Monday, December 07, 2009

Best Second Day in Rio: Checking Some Landmarks Off the List

Monday. Day Two. Up at six thirty, playing with cats by seven.

Here's a Rio de Janeiro travel tip: If you're staying at the Girl from Ipanema Hostel (which really I can't recommend that you do), try their $R3 (probably not the right way to write that) breakfast. The price can't be beat and it's a good way to start your day. A crepe, a ham sandwich, a fried egg, and fruit salad.

The list of smart things we did on this trip isn't super long, but at the top you will find: Paying for tours. Having someone drive you to all the places you want to see and a few you didn't know about while talking about them, it's the right thing to do.

For our first tour, this guys was the boss. He took us to some key Rio de Janeiro spots.

Zipping through the city...

In the middle of Rio there is a gigantic national park.

It has steep, steep trails.

Our first one lead to this edge of the earth location.

A hangliding launch ramp. Listen, hear me now: never in any of these posts will you read about any actual hangliding. I didn't do it, I didn't even see it happen. But I walked to the edge of the hangliding platform, that's gutsy, right?

In the distance: abandoned and disgraced hotel. This was no time for me to completely forget that my binoculars were In My Bag. It didn't even occur to me to realize that I had a way, on my person, to get a better look at this curiosity.

Looking the other way.

Back in the van, you cannot tell properly here, but these vehicles are jockeying for a spot on a very very steep national park road.

To and from sites within the national park, we passed lots of cool houses. This isn't really one of them, but it represents the idea of them. Except I saw houses that looked like they had been plucked right out of Pasadena, the large and comfortable homes of the Brazilian rich that I knew had to be hiding somewhere.

And into the park again...

Up a simple path to this nice home turned refreshment establishment,

We were there to see a waterfall

Mission accomplished on that.

Sheesh. Get a load of these jokers. Later I'd find furry bones among the leaves that lined the bottom of that tub.

Brazilians: You'd let your kids play with lazers?!

I guess I can't hate on that, Chateau turned out all right.

On to a key stop in any Rio de Janeiro tour: the Christ the Redeemer statue! We disembarked by a building that used to be a hotel where soccer players (and presumably others) would stay (we were always being told if a soccer player had ever been to or stayed at something) that went out of business and fell into the hands of the federal government.

A little ride in another van, I hike up some stairs, and there we were...

The thing about the Christ the Redeemer statue is, well, He's just standing there like that and it results in irreverent but not necessarily blasphemous behavior. I think it's just impossible to avoid the immitation instinct when you're dealing with such a huge statue, no matter who it's of.

But seriously, people!

The lower viewing area, what could possibly go wrong if you stood here? Oh yeah.

Now, from atop this mountain we easily observe Ipanema. That large inland body of water is the 7km lagoon I walked to on my first morning. Remember?

And over here, on the right is Copacabana on in the middle you can see the Sugar Loaf, which I will here on out refer to as "Sugar Mountain" just as maybe the "Christ the Redeemer" statute got called, a lot, "the Jesus", but I will not do that here.

See, this is how to do it right: Just point nicely.

Oh, who am I kidding. It's just impossible not to wind up doing this. I'm pretty sure I've even seen a picture of my Great Grandma and a bunch of other old ladies at this statue posed the same way. It just happens. That's all there is to it.

Would you believe that around back there's an entrance to a chapel inside the base of the statue? Guess you're just going to have to go there yourself to find out if I'm telling the truth or not.

Oh, look at this. There was an escalator up to the statue all along? And wait, which way are these two ladies headed? Are they doing something impossible?

Maybe Bryndee, Karen and I spent, oh, fifteen minutes thinking of different games to play on the Cristo escalator? Maybe this is a game of Elf?

An irreverent descent. But what can you do?

And now we're leaving, headed for our next stop, passing that abandoned soccer hotel once more.

More zipping through Rio, here's our first good look (in passing) at a favela. That's the word for Rio slums and there will be plenty more on favelas later.

They just go up and up, I love them because they remind me of Mexico City.
We cruised through the quite interesting Santa Teresa neighborhood, would have appreciated a stop there, but we had business I guess.

Here we pass into the neighborhood of Lapa, these are the famous Arcos of Lapa. Please, pay attention to that little island in the road, it factors into a major story from later in the trip. Right now, seeing this picture, I'm very suprised that I had a photo of this island from passing by without any idea of the things that would happen later.

Next major stop: the famous "Escadaria Selaron", the longterm art project of this one nutball artist.

This would be that artist, the one and only Selaron.

These tiles explain the rest of the tiles, he gathers most of them during his journeys around the world and brings them back to Rio to put in this project, his love letter to Brazil.

Err, one of his popular motiffs is self-portrating himself as a pregnant woman.

Selaron invited us into his studio,

To show us his wares and offer them for purchase

He would ask me, over and over, if I spoke English and then remember that I told him I was from Chicago, as this video pretty much shows:

Chateau! Put your shirt on and let's get going!

It's time for a group picture!

Poke!Back to the van, on to the next stop.

Sugar Mountain!
Or, yeah, Pao do Acucar/Sugar Loaf...that's another name for it.

INSIDE JOKE OF THE DAY: "Gemmy materials."

You get to the top of Sugar Mountain by taking two trams. Here's the first.

And now the second.

My tram buddies. Wait...tram isn't the right word, is it? My gondola buddies. Is that better?

Passing in the air.
At this point something very unusual was happening: My camera battery was near dead. I had taken a few hundred pictures by this point (aren't you glad I edit a little) I had to plan my shots so carefully!

First, I needed to make it clear I made it to the top.

That I ate a chicken drop

And that there was a group of German Rotarians there.

Later that night, we dined at Porcao, that pig restaurant I photographed on the first day. It was a rodizio restaurant. The main difference between it and the ones I've been to in America, ahem, North America was that the waiters were absolutely relentless. Totally merciless in their meat offerings. Also, the salad bar had sushi. And there was a play room for kids. And a floss dispenser in the bathroom.

This is some of what I ate. As you can see, picture taken early in the meat acquiring stage but right after a trip to the salad bar.

My wreckage. Listen! I was eating, I was pulling meats off swords, I wasn't photographing. I need my rest!

At the door: a wall of fame of Brazilian celebrities who had eaten there (and a picture of Tom Cruise, too) but what I want to know is: Who is this guy and what is he doing in an Einsturzende Neubauten t-shirt?! (and also, why is it not until now that I thought to look for Einsturzende Neubauten videos on Youtube? I have been wasting the internet.)
We walked all that meat off along the beach. It's a resource, this Ipanema beach of Rio de Janeiro.

And now Monday is done and accounted for, except for tomorrow's Danger Supplement which is a CRAZY one, trust me.

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