Helen's Birthday Weekend and Pre-Xmas Celebrations

Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Brazil  , São Paulo,
Monday, December 12, 2011

So I finally headed on out of Quito having spent yet another day in the city. I did my 42nd lap round the new town and spent four hours trying to find Helen a birthday card. I also went back the market (5th time) for a bit of last minute shopping. Then I finally flew out on Friday morning. I had to be up at 3.30am for my flight. I then flew back via Panama City and got back to Helen's at about 11pm. Now following such a gruelling day one would expect me to crash out when I got in, except it was Helen’s birthday weekend, and those of you who know Helen will know that this is never a small event. As I came in Helen and her friends were just heading out to a bar. So I got changed, made myself look a bit more presentable and headed straight out with them.  It was a very surreal night – we were in an Irish Bar, with a band playing Franz Ferdinand, surrounded by Brazillian people. We headed on home at 3am and then Helen and I stayed up talking until 5am !! I

But this wasn’t the end of the celebrations ... On Saturday night we had a Christmas dinner round at Colin (Colin used to teach at Queensmead !) and Felipe’s.  There were 8 of us in total and we had a fantastic evening. There was secret Santa (I had to buy for Felipe who I had never met before that night – fortunately when I received the email I was still in the Galapagos so got the only present that a gay man could possibly want – yes the famous 'I Love Boobies’ T-Shirt). Helen’s friend Helen (also northern and bonkers) got me some Havainas flip flops – I am so going to rock Rio now). We had roast chicken and roast beef and Colin and Helen even managed to get hold of pigs in blankets and to make some stuffing. Then we had a hilarious game of ‘The People Game’. For those of you who haven’t played it (it’s one from Phoebe Jones) , you each have to write down  5 names of famous people (or when Angela plays – Angela’s Mum, Angela’s Dad) which go into a hat. Then you are in teams  and in the first round someone describes the person to the team and the rest have to guess. The second round is where you have to mime the person and then in the third round you can only say one word to describe them.  Now this normally proves to be quite a challenging game at the best of times, but when 3 people out of the 8 are Brazillian it takes it to another dimension. Trying to describe Jean-Paul Sartre - apparently he was something to do with Existentialism (no of course I have no idea who is and what Existentialism is - sorry Andy !!) was very interesting.  Needless to say both Madonna and Lady Gaga were in there about 3 times each.  But it was really lovely to have a Christmas like that – we had Christmas tunes on and all looked incredibly special in our hats (see the photo’s).

But did it all end there?  .... don’t be daft !! The next morning was the St Paul’s School Christmas Carol Service.  So feeling a little jaded (purely down to a lack of sleep obviously), I got smartened up and headed out (Helen was in the choir so had to leave earlier).  I headed in with all the Prada and Gucci wearing parents (was just about holding my own in a Monsoon top and skirt and an H&M cardigan). However, to my surprise it was actually really good. The choir had really come on with their five part harmonies and it was actually really nice to have a bit of a sing-a-long to all the carols.  My schooling at prepared me well as I even knew the descant to Oh Come All Ye Faithful.  Afterwards there was mulled wine and even a mince pie. Then back home for a nice rest (of course not) ...

For it was Helen’s Birthday part 329 .....

The Hilton Hotel Brunch – all you can eat and drink (yes alcohol) for 35 (far better than the Pizza Hut buffet).  So from 1pm to 4pm we all stuffed ourselves and drank ourselves silly. The food was really good though. Now as part of this whole travelling thing I have decided that it’s not just all about seeing new places it’s also about trying new things. As I have been travelling I have been asking for suggestions from my companions – current suggestions include – climbing the seven summits and becoming a trapeze artist (am not too sure which one is the least likely). I have also decided to try to eat those foods I’ve so far in life disliked. Now there aren’t many left but they just keep making an appearance. So I have managed to eat some mushrooms, I have eaten some asparagus and I have eaten a couple of olives (not quite there on that one yet). So when I was at the Hilton buffet I thought it was an ideal opportunity for me to get over my fear of sushi (maybe fear is not the right word - it's not like I have to dive behind the sofa if I see any sashimi - but that whole raw fish thing is just a bit much for me - Captain Birdseye invented the fish finger for a very good reason). So I went for it with the sushi and I must say it was actually pretty good (Kathryn Hannan you must be so proud). I am stil completely hopeless with the chopsticks though. So at this point I thought – this is going well – time to try the oysters. I won’t say anything about what happened next – but just take a look at the photos.  

So following on from the buffet we all piled out at 5pm and then went home (well that would have been the sensible option), except a few of us who obviously though we were more hard core than we actually are carried on the party at a friend of Helen’s flat – we were listening to Hits 99 and still drinking wine at 9.30pm. Let’s just say when I popped into Helen's school today there were a few people who looked a little rough and quite a few kids who'd watched DVD's.

So what’s next ....

Well first of all today I’m going to give the liver a day off to somehow get over the last few days. I feel like I could have George Best a run for his money this weekend. Tomorrow I fly to the Iguassu Falls (Iguazu in Argentina), visting first the Brazillian side and the I then cross over the border into Argentina to get the other perspective. Then on Friday night i will get the overnight bus to Buenos Aires. Helen is flying to Buenos Aires on Saturday morning and we will meet there. And so will begin Donna and Barbra’s (when we were driving round Hawaii we used to sing along very loudly to No More Tears – Enough is Enough. Helen was obviously Barbra as she is the only one who can get any where near holding that note – I couldn’t even get up to the note, let alone hold it) tour of Argentina and Chile for a month. Just in case you aren't aware of who Helen is - we met at our first night at UCL on the Geography department pub crawl, 16 years ago and have been friends ever since.

We will be spending four days in Buenos Aires, teaching the locals a thing or two about how to tango. We have a new version – called the Nolans Tango. We’ve taken a combination of the argentine tango and the more traditional tango and incorporated some moves from the Nolans – circa 1981 –  I’m in the Mood for Dancing (take a look at the video on youtube and you will see what kind of moves we mean - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPP6te8nS8A&feature=related). We even got some spandex trousers (and a few chiffon jumpsuits - just for you Sam!).

Following on from this we are heading to Mendoza, the Argentine wine capital for Christmas (Don’t panic – the corkscrew is already packed !! - Don't worry lesson well and truly learnt there - although Bill  the smash and sieve method sounds interesting ) where it’s five days of wine tasting and steak eating (how will be cope?) . We are also going to see Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America (One of the Seven Summits - don’t get any ideas Liz). Then we are flying down to Bariloche in the Lake District (the Argentinian one not the one just off the M6). From there we are crossing into Chile and getting a ferry for four days through the lakes. This also incorporates New Year. There is no bar but you can take alcohol on board – hence we opted for the larger cabin. So on New Years Eve we will be dancing the night away with Beryl, Freda, Winifred and Derek who will not doubt be on the Saga Cruise (I bet they would love the Nolan's Tango!).

Then we arrive in Patagonia proper and we have until the 12th January to tour round all the moutains and glaciers (a geographers dream). Helen then flies to Rio on the 12th and I am joining a two week trekking trip round Patagonia so I can do a bit of walking and probably try to shift the extra 3 stone I will have gained in the previous few weeks. That takes me to the end of January. When the trip ends I am flying to Salta in nothern Argentina, then onto visit the rest of Brazil. I then arrive in Rio in mid-February and am meeting up with Jim who was on my first trip in Ecuador and we are going to Samba our way round Carneval for a few days and do some sun worshipping on Copacabana beach.

Then it’s back to Sao Paulo for a couple of days, then I fly to Florida to see my Dad and to Texas to see Tracy, Paul, Kara and Bump !  
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Marg on

Well you seem to be having a good time!!! - a bit like my girls holiday holiday eating and drinking (perhaps more drinking!!) Hope you both have a lovely Christmas will speak to Xmas day xx

W R Chalmers (retired) on


Just a short note fa sorry changed my mind la.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

At home.

I have been shown where the toilets are and introduced to all the members of staff some of them have four legs. My induction will have to wait until after Christmas.
This is a very peculiar moment in my Journey of life, the destinations are uncharted, the future unknown, there are many lessons to learn, list to acheive and instructions to survive.
I remember in the early 60's when JFK said to the world "Ich bin ein Hamburger" which as we all know led to the globalisation of Macdonalds.
Again in the 90's when that big wall was broken which also meant our brothers from the eastern block could enjoy the Golden 'M'.
Moments as dramatic as this play a big part in sculpturing the individual and have made me the person you can't understand today.
Anyway all my love and seasons greetings.
Big kisses xxx

The new biggest selling Christmas game for all this season is called.

Open the wine bottle in a remote Peruvian Hotel without a mechanical aid.
Sales have rocketed since your blog went viral.
Millions of wine bottles with various opening capabilities have been bought on the run up to Christmas.
This time next year well be Millionaires.
All my fondest love Liz looking forward to your next adventure.

Katie Hall on

Hey. Sounds like your having an amazing time. I love the photos they are brilliant!! Although I could say something quite rude about the "oyster experiment" Have a awsome Christmas and New Year!! I am sadly working but your blog is helping me laugh my way thorough it. Lots of Love, Katie, Rich and Lynne.xxx

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