Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rio de Janeiro February 15 & 16


We are on our own today and we sleep in until 9:30 so our first thought is lets just catch the 11 am shuttle from the hotel to the Rio Sul Shopping mall which is the last stop on the hotel’s free shuttle.T  his mall is huge!  And after asking someone we found the Starbucks and relaxed for a bit and planned our day.
the orange bus is the shuttle for the hotel, runs throughout the day for free

Our feeling is we want to see the downtown core and we aren’t too far from a Metro station so we start hiking to what we think is the direction of the Metro, well after a few wrong turns and asking about five different people we make it to the Botafogo Metro Station.

Taking the Metro is relatively easy, we are dealing with only one Metro line and we need to take it to Cinelandia stop to start our walking tour.  This walking tour is from the book Lonely Planet’s Rio De Janeiro City Guide, which we have found to be invaluable and a must for anyone coming here.

We start the Historic Center Walking tour at Park Floriano which is a vibrant square with lots of people selling stuff, we pass the National Museum of Arts which is a magnificent building but we opt to not go in for the sake of time.  We are walking along the streets and the crowds are amazing, there is hardly room to walk and the streets are pedestrian only and thank goodness.

Next stop is Confeitaria Colombo which is one of the oldest coffee shops in Rio dating from the late 1800’s.  The stained glass windows, brocaded mirrors and marble countertops are so lavish and really gets us in the mood and feeling like we are really in RioWe order a small snack and enjoy the scenery of this beautiful place.

We are back out walking (the heat is overpowering – so bring water).We make our way to the next stop which is the Real Gabinete Portuguese reading room.  I have never and I mean never seen anything like this.  The reading room was built in 1837, and it houses 350,000 books, many dating from the 16thcentury.  It is four stories high and you look up and all you see are books in beautiful mahogany shelves.

We head to the Saara neighbourhood which has narrow pedestrian streets that have stores, kind of like a bazaar packed with discount shops, pedestrians and Lebanese restaurant. There is so much to look at the sounds of the people trying to sell their items and there is everything you can think of for sale here, fabrics, costumes for Carnival, bras, shoes, hair accessories, clothes, bathing suits, jewelry, kitchen items, you name it is for sale here!I end up buying three necklaces here for 22R which is about $13!

We maneuver around all the people and make our way to the Imperial Palaceand then past the Cultural Center of the Banco de Brazil, but it was close to closing time se we didn’t go in.
Our last stop is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelariawhich is an old church dating from the 16th century.  This church was the largest and wealthiest church of imperial Brazil. The interior is a combination of baroque and Renaissance styles.  The cupola, fabricated entirely from limestone shipped from Lisbon, is one of its most striking features.  We don’t get to stay very long as it closes at 4 pm and it is five to.

We head to the nearest metro station Uruguaina, and get on the line that takes us back to Ipanema. The metro is packed, you can tell it is rush hour, a nice man ensures us we are on the right train and informs us as to the exact stop to get off at, he is originally from Aberdeen Scotland and he is off.
When we get off the metro we decide to have dinner in Ipanema at a restaurant the book recommends – the Blue Agave.  As soon as we take a seat we notice the guy from the metro from Scotlandis there.  We order a few caipirinha which is cochaca (cane liquor) muddled lime, sugar and ice.It is wicked but I love it and end up drinking three of them!  We chat with the guy from Scotland and learn more about the area and he recommends a great restaurant for us.

We head out and it is about 7:30 so we decide to just walk back to the hotel, it is around a 20 minute walk and the sky and weather is beautiful.
Leblon Beach
every day and night they bring the chairs to the beach like this!


Many of the Cruisecritic gang are arriving today, we wait for Derrick and Connie to arrive in case they need a room to crash.   It is nice to see Carolyn and Ken too and we met up with a few of the others who we have been chatting with for over a year.

We catch the 11 shuttle and get off in Leblon and walk to the mall and get our Starbucks latte.   We also get some Reals from the bank machine enough to tie us over for the next two days.

Today we are planning on visiting the Botanical Gardens and we walk over there (again the Lonely Planet Book helps).   Entry fee 6R each and the park is HUGE and very old, it is 137 hectares with over 8000 plant species which opened in 1808. We love the orchid exhibit.

Again it is very very hot out and humid so we stock up on some water and relax in the shade and recharge before we head out. We head to the lagoon which is a large salt water lake that is just north of Leblon. We walk around about half of it before heading back to Leblon to get a small bite to eat, we share a chicken dish and decide to walk back to the hotel.

We catch the 8 pm shuttle to Impenema to visit a recommended Churrascarias, the restaurant is called Porc√£o we are sat quickly at a table for four and we are surrounded by attentive staff explaining to us exactly how the whole experience is going to happen. We are given a round disk (looks like a coaster) and one side is green – meaning bring on the meat, the other side is red – meaning whoa I need to stop!

We decide to get a few drinks and they make our drinks right in front of us. We are asked to choose what type of side dishes we want and we get some rice, French fries, fried bananas and I believe yucca. But really we didn’t need these extra dishes we had so much other food. We are given plates and the meat starts coming, but first we want to get some salad bar items – and all I can say is wow great salad bar and the items are non stop, and included lots of sushi too and fairly good sushi.

We are munching on our salad when the meat starts coming and it is every type of meat and different cuts of meat. I tried the sausage, chicken, beef, rib, pork and a bit of salmon. Bernie and Jerry drooled over the abundance of lamb offerings. There were quite a few offerings that I just couldn’t try because well I am too chicken! And I am sure it doesn’t taste like chicken!

We walk, well maybe waddle out of there and walked a few blocks and catch a taxi back to the hotel. The driver spoke no English and I guess he didn’t know where our hotel was because we crawled down Impenema and Leblon looking for it until we realized he didn’t know where it was and Bernie started directing him. We had a good laugh.

Another great day is over. Tomorrow is our last full day in Rio.

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