Friday, November 28, 2008

Rio Rio Rio

cool sand artwork on the beach in Rio.

So Marité and I went off to Congonhas airport, caught a flight on Ocean Air and flew into Rio -- airport Santos Dumont. During the descent you could see the outline of that incredible city, it's twisting serpentine coastline and soaring green outcrops, it is absolutely incredible. As you land into Santos Dumont, there's also this church in the middle of the water on the right hand side, that almost reminds me of Venice.

Some cool brasswork reflecting a chef at a Cafeina in Leblon.

Once you get off the plane, there are these incredible tiles at the airport and for some reason, Rio makes me feel like I'm in a 1970's James Bond movie. But in a good way. Before I went to Rio everyone in the office advised me to be careful -- Rio is a dangerous city they told me. But as soon as Mari and I landed there was someone from the tourist board directing us to a taxi and they were able to take us to our hostel in neighborhood Leblon, Lemon Spirit.
Rua Cupertino Durao, where our hostel is, that lime colored building on the left side.

This hostel was a recommendation from my co-worker Marcella. I didn't know much about it, so we left our bags and tried the other hostels that Lonely Planet listed in the more touristy neighborhoods of Ipanema and Copa cabana. But this just goes to show you what horrible guidebooks those are. The hostels there in Ipanema are all down this one alley way, and you just hear all these British and Australian accents and see these pale, ruddy, sunburned faces. Defo not what Mari and I were looking for, so we headed back to Leblon. Leblon was also great because my other co-worker Lauren was visiting her boyfriend's family there in Rio and they live in Leblon. That Friday night we met up with them at a Boteco Informal on this square. We then went back to the hostel to get ready for a samba club that Lauren knew about.

So we get in a cab with Lauren and Leo and drive from the beach to Lapa, the neighborhood where most of the clubs are near the center of Rio. Me and Marité loved the architecture -- there was something Victorian or almost Cajun about a lot of the older buildings we saw back there. Lauren looooves Rio and was telling us all about how it's normal here to see older people in Rio out in a Samba club right along side all the young kids -- awesome! So we got in line for this one club Rio Scenarium, that I later realized was the same Samba club recommended to me by the hematologist I met on the plane. The place is incredible! The decor inside looks like the set of a play, except there's a big party going on. Totally reminded me of LA. On the bottom floor there was a live Samba band, and upstairs a DJ spinning music -- mostly just contemporary Brazilian stuff, not electro and not hip hop.

me trying to get in on some Samba action at Rio Scenarium

Apparently, me and Marité, two girls from the Inner Richmond district, stand out like sore thumbs in a Samba club like this. We probably could've been wearing flashing signs "GRINGAS". Guys in Brazil aren't shy at all about talking in the clubs, and they all have a certain level of English. At one point, this guy was being a little aggressive and I kept wanting to say "Tu t'en fou!" in French, but lacking the vocab in Portuguese, I turned to Lauren and asked -- right in front of the guy -- "How do you say, 'go away and leave me alone?' " hahahaha!

Another pretty building in Rio.

Similarly, some guy was talking up Marité. He was sharing his American experience with her (almost all the Brazilians we meet have done a stint in America, to learn engligh. The two most popular destinations for these trips 1. Working at a foodstand at Disney World [I know at least 4 people who've done this] OR 2. Small town in the middle of America that i've never heard of.) This guy had spent time in St. Louis, which was original. At one point, he eventually asks, "So, Marité, what do you think of Brazilian boyfriends?" To which Marité, exasperated by being asked this question so many times, throws up her hands "Arrrrrgggggghhhh" and walks away. This is a highlight of my trip there! Later on we ended up dancing with some engineers from Sao Paulo. Seems like a normal thing, to go anywhere in Brazil and meet people who are living/working in Sao Paulo.

We got up late the next day, which was just about the best thing we could've done because it was RAINING! No beach time for us :( We went for a walk and actually ran into Lauren and Leo who were enjoying some Acai right before working out

That acai sure is popular in Rio. That Saturday night we took it pretty easy, with some pizza dinner and later meeting up with Lauren and Leo for chopps at a great Italian restaurant.

That Sunday we visited the Hippy Fair full of artesanal goods. Marité and I each got Capim Dourado earrings, made from this Golden Grass that can be found up in the Amazon. I think it's super elegant. Also at this hippy fair, I encountered the typical friendliness of Cariocas (name for people from Rio de J.) for tourists -- that is to say, non-existent. Mari and I stopped at this one woman's stand for about 20 minutes and ended up buying at least 5 rope bracelets from her. In the course of trying the bracelets on, at one point I put my cell phone down on her table. At which point, she picked it up, checked out the phone and put it in her pocket. I remember noticing that she had the same Motorola razor that I had, and then I noticed that she also had a Nokia. Strange I thought, but the Razor is ubiquitous here, and having two cell phones is common as well. It wasn't till about an hour later that I realized I didnt have my cell phone, so Marite was nice enough to go back with me to that stand. And strangely enough, the woman admitted that she had my cell phone and gave it back. So bizarre. But apparently, this is typical behavior in Rio, a city that sees a lot of crime and a lot of tourists just coming and going.

At any rate, it didn't leave a sour taste in my mouth, Rio de Janeiro is still one of the most amazing cities I've ever visited and I hope I get to go back many times in my life.

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