Monday, December 23, 2013

Peru-Brazil – Days 42 through 49 – The protracted end

This is the last entry on this particular series. My computer is giving me a lot of trouble, and Annie has lost all interest in further travel. She wants to plop herself on the beach at Copacabana and do nothing more, so each of us did our own thing during the week we spent in Rio de Janeiro.

We rented a one-bedroom plus dining room, with a kitchenette, tiny bathroom, fridge, two TVs, and AC for 230 realis per day, two and a half blocks from the beach in the heart of Copacabana. I negotiated with the concierge and got parking in the building for 100 reais for the 6 days. The address of our apartment was Rua Paula Freitas no. 78 - Apto 303. To rent contact Ju Dias. She only speaks Portuguese, but like all Brazilians understands Spanish pretty well. Her e-mail is

I made full use of the metro to explore the city, which included surprises such as the Museo de Bellas Artes (which was having a special exhibition of masterpieces of the Vatican collection – including the oldest representation of the face of Christ on a painting), the Plaza Tiradentes, the Sala de Lectura (one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen), the Sahara district (the market district of Rio, where you can buy just about anything from colorful stalls), the Cathedral (actually, I don’t think the modern Cathedral is all that pretty, but we arrived in Rio in the wake of the departure of Pope Francis, and the excitement of the World Youth Conference was still in the air), and the Arches district, where Bossanova was born, and where all the greats of Brazilian music made their debut).

In the afternoon I went for a ride through the Bay, and visited the island of Paquetá, which reminded me a lot of Catalina Island as a small resort town where there are no cars so everybody walks. The water front walk is particularly pretty, where I was surprised to see a baobab (a southern Africa tree). The bay itself is very beautiful, and at night easily rivals the bay of Hong Kong in terms of the illuminated urbanscape.

On several occasions I rented a bike, which afforded me a wide range of action. A particularly enjoyable trip was down the Copacabana beach and into Ipanema beach, where I was privileged to see the Girl from Ipanema:

Olha que coisa mas linda
mas cheia de graça
é ela menina
que vem e que passa
num doce balanço a
caminho do mar.

The visit to Christ the Redemptor of the Sierra of Corcovado was a highlight. This statue looks down benevolently over Rio and its surroundings, and you can see it from many places from the city and the beaches. You take a cable car up the mountain, and climb, climb, climb until, like a bird, one can look at the whole bay and city as a blanket of twinkling lights under the setting sun. At the top, the sight of the enormous statue of Christ extending its blessing over the whole metropolis stirs the soul.

My visit to the Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açucar), the famous landmark at the entry of the bay of Botafogo was not as impressive, because it was a smoggy day and the details became blurred. I was still puzzled by this particular “dome” of bare rock, which is formed by a coarsely-crystalline gneiss that has been stripped of all its weathered cover. The steepness of the dome would easily explain why the rock is not weathered, but what exhumed the dome to begin with is a hard thing to explain. And it is not a unique landform. Similar domes are found south of Ipanema, between Copacabana and Botafogo, and on the slopes of the Sierra of Corcovado.

During the last couple of days I wandered through the city, visiting places like the Monastery of San Benito (a Baroque jewel with its gold-leaf altars), the Flea Market, and any number of bookstores. Copacabana and Ipanema are separate portions of the city, each with its own downtown and amenities. Outside de obvious allure of the beach, Ipanema counts with the Lagoon of Ipanema and its surrounding park, and the campus of the Pontificial University. Copacabana, on its side, has a lively commercial area with all sorts of expensive shops, street vendors (a fellow doing casaba pancakes with herbs and cheese deserves special mention because of the intensity that he invested in creating the perfect cake), and the ever available walk along the water front. A favorite pastime of both locals and visitors is to seat down under the friendly awning of one of the many little restaurants along the waterfront, have a drink, enjoy bossanova played by one or two musicians, and eat something delicious (pizza-on-a-cone was my favorite, where a cone is made with pizza dough, is filled with pizza sauce and sausage, and is topped with cheese, and then is baked for 20 minutes as a regular pizza).

Eventually it came time to say goodbye to Brazil and fly back home. Thank you Brazil for your people and your welcome, and for your natural beauties and your music. And thank you Rio de Janeiro, Ciudad Marvihlosa, for being the port of entry to this amazing wonderland.

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