Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Warm welcome to Brazil - first night in coastal eco-resort, Vida Sol e Mar at Praia do Rosa Beach

Warm welcome to Brazil - first night in coastal eco-resort, Vida Sol e Mar at Praia do Rosa Beach

Florianopolis is the capital of Santa Catarina, a state of southern Brazil. Known for a high standard of living and attracting many tourists from South America and beyond, Florianopolis (population about 370,000) draws the most visitors in the summer months. The eco-resort where I am staying for three nights, Vida Sol e Mar, is located on the popular Rosa Beach, a haven for surfers and an ideal spot for whale watching from July to November. I plan to go on the resort's whale watching tour tomorrow at 7:30 a.m., accompanied by a biologist and other guests from the lodge. We will be on the lookout for the Right Whale, a 50-million-year-old mammal that rebounded from near extinction. Right now, the mother whales and their calfs swim near the coast, in the bay. If the wind is over 12 knots we will not sail; the conditions will be too unpleasant to view the whales. Regardless of the conditions, I plan to take medication to prevent sea sickness since I am a notoriously weak-stomached sailor.

Earlier today, during the 45-minute drive from Florianopolis airport to the Vida Sol e Mar eco-resort on the coast, my shuttle driver, Eduardo, chatted with me in fluent English. He also let me practice my Spanish with him since I don't know Portuguese - other than "obrigada" for "thank you." When we stopped to fill the gas tank, the topic turned to fuel and politics. Eduardo told me that natural gas and ethanol are both commonly used in Brazil. I hinted that I hoped that U.S. energy policy would soon change with the next president, then I had to add that I supported Barack Obama. He seemed relieved and replied, "I think the whole planet hopes that Barack will win!"

Upon arrival, all vexing thoughts of the upcoming U.S. election vanished - I was thrilled by the beauty of the hilltop Vida Sol e Mar resort and its panoramic ocean views. I will post photos when I have a better internet connection. 

Tonight, I dined at the resort's restaurant with Vida Sol e Mar owners, Enrique Litman and his wife, Francesca. The Argentine natives opened this lodge in 1993 and operated it since then in conjunction with a tourism company that runs whale watching, surfing and other day trips. Over a delicious fish dinner and exquisite chocolate souffle for dessert, the couple told me that they are the only certified green lodge in the Praia do Rosa Bay. The lodge is also home to the Right Whale Institute; they donate 5% of their profits to the institute. The couple has five children (ranging in age from 12 to 32); three of them actively help in the family business.

This winter marks the 15th anniversary of Vida Sol e Mar. More on the resort to come...

Highlights of Day:
Arriving at Vida Sol e Mar Eco Lodge, perched on a hilltop, with sweeping views of the ocean. 
Entering my modern, stately, two-story villa (named Piru Piru, after a bird) where I stay Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. Gorgeous views and can hear the waves.

Lowpoints of Day:
Finally falling asleep on a hot, cramped flight that departed Miami at 11:30 - only to be awoken by smell of overcooked veggies and the commencement of a 12:30 a.m. airline dinner. I know South Americans eat dinner later than Americans... but really!
Finally falling asleep after a noisy dinner hour - only to be awakened by loud voices of cheerful flight attendants eagerly selling duty-free goods from their cart.

Aug. 30-31 Travel Logistics Report
1 hour - drive from Santa Cruz to San Francisco Airport (Thanks for the ride, Jec!)
6 hours - San Francisco airport to Miami airport
8 hours - Miami to Rio de Janeiro
1.50 hours - Rio to Florianopolis
1 hour drive from airport to Vida Sol E Mar eco-resort

TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: 17.50 hours door to door

TIME CHANGE: 4 hours later here than in California