Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sugar Loafing Around and Chowing Down Make for a Rio Enjoyable First Day

I realize this is a Catch-22.

I wanted to visit Rio de Janeiro--and am truly happy to be here--because I wanted to experience somewhere distinctly different, in both continent and culture, than the European cities I have visited.

But whereas in those cities I would typically exhaust myself to the bone trying to get to every museum, church, palace and landmark worth seeing, in Rio--despite some similar sites I hope to get to on Saturday--the prime tourist draws seem to be the beaches, striking mountains and a rain forest within the city, a vibrant nightlife scene and a huge statue of Jesus way up atop a mountain.

For reasons due to preference, physicality and being here alone, I don't intend to swim nor layout on the beach, I won't do much hiking and I'm not going to hit the clubs. And though Christo the Redeemer atop Corcovado is an impressive statue, well heck, I'm Jewish.

So today after walking along a stretch of Copacabana Beach--my hotel is a block and a half away--and taking the cable car to the top of Urca and Sugar Loaf mountains and spending a little time on a nearby beach, by 3:30 I was at a loss for a next thing to do.

So despite having already taken a bit of a nap after checking into my hotel room around 10, I took a cab back to my hotel--Rio does have a subway system,  but there are no stops near Sugar Loaf nor Corcovado for that matter--before heading out to dinner. 

This doesn't mean I'll have nothing to do in the three days ahead. Tomorrow I plan to go up to see Christo, see a small part of the rain forest, go to the Botanic Garden and visit the Ipanema and Leblon beach areas.

Saturday I intend to go to Centro for a classic cafe, historical sites, an art museum and a church or two.

Sunday I hope to catch a tour to a Favela--i.e. slum--and another to a football (i.e. soccer) game at the famed Maracana stadium.

But none of the days are likely to be as hectic as when I've been in London, Paris, Vienna, etc.

Yet this isn't a complaint; just an observation.

To begin with, after the brutal Chicago winter and even the bitterly cold day yesterday in New York, being somewhere warm is just wonderful. I make kvetch about it being too warm in the days ahead, but today it was about 81° and just about perfect.

Given the almost hour-long cab ride from the airport--with Chicago-like traffic jams--on which I saw numerous favelas running up hillsides and many buildings more downtrodden than shiny and new, it was apparent just how sprawling a city Rio is, and in full perhaps intimidating.

But in walking along Copacabana--both during the day and in the evening on my way to and from dinner--I never had any sense of concern or trepidation.

While I won't make much personal use of the beach--I brought a pair of swim trunks and would be happy to put more than my feet into the water as I did today, I wouldn't know what to do with my wallet, phone, camera or even just sandals--and Copacabana was sparsely populated on an initially a bit cloudy Thursday afternoon, it still made for some some spectacular scenery (I'm speaking strictly of nature here).

And with the vistas provided by Urca and Sugar Loaf, the beaches, water, mountains etc. were just breathtaking.

I got a lot of great photos and will put some quick ones up on Flickr.

For dinner I went to a place that I had read about called Marius Degustare. It is essentially a Brazilian steakhouse--i.e. a churrascaria, where you are served various cuts of meat--but also features cuts of seafood.

Everything I had including cuts of fillet mignon, ribeye, ribs, rock lobster shrimp of various types and more was really delicious. And the decor might be among the funkiest I've seen anywhere.

It's a bit pricey--even more so than Fogo de Chao in Chicago, which also has a location here--and they seem to get a bit pokey in serving me before I had had my fill, but it was a good experience--and ultimately filling meal.

I enjoyed walking the mile back to my hotel along the beach, noting several lighted volleyball games going on in the darkness. (Brazil doesn't seem to observe daylight savings time.)

But I am writing this from bed and likely soon to turn the lights off even if I am in Rio de Janeiro and it's only 10.

Relatively speaking, I might not wind up doing all that much here, but it seems there may be few places I would more enjoy not doing it.

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