Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Day at the Beach, A Night at Maracana ... and Bye, Bye, Brazil

Sure, sometimes I have to remind myself, but in traveling--and heck, in life--if it all works out in the end, just be happy.

I could grumble that for the second night in a row I was angrily disappointed and dismayed at the food quality, service, tenor and value of a restaurant recommended by the hotel, this time La Fiducia Ristorante. The special I wanted was unavailable, it took four waiters to understand that I wanted a Coke Zero--I understand English isn't all that widely spoken here, but for a restaurant just off Copacabana Beach, c'mon (BTW Coke Zero is standard here, rather than Diet Coke)--I got a penne pasta not much better than in Michelini's frozen meal, I was charged about $9 for a bread basket I never actually ordered and I was happier than the East Indian patrons next to me who were served meat dishes despite being vegetarian.

I could rue having paid four times the ticket price itself to go on a tour to a soccer game at Maracana stadium--run by ViaCopa--only to wind up sitting by myself and having the tour guide exit the stadium without meeting me and others where he said he would. I eventually found him and the shuttle van outside. But not only was I tempted to take the Metro back to my hotel, I could have taken it to the game and bought a ticket there as only about 16,000 of 78,000 seats were used.

I could bemoan that the Favela tour I had signed up to take at 9am today was changed to 11am, making it non-conducive for me around the soccer game (I did get my money back).

But I am  lucky to be in Rio de Janeiro and life is good.

This morning, with the favela tour out of the picture--and though I heard it's quite insightful, I was a bit wary about poverty tourism--I went over to Copacabana Beach, sat out for a a while, saw some pretty women and actually went into the water a few times. It felt great to have the waves wash over me, and nothing was stolen while I was wading around. I still don't think I'm ready for a full beach vacation, as an hour was enough, but I'm glad I took advantage of the opportunity.

The soccer--i.e. futebol--game between Fluminense and Vasco de Gama in a Rio state semifinal match, was a lot of fun. I wound up sitting next to a non-tour couple that spoke no English but were rather nice to me. Though the game was far from sold out, the Vasco contingent was especially loud and raucous and I got a good sense of the passion Brazilians have for soccer, upon the hallowed pitch of Maracana. Vasco won 1-0 and their fans were happy.

I am now back at my hotel, and though my four days in Rio have left me with doubts if this city is really tourist-ready for the World Cup and 2016 Olympics--I wouldn't want to come back for either--I certainly have had many wonderful experiences, and none really rotten ones in the whole scheme of things.   

As I posted earlier my hotel was terrific--if not so hot with the restaurant recommendations--and I should have some great photos to share beyond the ones I posted to Flickr.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Buenos Aires, and look forward to meeting up with Paulo, exploring that great city--let's assume--and enjoying Lollapalooza (as best I can).

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