Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rio de Janiero - Day 4

I wake a little before everyone else and start thinking about the wonderful day we had yesterday… How can we top it, maybe with a little less walking (yeah right!) and seeing as many sights but I have to wait to see what is on the agenda. At least I slept well again with vivid dreams and I feel refreshed as I look out into the urban courtyard.

I wait for Luiz and Margarete to wake and soon my waiting is over. We have our morning routine of breakfast complete and discuss the plans for the day. We will head into downtown Rio to see what hidden treasures we can find.

We maneuver the bus situation and enjoy the bumpy ride to the down town area passing by sugar loaf. The bus speeds along and tosses us too and fro. We end up in the middle of a mob of people, all moving in different directions. Feels like any large city that I have been to when I am in the center of it all. The first thing to view is all the Catholic Churches. We stop at about three of them right after we exit the bus and each has its own identity. It is easy to see that Rio has deep Catholic roots and we continue our self guided tour of the churches. Beautiful they are, with their intricate decor of Saints and Catholic symbols. Many of them with gold plating, stain glass, and intricate details so you can tell there was a lot of pride and inspiration involved in creating these masterpieces. 


We hurry along to the ferry terminal which connects Rio with Niteroi. I have heard this is a worthy trip to see some of the city by water inexpensively, but we decide to just take a peek at the terminal as someone tells us that it is safe now, but later will be full of street people. Asking for money and looking to pick pocket what they can. As long as we are in and out of the area by noon we will be fine as most of them are fast asleep at this hour. We visit the terminal and like some of the other great buildings in Rio it has weathered over the years and needs a little attention. It is a beautiful building with great architecture. We walk quickly through the street fair in its parking lot were they are selling clothing, jewelry and other trinkets.

After our quick scurry, we head to the Assembleia Legislativa (Legislature) where we have a wonderful guided tour of the building and get sneak peek at the legislature
 in action. Not much different then when I have visited these legislative sessions in the United States. There is a lot of talking going on and its hard to understand what they are saying, but today that is a little more understandable since they are speaking in Portuguese. There are tons of photo’s taken as the artwork and the architecture of the building are amazing. The floors are beautiful mosaic tile that were imported from Europe and put together like a large puzzle. Like previous days there is a treat for the eyes around practically every corner.
We finish the tour and start walking again. This time we end up at another church at the end of the Avenda Presidente Vargas (the main street in downtown). The church is the Igreja da Candelaria- building started in 1609 as a fulfillment of an oath taken by sailors at rough sea. With work being done to complete the church as late at 1931, it has a mix of baroque style with Neoclassical accents. The church has been an important part of the cities history such as the seventh day mass of high school students and the 1993 Candelaria massacre which brought worldwide attention to the police brutality of street children in Rio and Brazil. It stands majestic and grand as it anchors the end of the street.

We cross the street to the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. Where currently there is an exhibit of contemporary art from Laurie Anderson. We see a little bit of the artwork but want to head to a famous stop on our list so we head out to walk through the crowded streets. The streets are narrow with beautiful buildings lining them. Not very good for the current age of auto transportation but like most cities inner areas, they were not formed for autos but for horses. After a distance we are ready for coffee and stop at the famous Confeitaria Colombo. This fine bakery has been serving customers since they

opened in 1894. As you look around you soon realize that everything in the place is art: from the sky light and Belgium mirrors to the chairs and china. We have a wonderful lunch and relax a bit from our morning walk.

The tourist do not rest long as we soon head out the door to the narrow streets to photograph more and adventure through the heart of the city. I am at awe to the amazing details of the buildings and the surrounding around. The sidewalks are being redone with the mosaic rock and facelifts are happening throughout the city. Makes you wonder if they will be ready for the world stage with so much to do and time flying by. But that is for another thought on another day, Luiz takes us to the square where the we gaze on one of the most important and beautiful theaters in the country. Luiz compares it to the
Fox Theater in Atlanta but I soon realize there is little comparison in its grand and glory. The theater is rich in history and a must see when anyone is traveling to Rio. Built in 1905-1909 (record time for such a building) to be the center of theater in the capital city of Rio de Janeiro. We may have stayed around for a show but it would have been in Portuguese (which would have been quite interesting) and we had places to go and things to see. Our travels for the day were not done and since it was closed to visitors we are amazed by its Paris Opera inspired eclectic style. The square in front of the theater is grand and surrounded by a plethora of beautiful buildings and details.

Once our camera buttons stop clicking we are off again walking to our next destination. By this time I think my feet are tired and I am read to rest but I am not going to let my partners in site seeing down. We trudge on to the Bonde de St Teresa (Trolley through the St Teresa neighborhood recently featured in the animated movie RIO) The three of us, with our shoes that were made for walking, (referance to a song with a little creative change in words) arrive at the trolley station and
are off to the beautiful St Teresa neighborhood. The trolley ride begins crossing over the famous Carioca Aqueduct (which used to bring water to the center of the city) offering a bela vista (beautiful view) of the city not seen from the ground. I am not sure I would want to be riding, hanging on the edge of the trolley holding on at this point and am glad to have a seat even if it is not on the best side of the trolley. I am a little disappointed as the trolley is in operation only on the lower half of the railway today. The upper half is currently shut down for maintenance and so maybe we can come back another day. (this never does fit back into our plans so I guess it means another trip back to Rio). The neighborhood is filled with narrow winding streets and picturesque corners.


After the trolley ride the three of us venture off to the Metropolitan Cathedral traveling through the financial center of Rio de Janeiro. The Cathedral, completed in 1979 is definitely more modern and less ornate then the other churches we have visited on our self guided tour. We enter and find a nice place to sit and relax. Honestly I find the Cathedral to be
cold and callus but I truly appreciate that I can sit and relax. Mostly made of mortar and stain glass with lofty ceilings, it is far from intimate although I can appreciate its uniqueness.

After a well deserved rest, we grab a taxi to our next destination. (we have no idea how to get there by bus – I think) Luiz had been here when he was much younger and is excited to revisit the Mosteiro de Sao Bento (a monastery that overlooks the waterfront and bay) The cab driver drops us off at the bottom of a long windy hill and we begin to trudge up the hill. Thank goodness we had the rest at the cathedral and the taxi ride. At the top of the hill lies the monastery and it simple and stunning. With the intricate details in the sanctuary and the finely groomed gardens outside just as you would expect. The view that Luiz remembers is no more as the trees have grown some and now block the view he remembers from a time before. We head down the hill again and find the bus, head back to Copacabana to relax a little before heading out.


Our evening adventure heads us back, close to the Carioca Aqueduct to a world famous restaurant: Rio Scenarium. We first stop to take a photo of the Aqueduct at night. The neighborhood is not that good so we are quick with our photos and we begin to head in the direction of the restaurant. Several people tell us it is not very far, just at the end of the street but after quite a few blocks I begin to wonder “where is the end of the street”. We finally arrive at the Scenarium and there is a long line out front but fortunately we find out it opens at 8 P.M and it is currently 5 minutes until 8:00. The street has the feel of New Orleans and is full of people. The restaurant on the other side of the street is full as well and we continue to wait. It is not long and we are inside and finding a seat. The sounds of a samba band echo through the three story building. Filled with an eclectic mix of antiques and classic items, there are a ton of things for our eyes to investigate. Our great waiter (he was great!) begins to share that he has served many celebrities including Liza Minnelli, Bono, and Will Smith just to name a few. We are in excellent hands with this guy!) We enjoy the evening filled with music, laughter, conversation, photos, and good food. After our meal we venture around the space to see all the eclectic items and take a peek at the samba band on the first floor and the bicycle filled ceiling on the third.

The evening comes to an end with a taxi ride back to Copacabana and our apartment. Sleep is well deserved this night!  (Read Rio de Janiero - Day 5)

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