Friday, December 30, 2022

Day 21 & 22: Santiago

Thursday was a travel day so I packed and went downstairs for breakfast. I had a lovely conversation with my friend Kristin for over two hours. I just love making new connections. I sat at the airport catching up on life (e.g., emails) and had an uneventful flight to Santiago, Chile (my fifth country on this trip) while I embroidered. Man, this is a slow craft!!

I landed, made it through immigration, got some cash (using the ATM), grabbed a sandwich since it was late, and took an (illegal) Uber to my Hostal. My goal today was to drink water and lots of it to make up for all the sweating. I can tell I am a bit dehydrated. 

Friday I started the morning with a breakfast at my Hostal. I learned Chileans do not have “hot” breakfasts and usually eat bread. I also learned the average citizen eats 216 pounds of bread a year. What? These are my people. 

I started with a historical walking tour, as I like to do on entering a city. I learn so much and get great tips. 

Santiago has been rebuilt so many times due to natural disasters that not many colonial buildings remain. They experience an earthquake every three years and there are over 2,000 volcanos with ten currently very dangerous. The buildings are influenced by many different countries including France, Italy, and the US. The first photo below is what used to be downtown before they outgrew it and is called “New York”. 

This church is what some call the “Miracle Church” because it was built in 1580 and has survived all the earthquakes. In 2016 they dug down to find out how and discovered it was built on big boulders that can “roll” back and forth allowing the building to shift. How did they know that 442 years ago??!! You can see inside the walls are super thick (on left) and the ceiling is made of wood which helps the sway. 

After the tour I grabbed lunch, which was a refreshing limonade and delicious salmon sandwich. It is worth noting the weather is perfect! Today the high was 84° but the humidity was only 25%. I could cry it felt so good. 

After lunch I walked around my neighborhood a bit and returned to the hostel. I spent a couple hours planning the next few days. I was told the city shuts down the first and second for New Years so I wanted to make sure we had things to do. 

I ended my evening talking to Henry as he boarded his first of three flights to make his way here. I am so beyond excited I can barely stand it!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Day 20: Paqueta Island

My goal today was to visit Paqueta Island, a small island located in the northeastern part of Rio’s Guanabara Bay. Fun fact: When the Portuguese discovered Rio they landed in the bay in January but thought it was a river so named the city Rio (river) de Janeiro (January). 

I could not find the ferry schedule online so read a few blog posts that said a ferry left at 10:30. When I arrived I discovered the next ferry departed at 1:30pm! I had three hours to kill and my only goal was to be in air conditioning so I  walked to the airport! It was wonderful. [I am wearing a mask because I have a cold…ugh]

The ferry was packed! I wonder what everyone was doing. Holiday? Do they live on the island? We passed by Fiscal Island, a beautiful green building serving as a customs station in the day. We also passed under the Rio-NiterĂ³i Bridge. 

Paqueta has no cars but only bikes and golf carts. It feels like going back in time. 

I walked the entire island along the shore. It was quiet. Many homes looked empty. It has a lovely view but no one is using the beaches assuming because the water is dirty.

This rock has a legend that if you toss three stones over your back and one stays on top you will have true love forever. I could not find three rocks to throw. 

After walking I had lunch at Zeca’s. It remains hot and I was trying to figure out what drink would be most refreshing. I followed everyone else by ordering beer. I had Carne de Sol Macaxeira, salty meat but yummy friend potatoes! 

I slept a bit on the hour ferry ride back and walked back to my hostel. The island visit was a nice change of pace. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Day 19: A Favela, Copacabana & Samba

Today I toured the second largest favela in Latin America, Rocinha. Favelas are all over Rio and are working-class neighborhoods. They are unique and we’re totally fascinating to me. 

They started forming when the rural population moved to the city for work and were unable to find homes so they built shanties. It is estimated 20% of the Rio de Janeiro population lives in the nearly 200 favelas and they immediately border very nice neighborhoods. 

In Rio, employers are required to pay transportation to and from work. So when being hired it is important to live close to the city so the cost is low and you will be considered. 

Most favelas are ruled by organized crime groups (drug dealers).  There are UPP police that drive through the Main Street but they never go into the favela (and there are very few drivable roads, most of the favela is navigated by walking). The drug leaders do not want trouble with the UPP so things are calm and oddly with armed men on each corner I felt safe with our guide. But there are rules one must follow and drugs are common. In fact a street vendor was selling cocaine and marijuana on the street alongside someone selling coffee! 

Check out the electrical lines. It is crazy they do not have fires. But everyone just taps into someone else. Everyone hauls garbage to a main spot on the road as there are no garbage sites within the favela. 

Rocinha is ruled by three groups of drug dealers and the walking pathways are marked with who owns each (see photo with C.V on wall). Despite the simple living they take great pride in their neighborhoods and decorate with water bottle caps. There is no mail to homes but a box that sits in the middle of the walkway where you pick up your mail. Motorcycle taxis are the main form of transportation. 

It was very interesting. I had my tour guide drop me off at Copacabana, visited the military fort that was built alongside the beach in 1908 and walked the beach. That beach is 2.5 miles long and it was very busy. Most likely due to it being a holiday week. 

I returned to the hostel, took a shower, and met up with Kristin for dinner and samba at Beco do Rato. The place was packed, and it was a Tuesday! Latinos sure like to party. 

Day 18: Walking Tour & Music

I went on a historical walking tour of the center of Rio, where I am staying. The street tiles in Rio are similar to those in Portugal, which makes sense considering Portugal found Rio in 1565. The odd-looking pyramid structure below is actually a Catholic Church which only has natural light. The beautiful church is the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmoda. I found it interesting they have converted the candles to “digital”. The last photo below was the entrance to Rio when everyone would arrive by boat. 

After the tour I went to the Santa Teresa neighborhood and had feijoda (a traditional Brazilian meal which is a stew of beans and pork) at Portela. It was fabulous because they had a beautiful singer. 

I returned for a nap and joined newly made friends at Pedra do Sal which is a street samba event held every Monday night. It is like a mini-festival with street vendors and music all over the place and it was PACKED!! And it is a Monday! I just love watching people happy with music. It feeds my soul. My friend Kristin and I left around 11pm but her girls stayed out until 4:30am and said it was still packed!! Reminder…it is a Monday. I love Latinos. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Day 17: Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer, & Selaron

Today I landed in Rio de Janeiro from an overnight flight. This was my view on our approach. Goodness, I love flying! 

Today was one of those “go with the flow” types of days. It is Christmas and my plane landed at 5am in Rio. I was planing to simply go to the beach and relax assuming everything would be closed. On my way out of the hostel I met a “digital nomad” from the states and we started talking. She invited me to share an Uber to the beach. The Uber driver suggested I spend the day doing the big sites as the queues were slow and the weather was good (it is the rainy season). So off I went. I started at Sugarloaf Mountain, which at 1,200ft overlooks Rio. It had amazing views of the city. 

From there I went to the beach, my happy place. I have had the song “Copacabana” in my head all day!! The place was packed, assuming with locals. 

From there I went to Christ the Redeemer one of the seven Wonders of the World (we will not mention I missed Machu Picchu…ugh). That thing is flippin’ HUGE!! 

As you can imagine it is high up on a hill and as I exited I was attempting to get an Uber return but no one would pick up my ride. So I started talking with others in the same situation and we pooled together to get a discount on a ride down to where Ubers would pick us up. And…I had not taken out any Brazilian Real (money) so I had zero cash for that negotiation, But my new friends from Uruguay covered it for me. There are so many kind people in this world. It was only $2.68 so I am going to release the guilt. 

From there I joined my Uruguay friends (Indians working in tech and familiar with ServiceNow) and went to the Selaron Staircase. It started as an artists attempt to renovate steps that ran along the front of his house. He would run out of money so would sell art and bring in other artists. Over time 60 countries contributed to the effort. Normally this staircase is filled with people but today it was pretty empty. 

I was invited for an Indian dinner but was exhausted so I returned to the hostel and did my nightly routine of showering, laundry, welcome drink (the caipirinha kicked my ass!), dinner  talking to Henry, and writing of my blog. 

It was a great first day in Rio de Janeiro! Below is a mural in my hostel, Selina, in Rio. I am staying at all Selina’s on this trip, except Santiago, and I could not be happier. I love them!!!!