Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Our visit to Manaus: Switzerland v. Honduras

After an acceptable breakfast at Pousada Ecoverde, we shared a taxi to the Cuiabá airport with another guest, and the flight to Manaus was uneventful.  On arrival, I had thought to take the inexpensive bus into town, but I was worried that our maps might not be good enough to enable us to walk from the bus drop point to the Hotel Ideal, where we had our prepaid reservations, so we took a taxi instead.

To put it bluntly, the Hotel Ideal is not my idea of ideal accommodations.  It was bad enough that the rooms were tiny, but they had no windows, and there was some sort of opening into the bathroom through which mosquitos kept coming into the room.  There was an air conditioner in each room, but Joe’s never worked sufficiently to cool his room — and Manaus is hot and sticky at this time of year.  In the bathroom, there was no separation between the shower and the sink and toilet, so water would spatter all over the bathrooms which when we arrived, had no towels and no soap. And this hotel had the weakest breakfast so far in the trip; there was fruit but some sort of canned ham product was the only protein besides scrambled eggs, and there was no black tea and margarine instead of butter.   I would not recommend this place to anyone; uit is a rare occasion when a place of accommodation recommended by Lonely Planet proved to be unworthy of its recommendation and below the level described,

Aside from the hotel, though, we had a good stay in Manaus.  After we set down our bags, we headed off the see the city’s main tourist attraction, the Teatro Amazonas, built in 1896 by rubber barons anxious for a touch of European style culture.  Much of the central part of the city was built during that era, resulting in many smaller buildings of pleasing design


Finally, we reached Praça São Sebastian and looked at the outside of the Teatro Amazonas, deciding that we would wait until the following day, after Sam and Nafisa would arrive to join us, to take a ticketed tour of the inside

The game of Colombia v. Japan was going full tilt on the big screen, and we watched that for a while.  Then we noticed that, next to a statue, some signers in period costumes were singing opera arias.  Opera with soccer on the big screen seemed just a little bit incongruous

We decided to sit and have dinner at the from Café do Pensador

As we ate, the game continued; there were mostly Colombians in the audience, and each time Colombia scored, they burst into cheers.

We had a nice meal at the Café.  There were musicians performing on the stage, much of the music Colombian – it was announced that there would be a samba demonstration at 7:30.  The fans for the following day’s game came to sit in the square and have dinner.  The Swiss were much in evidence, showing off various flags, but we saw no Hondurans.  For a while, there was a phalanx of police in comouflage informs standing in front of the Swiss flags, as if guarding the flag from Honduran attackers.

Sam and Nafisa arrived in the late evening; the following morning we ventured out to see the Teatro Amazonas; we were told at the ticket window that the next guided tour in English did not begin for another hour, so we got the ticket for an unguided and took the unguided inside tour.  But as we entered the theatre, it was apparent that anm English-language guide has just started recently, so I tagged along.  The guide provided perhaps a bit too much detail, losing well over half her audience, which helped me feel a little less guilty about tagging along from time to time.

Here are some views of the theatre


This is what the guide called a dating chair – a young couple would sit on the ends with their parents in between

We did some souvenir shopping, leaving not enough time to see additional sights; wanting to get an early start toward the game that afternoon, considering the amount of traffic we were seeing in the downtown area.   We had an excellent lunch at the lunch at Rancho Bufalo – a churrascaria open only for lunch.  It was much like the churrascaries in the US except that, instead of waiters bringing skewers of meat to us, we had to go up to the counter to get meat from the chefs,

And instead of there being a fixed price for all-you-can-eat, the bill was determined by weighing each diner’s plate each time they went up to the buffet and/or meat counter.  There were excellent meat dishes as well as some good items on the buffet – the Bahian fish was especially nice

Supposedly there was public buses that we could take to the Arena Amazones, but when we can swung by the location for picking upo those buses we could not see any buses going by with the right route numbers, so instead we took a cab, which dropped us about a kilometer south of the stadium.  As we walked, we saw this cool graffiti on one of the walls

The lines going into the stadium were organized very efficiently; a code on the tickets told us which metal detector line we had to use, and the lines went quickly. 

We got this photo of the stadium

 then headed up to our seats.

There was only one significant pocket of Hondurans, but there were a few significantly sized Swiss cheering sections, and more Swiss scattered a bout the rest of the stadium.  And judging bny the facial paint, more Brazilians seemed to be showing support for the Swiss than for the Hondurans – apparently, Brasilheiros favor winners over Latin style.

Most of us were inclined to support Honduras because one of their star players, Andy Najar, had  spoent his teenage years in the DC area and, in fact, had played three years for DC United before moving on to Anderlecht where he is now a starter; we knew several of the Honduran players from their years as strong MLS players.  We were disappointed that Najar did not start!  Still, the Honduras played sweetly, dominating possession, but could not score or even get a good show on goal; Switzerland punished several Honduran mistakes and was winning 3-0 before Najar got into the game with 15 minutes left

    Suddenly Honduras looked more dangerous; on almost his first possession, he dribbled through several defenders and delivered a stinging shot that Swiss keeper parried away.  He set up several other chances, but still no goals were scored, and the game ended with Honduras not having earned even a single point during the World Cup. 

On the way out of the stadium, we saw this great sign comparing the reputed heat and humidity of Manaus (although, in fact, this day had not been that bad) with the miserable climate to be expected if the 2022 World Cup goes forward in Qatar.

I myself am thinking about whether to go to Russia in 2018, btu I cannot possibly see going to the Cup in Qatar.

We followed the crowds away from the stadium area, decided not to take on of the busses lining up to take people to the Centro Historico, and found a can back to Hotel Ideal where we met Nancy about an hour before we had expected to get together.  Everybody was hungry so we proceeded to take a taxi to the evening’s restaurant selection, Canto da Peixada.

We had three excellent fish dishes that were more than enough to feed the five of us: grilled tambaqui ribs; arapaima in coconut cream; and fish stew with peacock bass.  We tried the cuparaçu cream for dessert. 

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