April 24, 2011

how to completely eff up a vacation but still have fun

you guys! i'm home! and alive and in one piece! ...although BARELY, given some of the most ridiculous events i've ever encountered while traveling, as all of you who follow me on twitter are already aware.

very very long story short: that fucking awful agency, gotmyfare.com? apparently decided that answering customers' phone calls and emails was just Too Much Work, and abruptly went out of business. the hilarious part is they did so without, say, contacting any of their customers who were currently in the middle of - or about to embark on - trips with them. trips their customers had, let's remember, PREPAID IN FULL FOR. which is why it was such an especially unpleasant surprise to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, tired and grumpy after a 5 hour layover in JFK followed by a 10.5 hour redeye, and a) not have anyone pick us up at the airport, as promised, and b) get to the hotel and learn that our reservations had been cancelled the day before since no one had ever paid for them. awesome, right? since WE HAD, IN FACT, PAID ALREADY? it was a clusterfuck for about a day, but ultimately we hunted down the local travel agency that gotmyfare partnered with, showed up at their doorstep, and begged for their help... which basically entailed re-paying for the entire Brazilian portion of our trip, in full, directly to that travel agency since gotmyfare had "gone bankrupt" without passing any of our money on to any other vendors.

we ended up meeting 8 other people who were stranded in Rio, in the exact same situation as we were, all having gone through gotmyfare, all who'd had their money taken and pocketed. i can only imagine how many other people in other South American cities were in the same boat as well. so i mean, fine: companies go out of business. these things happen. what you DON'T do is steal your onetime customers' money, and NOT EVER INFORM THEM that the foreign country they're about to show up in? yeah, they'll be stranded there with no accommodations or anything. oopsie! sorry! bankruptcy court, our bad!

i'm actually really pissed that they're already out of business, because i'd planned on so thoroughly ruining their reputation across the interwebs that *i personally* put them out of business. so i'm annoyed i no longer get that pleasure. and, you know, also annoyed that they stole our money and stranded us in a foreign country - where they speak portuguese, remember! i only learned like 10 words in portuguese because i wasn't planning on having to plead with locals to not kick me out of their hotel for nonpayment.

BUT. we did get it all sorted out (ie re-paid for the Brazil portion of the vacation on the spot, and had my very awesome friend in Buenos Aires say we could stay with him in Argentina rather than rebooking a hotel there) and once that was out of the way, we were able to thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

i didn't actually know Copacabana and Ipanema were real places. they are, and they're just as lovely as they sound.

Back to Copacabana beach!

They have vendors roaming the beach selling EVERYTHING - including bikinis.

we did so much in Rio - it feels silly just posting 6 or 7 photos to cover everything, especially since i feel like everything requires *explanations.* like that guy selling bikinis up there! there were dudes roaming the beach selling EVERYTHING you'd ever need. during our day at ipanema we bought sunglasses, more sunscreen, water, lunch, and a whole coconut with the top chopped off and a straw stuck in it without ever leaving our beach chairs. it's pretty sweet.

we also went to the corcovado - the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on the mountain overlooking the city:

Us & our buddy Jesus

the fog even parted for 20 seconds right before we left so we could get a full glimpse of him:

Finally! A brief parting of the fog

we went to the super-amazing Selaron staircase - this guy has been tiling the street where his studio is located for the past 20 years straight. it's unreal.

Apparently every time you go it's a little different, as he reworks sections over & over

Rio is interesting - has a third world feel to it, especially with the presence of the favelas stacked up on all the hillsides surrounding the city.

This one took up the entire hillside, all the way down to the bottom of the valley

..and they have some of the most intricate and impressive graffiti i've ever seen - these are not extra special examples; it's like this all over the city:

Rio also has some of the most interesting - and impressive - graffiti i've seen

more Rio pictures are on flickr here - the crazy modern Catedral Metropolitana, our night out in Lapa, the crazy sand sculptures and the elaborate Sao Bento Monastery - but i start my first day at the new job tomorrow! bedtime for me.

Us, above Rio


  1. Yikes.... I am so sorry about that awful experience... But really happy everything else turned out well. Those pics are amazing.... But next time, I think you should go to Chile :-) (and I am NOT biased, not at all). Welcome back!

  2. Dude. THAT LOOKS INCREDIBLE. You know what's NOT incredible? The part about your being totally & utterly screwed over. Isn't there anywhere you can go, or anyone you can turn to, to get that money back or at least DESTROY THE LIVES OF the people who ran that sham of a company?! Oy, oy, oy. I'm so sorry that happened - but so glad you were able to make the best of it & have a stellar trip just the same. Also, your boyfriend? Is adorable. :)

  3. What a nightmare. I bet that really strengthened you as a couple though! I know when I am caught in tough situations with Steven, it forces us to really cooperate and work together. Hope that doesn't sound weird.

    The pics are AMAZING. I hope it totally made up for all of the craziness!

  4. uggggghhhhh. i can only imagine how frustrating that was for you :(

    but on the plus side, hello you were in brazil!!!

    hope there were more good memories than bad.

  5. Wow. Just when I thought that company couldn't suck any worse! SO glad everything worked out for you guys!

  6. The pictures are great, and it looks like a fun trip! Um, except for the part where you got really screwed over. Wow. I guess there's no hope of getting your money back?

  7. OMG! I am so mad about you getting totally screwed over by that company! Have they no EMPATHY? I mean, showing up with no reservations in a foreign country? What if you hadn't been ABLE to pay again? This whole thing, unbelievable. I'm so glad you were able to still enjoy the trip. I think I might have spent the whole time in a sulking rage and ruined everything.

  8. Wow that sounds like an ordeal! I'm totally sending this over to Consumerist!

  9. Totally NOT looking at the rest of your pictures on Flickr as I am SO jealous! Oh, okay, maybe I will :)

    Glad you had a good time even though you were screwed big time. My question is, what would have happened had you not been able to re-pay? Because we so would not have been able too so would we have been stuck?

  10. Oh my gosh I can't believe that the company went out of business and didn't pay for your hotel!! What a nightmare. I'm so sorry that you had to go through that- but it sounds like you made the best of it.

    Great pictures!

  11. I'm so glad you were able to turn such an awful experience into such an amazing trip! It looks like you guys had a blast! And it totally makes me want to travel...

  12. WHOA!!!!

    I think this story requires a night of drinks in order to tell and listen properly. Just sayin'.

    LOVE the picture of the bikini salesman. That is just awesome -- the colors, the beach, the impossible amazingness of it all.

    Also, go see RIO at the movie theater. No need for 3D, just go enjoy. :)

  13. I am hearing Brazilian music in my head as I look at your pics (I love that music!). It's so colorful, so pretty. I am so glad you got things figured out and managed to have a good time despite being robbed. Is there anything you can do to go after them for your money or because they filed for bankruptcy it's a done deal?

    I hope your first day at the new job is good!

  14. I had no idea Copacabana was a real place either! Huh!!!

    I'm so sorry your trip sucked in the ways it did, but so happy you managed to have a good time regardless. It looks gorgeous!

  15. SO cool! I looked at your Flickr set, too. Wonderful pictures! I'm so glad you two enjoyed yourself despite the crazy situation. That is so ridiculous!

    My good friend's family is from Florianopolis, which is in Southern Brazil I think? We're all thinking of going down there in the next couple years. After seeing your pictures, I want to go NOW!

    Welcome home, and good luck with the new job!!!

  16. What a crazy ass adventure. So happy you're home safe to tell (bitch) about it!

    Have you ever seen the show An Idiot Abroad? The earlier episodes are way hilarious. Ricky Gervais sends one of his British friends (who has no interest in the world) around the world. Anyway, he went to Brazil. You might have a better appreciation for the episode than I ...


  17. Cool pix! I'm glad you managed to have a good time.

    I thought you watched ANTM? Don't you remember the episode where they went and met the REAL girl from Ipanema? And she was really old and danced for them and the girls pretended to be impressed?

  18. That is completely effing insane! I'm glad you guys had fun anyway but WOW what a story to tell. I too am dying from jealousy at looking through all your pictures.