Random Cool Travel Tidbits

random cool travel tidbits
The all-female Kenya Airways 787 Dreamliner crew! (Photographer unknown – let me know if it’s you!)

Sometimes, I just run into a few cool travel tidbits that I don’t know very much about, but still deserve your attention. Or someone else shared something that says everything that needs to be said. Let me share a few that I’ve run into recently.

On Twitter, I learned that Kenya Airways had an all-female crew fly its first Boeing 787 from the manufacturing line in Washington to Nairobi. Captain Irene Koki Mutungi, the first female African qualified in the type, was in command. I hope that she’ll be the captain of many more flights – when I get the chance to visit Kenya, I’ll hope she’s at the controls. You can follow her on Twitter.

Tidbit #2 is just a little idea I developed as a craft beer fan. Sometimes I run into a tasty example of locally brewed beer that I want to take home to share with friends. Obviously, it has to go into checked baggage where it’s subject to the rigors of baggage handling incidents. So what to do? Well, I wrap a sock or to around each bottle and slip it into the shoes I pack. I wear a size 13 US, so I have room to spare! I shared this with a friend when I was in Brazil – since she was kind of shocked by my ingenuity and determination, I thought a few of you might be able to use this tip.

Things to Know About Curitiba
Club de Malte – a good place to find items to fill your shoes in Curitiba, Brazil.

Hey, speaking of Boeing 787s from African airlines! Ethiopian Airlines used one of its shiny new Dreamliners to bring medical cargo from the U.S. to Ethiopia. That’s a very smart use of a delivery flight.

Fourth in the lineup is a movie called The Final Member. This is a story about the curator/founder of the Iceland Phallological Museum and his quest to add the ultimate exhibit – a human penis – to his collection. It was really fun to see a guy I’d met on the screen -- and holy cow, I’ll never hear the words "Tickle me, Elmo" quite the same again. You won’t believe the too-strange-to-be-true characters and situations in The Final Member.

whale penis, husavik, iceland
Willies on display!

And next – fellow blogger Amy talks about the odd mindset of people who want to travel, but can’t quite get off the dime. She mentions failed strategies to save for travel, and offers her own tips that might help you go from wanna-be to for-real traveler. I agree with her words, and I’d also add a few tips on how to free up some travel money: Get rid of your cable/satellite TV subscriptions, and don’t buy a fancy car. Seriously, I still can’t fathom why people have huge car payments when most of what they do is go to work. Most of us have to choose – seeing the world or looking fancy for no good reason. If you have some flashy car and moan about not being able to go to Australia, well, that’s the choice you made.

World’s Coolest Music Venues – My Top 3

If I write about the world’s coolest music venues, I know some people will expect buildings like the Sydney Opera House. So let’s get this out of the way: It’s not on the list. This list is for outdoor venues, and also places where you’re just as likely to hear the crushing, cranked-up roar of an Engl Powerball as you are a Stradivarius violin.

So let’s check out what made my list … and be sure to pitch in with your favorite venues and – just as importantly – who you want to see there!

Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Morrison, Colo., U.S.)

coolest concert venues
The amphitheater at Red Rocks in Colorado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got the idea for this post after a spontaneous stop at Red Rocks near Denver. We were driving around and just happened to see the Red Rocks signs. And the venue blew me away. It looks like the planet Vulcan. Of course, music is probably illogical to Vulcans, so I can’t imagine they’d build it.

Unfortunately, it was a daytime visit and there wasn’t a show in progress.

Who I’d Like to Hear at Red Rocks: Rush. Red Rocks seems like it was built for Rush.

Pedreira Paulo Leminski (Curitiba, Brazil)

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The world’s coolest concert venues often do more than host concerts. Pedreira Paulo Leminski was the site of Curitiba’s 2014 FanFest: About 30,000 people would turn out to watch televised World Cup matches on an enormous screen. Then, local musicians would hit the stage. Everybody had a great time in the throes of World Cup Fever. And I had never even heard of it before I went to Curitiba.

Music fans here are surrounded by a pond, sheer quarry walls and an awesome slice of encroaching rain forest. And this gives this world’s coolest music venue  entry some serious mojo.

Who I’d like to hear at Pedreira Paulo Leminski: The Gathering. Their slower tempos would be less likely to ping off the quarry walls. And hearing them outdoors in the rainforest? Yeah, that works (even with a singer other than their original).

Dalhalla (Sweden)

coolest concert venues
An overview of Dalhalla. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sweden’s entry to my world’s coolest concert venue post features a moat and a pirate ship. That’s right -- a moat and a pirate ship. And yes, like Parque das Pedreiras, Dalhalla is a quarry. What a perfect re-use of a resource!

Some might argue that the moat prevents moshing. But I don’t go to metal concerts to have meatheads slam into me. Just let the sound wash over me, thanks very much. Seems like Dalhalla wouldn’t get much use in the winter considering the climate, though.

Who I’d Like to Hear at Dalhalla: Hammerfall, who the hell else? They’re even Swedish, so nobody could do the job better!

What’s Brazil Like?

What's Brazil like?
World Cup crazy in Brazil – just as you’d expect.

If you’re wondering "What’s Brazil like?", I have a small part of your answer. It’s a big country, and I was only in one city – Curitiba – for seven days. But I’ll give you some ideas for at least a segment of any future trip to Brazil.

Brazil in a Word: Stylish

From the way people dress to the architecture to the dining, Brazil – if it matches Curitiba – is stylish. There’s a European flair to the architecture and streets with the occasional outburst of wild modern architecture and abundance of cool cobblestones.

What's Brazil like?
Nighttime in Curitiba, Brazil, overlooking a tony mall (right, lit up in red) and one of the fancier urban areas.

You’ve probably heard horror stories about slums in other cities. Well, I don’t know what is going on in Curitiba, but it also has a prosperous flair and a very safe vibe. I roamed the streets all hours of the day. People aren’t as quick to make eye contact or say hello as in, say, Australia. But they don’t bother each other, either.

You can get some detailed notes about Curitiba in my earlier post about the city. It’ll tell you all about some great highlights like the craft beer scene (I’d go as far as to call it the Portland of Brazil just based on the regional craft beer).

What's Brazil like?
I wish I’d gotten more into the wild areas. But this reclaimed quarry was all I had time to find.

Things to Remember

Just one city in seven days makes me even less-than-qualified to answer "What’s Brazil Like?". But I can say with authority that Curitiba has a lot going for it. It makes me think Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo are getting too high a billing as Brazil’s highlights.

Before traveling to Brazil, you might want to think about hepatitis B and typhoid vaccines, but I skipped the yellow fever vaccines since it wasn’t recommended for travel to Curitiba at the time.


My Experience at the 2014 World Cup

2014 World Cup.
Brazil – they were kind of a big deal during the 2014 World Cup.

This afternoon, Germany just gave Brazil a 7-1 hiding in the 2014 World Cup semifinal. I can only imagine the anguish in Brazil right now – especially since I just had the chance to visit Brazil during the Group Stages.

So it’s a great moment to share a few of the great things I saw at the World Cup during my time in Curitiba, Brazil before the World Cup comes to a close.

Post-match Scarf Trading
I thought for sure I was about to see the 2014 World Cup go wrong. Nigeria and Iran had just battled to a goalless draw. The Arena de Baixada was starting to clear out. That’s when an Iran fan ran right up into the face of a group of Nigerians. But -- it turns out he wanted to trade his Iran scarf for a Nigerian fan’s scarf. Everyone visibly relaxed, and all was well as they traded. Very cool!

2014 World Cup
Keeping things civil at the 2014 World Cup

Nationalism Without Antagonism
During the first week, only Iran, Nigeria, Ecuador and Honduras would play in Curitiba. But sure enough, I saw people in colors from the United States, Japan, Australia, Mexico and too many other nations to count. All the fans, though, were good about supporting their own teams without riling fans from other nations.

2014 World Cup
A pensioner who fled her family to attend some 2014 World Cup fun drew a stream of supporters.

Four live matches, a heated televised Mexico-Brazil match at the FIFA FanFest, too many other televised matches at bars and restaurants to remember. And not a single fight. Nothing. Sure, a few stumbling fans who had a few too many beers. Still, I didn’t see a single punch thrown, not so much as a minor scuffle.

A World Cup-crazed Septuagenarian
I eavesdropped a bit at the FIFA FanFest when Brazil played Mexico. I overheard interviews with a woman in her 70s who gave her family the slip to attend 2014 World Cup festivities. I only understand a sliver of Portuguese, so I didn’t catch very many details. Why didn’t they just go with her? Bottom line, she was there, and the press was crazy about her – along with other fans who lined up to take photos with her.

2014 World Cup
Fun Ecuador silliness during the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.
2014 World Cup
Fun from the FIFA FanFest at the 2014 World Cup
2014 World Cup
His country isn’t playing today – or within 2,000 miles of here. But that’s OK. He’s got his flag wavin’!
2014 World Cup Honduras versus Ecuador
Cover up your nads, boys.
2014 World Cup
A foggy, cool night in Curitiba, Brazil.

Six Things to Know About Curitiba, Brazil

The World Cup put Curitiba on the rest of the world’s radar. Many of us just think of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo – for better or worse. I went into Curitiba with few expectations – I didn’t really have enough information to form any. And the blogosphere let me down. It seems even travel bloggers hadn’t probed Curitiba.

So consider me your probe -- as awkward as that sounds. And let me share some things to know about Curitiba.

First of all, you’re probably pronouncing it wrong.

The letter "t" in Curitaba (and in many other places, like the word quality) is pronounced like a "ch." So, say "Coo Dee Cheeba." A Brazilian friend mentioned a guy named "Peach." It took me a second to realize she meant our mutual acquaintance "Pete." Yeah, someone got a new nickname out of that.

Things to Know About Curitiba
A visit to Club do Malte in Curitiba is a must.

You will have no shortage of wood-fired pizza and gelato.

You won’t be stuck eating anything exotic if you don’t want to. I’m in a hotel on a street called Dom Pedro II, and there are at least four wood-fired pizza joints on the street. And I found gelato in walking distance.

Speaking of tasty things, craft beer is alive and well in Brazil.

You can find high-end beers in Curitiba. Club Do Malte has a smoked porter and an IPA (called Chicago Blues and Underground, respectively) as their house draft beers. Also, they have an excellent brownie, in addition to top-flight bottled beers from Scotland, Norway and the US.

Most importantly, the staff knows their beers. They can recommend some Brazilian stuff that will hit your tastebuds nicely. My favorite might’ve been the Way Beer Cream Porter, which is brewed in Curitiba. Eu guste moito!

Things to Know About Curitiba
Inside the Club do Malte

Even if you drink all the beer, you’ll be parched most of the time.

Everyone says the tap water is safe to drink, but nobody drinks it. You don’t get a glass of water at restaurants. This confounds desert people like me, and drives us into a state of permanent near-dehydration.

I’ve taken advantage of a water cooler in the fitness center, filling my Vapor collapsible bottle as often as possible.

Sustainability fans will like all the recycling.

Curitiba is all about recycling. The presence of bins for an array of disposables surprised me. Some people asked me about the city’s rapid transit. Honestly, I haven’t experience it, so that’s a wash. But it at least tries.

It’s also virtually litter-free – and not just near the stadium.

Dining out in Curitiba.

Rather than leaving groups of friends to puzzle over the bill, some restaurants and bars give each visitor a numbered or named card. The server uses it to keep track of what you had. You take it to the cashier at the end and pay up for what you have.

Why American businesses freak out about separate checks when they could just do this is beyond me. Good thinking, Brazil!

Speaking of cool, it gets downright cold here.

I spent some days wearing my super-handy First Ascent PrimaLoft jacket. I carried my Marmot Mica jacket the entire day just in case the rain started to pour. This ain’t the perma-warm climate of Rio – one of the things to know about Curitiba is that you shouldn’t roll in here expecting a climate that allows you to spend your holiday wearing a Borat thong. Pack accordingly.