Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Thongs and Fashion

On our recent trip to Rio, we were very surprised by some of the… um… “unique” fashion trends, and not so surprised by others.

Thongs

Everything you’ve heard is true. Brazilian women love to wear their thong bikinis on the beach! Every single woman aged 15 on up to 90 on the beach was wearing a thong bikini, or a very small bikini that had been “tucked in” to resemble a thong. They seemed to be pretty shameless about it as well, which was shocking at first but seemed quite normal after a few days.  They would bend over, run around with the kids, and even play a game of beach  paddleball in their thongs.

Interestingly, the Brazilian women were quite modest when not on the beach. Even when walking along the boardwalk, the ladies were fully covered… unlike Cancun or parts of the US, where you’ll see women walking along in bikini tops. Not so in Rio. When you’re not on the sand, you cover up.

Everything you’ve heard about Brazilian butts is also true. We did not see a single Brazilian woman there who didn’t have a fabulous butt. Didn’t matter if they were skinny or fat, young or old… amazing butts, all of them.

About 2/3 of the men were wearing speedo’s, but luckily Jorge didn’t feel too left out because there were a good amount wearing trunks as well.

American men will never be secure enough to hug another man wearing a speedo.

Workout Gear

We mostly stayed in the Copacabana and Ipanema districts of Rio, where you’ll find tons of locals biking, playing soccer, playing paddleball, walking and running. They even have gym stations on the beach so guys can do pull-ups!

By Day 2, Jorge had noticed that many of the women were wearing the same workout outfit that seemed a bit odd to us. We saw at least 20 women wearing this trend every day: leggings with knee-high athletic socks. For posterity’s sake, we documented some of these women so you can see it’s actually true:

After seeing it so much, this trend actually began to look attractive. Luckily we left Rio before I had a chance to buy my long athletic socks.

What interesting fashion statements have you seen in other cultures?

Sand and Sound at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival 2011

This past weekend was the annual Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in one of my favorite places: Playa del Carmen. Held Thursday November 24 through Saturday November 26 at the chic Mamita’s Beach Club, the festival hosted some of the top current jazz artists in Latin America and beyond.

Saturday’s concert began at 7 pm , but Jorge and I didn’t arrive at Mamita’s Beach until around 8 pm. The beach was immense and PACKED. We estimated there were at least 2,000 spectators that night, but probably more. Many had brought their beach chairs, others were standing, and even more were hanging out on the sand talking to groups of friends. It was a very relaxed vibe despite the large crowd.

Throughout the evening, we got to hear music by Richard Bona, Alex Otaola and the Yellowjackets. I’m not a huge jazz fan, but even I was really getting into it! Some of the music was a bit bland for me, but the upbeat numbers were a lot of fun.

Juan and Viri joined up with us later on, and we got a new spot near the very back of the crowd. It was less crowded, and everyone in that area was just sitting on the sand talking to friends with a pretty clear (if distant) view of the stage. Juan had brought a 10-pack, so he and Jorge joked over their beers while Viri and I spent the evening talking and taking pictures. We’ll definitely be back to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival in 2012! It was a fun, relaxed evening of beach, friends and music.

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

APPROVED!

Remember how Jorge was applying for his US tourist visa? This morning he went to the American Consulate in Merida for his interview and was APPROVED!

We had heard that the consulate was being more lenient recently in giving out tourist visas. They’re usually quite strict to make sure nobody wants to go on a tourist visa and stay in the country illegally, and Jorge had already been denied once before. (**Fun fact: The gentleman who approved him today was the same person who denied him the visa 2 years ago!**)

Jorge told me about his interview, and he thinks the following tipped the odds in his favor (judging from the interviewer’s questions and reactions):

  • He’s married to an American working in Mexico. I always thought this would make him look like more of a risk, but apparently the interviewer seemed pleased to see my FM2 card and our marriage license. Last time he applied and was denied, we were not yet married.
  • Our recent trip to Brazil. Jorge mentioned we’d recently gotten a Brazilian visa and traveled, and the interviewer checked our Brazil visas and passport stamps. I think it looks good that he has traveled out of the country recently and returned.
  • Jorge graduates university in January. He’s all done with classes, but he has to be in Cancun in January to officially graduate, meaning he can’t stay in the US right now.

He did mention that he was just going to visit my family for Christmas. We’d debated downplaying the fact that he had family of sorts in the US as it makes him more of a risk, but in the end honesty is the best policy, right?

I already bought our tickets to fly home for Christmas. I’ve been waiting 5 years for Jorge to see where I’m from and how amazing my mom’s cooking is. I hope he’ll be able to put up with me, my 2 sisters, mom, grandma and 4 girl cousins… he’ll be “bendito entre mujeres”, as they say in Mexico. Can’t wait!

Thanks again to all my readers and Facebook friends for being so kind and supportive of us. Any expat here with a Mexican spouse/partner/significant other knows just how important these visits are. All of our friends have been so excited for us. Thank you.

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach

Moving along with the honeymoon posts, today I’ll write about my favorite part of Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema.

You may remember we stayed in the Copacabana district, which was lovely, but on the 3rd day of our trip we finally made it to the neighboring beach neighborhood of Ipanema. Once we discovered it, we’d spent hours on the remaining days of our trip just wandering around the streets and beach of Ipanema, just a 20 minute walk from our Copacabana apartment. It has a very cool vibe, with lots of surfers, beautiful views and endless restaurants to choose from. Ipanema is the perfect place to just… be.

If we ever make it back to Rio, we’re definitely staying in Ipanema!

Note: I know I’ve been using the slideshow feature a lot lately. Personally I like it better for posts with lots of photos, but if you have a hard time seeing it please let me know and I’ll be sure to use regular format in the future.

Cheester: Is There Such a Thing as Bad Publicity?

One of my Cancun favorites, Cheester restaurant put up a post on its Facebook page this past Saturday that sparked quite the controversy all over Cancun’s social media culture:

hola amigos de cheester es de vital importancia que si es tu piensas festejar tu cumpleaños, reunion, posada, graduacion etc debes decirle a tus amigos que mesas mayores a 12 personas esperaras por lo menos 45 min si llegas en horas pico digamos entre 2 y 6 y entre 8 y 10 de la noche y que tenemos un consumo minimo de 100 pesos por persona, mas el 15 % de servicio asi que avisales a tus amigos, esto quiere decir que si vienes a ocupar un espacio y no vas a consumir mejor vayan a mac donalds evitenme la pena de causarte un mal momento SI ESTAS DE ACUERDO CON LAS REGLAS Y SON PERSONAS CIVILIZADAS ESTAMOS EN LA MEJOR DISPOSICION DE ATENERLES ( MESAS MAYORES DE 12 ES CASI IMPOSIBLE DE SERVIR DEVIDO A LA CAPACIDAD DEL RESTAURANTE ) POR SU COMPRENCION GRACIAS Y LOS ESPERAMOS

Here’s my rough translation (complete with spelling and grammar errors):

Hello friends of cheester it’s of vital importance that if you’re planning to celebrate your birthday, get-together, posada, graduation etc you should tell your friends that tables of more than 12 people will wait at least 45 minutes if you arrive during peak hours let’s say from 2 to 6 and from 8 to 10 at night and there’s a minimum bill of 100 pesos (about $10 USD) per person, plus 15 % service so let your friends know, this means that if you’re coming to take up space and you’re not going to eat you’d better go to mac donalds don’t make me have to ruin your evening IF YOU AGREE WITH THE RULES AND ARE CIVILIZED PEOPLE WE ARE MORE THAN HAPPY TO SERVE YOU ( TABLES MORE THAN 12 ARE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO SERVE DO TO THE CAPACITY OF THE RESTAURANT ) THANKS FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDIN AND HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON

Followers were immediately in an uproar over this statement, mainly due to the mean tone of the post.

I was upset at first as well because it made me feel unwelcome as a customer, but I’m ok with it now for several reasons:

  1. Cheester is and has always been known for its sarcastic, no BS attitude. Their original restaurant even has a list of rules posted, insisting you not be cheap and tip your waiter, no special orders, we close promptly at 11, etc etc. I’ve been personally yelled at by the chef for making a special order, and the chef has also come out to tell my friends to stop using their Blackberries at dinner (haha). They have always been known for their acidic humor and everyone just thought it was funny, so why should they be expected to change now?
  2. If I read over this carefully, they’re actually pretty good rules and advisories.
    • The restaurant is VERY small, and doesn’t fit groups of 12. Thanks for the heads up.
    • Yes there will be a wait, especially for groups. Cheester doesn’t accept reservations and is always packed. Again, thanks for the heads up.
    • Automatic 15% service for large groups is standard for pretty much every restaurant.
    • $100 pesos minimum… I think this is a bit high considering Cheester dishes each cost around $100 and are meant for 2 or more people… but I get their point that you can’t just be sitting there taking up space.

New anti-Cheester Facebook groups have been formed calling for boycotts, and many are using the hashtag #CheesterSucks on Twitter.

Cheester has since posted 3 apologies on its Facebook page.

What do you think? Did they cross the line this time? Should they have to apologize? Is this good or bad publicity for Cheester?

Juan, Viri, Jorge and me at Cheester a few months back

Taste of Playa 2011

I’d been looking forward to this past Sunday for a year now, and I was not disappointed!

Jorge, Viri, Juan and I all made our way south to Playa del Carmen for the annual Taste of Playa culinary event, sponsored by Diamonds International. For those who haven’t had the chance to explore the Riviera Maya, the city of Playa del Carmen is well-known for its charming bars and restaurants. The entire Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is filled with all kinds of dining venues, ranging from casual sandwich shops to chic upscale restaurants. Local bars are open-air, ideal for people watching while indulging in a margarita or artisan beer.

At Taste of Playa,  the best of all these unique options come together at Parque Fundadores, set on the Quinta Avenida right by the Caribbean Sea. Guests lined up to purchase “Playa Pesos”, each costing $10 pesos (roughly $1 USD) each. With just 1 Playa Peso, you can purchase some mouthwatering tacos, a cold cocktail, a spicy ceviche or even sushi!

We each wandered around on our own, sampling from almost every vendor we saw. The favorites among our small group were the crunchy tacos and some chocolate-covered cream puffs. I’m always surprised how the simplest dishes often turn out to be the best.

After an hour or two of culinary inspiration at Taste of Playa, our small group walked up and down Quinta Avenida to enjoy the laid-back vibe of Playa del Carmen before heading back to Cancun (where we immediately went to a taco joint, surprise surprise).

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let the slideshow do most of the talking. Try not to drool onto your keyboard:

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Mexico Today and Vital Voices Twitter Party

The Mexico Today initiative has joined forces with the Vital Voices Global Partnership organization to host a Twitter Party focusing on women’s entrepreneurship in Mexico and Latin America as a whole. The Twitter Party will be held this Monday, November 21 at 1 pm EST. (That’s 12 pm for all you cancunenses!)

We’re really excited to be working with Vital Voices, who has helped women all over the world to become strong leaders.

“Vital Voices is an international non-profit, non-partisan organization, that provides leadership training and suppport for emerging women leaders in business, government, and civil society.”

“Our mission is to identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.”

Anyone who has lived in Latin America can’t help but notice how strong the female role is in this society, and this year Vital Voices launched its LACBWN (Latin America and Caribbean Businesswomen’s Network), based in Mexico City.

“The network will mobilize and connect women professionals and entrepreneurs to promote economic growth and strengthen the business environment for women’s economic engagement through training, mentorship and capacity building programs.”

I’m so excited to be cohosting this important Twitter Party, where we’ll have the chance to discuss important issues on women’s entrepreneurship in Mexico, like marketing, networking, strengths and barriers.

If you’d like to join in this 1-hour Tweetchat, you can follow the #MexicoToday hashtag and use the #MexicoToday Tweetchat Page. Your hosts for this event are:

Suzanne Barbezat @mexicoguide

Silvia Martinez @mamalatinatips

Craig Zabransky @stayadventurous

Laura Nazimiec @gomexicoguide

Laura Winfree @cancungringa (That’s me!)

You can find more information and see some of our participants on our Facebook event page:

Mexico Today and Vital Voices Facebook Event

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Sugarloaf Mountain

I hope you’re excited, because I have more Rio de Janeiro photos headed your way!

On the second evening of our trip, Jorge and I made our way via taxi to see Rio’s famous Sugarloaf mountain.

This view is from the Christ the Redeemer platform. The Sugarloaf is the tall hill set on the center peninsula.

To get to the top of the Sugarloaf, you take two aerial trams from the downtown Sugarloaf station. First you’ll be taken to a lower hill called Cara de Cao with great views of the downtown area and the bay, then the second tram takes you up to twice the height at the top of the Sugarloaf. Jorge was scared to death of the tram before we went, but I think once we were on it he was fine.

A tram leaving the downtown station to the first hill (Cara de Cao), with the higher Sugarloaf in the right background.

View from the tram at the top of Cara de Cao, looking down on the station

CARA DE CAO HILL

The first hill, Cara de Cao, might have been my favorite of the two mountains, even if it’s not nearly as tall as the Sugarloaf. It has more space and is less crowded, and the cafe is a heck of a lot cheaper!

Sagui monkeys on Cara de Cao hill... ugliest. animals. ever. But boy, do they put on a show!

View of downtown Rio from Cara de Cao Hill

Yours Truly with Jorge on Cara de Cao Hill, with the Sugarloaf Mountain in the background

SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN

After playing with the scary monkeys for a bit and taking some pictures, we took the second tram to the top of the Sugarloaf.

Looking down on Rio from the Sugarloaf tram station

The top of the Sugarloaf was pretty crowded around sunset, but we managed to find a few more secluded areas for taking pictures and enjoying the views. We also explored some hiking paths going through the woods! I was surprised that they could pack so much onto the top of such a narrow mountain.

View of Rio's "Zona Sul" (South Zone). The super-long stretch of beach you see just beyond the ridge of hills is Copacabana, where we stayed.

Looking out onto the bay and downtown Rio

I love this picture, even though my eyes are closed! I seriously need to get this Photoshopped...

EVENING…

After some pictures and fighting the crowds at the top of the Sugarloaf, we made our way back down to Cara de Cao. Apparently we were on the “party tram” back down because there was a lot of screaming and excitement from a group of Brazilian college students.

We stopped by the cafe for some very, very tiny cups of hot cocoa and paninis, then sat down on some loungers to enjoy the sunset.

Dusk over downtown Rio de Janeiro

Yes, that's Christ the Redeemer in the background.

The trip to Sugarloaf was my second favorite part of the trip. I’ll tell you about my favorite part in a few days… Ipanema Beach!

 

 

And a Very Merry Christmas to the American Consulate!

I’m traveling to my hometown of Richmond, Virginia this Christmas to see family, and I’m so excited about it! I haven’t seen my family since last December, which is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing them. While I love my life here in Cancun, it can get very hard being away from family (and with “family”, I include my mom’s cooking) for so long. I also haven’t been to Richmond in I think 3 or 4 years, and I really miss the city sometimes.

I’ve always dreamed of taking Jorge with me to Richmond and showing him around everything I grew up with (plus the man needs to try my mom’s cooking, obvs). When my parents were living in Charlotte a few years ago, he applied for a US tourist visa and was denied.

This year, a Mexican friend of ours (hey, Tomas!) who had already been denied a visa twice was able to get his. This gave us a new-found hope, and we’re going to try again for the tourist visa.

Jorge and I spent over an hour last night filling out his online application form (I may or may not have fallen asleep near the end, sorry Jorge) and today he’s going to pay for and make his appointment.

With all the illegal immigration into the US, I understand why the US government has to be so careful about who they let in. I just wish there was some way I could prove that all I want is a family Christmas with my husband… not to bring nuclear weapons into the country, evade taxes or participate in human trafficking. (They ask a surprising number of  questions on the application to make sure this is not the case.)

So anyway, keep us in your prayers and thoughts over the next few days as we try to sort this all out. My sister has already written a letter to Santa Claus.

I Got "Steeped" at the Fairmont Mayakoba

Saturday evening, Jorge and I were invited by PR Director Paulina Feltrin to visit the incredible Fairmont Mayakoba resort in the Riviera Maya for something I have never done before… a tea tasting! On November 12, the Fairmont chain hosted different “Get Steeped” events throughout all their international hotels and resorts, offering everything from cultural events to “tea-quila” drinks.

At the Fairmont Mayakoba, we got to enjoy some unique yet delicious Berry Berry Tea Martinis.

The resort’s resident tea and tequila expert, Jesus, explained to us about the Fairmont’s popular line of teas, offering a variety of delicious infusions ranging from traditional Earl Greys to modern fruit flavors.

Jesus mixed each drink with the following recipe:

  • Fairmont’s Berry Berry infusion tea, with dried hibiscus flower (popular in Mexico), raisins, berries and herbs
  • A generous portion of vodka
  • A dash of Xtabentun liqueur, a traditional anise from the Yucatan

All these ingredients combined to create a strong, flavorful and very Mexican tea martini!

I even got the chance to mix my own, which Jesus said was even better than his (Maybe he was just trying to butter me up, but it worked). I learned that the best way to steep tea is by scooping the mixture directly into the water, NOT with a tea bag! Also, you need 20 – 30 shakes to mix a martini. Considering I’ve never mixed a drink in my life, I was pretty pleased with myself.

The final product was quite beautiful, with the alcoholic Berry Berry Tea Martini sporting a lovely pink color and the non-alcoholic martini with a deep purple tone.

I’ve never been much of a tea drinker, but after the tea tasting at the Fairmont Mayakoba resort I just might have to turn these tea martinis into a bad habit!

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.