Posts tagged with Travel

Philadelphia: It Really Loves You Back
Last weekend, my wife and I paid yet another visit to the City of Brotherly Love – being my fifth time since relocating to the United States almost nine years ago. Philadelphia is one of those towns that is always pleasurable to visit, not only because most of the local attractions are pretty much located just blocks from each other (The Philadelphia Museum, The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall), but also due to the fact that most of them are completely free of charge.

On our last stop there, we paid a visit to Franklin Court, which is located at the spot where Benjamin Franklin's house once stood (it was demolished in 1812). There you can visit an ancient, still-active post office an underground museum with information about the great Founding Father, inventor and diplomat, including three short films about his life, including the Academy Award-nominated “Ben and Me,” a 1953 Walt Disney fantasy about a Revolutionary War-era mouse who 'assisted' Franklin in many of his endeavours.

We also took a tour of Independence Hall, where we saw the very halls where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed. Among the several items of furniture in the room is the very chair where George Washington sat as he presided over the Constitutional sessions.

It is specially thrilling to revisit this place, specially in the troubled times we are living now. Would the Forefathers – most of whom were slave owners – that one day we would have an African American President in the White House? Or that the nation would be so divided between red and blue states, white, black and Latino?

A few blocks down Chestnut street is the National Liberty Museum, a four-story structure dedicated to the history of the fight for freedom both here and abroad One of the sections dedicates an entire wing to unsung WW2 heroes who risked their lives by helping Jews hide from the Nazis. The section also honors those who fought against dictatorship, tyranny and cruelty.

We had most of our meals at Rotten Ralph's, an inexpensive dining spot on the Second Street Bar district. I discovered it quite by accident when I traveled to Philadelphia to get my passport (you can get it processed faster there) renewed before a trip to Brazil. In subsequent visits, I have always made sure to make a stop there for a bite or a drink.

There is so much to see in Philadelphia – every time I go there, I discover something new that I hadn't even known about before – make sure to check the travel guide before you go – they have various visit plans even for those of us on a budget. Now only if I could get their local editors to get me an assignment there...


Cleveland: A City Worth Visiting


By Ernest Barteldes

When I told friends that my wife and I had booked a trip to Cleveland for Labor Day weekend, most of our friends gave us a puzzled look. “What's in Cleveland? ” many asked. Others wondered why we hadn't booked a trip to say, Myrtle Beach or Las Vegas, where surely I would have more things to do than in the Ohio city by the shores of Lake Erie.

My response was easy – for the last few years, I have been contributing music articles to the city's local alternative newspaper, the Cleveland Scene (, and I wanted to get to know the people I had been exchanging e-mail messages with since I began writing for the paper. Also, I felt like I owed Cleveland a visit, even if it just meant checking out all the music venues whose shows I'd been previewing all this time.

We got up before the sunrise on Saturday morning and headed to LaGuardia airport, where we took an early flight that reached Cleveland at about 10:00 AM. We then headed to the local RTA train, which got us to the Downtown area in less than 30 minutes (why the NY subway does not reach either of the international airports here is beyond me), checked into our hotel and started planning our day.

The first thing we did was get some lunch, and the place we chose was the nearby Flannery's Pub located on the East Fourth St. restaurant district (, where they also have an outpost of the House of Blues). After satisfying ourselves with a tasty meal and a couple of local microbrews, we headed to Cleveland's best-known attraction, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame an Museum (

In spite of the high admission prices ($ 22 at the door, cheaper if you book with your trip), the Rockhall did not disappoint. There are plenty of memorabilia, movie screenings, multimedia and much more to see and hear. My personal favorites were the Woodstock 40th anniversary celebration, the R & R history chronology and the Elvis Presley display. I also liked the Les Paul tribute, the current exhibit on the life and work of Bruce Springsteen and of course the striking views of the lake, which can be seen from the glass panels of the building's pyramid-like setup. After visiting the Hall, we hung out at the neighboring park, where there a street fair going on.

Later that evening, we checked out a foodie event called A Taste of Cleveland and ended the evening by paying a visit to Wilbert's, where we caught a fiery performance by bassist Doug Johns, who played backed solely by a drummer.

It was a lucky break that the National Air Show was taking place that weekend. There we saw Air Force Thunderbirds and several acrobatic acts in addition to a collection of both civil and military aircraft. After that we met with a friend at Zocalo, an upscale Mexican-style restaurant. After resting for a few hours, it was time to head to the Waterloo Cafe , where we saw a great performance by banjoist Tony Furtado (review below). There we also met with one of my local editors, who after the show took us on a drive around town.

On our last day there, we went over to The Great Lakes Science Center, where they have many interesting attractions, such as flight simulators and other curiosities. We ended our visit by having lunch at a sports bar and restaurant called The Winking Lizard, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal accompanied by even more microbrews.

There is much more to see in Cleveland. I surely hope we get the opportunity to stay there again soon.

Our visit to Cleveland would not have been possible without the help of some local (new) friends we knew via emails but who we had never met in person before. I'd rather not mention their names on a public newsletter, but let me tell you that Renata and I owe you big – you know who you are.


Rio, The Happiest City? No Surprise There

“My Soul Sings/I See Rio de Janeiro I miss it so much/ Rio, your sea, endless beaches/Rio, you were made for me” Antonio Carlos Jobim,

I can't say that I was surprised when I heard that Rio de Janeiro was voted “the world's happiest city” by Forbes Magazine earlier this week (runner-ups including Sydney, Barcelona and San Francisco). From what I've seen from my various visits to the former Brazilian capital, there is a certain feeling of happiness that comes from that town. It is little wonder that Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote so fondly about it in songs like “Corcovado” and “Samba do Aviao.” Rio de Janeiro is really a wondrous city, not only because of its natural beauty, but also due to their friendly, amiable inhabitants.

Just last May, my wife and I took a two-week vacation to Brazil, and spent the first half of that in Rio. In addition to checking out the usual tourists spots, we were also able to check out some of the music spots there, and also made a few friends at a boteco (corner bar) close to our hotel , where between several glasses of beer we were able to chat with the locals about life there.

Through those conversations, we could feel that in spite of the crime, poverty and political corruption and other problems that afflict the nation, Cariocas (as we call the people from Rio) are really content with their lives in a way that is unimaginable to Americans.

The first thing you get there is the weather: temperatures are always mild, and unlike Florida, there are no hurricanes or any other natural disasters to speak of. And the city has a pretty reliable public transportation system. And of course there are the miles and miles of beautiful beaches. I remember that on our first day there, we went on a stroll after drinking cafezinho (espresso-like coffee) at a nearby food stand. We walked about half of the extension of Copacabana beach, stopping every now and then for a chopp (draft beer) at one of the many food kiosks located near the sand.

There is also the Carnaval, when for four days revelers throw their cares to the wind and enjoy the never-ending samba parties, lazy mornings and pretty much everything else the city has to offer.

Who wouldn't be happy with that?


New York Celebrates Brazil on Labor Day

The 25th Anniversary of Brazilian Day in New York

by Ernest Barteldes

Sunday, September 6 W 46th Street and 6th Ave. 12-6 PM

Ever since I moved to New York almost nine years ago (though it doesn't seem that long – time really flies), I have looked forward to Labor Day weekend, when the annual Brazilian Day Festival takes place. It is an opportunity to reconnect with the spirit of the country I left behind through its music, food and language.

Among the most memorable moments I can recall was Daniela Mercury (2001), who at the time was touring in support of her crossover pop album Sou de Qualquer Lugar, a disc that broke from the usual Axe music content she'd been doing until then. It was a rainy afternoon, and the crowd was not as numerous as it had been before, and it was great fun. Another was when Ivete Sangalo serenaded the crowd (2003) with a mix of dance-friendly songs and also some tunes that reminded all of us of lazy, sunny days by the beach.

Not all the memories were that great, though. I recall cringing in 2003 when the US National Anthem was interrupted by an unruly crowd who screamed the Brazilian anthem over it – which prompted the event's organizer, Mr. Joao de Matos to take the microphone and admonish the audience, who had to be reminded that they were in American soil after all, and that they owed respect to the nation that had received them so well.

But such incidents were isolated. As I have written in numerous publications in the past, the Brazilians who come to the party are mostly well-behaved. Few arrests (if any) are ever made during the day, and everybody has lots of fun as the day goes on – and also during the various after-parties that take place all around Manhattan – which makes Brazilian Day a must-see festival for those who happen to be in New York that long weekend.

The lineup this time around - the 25th anniversary of the event – includes samba/soul diva Alcione, percussion innovator Carlinhos Brown (who has worked with various big names in the industry both in Brazil and abroad), controversial punk rocker Marcelo D2 and singer Elba Ramalho, one of the principal acts that helped northeastern music reach mainstream radio during the 1980s.

As for myself, I will be skipping Brazilian Day this year. Instead, I will be paying a visit to Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Their local alternative paper, the Cleveland Scene, has been continuously been publishing my work for quite a long time, and I think it's due time for me to get to know it...


New York Music Beat: The Siren Music Festival, Coney Island July 18

by Ernest Barteldes

Now that the Latin Alternative Music Conference is behind us, it is time to check out another New York music tradition, the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, a sweaty music event that is currently on its ninth edition with a large day-long showcase of both independent and signed bands who are expected to be breaking through soon – examples of past participants include Baby Loves Disco, Guided By Voices The Donnas, Modest Mouse, The Stills, Death Cab For Cutie and also The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who played the festival shortly before their major-label debut turned them into the neo-punk darlings they went on to become later on. I've been attending this Village Voice-sponsored festival since its second edition (I only missed it in 2007, when I was traveling in Brazil), and for starters let me state that this is not for the faint of heart – you have to walk back and forth between the two stages to catch the different performances – the crowds are huge, bathrooms are hard to come by (the best being at Nathan's Famous facilities on Stillwell Avenue), and of course there is the unwavering heat to deal with. But the Siren Festival is great fun, and there is the opportunity to discover music before it hits the radio stations – call it finding diamonds in the rough. And there are also the countless freebies that you can score there, ranging from CD compilations, T-shirts, energy drinks and of course the ever-present New York City condoms – the mayor does want us to stay safe, I guess.

Another thing is the fact that you don't have to shell out six dollars for your beverage of choice. Delis sell beer for an average price of $ 2.50 (open containers are still illegal on in public, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out), and food can be found at affordable prices there. You can also refresh yourself by going for a dip in the ocean – the water is fine at this time of the year, reaching an average temperature of about 60 degrees. The best way to get to the festival is using Public Transportation. You might want to drive, but remember that The Siren Music festival has become the second biggest day on Coney Island (after the Mermaid Parade), so parking can be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge – the best option for those coming in from areas like Staten Island. The Siren Music Festival begins at 12 noon, ending at about 9 PM. For information on schedules, band information and pretty much anything else you might want to need, visit their site at


The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

reprinted from The Brooklyn Paper

Saturday, June 20; Surf Avenue, Coney Island; 2-6 PM; Mermaid Ball in two sessions, 5:30-midnight;
For more information, visit

As uncertain as things seem to be about whatever the future holds for Coney Island as an amusement area neighborhood – especially with the current financial crisis - at least one thing seems to remain unchanged in the area: the annual Mermaid Parade, which takes place this Saturday – as it has been for almost three decades..

For those who have never attended, the parade (which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year), this festival of hand-made costumes and – well, very little clothing - marks the true beginning of summer- on a recent edition, a group of women used an intergalactic theme in plastic outfits that must have been scorching under 80-degree weather), assorted sea creatures and random political commentary.

“I love the people, I love being in the parade, waving to the kids, taking photo's with tourists, dancing at Ruby's at the end of the day,” says freelance illustrator Molly Crabapple. “Everyone is feeling fabulous, showing off their fins. People are there to have a good time and they do. It's a very positive day. The worst thing for me is the weird tan lines I end up with from my costume!”

The Annual Mermaid Parade will be followed by the Mermaid Ball, which this year takes place in two separate sessions at The Dreamland Roller Rink, which is located at the Childs Building - 3052 West 21st St at the boardwalk

The ball begins as the parade wraps – according to information on the parade's website, Thee Ball will run in 2 skating sessions 5:30pm-8:30pm and 9pm-Midnight - tickets go for $20 (skate rental $5 or bring your own). Weather allowing, it will surely bring large crowds in an event that is usually very crowded – here are some tips for first-time participants: - Access to the parade is simple enough, but mass transit is advisable on this case, since it is one of the busiest days on Coney Island, and parking might be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge to Coney. - While delis will be selling alcoholic beverages, it is also advisable to remind that open containers are still illegal on parade grounds, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out. To stay out of potential trouble, you can patronize Nathan's Famous hot dog stand or other vendors in the area. - Timing is crucial for the best enjoyment. “I recommend they get there early to secure a good viewing spot, bring their camera, sun-block and water,” says Pontani. “I think it's great for a first- timer to watch the parade and participate the following year.” - “If you can afford it, be a judge (for a donation of $ 100 to Coney Island USA)and sit in the reviewing stands,” says local emcee Fred Kahl, AKA The Great Fredini. “You get a birds-eye view of the whole parade and get all the great bribes for participants wanting to win a prize. Molly Crabapple also suggests participating as a judge, but she says that “it's the most fun to perform.” - Bathrooms can be a problem. There are public restroom facilities at Nathan's and on the boardwalk. You can also use the facilities at Astroland and Deno's for a fee of 25 cents. “As America's largest Art parade, there's so many wonderful sights to see and its all created by independent artists for everyone to enjoy, says Kahl. “The only bad thing I can think of is the line for the bathroom” “A lot of things [in Coney] have changed over the years and with such changes going on, I imagine we are going to be looking at a lot more,” says Pontani. “The parade itself has changed a in the past decade alone, in terms of participants, the route, the crowds. I only hope it continues to grow, gain popularity and fans. I believe it will remain one of the staple events that people love and associate with Coney Island.”



It was a Tuesday night when my phone rang. It was my father, with whom I had not spoken for more than three years. When I heard his somber tone over the line, I knew exactly what it was.

My grandfather had died.

I couldn't say that he went too soon. At 39, I was one of few people my age who still had a living grandparent. He had been suffering from dementia for quite some time (a condition accelerated by my grandmother's death four years before), and was being looked after at an assisted-living facility in Lawrence, a Kansas state town just an hour west of Kansas City.

I felt that it was my duty as a grandson to fly to out to Kansas to pay my last respects to my paternal grandfather – even if that meant having to be in the same physical space occupied by my estranged father.

Things had never been good between my father and I. As somebody born right before the boomers came into the picture, he was raised by strict parents and was expected to do as he was told. He rebelled and became a rocker in the late fifties, but in the end he at heart a small-town boy unable to deal with the changes that swept society in the sixties. By then, he was pursuing a degree and looking to settle down as far away as possible from his folks.

But he grew up to become his own worst nightmare. He had become his own parents with the wrong expectations for kids growing up and coming of age in the 80s.

As for my parents' relationship, I must say that they were a mismatch from the start. My mother was a beauty queen brought up among the socialites of her northeastern Brazilian town of Fortaleza, with a large circle of friends that included journalists, doctors, writers and other faces that would often graced their local papers' society columns.

My father, on the other hand, was a small-town guy who favored hanging out with his high school buddies, drinking beer and watching ball games on TV . He wanted a wife that would look after him, cook and take care of the house – a woman he could control, but instead he married a free spirit who was not at all easy to get along with.

When they finally split after two bitter and quite unexplainable decades together, my father quickly married another Brazilian woman – a shy, small-town lady almost twenty years his junior with little or no personal ambition except getting a rich man to take care of her financial needs. Unlike my mother, who went on to get a masters degree in literature, this woman wanted nothing more than shop at Wal-Mart and clean up after my dad while having three kids in rapid succession.

It was little surprise when – without previous notice - he left for Kansas (a place he said he hated) a few years later, cutting off most communication with myself and my kid sister. That didn't affect me much, as I was already a grown man with little attachment to him, but it really disturbed my sister, who was instantly transformed from daddy's little diamond to a piece of trash for falling out of his favor after she'd gotten into some personal trouble.

In the winter of 1999, I was living in Brazil working as an ESL teacher while also studying for a bachelor's degree in literature. In January of that year, I had a month's vacation (those were the good old days) and went with my Brazilian girlfriend on a trip to New York City, where years later I would reside.

During that vacation – the first we'd taken together - we received an unexpected invitation via a late-night phone call to our New York City hotel to fly to Lawrence, KS to visit my grandparents (who I hadn't seen in more than a decade due to escalating family feuds). So it was that halfway through our visit, we took a plane to Kansas, where we met my grandparents – who were pushing 80 but were still healthy and active - at Kansas City airport.

It was a pleasant trip. During our four-day stay, we saw all the places I had no memory of having seen my whole life , since my parents had moved out of the area when I was still a toddler. We reluctantly spent a day with my father's new family, which consisted of his two kids and very pregnant wife, all parties doing their best not to step on each others' toes during those few hours. Paying close attention to the old adage that said that visitors and fish both start to smell after three days, we returned to New York after four, and while we were in Kansas we stayed in a hotel in the outskirts of town.

During the next few years (especially after relocating to NY), I talked to my grandparents over the phone whenever I could, and lamented the fact that they were moving from their longtime home to an assisted-living facility – I knew the inevitable end was coming. In May 2004 as I took a lunch break from my job at a Queens ESL school, I turned on the phone and noticed that there was a voice message. To my surprise, it was my father's voice – I hadn't spoken to him in four years. In a very casual tone, he let me know that my grandmother was gone. Just like that. Over a voice message. I couldn't believe it.

Sitting in the lounge at the school, I just blurted out, “my grandmother died.” Clearly, everyone thought I was joking. I just felt paralyzed. Just two days earlier, I had a nice conversation with her over the phone. Now she was gone.

Back then I was unable to fly to Kansas for financial reasons – I was going through a divorce - but this time around I was doing well enough to fly out there, book a hotel for a night and fly back the next day.

I called my father to let him know I was coming and to ask for details on the arrangements. He was actually surprised to hear that I was coming, but didn't sound happy to hear the news.

“You don't have to do, this you know,” he said in a very sarcastic tone.

“I missed my grandma's funeral, I feel like I should not miss this one,” I replied, trying to sound as natural as possible.”

“Well, suit yourself,” he said, almost disturbed by the notion of actually having to meet me. “I'll give you a call with the details later.”

That night I was supposed to attend a concert at the Blue Note jazz club in Manhattan, but I just was unable to do so, even though I thought that I would be honoring my grandfather's memory in doing so – he loved jazz. Instead, I called the club to inform them that I was not going to make it (I had reservations) and instead stopped at The Cargo Cafe – a small jazz joint a block away from my Staten Island apartment – and listened to a small combo as I slowly sipped a double scotch and lost myself in memories.

On Friday morning, there was a message on my phone – it was my father, letting me know details about the services and giving me instructions on how to get to Lawrence from Kansas City airport. The funeral would be on the following Wednesday, so I quickly booked an early morning ticket and also a room at an inexpensive hotel in town – something not hard to find there.

I hadn't seen my father for about six years, but I hoped that the grief we were both sharing would at least thaw things between us for the few hours we'd be in the same physical space, but the few contacts we had on the phone hinted that things would not be that way. It would be a rough ride, but – what the hell – I was ready to face it for Grandpa.

My Polish-born wife asked me if I wanted her to accompany me to the services, but I chose to go it alone – I expected that things would be bad there, and the last thing I wanted was to have her see how dysfunctional my family was – we had only been together for a short time, the last thing you want is to cause a bad impression on a new bride.

Specially when she has an accent and you know that your father will pick on her.

I woke up early that Wednesday morning, heading to LaGuardia airport in Queens. I made it to Kansas City in a few hours, and just in time for the funeral services in Lawrence. It was a freezing January day – around 18 degrees or so, but since there was very little humidity, it was somehow bearable to be outside.

There I met with distant cousins I had not seen in a long time – a few for the very first time, which made for an awkward experience - “nice to meet you” and smiles at a funeral were a bit too much for me, but I politely shook my father's hand, and his wife and kids received me like an estranged friend coming in a mission of peace - which made me feel somewhat welcome.

After some small talk we all headed to the cemetery, where some chairs were set under a canopy. A minister said a few words, and an elderly WW2 Veteran presented my dad with a US flag in recognition to my grandfather's service (he was in the Navy during that conflict). I felt bad for him, since he looked like the temperature was causing him some suffering. A few moments later, it was all over – no reception was planned, which I thought was rude – some relatives had traveled from Colorado, Miami, Texas and (me) New York, and all we had to do was head back home after some considerable expense.

I hitched a ride with my cousin to downtown Lawrence, where I was supposed to meet with the editor of the local paper (a writer is always hustling!) for a quick interview, which was pretty much uneventful. Across the street was this Mexican restaurant, and it was then I realized that I'd had nothing to eat. I grabbed a bite and returned to my hotel, where I briefly rested and talked on the phone both with my current and ex-wives, who were both curious about how things had gone down. Shortly after that, my father called inviting me to dinner – something he'd been pressed to do by his cousins and brother, who were all pissed at him for not holding a reception after the services.

My uncle picked me up in one of his many sports cars and we drove to the local Applebees, where I proceeded to order a margarita. I was in no mood for eating, because I knew what was coming. And I had better have a few in my head before that came around. At the table were my father, his wife (who by now looked like a sucked lemon) and his three kids – one of them who I had never met. We chewed the fat for a brief period, and then my father came out with one of his infallible gestures:

“It's very considerate of you to come all this way for the funeral, and I am sure that your grandfather would have appreciated that,” he said with no irony in his voice. He then paused for a second, and blurted: “but don't come back – it's not like we like having you around.”

He had apparently drunk a few by the time I reached the restaurant. My uncle quickly intervened, and diplomatically stated that he was more than happy to have me around.

“And oh, about your expenses coming here...”

I immediately cut him off. “It's all right, I'm OK – it's the least I could have done.”

He looked around uncomfortably, unprepared to have his magnanimous moment taken away from him. His wife bravely changed the subject, and asked about my sister, who was at the time starting a dog-walking business in New York. But soon the mood turned somber again.

Without much to say, my father turned to me and said, coldly: “I don't like you, you know?”

“Why is that,” I asked.

“Because you wrote a negative review of my book.”

About ten years ago, my father – ever the frustrated writer - self-published (under a pseudonym) a trashy, bitter book about life in Brazil where he described all women as whores, all businessmen as corrupt while singing the praises of beer and cachaca. I got a hold of it and wrote a very negative review that was picked up by – apparently, I hurt his sales badly, and now the tome is only available on demand.

Had he written a critical book about Brazil that was any good, I would have published a positive review, but the fact was that his book was garbage, and that was exactly what I told him to his face at the table, almost a decade later.

He just turned and said, “You go to hell”

I smiled and said, with all the sarcasm I could: “Guess I will meet you there then.”

And that was that.

I ended the night watching a TV show the hotel's TV while eating a pre-prepared salad and drinking some wine that I'd purchased from a nearby store. The next day, I woke up early and headed to the airport, where I resumed my normal life.


Back Home

After two sunny weeks in Brazil, the missus and I landed in New York last Sunday, exhausted from a thirteen-hour trip (not counting the two-hour wait for a connection in Rio) that brought is back to a fifty-degree, rainy New York City.

The weather has since changed, and as I look out of my Staten Island apartment, is a beautiful day with temperatures around 84 degrees. Great as we approach Memorial Day, a national holiday in which we remember those fallen in the many wars this country has fought in throughout its history.

After resting from the flight, we set to get back to our daily routines - after all, the bills are not going to pay for themselves, and there is work to be done. Last Tuesday, I attended an event for the launch of Central Park Summerstage – the two-month long series of concerts to which I eagerly look forward to every year. On Wednesday, there was a reception for an collective art exhibit of Lower East Side artists (will be writing about it for the NY Press) and then on Thursday (the day I write this) there is a local event here on Staten Island.

In the meantime, I also did a bunch of interviews – including The Indigo Girls and Rio Gringa (with whom you are probably familiar with by now) that have kept me quite busy – right now, I am working myself through the pile of CDs that arrived in the mail while I was away (you can imagine the dirty looks I got at the Post Office when I went there to pick them up).

Soon enough things should be settling down to normality.

It was great to be away for those two weeks, but at the same time it's good to be home. I sort of got used to living in New York ,walking around with my MP3 player (it's not an iPod) without fears of having it yanked away from me – Rio and Fortaleza are wonderful cities with warm people, but to have to be constantly looking over your shoulder it a bit of a hassle. But of course there are the amenities – the 2-real caipirinhas by the sidewalk, the sea breeze in your face, the friendliness of the Cariocas and Cearenses – this is something I always look forward to.

Back to work, now... thanks for reading.