SLEEPY EYE - A sports writer at the Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch recently returned from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after a whirlwind three week vacation south of the equator that included a lot more than soccer.
"My friend and I are big soccer fans, and we knew the U.S. would have a good chance of doing well in this year's World Cup. We both love traveling, so it just seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Chris Flores said.
The only soccer game he saw was the U.S. vs. Brazil in Manaus.
Chris Flores of Sleepy Eye recently traveled to Brazil where he and a friend attended the World Cup soccer match between the United States and Brazil in Manaus.
"It was incredible. We got second-row seats for $90. Probably the best experience of my life. More than 30,000 American fans dressed up in red, white and blue, stood the entire game and yelled many chants supporting the team," Flores said.
The trip also took him on an Amazon River excursion, hiking in the Corcovado mountain to see the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio, riding a cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain and swimming in several Rio beaches.
He reported no problems on the trip, which involved a rather circuitous route to Brazil. About half of the $2,500 cost of the trip was for airline travel that cost $300 from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and $900 from Miami to Rio de Janeiro and Manaus and back.
His itinerary included flying from MPS to Milwaukee to Fort Lauderdale, riding a train to Miami, flying to Belo Horizonte, Brazil (near Rio), to Rio.
"It was a long day. Thankfully, there's only a two-hour time difference from Minnesota to Rio, making it nice to not have any jet lag," Flores said.
Flores cut his expenses by staying in hostels, which he said were very inexpensive if you stay in rooms with 10 people or more.
"It's a little weird at first, but everyone else there is traveling for fun. You quickly get to know the people you share rooms with, although some of them snored loudly," he said.
He found the food to his liking with lots of meat, fish and chicken. "We quickly learned that Brazilian cakes and pastries are out of this world (good)," Flores said.
He never feared for his safety. "Brazil really stepped up the police force in all big cities, and the people were very nice," he said.
He's already making plans to attend the Soccer World Cup in Russia in four years.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).