I try hard not to be negative on The Travelling Chopsticks, as I don’t want this to be the forum where I vent. Nobody likes a whiner…least of all me! This probably explains my lack of blogging activity the last few months, as getting back into the hum drum life of Brasilia has been tough!
However, I have to say this: I am far from impressed with the restaurant scene here in Brasilia! There, I have said it – this will be my only complaint…..
I have come to the realisation during my few months in Brasilia, that things I had taken for granted as staple produce, can be really hard to get a hold of here. Everytime you move to a new country, you expect there to be differences and you may not always be able to get hold of that specific brand or that seasonal vegetable- but I naively thought when it came to fresh produce it was pretty much standard across the board in all developed society – I was wrong!
I recently returned from a wonderful weekend stay at the Sheraton in Rio de Janeiro. Nestled in a little cove off Leblon beach, the hotel offers an oasis compared to the hustle and bustle of Ipanema and Copacabana beach, not to mention that the view is breath taking.
A tip that I have picked up over time when looking for good places to eat, is I think a universal one. If the restaurant is busy, you know you are on to something good, but, if the restaurant is busy AND is filled with locals – you know you have hit the jackpot!
One of the things I love the most in any country is going to markets. I feel that markets represent the heart and soul of a country or city, and it offers you a glimpse into the everyday lives of the people living there.
As much as I enjoy visiting markets, I also enjoy shopping at them. Not only do I feel that I get a better understanding of where my food comes from, but I feel as though my money is going directly to the local community and not to big corporations like Walmart. This may be a far cry from the actual truth and a naive thought at that, but ultimately it makes me feel good! Keep Reading
Probably the most famous type of Brazilian restaurant outside of Brazil is the churrascaria, a type of Brazilian steak house. However, what sets them apart from other types of steak houses is their ‘rodizio’ style service, whereby you pay a fix price and the waiters bring different types and cuts of meat to your table, usually on a large skewer or knife throughout the meal until the customer has signalled that they have had enough.
Not surprisingly the Brazilian churrascaria has proven to be hugely popular throughout the world and today you will find churrascarias in most major international cities. One of the better known restaurants outside of Brazil, is Fogo de Chão, as they have several restaurants throughout the US.
They also have a restaurant here in Brasilia and after two month of living in Brazil, C and I decided that it was almost scandalous that we had yet to go. So on Friday, C and I went for a steak night…um, I mean date night!
You know that feeling when you walk into a place and you are automatically in love? Everything from the decor, to the ambiance to the smell all seems to come together so harmoniously that you know you have found something special?
Well that happened to me today! I went to a coffee morning that the American Embassy organised (look at me being all lady of leisurely and going to coffee mornings!). We met at a cafe in Asa Sul (the south of the city) called Ernesto’s Cafe Especias. Keep Reading
For those of you living in Brazil and South America I thought I would let you know about my experience with booking a flight with Emirates, so that you if you decide to do so, you will not be as surprised as I was with their rather inconvenient policies!
C and I are planning a trip to Singapore for Christmas. As you can imagine that is not exactly an easy or cheap destination from Brasilia! However, my brother lives in Abu Dhabi and I know that Emirates flies directly to Dubai from both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. So we thought we would fly with Emirates to Dubai, visit him for a few days and continue on with our journey from there. We will then fly back home to Brasilia separately, as I will stay on in Singapore longer and C has to come back and work (well someone has to right?). Rather straight forward I thought….oh how I was mistaken!
Issue Number One (more of an annoyance really)
Booking my ticket directly with Emirates was a nightmare. I had done my research online in regards to what the best routes would be from Brasilia. However as C and I were flying back at different times, I wanted to talk to someone in Emirates to help me book the tickets to ensure C and I were on the same flight outbound, as well as help me find a good price. The prices I saw online where reasonable if we were to go directly to Singapore, but when I wanted to include a stop-over for a few days in Dubai, it doubled!
So I called the Emirates Rio office, but was immediately directed to a call centre (judging by the ladies accent) in the Philippines. The call did not start well, when she told me that there was no such place as Brasilia!! After struggling through a 40 minute call, where she kept giving me the wrong information, giving me wrong quotes and neither of us understanding each other, I decided that I would call again. This time I was directed to a call centre in the US. After explaining what I wanted – the woman essentially told me to do it myself and there was no point in her helping me! I have to admit I was lost for words, and after having spent 40 minutes with other lady in the Philippines I just gave up!
In the end, I asked my brother if he could talk to someone in Emirates in Dubai to see if they could help us. What do you know? The next day after my big brother made a few phone calls he had managed to find the perfect flight for us, half the price as quoted to me online and we were all happy! Time to pay for the tickets!
Issue Number Two (a massive issue)
Now armed with my reservation codes for my flights, I phoned up Emirates in Rio again, again I was transferred to a call centre, this time in India. When I wanted to pay for my tickets, I was told I was unable to do so over the phone or online. Apparently it is Emirates policy that if you are buying a ticket to or from South America, you have to do so in person at an Emirates office!! This is a bit of an issue for me, considering Emirates does not have an office in Brasilia! I was then transferred from various call centres around the world (or at least that is what it felt like) and the best advice I got, was from another guy in India who asked me if I had a friend that could go to an Emirates office to pay for my tickets for me!
When I said that wasn’t an option I was transferred to a very helpful Emirates employee in the US, who was trying to figure out how she could help me, and in the end she put me in touch with the Rio office (the same office I had been trying to call for 48 hours). I was given a glimmer of hope here. The Rio office, said that I could fill out a ‘credit card form’, email them the information and they would be able to process the payment! HOWEVER, when she found out, that I do not have a Brazilian credit card, this option was no longer available. It is Brazil’s policy that they cannot accept international credit cards unless in person!
In the end, my only option was to fly to São Paulo and go personally to the Emirates office there and buy my tickets. As luck would have it, C and I had already planned to visit São Paulo for a long weekend. So yesterday first thing in the morning, we took a taxi to the Emirates office and FINALLY we were able to buy our tickets and put this lengthy saga behind us. C and I are now definitely flying to Singapore via Dubai for Christmas :)
I really make a point of not complaining on The Travelling Chopsticks, as I want this forum to be positive and for inspiration, but I felt that this was rather important information to share. Be prepared that if you would like to fly Emirates in South America, that you will have to go to the office in person to buy your tickets, even if it means you have to fly to get there!
Last Saturday, on October 6th it was two years ago since C and I got engaged, the date is especially meaningful to me as it would have been my Grandfather’s 96th birthday as well. For these reasons, and the fact we hadn’t ventured out of our neighbourhood yet, I decided that C and I needed to get dolled up, go to a nice restaurant, eat some good food and enjoy some strong cocktails!
I made reservations at Taypá, a Peruvian Restaurant that I had heard good things about and has won a number of local Restaurant awards over the years. Located in the south of the city, it was about a 20 minute taxi ride from where we live (which in Brasilia is quite a far distance!) Keep Reading
Today at midnight I would have been in Brasilia for exactly 3 weeks, it is amazing how quickly time flies. I really feel as though I have settled in rather well and am already feeling quite at home here.
Naturally when I talk to my friends and family, they all ask me what my first impressions are of this city, and they are all surprised by my answer.
Brasilia reminds me of Singapore! No wonder why I am feeling so at home!