Nathan Mendelsohn’s American BJJ Player Blog: Recap of My Time in Ipanema as it Draws to A Close! Next up Sao Paulo…..

 Hey guys!

I’m writing you on my last night here in Ipanema Rio de Janeiro with my girlfriend Sarah before she returns to the States and I take off for a week and a half to train in Sao Paulo. The last two weeks I’ve spent here in Ipanema with Sarah have been awesome. We rented one of the most beautiful apartments I’ve seen in Ipanema (much nicer than the one I rented the last time) situated two blocks from the beach on the street Visconde de Piraja right next to the Plaza General Osorio. This is an area I have stayed in before and I highly recommend it for gringos coming to visit Rio. General Osorio is very gringo friendly with tons of different restaurants and bars to choose from, nearly all of which offer menues in English. There is even an Irish Pub called Shenannigans at which you will feel right at home finding nearly more English speaking gringos than native Cariocas. General Osorio is also nice because it is home to one of Ipanema’s two metro stations and also if you ever get lost all you have to do is wave down a taxi and say "General Osorio" and they’ll know exactly where you’re talking about. There is also a killer Hippy Flea Market on sundays right there in the plaza which is an awesome place to get gifts to bring home like bikinis, sorangs, purses and bags, wooden figurines and other souveniers and even art. During the week on certain days there is also an awesome fruit farmers market in the plaza that is a great place to get delicious fruit for cheap. The apartment we rented (that I’m sitting in right now) came with all working appliances, a nice sized TV, large living room, small kitchen, nice sized bedroom, a nice bathroom and, best of all, hot water in the shower, something which can be hard to find in Brazil. After the fairly run down, cramped apartments I’ve stayed in in the past this one seems like heaven in comparison. I almost haven’t even notice that the handle to the bedroom falls off every time you pull it and it almost didn’t even bother me when the door to the wardrobe fell off its hinges and onto my head when I tried to open it.

Over the last two weeks me and my girlfriend have had the time of our lives. We had three or four days on the beach where the temperatures reached between 85 and 95 degrees and on those days we posted on the beach from the moment we got up until it was time to go train. The beach in Rio and in Brazil in general is much different than the beach experience I’m used to in Santa Cruz, CA (which I will go into more detail about in a later post) and we spent our beach days reclined in beach chairs in the hot sun being waited on by our friends at the barracas (such as Aleido and Ju pictured in the photo with us above) drinking beers and caipirinhas, eating acai and bodysurfing until the sun went down.

Then, as I had warned Sarah of before she came down here, when it was time to train it was time to train. There are plenty of places to train in Ipanema and the greater Zona Sul area but since I like to train with my friends on the high level mats at Soul Fighters Sarah and I would pack up every day and head to Tijuca in Rio’s North Zone for training. This would be easy seeing as there is a metro station right near our apartment in the Plaza General Osorio and also one right around the corner from the Soul Fighters Headquarters at the Delfim Boxing Academy in Tijuca except for the fact that both of the metro stations in Ipanema have been closed the entire duration of our time here. So instead we would take a taxi to training which would cost about thirty rais and then we would take the metro back to the nearest station which was the Siqueira Campos station in Copacabana and then take a bus from there the rest of the way home. One of the days that I was there training at the Delfim Academy there happened to be another American on the mat, a blue belt named Aaron Sundquist who was doing a write up for his site about the Soul Fighters Headquarters and I even got a little mention in it toward the end, check it out His site is pretty cool, it gives gringos traveling to Rio a rundown of all their different options of places to train, how to get there, the schedule of classes, pricing, specifics of what a class typically looks like at that academy, the diifferent customs of that specific academy etc.It’s a good tool for people traveling to Rio who aren’t sure of where might be the best place to train so if that sounds like you then check it out! Yesterday good friend Diogo Moreno showed up to training having just returned to Rio after spending four months in San Jose, CA during which time he and I trained together many times. Everyone was stoked to see him and adding him to Joao Gabriel Rocha, myself and the other black belts on the mat the training reached an extremely high level.

It was pretty cool for me that Sarah came along with me to watch me train so many times during this trip because that’s something she rarely does back in the states. I want her to be more involved but until now she has only showed interest in watching me compete which she can’t fully enjoy seeing as she understands nearly nothing about the sport. However, she came and watched me train and took pics and video clips multiple times this trip and recently has even been expressing an interest in beginning to train! Here’s to hoping it happens because I would love for her to better understand the other most important thing in my life!

After training it was time to get something to eat. We tried a few different restaurants around the ipanema area that were within our price range and we were happy most all of the time. For dinner we found a good all you can eat Sushi place a few blocks down the name of which I never caught. For a lighter, quicker sushi experience there is always Koni right around the corner where you can get a couple rolls quick for not too expensive. There is also a good Churrascaria right in General Osorio called Carretao which gives you the full Churrascaria experiences at a not so outrageous price. For late night munching there is Big Nectar open 24 Hours where you can get Acai, fresh squeezed juice and food after partying or at any other time of the day. For a gringo experience kind of like Chilis there is Si Senor one block down toward the beach on Farme de Amoeda if you get homesick but beware the reason there are no prices on the menu is because its really expensive. We also enjoyed Galitos Grill for lunch to get a plate of chicken, rice, beans farofa and salad.

After getting dinner it was often time to hit the town. The nightlife in Brazil is also much different than we are used to in the states (which will also be discussed in more detail in a later post) and we had a good time at all the places we went. We went to a number of different spots, often starting off at a block party called Baixo Gavea in the neighboring area of Gavea where the streets fill with drinking college students and street vendors selling alcohol for cheap. We then ended up one night at a club nearby called 00 only to find out later that it was Gay Night which Sarah actually enjoyed because no one was acting creepy or hitting on her. Another night we tried out the new high class joint Miroir in Lagoa, which had a good DJ throwing down some house and getting the crowd going. The club was nice and classy but also pricey. Other nights we just stuck around the area since there are plenty of things to do right there in Ipanema. One night we watched Sonnen guillotine Sonnen at Shennanigans and other nights we would go chill at the small but popular bar Emporio a couple blocks down from the house. Another night we went out with a full team of my Soul Fighters training partners including Marcus Antelante and his wife Victoria, Leandro Tatu Escobar, Saulo Bernard, Igor Pessoa and others to a club called Studio RJ right on the beach in Ipanema with a beach view from the dance floor for an awesome Hip-Hop night that I think was both mine and Sarah’s favorite night out of them all.

Overall it was a really awesome two weeks, a killer experience that both Sarah and I will never forget. Tomorrow she is heading home and I’m heading to Sao Paulo for a week and a half to see my old friend Felipe Latarri, black belt from Cia Paulista, and also to get some training in with friend and humblest of champions Leandro Lo, and then I’ll be headed back to Rio to train for another month. I’m going to miss Sarah but I’m glad we at least got to spend this two weeks together instead of having to be apart for a whole two months. Videos of my adventures down here will being posted as time goes on and I get a chance to edit all the footage I’ve been taking so Stay Tuned!! Ossssss

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Nathan Mendelsohn