Monday, August 26, 2013

Rio: Part 2

Ready for some more Rio? We rented a really great apartment two bedroom apartment in Ipanema. It was just a couple blocks from the beach. Rio is crazy expensive as far as hotels go, but this apartment was really nice and reasonably priced. After having a great day with Rafa and getting the lay of the land, we ventured out on our own over the next few days. 

We started out walking down to Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. It was so cool to suddenly be standing there on some of the most famous beaches in the world. We got there early in enough in the morning that they were not very crowded (they were packed later in the day). I never realized this, but Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are right next to each other, just separated by an old military fort. You could go out on to the rock peninsula and get a view of both beaches.

^^Ipanema Beach - lots of people out surfing.

Perhaps the best part of being in Rio, was the fact that we were there with Julie's parents. Julie's dad had served part of him mission in Rio in the mid 1960s. He hadn't been back since, so it was fun to see what he remembered and hear about his experiences there. 

Zara is after her mother's heart. She loves the beach. Isn't it just beautiful. The sand was like powdered sugar soft.

Another example of the interesting nature of Rio. Here we are on Ipanema beach, and right there is a huge favela next to some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Those guys have a sweet view. 

More favelas above Copacabana beach. 

We had lunch at a really cool restaurant overlooking the beach out on the peninsula that separates Copacabana and Rio.

Zara was such a good little traveler. She'd just hang out in the ergo carrier, she quite enjoyed some relaxing on my lap and wearing my sunglasses while we ate lunch. 

From there we decided it was a good day to head over to wear we could take the tram up to the top of Sugaloaf mountain. Something we were very excited about. A place that provided another amazing vista of the city. 

Here is where Zara came in very handy. There was a quite a line to ride the tram, but someone immediately noticed that we had a baby and they whisked us up to the front of the line. Brazilians are so nice to people with babies. Americans on the other hand, often just look at you like, "why didn't you just get a dog?" Brazilians are awesome. There were two separate trams, one about half way up, and then another up to the top. ^^At the first stop about half way up. 

Then boom. We were there, on top of the world. We got there while it was light, then had the pleasure of watching the night take over. Above you can see Copacabana beach on the left, then around the point at the end of the beach is Ipanema. On the right is another part of the city, then the main downtown part of the city is off to my right (you can't see it in this photo). Rio is really big. 

Julie's dad had been looking forward to taking her mom up there for many, many years. It was so fun to feel his excitement to finally be there with his sweetheart. 

It was a bit overcast, but it provided for some beauty photos. ^^Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer Statue off in the distance). 

Zara and her mama loved it. 

The next few photos were taken as night fell. It was amazing up there. Lucky for me I had Julie and Zara there, otherwise I might still be up there taking pictures. Julie is so patient with me when I get a little overexcited about taking pictures.

See that little white dot in the middle of the photos? That is Corcovado. We spent a long time up there that night just taking in the beauty and looking out on what seemed to be never-ending city lights. We headed back and got some dinner and then fell asleep very quickly.

The next day we headed to Centro district. The oldest part of Rio that was full of awesome architecture.

This crazy cathedral takes a modern spin on a church. Looks like a huge pyramid on the outside, and this was the inside. I would guess these stained glass were like 125 feet tall.

Went to a "kilo" restaurant for lunch where you get whatever you want and pay by weight. This is the Brazilian way of life. Julie's parents have these places down to a science. They knew exactly how much to get and how much it would be. I, on the other hand got a little carried away - but it was really tasty.   

The Opera House. Modeled after the one in Paris. 

There are no paved sidewalks or streets in the part of Rio. They were all cobblestone or cool mosaic stone patterns. 

There are juice bars on every corner. Somehow, all of them are busy too. Just about every fresh fruit imaginable and they'll blend it up for you right there. 

Again, Zara just had fun people watching as we wandered around the city.

This was one of my favorite spots we visited. Real Gabinete Potugues de Leitura - this library houses over 250,000 volumes of Portuguese literature. I thought the books were cool, but the room was amazing. I think if I spent time in there every day I would become more smart. It was gorgeous. 

From there, we wandered the streets a bit, and walked through some markets. ^^I always love rip-off sports merchandise in other countries ie this awesome Yankees hat sporting Mets colors. Don't wear that sucker in NYC. 

Cool old buildings everywhere. It was fun walking a few steps behind Julie and her parents and taking it all in. See the sidewalks?

Julie's mom is the best. It was so fun to spend so much time with her and realize that so many of Julie's best traits are a direct result of her mother. 

We finished off the day, and our time in Centro by going to visit a really cool old church. As luck would have it, it closed 3 minutes before we got there. So, we admired the cool doors and took a taxi back to our apartment. 

That night we went to an amazing restaurant. I think that the food is one of the best things about Rio. It was a bit pricey in general, but these places served up some amazing food. If you're ever in Rio, go to Zaza Bistro Tropical (conveniently named after Zara) and Gula Gula. That's it for now. Next and final post from Rio coming soon (Corcovado). Check out Rio Part 1 below if you haven't seen it yet. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blogocation: Rio de Janeiro - Part 1

Yo. It has been a busy summer, but it is time to get these photos up on here. This was a trip to remember and I want to have record of it. It has been several months since we were in Rio, but you'll be happy to see these photos - trust me. Not because I am a good photographer, but because anyone with a camera in Rio can take amazing photos cause that place is amazing.

We left Foz do Iguacu really early in the morning (like 6am so we left our hotel at 4:30). Let's say that we spoiled ourselves the night previous when we had stayed at Hotel das Cataratas and the place we stayed the second night was sub-par to put it nicely. We hopped on a flight and were off to Rio. 

I have to say Rio is a place that I have always wanted to visit...and it lived up to the hype - for real life (s/o to Noah and Kristi there). The topography there is just amazing. No wonder the Portuguese were excited about it when they found it and settled there. Where else in the world is there an amazing city, amazing beaches, all in the shadows of these huge jungle mountains that are shooting up toward the sky everywhere you look? 

We decided that we wanted to hire a guide for our first day in Rio to show us around and take us to the further away places by car. I found Rafa on tripadvisor. This was my best find to date on tripadvisor. Rafa was the most enthusiastic, entertaining, over the top person I have met. Just look him up on tripadvisor if you want to see what I am talking about. I think there were about three hundred exclamation points in the 4 page email he sent me in response to my confirmation that we wanted to reserve his services where he talked about the amazing stuff we would be doing. He had some really nice reviews on tripadvisor so we went for it. It was well worth it. 

^^ The view of some of the crazy mountains flying in

First Rafa took us around to the other side of the bay to Niteroi - the city where he was born. You can see Rio behind us. See the Christ the Redeemer statue up there on the right?

The Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum - designed by Oscar Niemeyer

Niemeyer designed it to frame the bay and Rio in the background.

One example of Rafa's awesomeness. I was taking pictures when he yelled at me, "Eli! Get over here!" I walked to over to him as he was putting this awesome headdress on Julie's dad. He then grabbed another one and put it on me and insisted on taking a photo. Meanwhile, he picked out two really cool necklaces from some tribal natives who were there selling jewelry they had made (see in the photo below) that he bought for Julie and her mom.

Next we got in the car and drove up this crazy hill to the Parque de Cidade where we were greeted by this breathtaking (literally) view of the bay and Rio. Holy cow it was amazing. It also happens to be a place where the paragliders take off. That is where Rafa paraglides. I almost talked him in to taking me. How cool would that be??

 ^^ Another example of awesome Rafa. He orchestrated every aspect of this photo. Julie's dad saved the day.

Next we drove back across the bay to Santa Teresa. The bohemian cobblestone neighborhood resting on the hillside overlooking the city.

It was full of amazing street art.

Zig zagging cobblestone roads hugging the jungle mountainside.

Santa Teresa houses the Escadaria Selaron. This is an interesting story. Click on that link if you want to know more. Basically, this Chilean guy, Jorge Selaron lived in Santa Teresa. He thought the steps were boring. So one day in 1990, he started putting tile on the steps to make them look better. One tile led to another, and after years of doing this, it turned into an amazing piece of art with Tiles from more than 60 countries. People heard about it and would send him tiles to incorporate into his steps. 

Someone sent him one from Utah and DC.

^^ Here is his tile artwork of the bay that Rio sits inside of.

Zara thought it was pretty cool.
Pretty amazing right? Sadly, Selaron died earlier this year...but it looks like he pretty much had the stairs covered. 

Rio is full of color. So many cool architectural details. 

To finish the day, Rafa took us all the way to the top of Santa Teresa and into Tijuca national park. ^^^ An amazing component of Rio are the favelas. They are everywhere, and they are often just nestled in to other part of the city. They take up a lot of what I would assume is prime real estate. 

We were greeted by some monkeys. 

Rafa took us to his spot up there where the helicopters take off. I wish we had the ridiculous amount of money it cost to take a helicopter ride, but we were pretty much on top of Rio and had a really cool down to the bay and the city and up to the Christ the Redeemer statue. 

Rafa whipped this flag out for a beauty shot that he again orchestrated. Ya Brazil! Notice the airplane - one of smaller Rio airports is right in the city, so you fly right over the city when you come in. Note to self for next time - fly in to that airport. And note to you, get Rafa as your tourguide when you go to Rio. 

^^Sugar Loaf (the Portuguese named it that because they thought that is what it looked like. Not sure I see that. It was an incredible view nonetheless. You can see the trams going up it, that is where we headed the next day. And thus finished our amazing first day in Rio. We finished it off with a trip to a Juice Bar (they are literally on every corner) for some fresh Passion Fruit juice. Mmmm. Come back in the next couple of days to see the next post and more of Rio.