Natal to Recife to Madrid to Luton to London. I'm writing this in Mev's room back in ol' Blightey. It's been a long couple of days but I slept 11 hours last night and feel great. A few amusing incidents trying to get out of Brazil... in Recife I went to the shopping centre to change some Reais into Euros. The first place I went to put up a real fight, they looked at my passport, made some phonecalls, got very concerned and refused to serve me unless I had my CPF number (which was back in Natal). I half expected some security guards to pop round the corner and whisk me off to some interrogation room. In my huffiest Portuguese I explained it wasn't important as I was only in Madrid for 4 hours and would just get money some other way. So I walked out. 10 minutes later I find another place to change money, it looked official from the outside but in the cubicle there was small man in a shirt and jeans with a blaring TV behind him - no questions asked, he did not even want to see my passport and he gave me a good rate for my Euros. If at first you don't succeed in Brazil, try, try, try again.
On the flight over I sat next to a Brazilian family who were travelling to Lisbon. They were coming from the southern-most tip of Brazil. I thought I had a long travel itinery but these guys had had to drive to Porto Alegre from their home (3 hours), take a flight to Sao Paulo, stay a night in a hotel, fly up to Recife (4 hours), fly to Madrid (8 hours), then back to Lisbon... They had brought the kids and Granny+Grandpa. It must have been a trip of a lifetime and cost them a small fortune. But, like me, they were on the exceedingly budget "BRA" airlines... known as "The flying bra" in our family. Again, I am reminded of how big Brazil is. In fact, this week I found out that in Natal we are closer to Africa and Europe than we are to Sao Paulo in the south.
Madrid, and our plane arrives late. Easyjet aren't happy about my 30 kilos bag. I repack it and get it down to 19 kilos with the rest in my now exceedingly heavy hand luggage. I drink 3 cans of Guarana (of the 12 I packed) to maximise on weight. Having guzzled all the fizzy drinks I should ever want I don't have time or desire to buy any snacks in Madrid. So, that hassle changing cash in Recife into Euros? I needn't have bothered.
But, seeing Mum and Dad in Luton made it all worth it. And after a pub lunch in which Roast Lamb and Stocky Toffee Pudding were heartily enjoyed, and after paying a visit to sweet baby Rachel Thomas and her folks, all was well again...