Monday June 23
Belo Horizonte – Beautiful Horizon – well, it’s not the most appropriate name I have ever encountered.
Located in the south-east of Brazil, it’s another sprawling, concrete city of around five million people.
It’s the venue for England’s final game at the 2014 World Cup and, incidentally, for one of the semi-finals in a couple of weeks from now.
So we will return.
But I won’t be going back to the Mercardo Central, or Central Market.
It was recommended to us as a way of getting out of the hotel/stadium/hotel routine.
On first look, it seemed fine. Busy, colourful, bustling. The aroma of cheese and meat assaults your nostrils when you walk in. Stall after stall carrying a multitude of wares.
And then you turn the corner and the smell changes.
Rows and rows of caged birds, crammed in together. One cage houses two adult ducks.
A little further on, numerous puppies in containers not nearly big enough for them.
The noise is overwhelming and one wonders how some of the animals will fare. And then I remember that one must not judge other cultures by our own standards.
And today we had a bonus – Brazil played in the afternoon and suddenly those continually traffic-choked Brazilian roads were… empty.
A ghost town. Everyone, but just about everyone, was watching the national team on television as they beat Cameroon. This country is truly football-crazy.
Tuesday June 24
Another beautiful day – 23 degrees Celsius – and it’s a pleasure to be at the Estadio Mineirao.
There are a lot of England fans here even though the team is going home.
And we are in good company. Prince Harry is here .
I couldn’t get a photograph with him so I had to make do with the former England international and Five Live colleague Danny Mills (pictured left) (only kidding Danny)
As for the game itself, England owed those fans a performance. To put it in context, Costa Rica had qualified for the next round already. It is a country of merely 4.6 million people.
The 0-0 draw summed up a deeply disappointing campaign.
The fans gave the players and manager a rousing reception at the end – the ovation for Frank Lampard on his last appearance was magnificent.
Whether the whole squad deserved that support, I will let you decide.
And so England fly home but we stay – the show goes on and we will trek around this vast and fascinating country for another two and a half weeks.
By the time I drive over Racecourse Road and see the Scarborough coast once again, Summer will have almost gone.
But it’s been a great adventure already.