Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It`s RIO ! The Highlights - June 30

Tuesday 6/30 - A tour of Rio`s top spots

Today I did the "Top Tour" of Rio with a couple of the "kids" from the hostel. It turned out to be a great way to see the top sights, and we had a great group.

Of course, I had to take the obligatory picture with a bevy (how many IS a bevy, anyway?) of beautiful women. In this case, it was Natalie (French) and Emily (French Canadian). Why do they always seem to look at me like a grandfather figure? Oh well, given no choice I can live with that.

Just so you won't think I'm JUST a dirty old man (not that I'm denying it), I also had Ronin (Irish) and Ignace (Belgian) for company. A truly international tour.

First it was up to the top of the hill to see the Christo Redemtor (Christ the Redeemer). This is an impressive statue, and the view is spectacular (you'll hear that phrase a lot in Rio).

Then we drove through Santa Teresa to Lapa. Lapa is at night a very hip area, but during the day it is just very interesting.

I was particularly impressed by the quality of some of the graffiti artwork. These artists have some real talent, and have documented some of the more famous (and infamous) residents of the neighborhood.

We also stumbled across a charcoal processing factory in a small shop. Even our guide didn't know that it was there. Imagine working in this dark, hot, dirty place for a living.

There is also a set of famous steps in Lapa. Evidently this was an ugly, dangerous neighborhood until a local artist decided that he wanted to improve it. He built a series of planters and steps up the hill, and then began putting in tiles.

Visitors began to contribute tiles from all over the world, and the "sculpture" grew. Two tiles of particular significance to me were from Panama and the Pacific Northwest Indians.

I also could particularly identify with one tile that I call "Words to Live By".
Translation: He who drinks gets drunk. He who gets drunk sleeps. He who sleeps cannot sin. He who doesn't sin will go to heaven. So... to get to heaven, drink!

I`m not sure that this is the official Church position, but given the lack of inventory control in the local sacristy I wouldn`t be surprised.

Then it was to a traditional Portuguese restaurant for lunch. Several of us had feijoada, a traditional Brazilian. Very heavy, and very good.
I later found out that feijoada is a Brazilian word that means `all the left over crap that we threw in with some old beans and rice`, but that didn`t change the tast.

Unfortunately, after that we were to visit the Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf) Mountain. I say unfortunately because we were to hike up the first half... a seriously steep and difficult hike. A full stomach was definitely not an asset on this portion of the tour. Rodrigo, our guide, is a botanist and gave us full description of all the plants and animals that could inflict permanent harm on us if we should touch, approach, or just think about them.

We then took the cable car to the top. Remember, yours truly has a "wee bit" of a problem with heights, but fortunately the anticipation was the worst part. The cable car itself was fine, although I made Natalie (the French blonde) hold my hand the whole time so that I wouldn't cry. Hey... it worked! I hardly cried at all :)

We arrived at the top just at sunset, and it was (here we go again) SPECTACULAR. It really is the best word to describe Rio.

As it got darker, the lights of Rio came on below us, and I won't even tell you the word to describe the view.

Arriving back at the hostel at about 8, I discovered that the feijoada didn't like me as much as I had liked it. So I split the night between my lower bunk and the porcelain throne, hoping for better in the morning. Oh well, that's the price of adventure!

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