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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

XXV - Looking up

XXV - From the Bottom Up

While we saw the falls from the top in Argentina, the views in Brazil were from the bottom. The scenes we saw in Argentina were vast, awe inspiring, and frightening. In Brazil, there was the thunder of the water coming down, the constant mist from it the hitting rocks below, and the small feeling I had in the presence of this powerful natural wonder. 

The path from the Belmond started at a high point and slowly worked its way down toward the foot of the falls. Along the way there were vistas of the falls. 

Moving on, there were incredible views of "Devil's Throat", the u shaped part of the system, made up of 14 falls where the water falls 350 feet. 

If we thought the falls were impressive from the top, as we got toward the bottom, the views became even more impressive. The size of the falls from the top gets lost in the grand vistas. However, from the bottom, not only did you 'see' the power, you 'felt' it.

As we moved lower it became louder (and wetter).

Standing at the very bottom made me feel small in the presence of this wonder of nature.

Towards the bottom was a walkway that made its way across the pool just below the "Devil's Throat". It was so close to the falls, that raincoats or ponchos were required to keep one from getting soaked. 

Feeling brave, I donned a poncho and started out on to the walkway. About 50 feet out, I realized this was a not a wise idea. I carefully made my way back to the safety of solid ground and watched my fellow travelers venture out for view - all the time praying for their well being.

And, just like in Argentina, there were rainbows everywhere.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

XXIV - The Belmond

XXIV - Back to Brazil

We left the Melia and crossed back into Brazil. Along the way, we repeated the process of Customs and Immigration at the border.

While on the Brazil side of the falls we were staying at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, Foz do Iguacu (translated - Belmond Hotel of the Falls) in "Foz do Iquacu", Brazil. The Belmond  was a 2 story Portuguese Colonial style building that first opened as a hotel in 1958. The Belmond was the first "5 Star" Hotel in South America.

Unlike the Melia with its clean lines and open spaces, the Belmond was an older style hotel with heavy arches and staircases. 

The lobby itself was much smaller considering the size of the hotel, unlike the large open lobby of the Melia. 

There was a traditional bar that opened out onto a terrace and ran along the right front of the hotel. 

The hotel was built around a large courtyard of lush grass, landscaped with colorful flowers, and trees with orchids in them.

Just like the Melia, the Belmond was also located in the National Park. A fabulous view of the falls was visible from a terrace on the lawn of the hotel. The path to the falls started just below the terrace.  

The first morning we were there, I was able to capture the view at dawn.

When we checked into the hotel, we were told that guests of the hotel had access to the park early, hours before the park opened at 9 am. They suggested we take advantage of this. We got out on the paths early - not necessarily to take advantage of the early access, but to see the falls in the early light. The paths were empty. 

However, as we ended our walk and headed back to the hotel, we were shocked at the line of buses full of tourists waiting to see the falls. All day, the buses kept coming bringing more and more tourists. If nothing else, we could justify the steep room rate at the Belmond for exclusive access to the park, if nothing else.

Monday, September 9, 2019

XXIII - Too Large to See

XXIII - Too Large to See

Walking the trails around National Park's walkway, there were falls that fed into lower falls, increasing the volume of water.

These are all views from the Argentinian side, from the bottom of the falls. The grandeur of this splendor gets lost in the translation of photography.  Pictures just do not capture the sound and the mist that rises from the pressure of the water hitting the rocks. Standing in most places one has a 270 degree view of falls. Therefore, these pictures are almost one dimensional.

Some in our group took a helicopter ride above the falls. I did not. Their photos from the air still do not capture the size of the falls.
(Not my photo)

Looking at a map, it is hard to comprehend the size of the area.

From across the gorge from below the falls in Argentina, we could see the roof of the Belmond, the hotel in Brazil we would be staying in that evening.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

XXII Monkey Business

XXII - Monkeys

While we were walking on the paths to the falls, we sighted many Capuchin monkeys. There would be 3 or 4 of them at any given time running through the trees above us making 'Monkey sounds.' Often they would sit in a tree very close to the path.  If I didn't know better, I would say their attitude was - 'Here I am. I'll sit here until you just about get your camera focused. Then - Oops, I'm gone.' Luckily, all of them did not have that attitude.

We found several that would sit just out of arm's reach. Those granted us the opportunity to get photographic proof that we had seen them.

Sometimes they would be eating a piece of fruit, but often they would just sit there looking at us.

Just humor me here, it took a lot of time to get a few decent photos and even these are not as clear as they should be.

We continued on the path.

Almost around every turn there was a view of yet another water fall. In photo below, note the elevated walkway above the falls. (Yes, I walked across that walkway. Personally, I was terrifying.)