Where do I even begin? On Saturday Joe, Keia, Kevin, and I were picked up at 10am for a whirlwind tour of all things both touristy and Brazilian. It was the first time I’ve ventured to take my good camera out in Rio and I have around 200+ photos just from this day as a result. I might change the layout of the blog to better accommodate photos soon… be on the lookout!
Our guide was a small Brazilian woman who spoke Portuguese and English, in addition to bits of French and Spanish throughout the day to accommodate all of us visitors. First stop was Cristo Redento (“Christ the Redeemer”) on the top of Corcovado mountain. Cristo was a gift to the Brazilian people (essentially by the Catholic Church) in 1921. He stands 40m tall (including the base), has a wingspan of close to 30m, and lights up at night. The drive to the statue is through the Tijuca rainforest, the largest urban rainforest in the world. We’ll definitely have to go back sometime and hike around when we have more time because I hear that you can see monkeys (“big ones and small ones”) if you’re lucky. The place was absolutely packed, but lines seem to be about the only thing that move efficiently in Brazil, so we didn’t have to wait terribly long for a van ride up. We decided to walk the 200 remaining steps to the top, and at each platform the view was more incredible than the last.
The next stop was Maracaná, the soccer stadium in Centro, which is currently under construction to get ready for the arrival of the World Cup in 2014. After the stadium was the Sambodromo, essentially a gigantic strip of concrete lined with huge bleachers and used before and during Carnival for the 12 samba schools of Rio to show off their stuff. Samba school starts in August and practice runs right up until Carnival in February, nearly equivalent to a full year of academic school. The Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, also called the Metropolitan Church of Rio… or something like that.. was our 4th stop before we would have a churrascaria lunch in Copa. The church is shaped like a pyramid and lights up in all different colors at night. The outside has the same brown concrete appearance that many buildings in Rio share, but the inside has some magnificent stained glass panels high up in the sky. At this point we were fairly starving and hanging around outside near the van where we noticed some awesome graffiti. The lines here between vandalism and street art are blurred by the talent that all of the artists seem to possess.
Lunch back in a familiar part of town was welcomed with open stomachs. The fruit bar was probably the best part, and maracuja (passion fruit) is one of my new favorite things. It’s the sweetest natural thing I’ve ever tasted and makes one fantastic caipirinha.. even if the texture does kind of remind me of… tongue. Once we were all good and sleepy we settled in for the van ride to Pão de Açúcar. The line here was even longer than the one at Cristo, and we were worried we wouldn’t make it up in the cable car before nightfall. As we loaded into the first car the sun was just beginning to set. The trams travel on cables a few stories up in the air at a fairly rapid pace taking 65 passengers at a time from ground to mountain to even higher mountain. The first site had a couple exhibits and places to eat plus a 360 degree view of Rio’s coastline. The second site on the next mountain over (also the namesake) was another cable car ride away and had even more exquisite vistas. Night came while we were taking pictures, so we really got the benefit of seeing the city during the day and at night. I felt really lucky.
Although nearly everything we saw that day was a tourist destination, it was neat to not hear only English all day. Tourists from all over Brazil and the world come to see Rio. Sometimes they even pee off the top of Pão de Açúcar! …but actually we caught one guy doing that.
On to the final installment, part III!