It’s been just a couple of hours since I dropped Charles off at the airport to head back to the States. He should be home safe and sound around midday tomorrow. The rest of our trip was absolutely wonderful, so I guess I’ll start right where I left off.
Wednesday we left early to head to the Feira de São Cristóvão, the gigantic center near Centro dedicated to the Nordeste (“Northeast”) culture of Brazil. It was a heck of a city bus ride there, but what is Rio without traffic and crazy drivers? I had been there once before on a weekend night, which would have been much more animated, but nonetheless Charles found some great goodies to bring home! Afterward, we headed to the mercado at Uruguiana. It never fails to amaze me, the number of vendors and people filling the streets there every single day. It’s just incredible. When we felt sufficiently overwhelmed we took the metro home and I headed to class for my exam review. There is a hostel in Copacabana that has a Latin American themed party on Wednesday nights, so we went to check it out, learned how to salsa dance and called it a night.
Thursday took us to Santa Teresa. It really was a shame that we couldn’t stop and eat in absolutely every restaurant that we saw because they all looked amazing, and as many times as I have been to Santa Teresa, I’ve really only tried a café or two. After walking all around and buying an avocado-flavored popsicle (“sacolé” in Portuguese) from the same lady I always buy from, we settled on an Amazonian themed restaurant that had soup on the menu made from Piranha! We split the soup (piranhas are not so intimidating without teeth and it tasted like a pretty traditional version of a non-cream based fish soup), Charles ordered another Amazonian fish dish, and I asked for the vegetarian version of a traditional Brazilian stew called Moqueqa. Everything was delicious, but my soup – which had a coconut milk base and grilled bananas in it – might have been the most delicious thing I have eaten so far in Brazil. I could not get over how good it tasted, and I could not decide whether I was sad that I couldn’t finish it all right then and there because I just wanted to keep eating it or happy that I got to take some home and save it for later. As we sat on the deck of the restaurant, a storm rolled in and the weather turned grey and chilly. Stuffed and happy we went to go meet my friends at a quiosque on the beach for a drink later on that night.
Friday the rain came. It was a shame, but we didn’t want the weather to ruin our day, so we took the bus to a neighborhood named Cosme Velho and bought a van tour up to the Christ statue that stopped at a helicopter landing pad on a lower mountain before climbing the rest of the way through the forest to the base of Cristo. It was a good thing we took the van instead of the trolley car because we had a decent view of the city from the helicopter pad, but Corcovado itself was completely covered in clouds. By the time we reached the monument itself, Cristo was a mere silhouette and the view on all sides was just dense white sky. On a short trail nearby we did see a monkey – and not just the little micos we usually spot; this one was big! On the van ride down the mountain, a couple of American guys struck up conversation and asked us about our plan of action for the rest of the day. We had decided to spend the afternoon in Jardim Botânico, and the guys ended up tagging along to the garden, Escadaria Selaron, and afterward back to Lapa for dinner (and the closest thing to decent Italian food I’ve eaten here yet). Since Friday was Charles’ last night in Rio and Lapa is a sight to be seen on any given weekend night, we walked the streets and did some people-watching for a while before going to bed.
Breakfast this morning included papaya, kiwi, and guava fruits – two of the three of which I think Charles had never tried before. Since he had to be at the airport by 4, we stayed relatively close by today and went to explore the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. The building itself is large and stands 6 floors tall with rotating exhibitions of all things art, music, and culture of Brazil. We saw a small contemporary art exhibit and a really interesting collection of money from what seemed like every country during every time period throughout history before going to eat lunch in the plaza at Cinelândia (where the Theatro Municipal and Biblioteca Nacional are located).
The trip to the airport was seamless, and now I’m back at the pousada planning out the crazy week ahead. I’ll be spending every free moment studying for exams and interviews until Mom arrives on Monday, so wish me luck!