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Posts tagged with Vacation Happenings

Philadelphia: It Really Loves You Back

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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, http://www.ushistory.org/tour/tour_fcourt.ht 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. http://www.independencevisitorcenter.com.

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 http://www.libertymuseum.org. 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 http://rottenralphsoldecity.com 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 www.gophila.com 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...

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Cleveland: A City Worth Visiting

CLEVELAND: WHY NOT?

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 (www.clevescene.com), 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 http://www.riderta.com, 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 (http://www.east4thstreet.com, 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 (www.rockhall.com).



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 http://www.wilbertsmusic.com, 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 http://www.clevelandairshow.com 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 http://www.zocalocleveland.com, an upscale Mexican-style restaurant. After resting for a few hours, it was time to head to the Waterloo Cafe http://www.thewaterloocafe.com , 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 http://www.greatscience.com, 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 http://www.winkinglizard.com, 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.

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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?

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New York Culture Beat: The Brazilian Film Festival in NY

Not many Latin American films make it to US theaters these days, so it is always with great anticipation that I wait for the Brazilian Film Festival (www.brazilianfilmfestival.com), an ongoing circuit that makes an annual stop in New York, starting at Central Park Summerstage and then on to Lower Manhattan's Tribeca Cinemas.

The festival opens with a live concert by Rio de Janeiro-based Silvia Machete, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who is yet to become a household name either in Brazil or abroad. In previous editions, the Festival showcased more “name” artists like Maria Rita and Margareth Menezes, but this year they apparently went for a change in musical direction.

Following the concert is a screening of “If I Were You 2,” a sequel to a highly successful comedy in which a couple (played by Tony Ramos and Gloria Pires) accidentally get their minds swapped after an electrical storm and as a result learn to understand each others' private worlds better.

Another interesting feature is Budapest, an adaptation from the eponymous novel by Chico Buarque de Hollanda. The plot follows Jose Costa (Leonardo Medeiros) , a ghostwriter who accidentally lands in Hungary during an emergency landing while enroute from Istanbul. Fascinated with the language and culture, he later decides to spend some time there and learn how to speak Hungarian – the one language that – as the narrator explains, “the Devil respects.” Shot on location both in Rio and Budapest and spoken in Portuguese and Hungarian, it is one of the must-sees this time around.

Documentaries are also plentiful during the event. One that has sparked my curiosity is Wandering Heart (Errante Navegante), an account of Caetano Veloso's international tour in support of 2003's English-language CD A Foreign Sound, which received mixed reviews back then and much criticism from more purist Brazilian fans who considered the disc a sell-out.

There are countless shorts included this year (my personal pick being Cleansing of Bomfim from Bahia to New York, about the ritual cleansing of Manhattan's 46th St. before Brazilian Day) in addition to dramas, comedies and various other genres – which just might please the most avid movie fanatic.

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