Friday, September 20, 2019

XXXIV- Saying a Prayer and Up the Mountain

XXXIV - God Save my Soul

Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) is really a rock outcropping on a peninsula that rises about 1300 feet above the Rio at the mouth of the Guanabara Bay as it flows into the South Atlantic Ocean. Also on the peninsula is a lower peak, Morro da Urca, It is known for 2 things: its incredible views of Rio and its cable car system that carries people in to the top. Actually, it is 2 parts. The first part takes one from downtown Rio to the Morro da Urca. One exits the car. There are observation decks, a bar, gift shops, and food vendors. From the lower mountain there is a 2nd cable system that whisks travelers to the top oPão de Açúcar.

All this is exciting and, some may say thrilling. For me, who is deathly afraid of heights, it is frightening. To make it worse the cars are glass sided. The idea of getting in a "car' made of glass with 64 other strangers and traveling up a mountain on a cable hanging in the air is not my idea of fun. But I digress.

The cars run every 20 minutes. That gave me time to confess my sins, pray to God, and reconsider all the decisions I have made in my life. In designing the initial station, the powers to be took this into consideration.

One wall that runs the length of the station is made of lovely hewn wood. Enclosed in the wall are small windows that upon closer examination, I saw were shadow boxes. Inside each box was a traditional religious icon. They were different sizes and styles.

Here are a few examples of the various icons.

Each is remarkable in its own way. I just regretted not bringing candles to rest at their feet as I prayed for my safety. Hopefully they could protect me. But then, what did I have to fear. After all they said almost 2500 people a day made the trip. I did note that the sign on the wall touting that figure did not mention how many of those poor souls have fallen to their death on the rocks below.  

Thursday, September 19, 2019

XXXIII - Rio Uncovered

XXXIII- Rio Uncovered

The streets of the old part of Rio are full of the old meets the new. There are modern street lights, but if you look closely you can see these lovely older fixtures on bronze hangers, still attached to power poles.

Looking down on the roof tops one can see the different ages, colors, and conditions. The combination of red tiles, old tin roofs (with rust), balconies, laundry hanging out to dry, and the ubiquitous blue water reservoirs, make for an interesting sight.

And, looking past the older homes on the hill, one can see the modern buildings of downtown Rio.

On the street one can see interesting mail boxes.

There are unique architectural features, like this colorful covered staircase connecting the terrace of a house with the street below.

Below what was once an elegant window with the faded worn shutters still hanging, one will find street vendors, selling everything from local pop, snacks, or, in this case, hats.

And, around the corner, if one looks up there is another lovely example of an older home, abutted against a new high rise.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

XXXII- The Colorful Steps

XXXII -  The Escadaria Selaron

There was another sight in Rio that I was not aware of until I got there. In this instant it was the Selaron Steps. In 1990, Jorge Selaron started covering the steps in front of his home with colorful tiles and small mirrors. He primarily used the colors of the Brazilian flag - blue, green, and yellow. The staircase it is comprised of 215 steps that rise 410 feet.

The decoration of the steps became an obsession for Selaron, a Chilean born painter. He said they were "my tribute to the Brazilian people". 

The steps have been featured in everything from Kellogg Corn Flake commercials to Time magazine to Playboy. They were even included in the Amazing Race one season. 

The above image is not mine. Due to the popularity of the steps, there are always people on them. While we were there we saw groups having a family photo taken on the steps, 100's of selfies, and young men standing precariously on the tall blocks on the side of the staircase, posing for photos.

The sides of the stairs are decorated with large blocks covered in red tiles.

I could have spent the better part of a day looking over the stairs. The details in the design and the different tiles were amazing. However, I would have been run over by youngsters running up and down the steps, knocked down by those totally unaware selfie takers, and included in many family photos.

Did I mention I despise those young people Hell bent on taking selfies of everything, totally unaware of their surroundings, or the fact that others may want to see the object, memorial, or vista they are dominating?

XXXI- More of the Streets

XXXI - More of the Streets of Rio

Like many towns, all over the world, there is much graffiti on the streets. And, most of it was very impressive.

Some examples were large:

It is on some very attractive buildings.

On the walls of small streets.

And on doors.

Seeing the graffiti on some of the old buildings may strike some of those looking at my photos as blasphemy. I, for one, appreciate architecture of all types - some more than others. Being from South Carolina and having lived in Charleston, I both love and enjoy the older, more historic buildings. I find different styles fascinating. It gets lost in translation, but when on the streets in old Rio, the graffiti becomes part of the beauty. I guess one has to be there to understand.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

XXX - Streets of Rio

XXX - The Streets of Rio

We had hired a driver while we were in Rio. In doing so, we really got to see the city. Going to see the Christ we found ourselves making our way up small winding streets. I was thrilled because I really wanted to see Rio, not just the beaches or the Christ or Sugar Loaf Mountain. Our driver told us that we were in the oldest part of the town, with the streets dating back to the late 1500's. I don't think we saw any buildings that old, but we did see old homes and buildings.

Many of the streets were made from bricks and large stones, which made for a bumpy ride. On the smaller streets, the houses were raised up a level above the street. With gates for the driveways and nondescript doors street level.

Then there were the broader streets. The buildings here were built right on the side walks with no yards. The colonial architecture reminded me of what I saw in Havana. The colors were bright, like what one sees in the Caribbean or in Charleston.

There was great detail in the designs of the buildings.

One thing that struck me, were the power lines. On any given street corner there would be multiple lines criss crossing the buildings.

And to complicate matters, there were street cars going up and down the tight curvy lanes. Our driver, who like most drivers there, drove very aggressively. Therefore, coming around a tight curve and finding ourselves in the way of a slow moving street car, made for some 'excitement'. 
(not my photo)

Monday, September 16, 2019

XXIX - Christ the Redeemer

XXIX - The  Christ

If you have seen more than one photograph of Rio, chances are it was of the mountain that overlooks the city with the statute of Christ. Sitting atop Mount Corcovado, is the statute that was designed by Paul Landowski  and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. The construction took 9 years, from 1922 to 1931. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone. One more fun fact - it is listed as one of "New 7 Wonders of the World".

(this is not my photo)

The thing that surprised me was that it is Art Deco in design. The statute is 98 feet tall above the 25 foot tall pedestal it sits on.

To get to the statute, you drive part way up the mountain to a station where you board a venicular that takes you up to the top. 

Actually it takes you to the base of a large staircase that winds its way up to the statute. As you make your way to the top, there are restaurants and shops on each landing. 

And there are the views. Mount Corcovado is only 2300 feet tall but it still provides incredible vistas of the city below.

And the surrounding mountains.

As I have said before, I am scared of heights, therefore I was not thrilled with idea of standing on the terrace below the pedestal of the Christ. The statute is so tall (123 feet total base to top) that it is hard to get a photo of the entire Christ while standing at the base. 

Our original idea was to take a early morning tour (at dawn) of the Christ. However, we learned after we had made our plans that the park no more allowed such tours. Therefore we went to see it during the late afternoon. My only disappointment was that because we did not get to be at top at dawn, we missed those spectacular photographs of the sunrise and the mist coming over the mountains. 

Oh, and we probably could have avoided the obnoxious tourists taking selfies making it very difficult to photograph the Christ without having them in the picture.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

XXVIII - The Cathedral

XXVIII - The Cathedral

Of all the things I saw in Rio, there was one item, one place, one landmark that I knew nothing about - the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. This church was designed by Edgar de Oliveira da Fonseca. It's unique design was inspired by the ancient Mayan pyramids found in South America. 

The church named for St. Sabastin, the patron saint of Rio, measures 348 ft in outside diameter and 315 diameter inside. It rises up 246 ft (almost 5/6 the length of a football field. 

Inside there are 4 stain glass windows, each 210 ft tall. 

I have visited many of the grand cathedrals in Europe, Ecuador, and the United States.  While, I loved the cathedrals in France, none were as unique as this one. Standing inside surrounded by the 4 huge colorful windows is impressive. It seats 5,000 (and has standing room for 20,000).

Just like Christ the Redeemer, the cathedral is too large to truly photograph the entire inside. (That and the tourists stumbling over us taking selfies - totally self unaware.)

Friday, September 13, 2019

XXVII - On to Rio

XXVII - On to Rio

Our time at Iguazu, both in Brazil and Argentina, was over. Next stop - Rio. Reading up on the city before our trip, it seemed every article talked about the crime - the numbers of children on the streets begging for money, robbery at gun point, and clever pickpocketers. It made me wonder why anyone even went to Rio if it were that bad. However by the end of our visit there, we had seen no such crime, had no such experiences, and found the people of Rio de Janeiro friendly.

But Rio was on our agenda, so we boarded our flight from Iguazu to Rio de Janeiro.  For all but 2 of us, Rio was just another 8 hour layover before their flight back to the states. However, 2 of us had made plans to spend 2 days in Rio. We left the group at the airport and made our way into town.

We were staying at the famous Belmond Copacabana Palace at Copacabana Beach. If we were impressed by the Belmond at Iguazu or the Melia in Argentina, it was only because we had not seen the Copa.

The hotel  opened on August 13, 1923 - exactly 96 years to the date of our stay. It was designed by French architect Joseph Gire. The style is that of the great beach hotels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For almost 100 years, the Copa has been the place to see and be seen.

For the first time in 2 weeks, I was concerned about my dress. Being on a boat on the river in the jungle and staying in hotels in National Parks gave one certain allowances in attire. I felt like the Copa did not. My salvation was to remember I would not see any of these folks ever again, and if I did, I was not memorable. My daily dress in my everyday life does not consist of technical travel clothes (shorts and shirts) as I had been wearing for almost 2 weeks. But, I digress.

The hotel boasts 2 Michelin Star rated restaurants - Cipriani, Northern Italian, and - Mee, Asian Inspired. Decisions, decisions, decisions. We decided that we could not pass up such an opportunity. After some discussion, we chose Cipriani. We were not disappointed. 

Knowing the premium a Michelin Star would bring to the prices, we were prepared to pay the piper, after all, when in Rio. When I selected a glass of wine, the price of 35 did not surprise me. But it didn't please me. Then I realized it was 35 Brazilian Reals which converted to 10.15 American Dollars - quite a deal for the wine I ordered. 

I do not pretend to be food critic, but the experience definitely deserved the Michelin Star it had been awarded. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

XXVI - Inpanema Beach

XXVI - Inpanema Beach

Rio is known for several things - Carnival, Christ the Redeemer, and its beaches. The most famous (or infamous) is Inpanema Beach, made famous by the 1962 song "The Girl from Inpanema". Supposedly Antonio Carlos Jobim, who sang the song, was captivated by Helo Pinheiro, a 17-year-old fixture on the Rio beach.  Jobim along with poet Vinicius De Moraes created the bossa nova classic. But, I digress.

The days we were there, the beach was not as crowded as it often is. 

I saw no topless (female) sun bathers nor any sign of Jobim's girl. (Of course given she would be around 74 years old now, I may not have recognized her.) 

Just like in the movies, in addition to sunbathers, there were volley ball nets, umbrellas, beach chairs, and vendors. 

Been there, done that, move along.

We were staying on Copacabana Beach which is smaller and more exclusive than Inpanema. The  buildings across the street from Inpanema Beach (Ave Vieirea Souto) were much more commercial and geared toward tourists. However, Ave Alanitica, across from Inpanema, was lined with high end hotels and luxury high rise apartment buildings.