Friday, 8 March 2013

Being a tourist in Rio

So it seems like every trip should have at least one huge-tour-group experience to remind me how lucky I’ve been to be able to avoid the crowds and the superficial exposure during most of my travels.  The tour was certainly an efficient way to see the city’s most popular sites but it’s hard to feel intimately acquainted with anything when you are part of the picture-taking mob.  So I was the only one on the morning tour bus under the age of 50 (the vast majority were post-retirement SKIPpers “Spend the Kid’s Inheritance in Paradise” as I learned from folks today).  But they ended up being fun to talk to- most of the morning, I spent with two Australian couples- one from Perth and one from Brisbane, which made me think of Jimmy’s semester abroad on the Gold Coast.  Sugarloaf Mountain was the first stop.  You take skytrams up to Morro da Urca (Urca Mountain) and Pao de Acucar for spectacular views of the city and the Bay.  I learned that “Rio de Janiero” translates to “River of January” because the Portuguese landed on the first of January and they mistakenly thought the bay was a river. 

View from Sugarloaf
The next portion was a (mostly) driving tour around the city with a stop at their Metropolitan Cathedral, another interesting example of modern architecture.  It was actually designed to look like a Mayan temple and it’s so massive, our tour guide compared it to a nuclear power plant.  The inauguration of the new pope in June is actually going to happen in this Cathedral for World Youth week.  So many global events happening in Brazil these days!  I look forward to exploring the city in more detail tomorrow afternoon with a walking tour with a CS friend- the Portuguese/European influence is much more obvious here than the past two cities.

 After that, we had a lunch break and they swapped up the tour groups slightly then went to the oh-so-famous “Christ the Redeemer” on Corcovado “hunchback” mountain.  Originally they were going to name it “the Pinnacle of Temptation” which is interesting.  Here, we took a cog railroad through the Tijuca forest and national park to get up to the monument.  Apparently, several decades ago, all that forest had been destroyed to make way for coffee plantations but that caused the city’s water supply to dry up and so they decided to replant and were surprisingly successful, thus leading to the nickname “miracle forest”.  It’s amazing how you can see the monument no matter where you are in the city- it’s even most of my Sugarloaf pictures.  So that was fun to see- once again, there were beautiful views of the city.
At Christo... the photographer told me I look like an angel haha
During that part of the tour, I met a Davidson graduate who worked with Disney for twelve years but currently she’s the manager of the Jonas Brothers so she follows them around the world (she’s here since they play in Rio Tuesday and Sao Paulo Sunday). 
After the tour, they dropped me at Cococabana Palace “the most famous hotel in Rio which hosted celebrities from Stevie Wonder to the Rolling Stones” just in time to watch the sunset while walking the beach.  It was a very nice beach with many Brazilian men in speedos, people playing sports informally and there’s a stadium where teams compete in “futevolei” (a cross between beach volleyball and soccer) among other things.
Then just kinda crashed at my hotel.  Ideally, I wanted to go to the Rio weekly couchsurfing meeting but the internet’s been too inconsistent to figure out to get there.  I got on the wrong tour bus for awhile this morning and befriended this awesome guy from London who was telling me how to navigate the various sections of Copacabana- kid’s section, gay section, nudist section- among other things.  He hadn’t heard of CS but was excited about checking it out tonight… however, I had to switch buses suddenly without exchanging contact information so he probably won’t be able to find it either.
Copacabana at sunset
Looking forward to talking to some chemistry education people tomorrow morning at the University of Rio then a walking tour of the downtown and hopefully going out on the town.  However Lucio who may be taking me out just came back from a vacation in Uruguay where he “ate too much meat” so I don’t know if he’s still recovering.  Another benefit about being a vegetarian is I don’t run into that!  Boa noite!