!! While we are happy that US drew against Portugal, it was quite demoralizing when Portugal scored the equalizer with 20 seconds left.

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After the game, we headed over to dinner at Bella Vista then decided to call it a night. Next up – city tour of Santiago!!

Hello Southern Hemisphere

7 hour flight from Panama, 18 hours from Belgium, and 11 hours from Madison. We have finally made it to the beautiful city of Santiago, Chile.

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It was quite a change going from 90 degrees in Panama to 39 degrees in Santiago!

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After meeting up with Chirag in the hotel, we headed over to Bella Vista for dinner. Bella Vista is a lively and vibrant area popular amongst young Chileans. It has a lot of bars and restaurants that offer both local and international cuisine.

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After dinner, we met up with some students from Canada who are studying in Santiago. This is also where we met up with Nikhil who arrived late in Santiago.

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After ordering some tacos in broken Spanish, we headed back to the hotel to catch up on sleep. After a good night of sleep, we woke up to the beautiful view  of the Andes mountains from our hotel.

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Layover in Panama

After a 6 hour flight from Chicago, Nav and I finally made it to Panama city, Panama.

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While the French football team was busy crushing Switzerland, we were trying to figure out the reason for the hundreds of skyscrapers in the city during the 35-40 minute cab ride. Turns out a lot of wealthy foreigners are buying condos/apartments in the fastest growing economy of Latin America.

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After grabbing lunch and napping for a little bit, Sanchit and I first went to the local casino and watched the Ecuador vs Honduras game. Here, we tried some local beers that were quite good and very cheap!! We were astounded when we were presented with a bill of $2.50 for two beers! As we come from Chicago and New York this is unheard of and was a welcome sight.

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After that, we headed over to Casco Viejo, the old town. This area is home to churches, the presidential complex, other government buildings and lot of bars and restaurants.

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After watching some traditional dancing at a restaurant, we headed over to a popular roof top restaurant – Tantalo where you can see the breathtaking Panama city skyline.

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We ended the night in Calle Uruguay, an area popular amongst foreigners with lots of bars and restaurants. We personally enjoyed Casco Viejo more than Calle Uruguay as Casco Viejo was more vibrant and the people were more friendly in the area. Time to catch up on some sleep. Next stop, Santiago, Chile!

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