For our trip to Rio, we got up early. We planned to take Uber directly to the bus terminal on the other side of town for the trip. Our hosts called to ask if he could stop by to send us off. We knew they were in the building and agreed. After chatting and checking out the apartment, Mario insisted that he takes us to the station. His wife would start the refreshing. We graciously agreed. One thing was lost in the translation. He meant the Metro Subway Station, several blocks away. In the car, he stops and points, there you are. We stare at each other and smirk, get our luggage out of the trunk, thank our host and wish him good bye. This station does not have escalators, so we have to carry the luggage and backpacks down 2 flights of stairs, knowing we will have to maneuver all our stuff through turnstiles, crowds and squeeze into the cars. Of course, the suitcases are a little too cumbersome. Well, we do all those things, get in the metro, check our destination, and go the 11 stops to get there. As we exit the metro, we see the bus terminal directly below. The price tag for the trip was $6 US, rather than expected $30 US.
We entered the terminal looking for Bus Del Sol an affiliate of our faithful Cruz del Sur. The bus is leaving at 8.45 am, it is 8.43 am. The dealer insists we can make it and we do. Apparently only Ecuador buses leave exactly on time or slightly beforehand.
The trip was about 6 hours. Taxis were available at the terminal and we went immediately to our Airbnb in the district of Ipanema, you know, like the old song, … “ where the girl goes walking”. Rio is beautiful. Driving in we see green mountains rising out of the sea with white misty clouds hanging at the peaks. They surround the city. We can see the “Holy Redeemer” statute in the distance. As we drive, everywhere you look to the right there is water. Everywhere you look to the left are rows of white high rises standing in the surrounding mountains. We need to enter a long tunnel to get through the mountains to the popular beaches that rest on the isthmus of Ipanema and Copacabana shores. Our Airbnb is 2 blocks off the water. Our street is lined with fancy shops, apartments, other Airbnbs, restaurants, groceries, and nice parks. The subway station is also close.
After settling in, we walk to the beach passing another residential and shopping area and come to the waterfront boulevard with walking paths and bike lanes. The Ipanema beach is very wide, composed of light tan sand, and the waves are crashing into shore. Kids are jumping into wave after wave, and some are really big. We notice volleyball nets are set up all along the beach. At one net displaying a banner, a coach is clearly running drills for his pupils, it seems like a techniques camp. As we walked on the sand we observed islands off the shore with palm trees sticking up like beard stubble. The air was damp, and cool, but with little wind.
We decided to eat at a Lonely Planet favorite for prepared home cooked menus, called Delirious Tropical. Then we went grocery shopping for the next days meals, especially breakfast stuff.
First Walking tour. The next morning, we traveled by the subway, from the yellow line to the orange line about 11 stops, to our first walking tour. We started at the Clock in the center of old Rio. The tour was more general than we usually like, and devoid of the political pontificating we enjoyed from other guides.
We saw the famous mirrored diner, Confeitaria Colombo, opened in 1897 in Rio’s colonial heyday. We had sweets. We saw the Rio’s Municipal Theater which jealously rivals the Buenos Aires’ opera house. We saw the city hall. We saw other government buildings. We saw protesters congregating and a police force starting to get organized. Apparently, the retirement pensions are being threatened and certain woman's rights are at issue. There is open criticism of the government.
And open critics of the olympics and the better use of that money.
We saw the original palace of the cautious Portuguese prince who faced death threats from both Napoleon and Queen Elizabeth and moved his royal court to Brazil. It was this transfer of the royal family the gave Brazil high status equal to European Portugal. We concluded our day at the famous STEPS created by a Chilean artist, who died with the grief of the loss of his wife and child. Each step and the side walls where decorated with painted tiles of various themes and portraits.It is very dramatic.
By the Steps we saw a film crew photographing-videoing male and female models. The ladies were stunning. We first observed them as they walked by our group and went into a gift shop we were standing by. We did think, those girls are really dressed showy, not provocatively, but with attention to detail. Later, the cameramen were filming the models rhythmically moving with the music played by a street guitarist, not really dancing, but smooth and controlled movements. Might be an Abercrombie video in the near future.
We took the subway home. We got out of the heat and enjoyed the AC in the train. We got home and stayed in to cook. Our Airbnb is in a great location, the best area of Rio and just 2 blocks from the beach, but to our disappointment, it was not the best we have stayed in, very similar to older beach properties in Florida. Our host was kind and after a call came by and brought a new coffee maker and plugs for the outlets. To complicate matters we accidentally shattered the glass flap over the burner of the stove. Hard to explain. The kitchens and stove here are small, so they all have flip down glass that allows the stove to act as counter space when not cooking. We cleaned up the glass. We checked a local store for a replacement piece, but they only sold new stoves. After full disclosure to our host we agreed on a sum to repair the glass, live and learn again. See the pics below of the hallway with the 1950's wiring and the "kitchen".
On our second day, we took a taxi to the trolley station at Coradova street to take a train to the Holy Redeemer. When we got there the clouds had rolled in and visibility was zero. We passed, but will try again. Took a cab back to the renowned italian restaurant called Pici, near our neighborhood. It was early dinner at 4:30, so I didn’t feel real bad about wearing a t-shirt from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), which was bright blue with a white chest insignia of the tribes. They did put us in the back, but the service and Italian food were great .
Today we went to the Museum of Tomorrow. This environmentally conscious and scientific themed museum, is just incredible. When you first turn the corner you are amazed by the building that looks like an enormous starship, like something the Federation would have. The entrance and interior is equally inspiring. The exhibits are all electronic and interactive. The sizes, the shapes and the electronic light bars are eye catching. The interactive panels allow quests to move through the menu of topics easily in the language chosen. You start your trip in an IMAX theater that sets the themes of the Big Bang, planet formation, the development of mammals, genetics, environmental issues and changes. The rest of the museum expands on these themes with creative imagination.
When exiting the museum you are on the waterfront which has all been updated, probably for the Olympics. There is a modern people mover, how we envision the M 1 transport on Woodward Ave , Detroit will look and work. A dilapidatedelevated train track had been removed to make way for the track that runs along the dockside. The dock side warehouses have all been paintedand some have stores. The route shares space with classy food trucks. That is where we ate our late lunch before we walked across the tracks to go Rio’s museum of contemporary art.
The Museu De Arte Do Rio Gallery nicely conjoins 2 buildings by walkways, one traditional and one more modern structure. There are some really unusual pieces in the museum with cubist renderings and abstract forms. Check out some of our photos.
One floor did defer to traditional portrait paintings of historic Brazilian figures which actually was quite informative. In this portion of the gallery is where we where surrounded by visiting high school students who apparently thought we, the gringos, where more interesting than the paintings. None spoke much english, but with google translate we communicated a little about our Michigan snow. Their teacher came to get them, but soon after the kids came back and asked for a photo, so they surrounded Frank for a group hug. We where all smiling.
The next day the morning rain broke into unexpected sunshine. Lets go to Cristo, the Holy Redeemer. Of course this is the Christ sculpture at the top of the Mountain overseeing the bays of Rio. We grabbed the cab to the trolley station at the base of the mountain, bought our ticket with the visibility disclaimer, and waited 1.5 hours for our turn to make the 20 minute ride. Maybe we should have just taken a cab up all the way. In any event, once we disembarked from the trolley and climbed several sets of stairs, we were treated to glorious 360 degree views of Rio and the very large and dramatic sculpture of the Redeemer. The sculpture designed by Carlos Oswald was completed in 1931. It was sculpted of Sandstone and is 90 meters tall sitting on its base of 30 meters. The form is modern or we would say timeless. We reminisced about how different the Redeemer was from the Ecuadorian Virgin, but how elegant, beautiful and inspirational both were.
As well, walking around the base gave us a visual treat to the beauty of Rio. Words are pointless, especially at this height where the rawness of big city streets are not observable. We could see across the lake and the isthmus that leads to our temporary home near Ipanema beach, as well as Copacabana beach, the City Centro area, various shorelines and marina, big ship docking, the massive overwater bridge that connects the peninsulas, and all the interspersed mountains that make up this spectacular urban setting. Check out some photos.
When we got back to Ipanema we walked the beach and then followed our hosts suggestion and went to the Astor Bar on the beach road. Love that Brazilian beef.
Our day wound down as we packed for our move to our next hotel and one last day in Rio. We woke up early with the bright sun streaming through the window. By the time we ate and dressed it was raining hard. Everyday it seems to rain in this tropical city. We walked in the drizzle to our new hotel and crossed over from Ipanema to the Copacabana beach district. We decided to go back to the waterfront in Rio central by the Museum of Tomorrow and visit the new Rio Aquarium. We took the same route, walking past the museums and the cruise ship dockage we saw before, continuing on to the Aquarium. It was very modern with the exhibition starting on the third floor. The display theme was mostly common fish and wildlife that was found off the Brazilian shores, but that extended to the east coast of the US and Canada. The display tank groupings were well done and creative. The large tank with tunnel walk through allowed close access to sharks and manta rays. It was a very nice operation. Another jewel for Brazil.
The next day breakfast is at 6 AM. We decide to go out for an early morning excursion to Sugarloaf Mountain for another elevated viewing point overlooking Rio and its waters. The views are beautiful as advertised, especially with the first bright sun in 3 days. Check out the photos. This is how we want to remember Rio. We had a final celebratory "Acai" drink that is made with Acai berries and strawberries and other fruits served slushy cold. It supposedly has anti-oxidant properties. Caipirinhas" drink that is made with sugar cane juice liquor and strawberries served slushy cold. It really is a glorious place and a fitting end to cap off the South American section of our trip.
Time to say goodbye to South America and Brazil, tomorrow we leave for Europe and Portugal