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Bruce and Marija go to Brazil

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Aug 28th, 2009, 02:07 PM
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Bruce and Marija go to Brazil

Brazil was never on my "places to see before I die" list, although once, during a very cold Chicago winter, I did toy with the idea of fleeing to Rio's beaches. ( I quickly dismissed the destination as being too dangerous and ended up on a dude ranch in Arizona. ) When Bruce received an invitation to give a paper in August in Rio, instead of embracing the trip, I delayed making plans, confident that the economic meltdown or the swine flu would cause cancellation of the conference. At the beginning of July I finally conceded that the conference was going to occur and Bruce could either go alone to Rio for a week to admire the gorgeous women in dental floss bikinis while I stared at my computer screen at home or we could both set off on an adventure.

We spent seven nights in Rio at the Windsor Excelsior Copacabana, 1 unplanned night in Manaus at the Lord Manaus hotel, 3 nights at Anavilhanas Lodge on the Rio Negro, 1 night at the airport Marriott in Sao Paolo, 5 nights at Embiara Lodge in the South Pantanal and a final night in Rio at the Hotel Ipanema Plaza. We also spent an ungodly amount of time in both Sao Paolo airports making connections and doing penance for cancelled and missed flights.
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Aug 29th, 2009, 09:26 PM
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So sorry about missed flights. I hope the trip made up for it!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 03:17 PM
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Arrangements

We used frequent flier miles to fly business class from Chicago to Rio on United, going by way of Dulles and Sao Paolo. United flies non-stop Chicago to Sao Paolo but doesn't seem to allocate business FF seats on that flight since it's the newly configured flat bed 767. The flight from Dulles is in "old" business class on the yet-to-be upgraded 777s. I was amazed to get FF tickets 5 weeks before departure. The tickets were free but the flight was not without problems. More about that later. I should have booked an open jaw ticket into Rio and out of Sao Paolo but I grabbed the tickets before I had a plan in place.

Usually we make our own arrangements for accommodations and flights but I had read that in Brazil you can get better rates from travel agents than the hotel websites. For hotels in Rio that seemed to be the case. Although the conference claimed "special" rates for designated hotels, I got substantially cheaper rates from
http://www.bacctravel.com, a New York City-based Brazilian travel agency ($160 per night compared to $220 for the same room). BACC even has real people who promptly answered calls, and even called you back when there was a question.

I unsuccessfully contacted several agencies for suggestions for places to go after Rio. Most ignored the e-mails. After considerable surfing I settled on Anahvilhanas Lodge in the Amazon and Barranco Alto in the South Pantanal. Alas, Barranco Alto was booked for our dates. Someone suggested that I try to go through an agency that may have already reserved space there. That's how I came upon Brazil Nature Tours, http://www.opendoortur.com.br/braziltours.asp, an outfit based in Campo Grande. They could not book Barranco Alto but suggested Embiara Lodge.

Brazil Nature Tours answers e-mails promptly, is well organized, and I was delighted to find out that they could book both lodges and all domestic air for us. I could not beat their price by booking the pieces online myself. Having someone we could easily contact in Brazil when we ran into problems, which we did (more later) was truly priceless. In the Pantanal problems were fixed even before we knew they existed! BNT compared a TAM pass versus individual tickets and found that the individual tickets were cheaper. (This year TAM instituted a new rule that connecting flights require a separate coupon for each flight, which means that going from Rio to Manaus would require two coupons, one from Rio to Sao Paolo and one from Sao Paolo to Manaus.) Brazil Nature Tours accepts credit cards for lodging but requires a wire transfer for airline tickets. I had them book everything, including a hotel for our last night in Rio, sparing myself the agony of fighting Brazilian airline websites.

We were well vaccinated from trips to Africa and India but we were missing yellow fever vaccine since it hadn't been required and does carry a small risk of severe complications. Although Brazil doesn't require the shot if coming from the USA, yellow fever is an issue in Brazil and we decided to follow CDC recommendations and get the vaccine which is good for 10 years. Our lodge in the Amazon was on the acidic Rio Negro which cramps mosquito's lifestyle and there's no malaria in the Pantanal so we didn't take Malarone.
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Aug 30th, 2009, 07:39 PM
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So Brazil Nature Tours is Open Door? Glad they were able to help with problems. That's important.

Thanks for the update on the TAM airpass.
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Aug 31st, 2009, 04:41 AM
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Welcome back, Lynn. I'm looking forward to reading about your trip to Africa. I also want to thank you for letting me look smart for a brief second in the Pantanal when I correctly identified your bird!

Brazil Nature Tours seems to go by several names. Their primary clients are tour operators but they also book individual travel. Our agent even met us at the airport in Campo Grande to explain a change in plans.

Oops! Sorry for the mispelling of Sao Paulo. I must be suffering from caipirinha withdrawal...
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Aug 31st, 2009, 07:11 AM
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and for the misspelling of misspelling!
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Aug 31st, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Flight to Rio and our first visit to Sao Paulo

At O'Hare I tried to get us on the nonstop from Chicago to Sao Paulo but was unsuccessful. I also tried to shed some more miles and upgrade us to first class from Dulles to Sao Paulo but was told to pursue that matter in IAD. (I had waitlisted us for both the Chicago flight and first class but neither came through before departure. ) For an unknown reason we did fly in the first class cabin of a newly reconfigured 767 from ORD to IAD. It was the finest flight of our trip, albeit quite short. The only disadvantage to the new configuration in first class is that the pods are so far apart you can't talk to your travel partner.

When I asked about the upgrade to first class at IAD the gate agent had no problem giving us first class seats. The flight to Sao Paulo was comfortable and uneventful, even in the old seats. I remember saying to Bruce, as we got off the plane in Sao Paulo at 8 AM, that maybe United wasn't such a terrible airline after all. (We have many grievances such as the time they woke us up at midnight to tell us they had cancelled our noon flight and we had to take the 6AM flight if we were going to get our connecting flight to South Africa...)

We settled into the Sao Paulo lounge to pass the two hours until the connecting flight to Rio at 10:00 AM. At the boarding gate we were told that the flight would be delayed half an hour. Half an hour later the message was that the plane would depart from another gate so we all trudged over there. At 11:30 the announcement was that at noon "the mechanics would make an announcement." United was back to its old tricks.

At noon the woman in the lounge announced that the flight had been cancelled and we would have to clear immigration in Sao Paulo, pick up our bags and clear customs, drag our bags onto a bus which would take us on an hour ride to the domestic airport where we would be put on a flight to Rio. Our request for tickets or boarding passes for the next flight was denied. We joined the long immigration line, filling out forms about our health as we waited. Swine Flu precautions were very noticeable. A United representative came down and instructed all United passengers to go back upstairs. So we did. As soon as everyone assembled upstairs we were told to go back downstairs since there had been a "slight misunderstanding." After immigration, the next step was to get the bags and ourselves onto a bus. We just followed the crowd since no one from United was available to tell us anything. We all hoped we were on the correct busses.

An hour in heavy traffic and we were at Congonhas, the domestic airport. (Saturday traffic was supposedly much lighter than during the week.) After retrieving our luggage outside we didn't know what to do. Some people wandered in one direction, others in the opposite. We finally decided to follow some Brazilian passengers who could at least ask for information and directions. Once we reached the terminal complete bedlam broke out. Neither TAM nor GOL knew anything about the 100 or so stranded passengers and there wasn't anyone from United present. I asked GOL how much a one way ticket to Rio would cost and was told $500, so that dampened my enthusiasm for just catching a plane and getting out of there. I knew we would never collect from United. After an hour or so a single United representative arrived and announced that we were to take a TAM flight to Rio at 4:00, landing in the domestic airport, not the international one as the original plane was scheduled to do. We stuck close to the irate Brazilian passengers who exchanged many heated words with the United rep. and we were all finally checked in. When the Brazilians demanded lunch vouchers they were told it was not possible. This was but another vivid example of United's total disregard for passengers. (When we flew to China and the flight was delayed five hours we at least received an apologetic letter and discount coupons from United. This time we didn't even get that!)

The TAM flight, which took about an hour once it was airborne, landed at Santos Dumont Airport shortly before 6, almost 7 hours later than we were scheduled to arrive. Fortunately we hadn't booked a pick up, so we just took a yellow cab (not radio) to our hotel. I had been warned by someone who stood in the visa line at the Brazilian embassy with me in Chicago never to take a cab since we might be robbed and beaten but decided that since we withstood United's punches we could fend off anyone! The fare was 50R since it was Saturday night and the traffic was very heavy. Under usual circumstances the fare should be about 30R.


Hotels in Rio

We stayed for a week in Copacabana at the Windsor Excelsior Copacabana ($160), about a half block south of the famous Copacabana Palace. On our return we stayed for one night at the Hotel Ipanema Plaza ($220/night). The Windsor Excelsior, across the street from Copacabana beach, had spotlessly clean rooms, powerful shower, great staff, wonderful breakfast buffet and a nice roof top bar with good caipirinhas. (Fee for internet access.) The only problem was that it was in Copacabana which is rather seedy once you move away from the beach. All of the conference hotels were located in Copacabana, presumably since you could take the Metro directly to the Conference Center. The Metro doesn't go to Ipanema. All of the participants in Bruce's section of the conference decided to stay in the same hotel since "Rio is so dangerous" so that's how we ended up there. I wouldn't feel comfortable strolling the area around the hotel at night. Restaurant choices are limited and we always took a cab to a more distant restaurant.

The Hotel Ipanema Plaza is in a great location about a block from Ipanema beach. It's surrounded by numerous restaurants, bars and shops in an upscale neighborhood. We arrived close to 10PM and had no problems walking around and finding a place to eat. Our late arrival probably explains why we were upgraded to a large junior suite. An elaborate buffet breakfast is included in the rate. The usual checkout time is noon but we were allowed to stay until 2PM without any additional charge. Ipanema or Leblon is where you want to stay, not Copacabana!
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Aug 31st, 2009, 05:41 PM
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What a mess getting there. So that was you who was awakened in the night and told to get to the airport at 6 am if you wanted to get to South Africa. I remember that incident, but had forgotten who it happened to.

You certainly deserved the "nice roof top bar with good caipirinhas" after all that.

So you identified the White Rumped Monjita!?
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Sep 1st, 2009, 07:53 AM
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Dinner at Shirley's

Once we checked in our first mission was to find the roof top bar, not too difficult of a task for thirsty travelers. The bar shares space with a small swimming pool and stunning views of Copacabana beach and Cristo Redentor. It was here that we ordered our first caipirinhas. After a small sip I declared that I didn't like the taste and fortunately wouldn't be tempted by them for the rest of the trip, saving myself many calories. By the time I was savoring the last drops I knew my initial prediction was wrong. Surely a daily caipirinha or two would prevent early onset of Alzheimer's, improve cholesterol and help the impoverished lime producers of Brazil. This was a cause we could enthusiastically embrace!

Food is an important part of travel for us, so I usually arrive with a list of recommended restaurants. I had a more difficult time than usual finding reviews of Rio restaurants, not because of a shortage of great places to eat, but because English speaking and review-writing tourists seem to be less numerous. There are hundreds of recommendations on the Europe forum of fodors for restaurants in Paris or Rome but very few for Rio. The same is true for chowhound.

Getting food would involve going out into the streets of Rio. That was something I was concerned about. Our wedding rings and watches were sequestered at home, replaced by tasteful single- digit- valued Walgreens timepieces. I decided it was too dangerous to carry a purse and stuck into my pocket some cash which we had extricated from a cooperative ATM in Sao Paulo's domestic airport. (The international airport at Sao Paulo doesn't have ATM machines for passengers in transit though there is a cash exchange booth with lousy rates. The only positive outcome from our trip to the domestic airport was that we could pull cash from willing ATM machines.)


We chose to have our first dinner at Shirley's, Rua Gustavo Sampaio, 610, Leme,
because it had good reviews and was located in what I though was walking distance from the hotel. The concierge discouraged walking (good advice for the area) and we took what turned out to be the unmetered hotel car, though we asked for a cab. Both the hotel car and the returned cab charged about 12R for the ride.

Shirley's is a cash only neighborhood restaurant featuring Spanish seafood fishes. In the dark, the area surrounding it did not appear welcoming and I was somewhat apprehensive. However, nothing stands in the way of Bruce and his dinner so we entered the small dining room, past a refrigerated display case that contained the day's fresh fish. The waiters make repeated trips to the case to pluck pieces of fish for patrons who are given the opportunity to inspect the fish prior to its preparation.

As soon as we sat down a waiter plopped two photogenic dishes of seafood on our table. I was alarmed by this, since there was no mention of cost and I've learned to be wary of unordered items appearing on my table, especially when traveling. In Brazil it appears that the couvert, or appetizer which is priced by the person, is often brought to your table unordered. It's up to you to indicate that you don't want it. I declined the items on our table until I had a chance to look at the menu and see that they were very reasonably priced at which point I ordered a single portion of delicious sardines in tomato sauce. I soon got over my fear of items appearing unordered on a table and just enjoyed them, assuming that they were fairly priced since most locals were eating them. (Unlike in Europe we never encountered any "tourist" restaurants. As far as we could tell we were the only tourists in our selected restaurants, with the exception of Antiquarius where people were speaking a variety of languages.)

For dinner I ordered zarzuela, a fish stew, while Bruce had sea bass Brazilian style. The menu was in Portuguese, Spanish and English so we didn't have problems ordering. (I did bring a copy of Eat Smart in Brazil by Joan Peterson which has a detailed food dictionary. As is usually the case when you cleverly cart something around, I never needed it except when I didn't bring it...) Both dishes were excellent. We declined dessert since we knew that we were still facing three weeks of temptation.

During dinner I noticed that all of the women carried purses, casually slung over the chairs. Perhaps Rio wasn't as dangerous as I thought? Cabs were plentiful and the restaurant hailed one for us for the return. Again, without incident, we reached the hotel, located our room and fell dead asleep. A full day of touring Rio with our guide Marcone awaited us in the morning.
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Sep 1st, 2009, 04:26 PM
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I'd be wary of unordered items appearing on my table as well. Whatever it takes for those lime producers!
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Sep 1st, 2009, 06:21 PM
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How nice to have a detailed trip report! Eagerly awaiting the Pantanal installment..
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Sep 1st, 2009, 06:24 PM
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An all day tour of Rio with Marcone and dinner at Porcao

Although I was going to have an entire week for sightseeing in Rio, the conference would take up most of Bruce's time. This time limitation, and my exaggerated fear that it was too dangerous to wander Rio alone, led me to search the internet for a tour guide for a day. I found many positive comments about Rafa, [email protected], and hired him and his car for a day ($150). At the last minute he claimed a booking mistake and substituted another licensed guide with car and driver. I didn't really mind since all we were interested in was someone who knew Rio and spoke passable English to show us the sights. Before leaving I e-mailed Rafa and asked him if it was safe to take a good camera with us on the tour and he assured us that it would not be a problem. (Bruce had his good camera equipment since we were heading out to the Amazon and Pantanal after Rio.) Everywhere we went there were tourists with all kinds of cameras and lots of police around the tourist spots. Gradually the fear of crime in Rio subsided and we treated Rio as any other big city-- be cautious but not fear-stricken. We never encountered or saw any problems.

Marcone, a licensed tour guide/nursing student, didn't disappoint. He met us at 9:00 at the hotel with an air-conditioned car and driver and we started out for Corcovado and the famous statue of Christ, stopping at some scenic points in the Tijuca Forest along the way. (We could have taken the scenic train up by ourselves, but since we had a car we just included it in the day's activities.) You can no longer drive all the way to the top by car, you have to transfer to frequently running buses. Even though it was a beautiful Sunday morning we had no problem getting to the 700-ton Jesus who looms over the city and is probably the most recognizable symbol of Rio. Or maybe the beaches win...

Our next stop was one I had never heard of--Marapendi, a big area of wetlands with several islands and lots of caiman and wonderful birds. We met up with Rafa and his two tourists (who live 25 miles from us in the Chicago suburbs!) and we all set out in a private motorboat for a tour of the waterway. What a delightful change from the bustle of Rio. If you're not going to the Amazon or Pantanal this is a great way to see some wildlife.

We stopped to admire a secluded beach and several viewpoints from which we could see the Ipanema beach stretched out in front of us, littered with cariocas enjoying their Sunday. Marcone asked if we were hungry and we replied that we were ready to eat whenever and whatever he selected. Our next destination was Niteroi, which is reached by longest free-standing bridge in South America. Since Niteroi is across the bay from Rio, you can see the mountains and skyline of the city. One of Niteroi's claims to fame is the Modern Art Museum, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the architect of the Brazilian capital Brasilia. It's supposed to be a flower emerging from the water but it looked like a mushroom or spaceship to us. The collection inside the museum is not of particular interest, so we didn't bother going inside. As we circled the island we saw small fishing villages with men repairing their nets. Again Marcone asked about food and again we asked him to pick a spot and stop. Despite passing a series of waterfront restaurants, we continued on to a military fort at the edge of the bay overlooking Sugar Loaf, a beautiful spot for photos (and parasailing)

By now it was close to 5 PM so we decided to head back to the hotel, still somewhat mystified by why we never stopped for lunch. After parting with Marcone, an excellent guide, we made our way to the rooftop bar where we concluded that this was the day we should go to Porcao, the acclaimed all-you-can-eat churrascaria, since, if we’re lucky, we’ll never be this hungry again in Rio. Getting reservations wasn’t a problem since the cariocas were celebrating father’s day and lunch was the big meal of the day.

We were hungry no more when we returned from Porcao in Flamenco, a short cab ride from the hotel. (We went to the Flamenco location because it’s supposed to have the nicest views. That’s probably true when the sun is up. The Ipanema location was about the same distance from our hotel.) The salad bar was immense, including sushi selections; the wandering giant skewers of meat, accompanied by docile bow-tied waiters, circled endlessly like generous vultures. We quickly learned to flip our cards to red (stop) after each new meat was deposited on our plate. That way we didn’t end up with a heaping plate of rapidly cooling meat. As soon as we were able to continue, we flipped it to green (more). Chicago boasts several churrascarias, so we knew to graze lightly from the salad bar and to ignore the accompanying side dishes, good as they may be. If you’re going to a conference in Rio look for a discount coupon for Porcao in your registration materials. Bruce received his after we had already eaten there, so we couldn’t use the 25% discount. Even devoted eaters can‘t go to a churrascaria twice in a week!
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 06:08 PM
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How odd you missed lunch. As you mentioned earlier, more calories to devote to other eating ventures.

Marapendi--a great discovery! Thanks. I hear people from Chicago like to go there.
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 06:23 PM
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Confeitaria Columbo and Siri Mole

During breakfast at the hotel's sumptuous buffet , we amused ourselves by looking out the large windows overlooking the beach and watching the locals out for their morning runs and walks. Our mission for today was to find the conference center so Bruce could pick up his registration material. We had some difficulty locating the nearest Metro station since we relied on the hotel's directions and not our maps. (It's not the first time that we've been misled by the assuming that the first turn instruction corresponds to the turn taken going out the hotel door...) Once our supposed 5 minute walk to the Metro approached 20 minutes even we could tell that something wasn't quite right. Using a strange mix of Spanish/Italian to ask for directions, since even in Rio not many people speak English, we finally arrived at a (different) Metro station from the one closest to the hotel.

I had read that the Metro was perfectly safe and our experiences with it were excellent, though we never used it late at night. Bruce bought a pre-loaded 10 ride card to which he later added rides. He rode the Metro daily, I also rode it alone and never felt uneasy. The stations are clean, well marked, and there are lots of people around. It's unfortunate that the Metro doesn't cover the entire city.

After a quick pickup of registration materials the next task was to explore the center of the city (the conference center is not in the center). There didn't appear to be any must-see places so we headed to the cathedral, a gigantic concrete beehive structure. We've seen many churches but this was really different and worth a visit. One of the reasons for going to the cathedral was that it was close to the widely acclaimed Confeitaria Columbo (Rua Goncalves Dias 32, Centro), our designated lunch stop. For unknown reasons Bruce no longer trusts me when I say that something is right around the corner and he insisted that we take a taxi to the confeitaria. Well, it was almost around the corner but it took the taxi almost a half hour to fight its way through lunch hour traffic in the narrow streets of the old city. We got out of the cab early since it was gridlocked. Fortunately cabs are inexpensive in Rio.

The Confeitaria, which on its placemats claims to be the most visited spot in Rio, is housed in a gorgeous belle-epoque structure with huge Belgian mirrors, French stained glass and Portuguese tiles. (Note that there is a branch of the Confeitaria Columbo in the Fort in Copacabana but it is nothing like the original and has a very limited selection of pastries.) As you enter, on the left, there are cases which imprison numerous types of beautiful pastries which you immediately want to liberate, on the right are the savory treats. There is a rather cryptic English menu with items like "assortment of special savories" but no English is spoken and you just have to imagine what that may include. We decided to have some savories before embracing the sweets which are the real stars. I'm still not sure what was in that savory assortment but it was mediocre at best. The juice on the other hand was some delicious mix of mint, pineapple and ingredients we couldn't identify. Bruce entrusted pastry selection to me so I just walked the waiter to the pastry counter and pointed, judging the pastries purely by their appearance, knowing that I couldn't possibly get more information about them. The pastries were great and we left happy but somewhat confused. On the check, in English, was stamped "Tip not Included." If it had said "Service Not Included," I wouldn't have been mystified. The use of "Tip" made me wonder if this was the same scam as perpetrated on tourists in Europe, drawing a distinction between service and tip in an attempt to get unsuspecting tourists to leave more money. I also didn't like that it was a stamp and not part of the standard bill given to everyone. In all of the restaurants we ate at, if service was not included the waiter would calculate 10% and (with our approval) add it to the amount charged on the credit card. When service was included, as it usually was, the waiter actually pointed to the 10 percent on the bill and gave us the option of not paying it.

The Carioca Metro stop is just a couple of blocks from the confeitaria (turn left when you exit) and there's a Citibank nearby. We made use of both and took the Metro to the correct stop, only a five minute walk from the hotel. To celebrate our cleverness, we stopped at the Copacabana Palace en route to our hotel, admired its beautiful facade, and relaxed with caipirinhas at the cafe by the swimming pool.

Dinner was at Siri Mole, Rua Francisco Otaviano 50, Copacabana. where we were eager to try the signature siri mole (soft shell crab) moqueca, a Bahian stew that includes coconut milk and dende oil. Unfortunately it wasn't available that day. The shrimp and fish moqueca was a wonderful substitute and enough for two, unlike the caipirinhas. (When we returned to Siri Mole on our last day in Rio, in another attempt to eat soft shell crab moqueca, we learned that soft shell crabs were actually out of season). Despite the dark storm clouds that engulfed Rio by evening, we'd had a most enjoyable day.
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Sep 2nd, 2009, 06:24 PM
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Lynn, thanks for reading. Marapendi might appeal to our northern neighbors as well...
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Sep 3rd, 2009, 07:22 AM
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A long walk and dinner at Casa da Feijoada

The storm that covered Rio last night hadn't quite dissipated by morning, though it was no longer raining steadily. Bruce and his companions set off for the meetings, leaving three spouses in search of amusement. We donned our rain jackets and set out for a long walk along the beach, from the northern tip of Copacabana all the way to Leblon. (At that point in the trip I would have been concerned about setting off alone but since there were three of us we figured we were safe. On other mornings I walked alone, alert but unconcerned.) After a rain-dodging stop under a hotel awning, our first stop was Copacabana Fort and Museum at the southern end of Copacabana. For 4R each we toured the fortifications, admired cannons and guns, and had coffee and pastries at the small branch of the Confeitaria Columba. Since the day was cool and cloudy, it was perfect for walking long distances and we continued onwards, despite the setback we experienced when we had to retrace our steps from what we thought was a clever shortcut out of the Fort and onto the beach. (When you go to the Fort the only way out is the way you came in!)

To continue on to Ipanema we had to pass through a brief stretch of restaurants and shops and then it was beach all the way, though we had to dodge many work crews who were busily returning wayward sand from the street back onto the beach, a consequence of last night's storm. Ipanema's beach seemed narrower than Copacabana's, though the area was certainly more upscale. It was lunch time but my companions didn't care and we continued marching all the way to the Marina All Suites Hotel in Leblon. I had read that this hotel had a great bar with a view which I hoped would yield a bite to sustain us for the long walk back. A large crowd of teenagers was amassed in front of the hotel hoping to catch a glimpse of some glitterati besides us. A trip to the top yielded a pool and a small bar that was closed. I'm not sure if this was the acclaimed Bar d 'Hotel but the decision was to move on, even if it meant teasing the crowd with our exit.

We headed inward from the beach in search of a snack and encountered a wonderful juice bar where I had one of their specialties a fig, honey and coconut concotion and some empadas, a Brazilian take on empanadas. An astounding number of juice bars dot Rio, offering fresh drinks with an amazing selection of vitamins that can be added at extra cost. About 6 hours into our walk, as we approached the southern end of Copacabana, we decided to spring the 10R for a taxi back since we had already done this stretch in the morning. This left us just enough time to get ready for the return of the scholarly conference attendees.

Having the hotel make our reservations for Casa da Feijoada, (Rua Prudente de Morais 10, Ipanema) turned out to be a great idea since the bottom of the reservation form indicates that its presentation entitles the bearer to a complimentary caipirinha. There was no need to joust for the single drink since all six of us got own freebie passion fruit caipirinha. Get your hotel to make the reservation and bring the form! (Both of our cab drivers had problems locating the restaurant but they asked for directions from passersby and quickly recovered.)

Feijoada, the acclaimed national dish of Brazil, traditionally seved on clean-out-the-refrigerator Saturday, is a stew that can include a wide variety of meats: sausage, beef, pork, lamb, tongues, feet, ears, and the list goes on. At Casa de Feijoada you select how many or few of these your stomach will embrace. That's really the only choice you have to make since everything else is part of the standard meal: sausage, bean soup, rice, kale, farofa, yucca, pork rinds and of course the digestion- aiding orange slices. Dessert was three tasty but unidentified scoops of sweet things. The set price turned out to be around $35 per person. Since this is the only feijoada I've ever had I don't know how it stacks up, but I do know that we all enjoyed the meal.
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Sep 4th, 2009, 09:25 AM
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Day trip to Petropolis

The plan for today was a day trip to Petrópolis, the Imperial City, named in honor of Emperor Pedro II. Petrópolis was actually Brazil's capital from 1894-1903. I was lured by guidebooks' descriptions of its great natural beauty and interesting attractions, and convinced the other two spouses that it merited a visit.

The concierge was horrified that we didn't want to take a tour or a taxi and were asking for instructions to the bus station, the Rodoviaria Novo Rio, which was a 20R taxi ride away. Comfortable Unica line buses leave every 30 minutes for the hour long trip to Petrópolis, which winds through forests, hills, and of course, Rio suburbs. When you buy your ticket, 15R each way, you're shown a screen on which you point to the seats you want. The center of the old city of Petropolis is a 20R taxi ride away, or you can take a well marked bus. The staff at the tourist center in the bus station spoke excellent English and gave us detailed information about what to do and see.

The main attraction is the former Summer Palace of the second Brazilian Emperor, which is now a museum of Imperial history memorabilia. There are also some old churches, a crystal palace and some lesser attractions. Although all of these were mildly interesting, and the town was quaint, I didn't think this was "worth" a day trip from Rio and I was apologetic about having organized the expedition. Maybe our historian spouses would have found it more interesting.

When we exited the bus station for our return to Copacabana we were quickly herded into a waiting taxi by what I assumed was the taxi-line manager but who was really the shill for the radio- taxis. Seems we were in a radio-taxi which has a set fee and is a lot more expensive than a regular cab, charging us 35R to make the same trip, in lighter traffic, that cost us 20R in the morning. I certainly didn't see the need to pay more and made sure to avoid radio taxis for the rest of the trip. We took a lot of taxis and never had a problem. (At some places, like Sugar Loaf, the radio taxis are very aggressive and we had to almost fight our way into a regular taxi.)
Marija is offline  
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Sep 4th, 2009, 06:56 PM
  #18
 
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Are you sure the teenagers weren't gathered there in anticipation of your visit? Now I know the national dish of Brazil is Feijoada and that it may include such parts as ears. I might pass.
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Sep 6th, 2009, 09:29 AM
  #19
 
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So when do we get to the fire ants?
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Sep 6th, 2009, 05:42 PM
  #20
 
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I'm enjoying your trip report. I love Confeitaria Colombo! I look forward to the Amazon section.
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