18 May, 2009

Road signs

Americans do make use of any opportunity for advertisement as highlighted by the previous post on road side ads. British roads, by comparison, seem very demure and quiet. They may be less creative, they may have stricter regulations. At any rate, in the nearly four years I lived there, all I ever came across were shy placards telling me to pick my own strawberries and hand painted signs for car-boot sales or church fêtes.

Now, when it comes to “weird”, Americans are not as far removed from their forefathers as they may like to think. Fair enough, Brits will not be advertising the “largest-anything-in-the-world”, but where else would you find a whole museum dedicated to lawn-mowers? Or even a large world renowned museum which has an area on its permanent collection dedicated to household appliances? And the museum even troubles itself to tell you little anecdotes on the uses of the said appliances. Picture this: ladies of society, sipping tea and playing cards. The proud house owner sprinkles the floor with the crumbs of her just eaten cucumber sandwich to the astonishment of her friends. In parade two uniformed maids to demonstrate the newest gadget. One of the maids operates the hose and the other pedals the contraption in an effort to create enough suction to clear the floor of the aforementioned crumbles, while barely holding this ancestor of vacuum cleaners in an upright position.

Anyway, you really don’t need to travel that far to see such wonders. The winding road from Rio to Petrópolis is decorated with as large signs as those of Florida. They may not be so clever, but they are alluring, selling from original “Mineiro” cheese, fresh caldo de cana or coconut to the best barbecue ever.

Our museums also showcase a selection of one-of-a-kinds. Where else could you see the first telephone ever to reach Brazil, through which D. Pedro spoke to Graham Bell himself? (at least that’s the story I recall from my school days). Or the dwelling of the inventive Santos Dumont - A Encantada - where you’ll discover the bucket-shower and the right-foot-first steps? (some say he was superstitious, but that’s for you to decide).

Unfortunately, you can’t exactly go carbooting in Petrópolis, but you could treat yourself to the next best thing. Just follow the array of antique shops and stalls, sebos and bazares and the craft fair downtown, and you’ll be exposed to the exact amount of second hand or hand-made stuff you would in the UK.

Hope to see you soon,
Luciana Berner (Petrópolis)

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/ (Galleries, The Secret Life of the Home)
http://www.petropolis.rj.gov.br/ (Fundação de Cultura e Turismo)

15 May, 2009

Freaky Florida

Americans are known to have an entrepreneural spirit, and they're very clever at advertising for their businesses. Nowhere is this more apparent than when are on the road. I'll illustrate with an anecdote.

When we went to Orlando or Tampa to theme parks, we had to take the Florida Turnpike, as we lived on the south of the state. On the way, there would be these billboards for this thing called 'Yeehaw'. It would beckon us for many kilometres, signaling the exit you had to take to get there. There were hundreds of signs, saying things like :


Those signs were so promising, my sister and I would think: 'Wow, this must be some place' and beg our parents to stop there. When we got there, there was a wonderful welcoming sign, as you can see on the picture above, and Yeehaw is right there....next to it. Yeah....it's smaller than the sign. I remember being like....that's it? It was just a rest-stop where you could buy Disney tickets. Yeehaw Junction is this place that's not even a town because it's so small, like something out of a Western film. But it's something that became a tradition, following the Yeehaw signs and pretending to be fooled by them.

Anyway, this is a curious part of traveling not only in Florida, but in the whole country. These odd 'tourist traps' that just live in your heart, like 'World's Biggest Lincoln Statue' (ou mean there are other statues of this American President out of the country???) and a headless dinosaur sculpture, Mount Rushmore (the pride of North Dakota but come on, dead presidents' faces carved on mountains, can you say environmental impact???) and Stone Mountain, the Confederate version of Mount Rushmore, in Georgia (my dad went there hahahaha). They even have become a cult phenomenon, with websites and books dedicated to them, and people make it a point to stop and visit these places, just for a feeling of truly american freaky entrepreneural spirit.

Some sites dedicated to weird tourist attractions:

13 May, 2009

Florida: off-Disney

Even though I have this feeling of regret for not traveling much out of Florida when I lived in the US (we never went to NY, California, New Orleans, or any of the famous American cities besides Miami and of course Orlando), I can't say we didn't travel. Quite the contrary! Of course there were the theme parks, but there's plenty to do besides go to Disney World and co. I guess the tourism industry there is more family-oriented, and as I lived there with my family as a child, it was perfect for me!

Florida is made up of beaches on the coast and mostly swampland (the Everglades) in the interior. Of course, with real estate development they are covering the swamps, but there are protected areas. You can go on an airboat to the Everglades and see alligators and other wildlife, the Seminole Indian Reservation, go to many zoos and parks. Here are some links to some interesting places:

Oh yeah, there's Cape Canaveral, where NASA is:

I can't forget Key West, the southernmost point of the US, where Ernest Hemingway lived (you can see Cuba from there, Key West, not Ernest's house.)

There's also St. Augustine, in the northeast of the state, the first city in the US. It was colonized by the Spanish in the 16th century, before the English colonization of the north:

So, if you're ever in Florida, here are some other interesting options!

- Bárbara Alves (Icaraí 2)

04 May, 2009

Talking about London...

Hey guys,
quick post with an interesting link for those who are interested in knowing a little bit more about London: http://www.londontown.com/. There, you can find useful tips: airport tranfers, night life, sightseeing, restaurants, hotels, etc, etc!
By the way, if you like going out, you can´t miss Time Out website!
See you!
Izabella Sepulveda

01 May, 2009

My dream trip to London 2

When I decided to write a post for this blog, the first thing that came to my mind was... LONDON! This may sound as a cliché, and indeed it is, but which other famous city am I supposed to write about? When I say it´s a cliché, I mean it among English teachers who simply looooove going to England whenever they can. The ones who haven´t been there yet, certainly would like to. And what can I say? I´m an English teacher and loooove going to London! I lived there in 2002-2003, returned in 2007 and in January 2009, but I guess I´ll never be tired of going there. Also, there are sooo many things to do in London, that we just can´t imagine.

Well, here I am, and Raquel has already written about it, which is great, but I want to write about London too! I´ve just read her post and at the end she lists some things that she didn´t do on her last holidays there. Coincidence or not, I have done all of them! Or most of them , I guess. So, I´ll be talking about these places she mentions and therefore it won´t sound repetitive for you, readers. Deal? =) I´ll also give directions to get to the places by tube - the easiest way to go around London.

First thing on Raquel´s list: Madame Tussauds. When I lived in London, I used to hear: "Madame Tussauds is a waste of time, don´t go there. It´s expensive and represents no great experience, etc, etc" Ok, I didn´t go there. But then, when I came back in 2007 I felt sooo 'touristic', feeling that I hadn´t had before, you know? So, I went there on a rainy Sunday morning. And guess what?? It was great! Where else could I have taken pictures with all the pop celebs? Some dummies are simply unbelievable! Extremely similar and well done! On the other hand, some are quite bizarre, but this is just part of the fun! More: there´s a kind of horror tunnel, whose name I´ve forgotten, inside the museum. Really frightening, but very exciting! It´s true, though, that the tickets are quite expensive, especially when you remember that top museums in London have free access. Tip: buy the combo with a London Eye ticket together - it´s cheaper.

Directions: take the Bakerloo line (the brown one) and head to Baker Street station. Hammersmith and City line (the pink one) also takes you there as well as Circle line (the yellow one) and Metropolitan line (the purple one).

Have you ever heard of Notting Hill? Chances are you have! The film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant was named after this lovely place in London. With its great success, Notting Hill has become even more visited than it was before. It´s basically a residential area but on Saturday morning you can go to Portobello Road and visit one of the most popular fairs in the city - the Portobello Road Market. There, you can find from old 60´s shoes to vinyl records and the most reddish strawberries! Everything in one place! The picture down there was taken in 2007 in front of the famous bookshop that Hugh Grant owns in the film. It really exists! I´m the one in green, by the way.

Directions: take the Hammersmith and City line to Ladbroke Grove.

Last (just for today), but not least: London Eye. Another hit of touristic feeling and there I went, all by myself to Westminster, so that I could "take a ride" and see the city on the famous Ferris wheel. The "flight" takes 30 min and the view that you get from there, you can´t get from anywhere else. It´s a rush of adrenaline seeing the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the Thames - all from above! Some say it´s the British equivalent to the Eiffel Tower. Highly recommended!

Directions: take the Circle, Jubilee (the grey one) or District line (the green one) to Westminster station.

That´s all folks! Soon, I´ll be back with more.

Izabella Sepulveda

Itaipu teacher