Flying down to Rio


Wednesday, big tour day

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , , — sukisuzy @ 11:34 am

Despite feeling grim went to the gym – the bike saddle’s  gone, good job my bleary eyes noticed that before disaster struck. Breakfasted – surprised that the minibus turned up on time with very knowledgeable guide who slipped effortlessly between English, Spanish, German, French and of course Portuguese. Picked up other passengers, middle-aged couple from California, he’s Danish and she’s Argentinian – very sophisticated! Then a British couple and an Indian man who had given a paper with Mike yesterday, assorted Mexicans and Germans.

We set off through the Tijuca forest up the mountain to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, hereafter known as CtheR or I’ll never get to the end … As we rose through the rainforest the mist and cloud descended and we could only see the base of the statue. This after having to leave our minibus and travel in an official one to the elevators – why? no one could tell us, apart from it’s the rules. You really know you’re in a rain forest – the tree roots are enormoustree roots, should have got someone to stand next to this but this section is taller than me and I’m 8′ 2″ (joke).

To get to the statue we had to go up escalators – seemed too easy, felt we should be going up backwards on our knees over broken glass. We mooched around in the clouds and took pointless photos of a headless, armless statue at the request of Mike’s mum, because when he rang her and said we couldn’t see Christ, she still wanted a photograph. (vicarious oneupmanship for friend Joan at the Lunch club)

cloudy statue Cleared enough to get this shot and to listen to the Brit couple whinging that the same thing had happened to them when they went to the Grand Canyon, so I suggested they might like to choose a foggy theme for future holidays and then they wouldn’t be disappointed. Went down well I thought.

We stood in front of this sign to prove to Mike’s mum we wuz ‘ere

proof we were there

The tourist tat shop was just that, got a miniature CtheR set in Amethyst for the famous altar. Then we went for a cup of tea and the only exciting incident of the day so far happened. A woman found a large hairy caterpillar on her skirt – aarrgghhh! Huge fuss ensued until it was knocked off and into the path of countless Havianas, but survived long enough for photo-opportunity starved pilgrims to ensure it’s immortality.caterpiller

We had just got over the Great Caterpillar Incident when a collective shout went up followed by a charge to the escalators – the clouds were clearing … by the time I got there they were descending again, and an audible sigh went up from the masses  so I too descended to finish my tea. But you can’t underestimate the power of Catholic prayer and as my bum hit the seat, the same thing happened so I led the stampede this time and got this –


The photo I should have taken was of all the mad tourists lying on the floor taking photos of their mates in the pose upwards against the statue, like beetles on their backs. Secretly I was glad not to see the height we were at, I’m not good with heights at the best of times, have the urge to chuck myself off.

Back on the coach and off to Sugar Loaf Mountain, (hereafter known as SLM). Much scarier – cable car to the smaller hill and then another one to SLM. It’s sooo high, not going to like this … Weather much warmer here, bought earrings for Suze’s birthday in the inevitable (but posher stuff than usual) tourist tat shop , hope she likes them.

from cable car

first hillCable car was terrifying, but very modern, too much glass. just pointed the camera without looking …

SLM is forested and stocked with monkeys and birds and probably lots more. we didn’t see any of it apart from the inevitable Vultures and Frigate birds in the distance. Mike did descend into the depths of the gloomy trees but I stayed firmly in the light. This was his view. The going up and coming down

rain forst on hillwere terrifying and as you can see I’m gritting teeth as I stand by the edge looking out over Copacabana beach

Me at top

back on the first hill and feeling relieved and almost complacent we are impressed with where we’ve been. God help me if I ever contemplate a proper mountain …

M on first hill

back to 1st hill

we had a slight delay on the way down

as the Indian guy had bought 4 wooden toucans but taken delivery of only 3 so we had to wait while the guide conducted not so delicate negotiations with the gift shop at the bottom.

Got to Copacabana for lunch @ 3pm and the guide left us to drop most of the others off at their hotels – they were only doing half a day. Maybe we should have done that not sure where the rest of the tour is taking us. We had lunch with the only other guest who was Mr Toucan – vegetarian and we were in a Rodizio grill restaurant.


‘Vegetarian? OK Sir, we have chicken, sausages and lamb instead’ The skewers kept coming and he was first on their list. The guide has asked the manager for special dishes but obviously hasn’t filtered down to the staff. Took a while but in the end he was brought chips, something that might have been parsnips, (none of us could tell), rice and 2 fried bananas. We didn’t get offered as much meat as in the other grill we’d been to, and we didn’t get offered the cut that the Portuguese woman told me to hold out for, Picanha, the most tender apparently.

After lunch, (guide late back) we did the Cathedral – very similar shape to Liverpool Catholic cathedral, bit bigger maybe,  beautiful stained glass windows

stained 1

the surprise was round the back to the altar – what looked like Cinderella’s coach


Turned out to be the Carriage used to parade the statue of St Sebastian around Rio on the saints day – easy mistake to make.

we went on to the Carnival route which if you thought about it at all, you might have thought it takes place all over Rio, but no, my friend, wrong. There is one street 860 meters long with seating all the way down and that’s where it happens. There may be smaller ones in the districts but this is where the biggie happens

carnival route most of the samba schools are in the favellas and Rio has created a large hangar space for them to build the floats and costumes. All the samba schools compete over the days of the carnival. The government have put water and electricity into the favellas but no roads, cars, all 700  of them built an the side of hills. Government is also planning to give them paint in the favella colour so that they can paint the houses. Eventually the plan is to put some sort of transport system up the sides of the favellas to help the elderly and disabled to get in and out. The favellas were built when factories were starting up, the poor came from the outlying areas to work, had nowhere to live, so created their own. From a distance some of them look like substantial buildings but very close together with no privacy. All this information I offer free from the guide who was a mine of information and a clever guy to boot.

we came back via a large stadium complex with a statue of a footballer outside (Mike was very impressed)

stadium1stadium2 Arrived back in the dark, knackered, no more eating today please!



Tuesday 4th August

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , , — sukisuzy @ 11:30 am

Forced husband to gym this morning – it’s small but mercifully empty so can turn tele to CNN. Yesterday we saw an air sea rescue further down the beach – a helicopter flew low and close into shore, lowered a line and plucked someone out of the sea depositing them onto the beach, then shot off – all in a days work I suppose – exciting to watch.

Went to the Montana Grill again last night, just down the road. It’s a huge barn of a place, very austere, no comforts with bare yellow walls and high backed dark wood chairs with heavy tables in rows like a canteen – very utilitarian. Everywhere in Rio is staffed up to the hilt so they have very little to do individually. In the case of the grill it makes them too attentive; sip your drink they’re at your elbow to  fill the glass up again which gets a bit irritating. At the jewellery factory someone greeted us, another gave us a pass; we were handed on to someone else to take us upstairs where yet another person gave us the tour headset.

At the end of the tour ( very short, most windows unoccupied and those that were chatted to one another and didn’t seem inclined to show and tell) we were met by serious man in suit who takes us down stairs to a large room with desks, not a showroom. He showed us to a desk and suggested a drink – we ordered coffee and water, a request that was relayed to a young woman, who sent another young woman to get it and it was brought by a forth. We dodged all attempts to sell us thousands of pounds worth of gaudy jewellery and were reluctantly handed on to the showroom person who was very jolly and charming. We browsed politely, ooo’d and aaah’d enthusiastically and moved on to the contemporary showroom where another well groomed young woman was less enthusiastic, zipped through that and onto the shop where the lower orders picked up a bargain for just over £100 … We escaped to the beach after being handed over to the car getter and arranging to come back in an hour or so – exhausting!

Mike had to attend the conference today, weather’s not good so don’t know what to do yet, had planned to lounge around the pool, so may risk crossing the road to a mall and try to find a Christ the Redeemer statue for his mum, (she has an bedroom altar and this would be a novel addition). Went onto the internet first to book something and when I looked at my diary it screamed ‘You’re going back on Thursday not Friday idiot!’ That’s a bugger as Mike’s gone off to pay for my presence at tonight’s reception and the Gala dinner – £50 or thereabouts. I legged it to the conference hotel in the hope that he hadn’t paid it and he hadn’t because the administration of the conference is so chaotic they insisted he’d already paid – (he hadn’t). Ironically it’s a conference for International administrators -(’nuff said!)

We were going to have lunch but we would have had to pay an extortionate amount – whoever went to a conference and had to pay for lunch? Outrageous! Came back from the beach area a different way and passed a shop selling Havianas, (no, Mike didn’t know what they were) – I have begging emails from friends and family cluttering up my inbox – but no prices on them so will go back in a couple of days and see what the going rate is. Came back and started this diary, catching up on the days so far.

Booked a big day long tour tomorrow otherwise we won’t see anything except Barra di Tijuca. Haven’t actually understood the brochure as there’s no translation so if we end up in Chile I won’t be surprised …

Went to the reception, lots of food and drink, met Portuguese couple who had brought a 3 year old son (or little prince as I like to think of him), nice people, both taught administration at Lisbon university. Also met very bright, funny young Polish woman who is an assistant to the Minister of Higher Education – she’s going far. Drank too much, feet killing me, got taxi back


Monday 3rd August

Filed under: Travel — sukisuzy @ 11:45 am

Mike went to register for his conference after breakfast (lemon drizzle cake and coffee cake) and I’d put the ‘Do not disturb/please make up my room’ on the wrong side so room not made up when we got back. Bit of a drama in the dining room – middle-aged, skinny man in shorts sitting attempting to eat bread roll and apparently oblivious to the fact while 5 people surrounded him talking to him, waving hands in front of his face. He didn’t react but kept eating slowly. After some loud discussion in Portuguese 2 people helped him out of the room. no, we didn’t understand what was going on either …

When the cleaners had finished I started to create Mike’s Powerpoint presentation for the interview in Portsmouth when he gets back, justifying my role as PA and the presence of the laptop for the purposes of this holiday.Took longer than I thought, mainly because I couldn’t get the table to work at first – anyway after a lot of swearing and a couple of G & Ts it’s done, saved to the hard drive and 2 memory sticks – belts and braces.

At 1.30 the jewelery car came for us to go to Ipanema for the Diamond manufacturers tour. It’s about 25 minutes from Barra past the biggest favela in Rio which is next to a Sheraton resort – hotel complex

posh hotelstrange juxtaposition, but we found that situation of very rich and very poor living cheek by jowl, old family estates next to shanty towns.

At the jewellers we got the hard sell, bought nothing and then sat on the beach, (something that sets us apart form the locals – Cariokas, they stand and chat to friends). Intrigued by green coconutty things that get the tops slashed off and a straw stuck in, have to try one sometime. Icecream is elusive in Ipanema although kiosks all along the front – not a tradition here maybe, and I haven’t seen any knotted hankies either … No photos of Ipanema – it wsn’t very pretty, mainly 70’s cement apartment blocks, no architectural features of any worth on the seafront.

goes dark very early , so we sit on warm dark balcony sipping G & T’s with the lights on -very different experience


Saturday 1st August

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , — sukisuzy @ 2:41 pm

It’s stopped raining, sun’s out, pools being cleaned – good sign.

Went to Rio on the Barra Express presided over by a middle-aged, heavily made up conductress sitting halfway down the bus in a raised seat, with bizarrely, a turnstile in the middle of the aisle. We were issued with 2 credit card style tickets that would see us through the subway system. However I didn’t check the tickets and at the subway station one of the cards turned out to be a fake and we had to buy a new ticket – conductress must have a neat sideline, well I daresay it keeps her in eye liner.

So the trip started badly and as we had been advised not to be seen with maps we wandered into the city without much idea of where we were going – stopping and fishing out maps in furtive manner, then stuffing them back in bag and forgetting instantly which way the museums were. the city was very empty for a Saturday afternoon, few shops to be seen, and those there were shut. No cafes to watch the world go by either, must be in the wrong part of town. Found the Episcopalian cathedral (very austere) while looking for the Catholic one.

Episcopalian cathedral

but it did have an amusing bronze in the grounds – a preacher with congregation

Episcopalian bronze

yes, I am hiding in the


Thought we’d go to a museum but still hamstrung by having to squirrel away the map, and strangely we have different interpretations of what we saw 5 minutes previously … sign-posting is almost non-existent but we eventually saw one for the Museum Bondes, which I took to mean slavery (my Portuguese isn’t improving). After spotting the odd sign we still seemed to have disappeared up a blind alley, and were about to give up and then we saw a peculiar narrow gauge track in a garden which appeared to go nowhere. And there was a queue – (Filo in Portuguese which I thought was pastry) – so we did what the Brits do best and we joined it. After a while an old yellow tram circa 1884, trundled into the garden absolutely packed with people hanging off the sides.


precarious ride

The filo was long so we didn’t get on the first one, mainly because we didn’t want to hang on the side – very relieved when I saw this precarious route over a square, just shut my eyes. the running board was very narrow so anyone who hung on the side had to have strong arms – it rattles and shakes across the void and up a hill, jerking to a stop for all sorts of reasons, very hairy, lots of cars and coaches using the same road and it’s tiny. Buses are overtaking to the point where I guy hanging on next to us only missed being swiped in the face by the side mirror by ducking – great reflexes but he was very angry. Distant views of Christ the Redeemer statue, it’s going to take a separate trip to see that – it’s a way out. (from far away looks a bit like the Angel of the North only higher) We didn’t get off in Santa Teresa, although it looked great, very bohemian, but it was taking so long to get to the top we decided to stay on because we had to get back to Barra before dark (about 6pm). So off the tram and walked to the harbour area, not very interesting, end of a flea market – missed that – still looking for a cafe, none to be had. Needed a wee to had to stop in a Macdonalds – yeah I know, first for everything – horrid!

stopped on the way to get crisps, peanuts, tonic – all the essentials, and sat in the dark on the balcony drinking our G & Ts. Bravedthe 10 lane highway to get to a food mall and street after street of restaurants and eateries, surprising number of Japanese places.

2nd August

Filed under: Travel — sukisuzy @ 12:57 pm

Lou’s birthday – hope she has a good party. Must get up and finish the report for a colleague, joys of working for yourself. Fine day, not going far. Report done and sent despite Microsoft’s best efforts to thwart me. Isn’t that a great word, looks almost impossible to say but it isn’t. After that went to the pool; too cold to swim but sun lounger pleasant enough. Feasted on olives, cheese, and G&T for lunch – perfect and then went to find a better way to the beach.

Walking the opposite way from the way we walked yesterday we came to a roundabout but there was the canal again blocking the way. Above the roundabout was the 10 lane flyover so we climbed the bank to see if there was a safe way over – and saw people coming towards us on a parapet with half a handrail and no pavement – oh well, when in Rome …

the walk!
We survived and found a much better way to the beach.

Lots of kiosks sunday beachbut no ice cream, just beer, churros and seafood. Lots of people on the beach, very warm if overcast, surf’s up, big waves – seems funny to think it’s the other side of the Atlantic. sunday beach2Frigate birds, strange black birds with forked tails and a huge wingspan soar above the canal and the sea, almost pre-historic looking. Apparently they can’t swim or walk and stay on the wing for weeks. Not very nice birds, they steal other birds food and chicks – eeeuuuk! tried to upload a photo from the web but couldn’t do it as a cut and paste jobbie, so you’ll have to Google it

We ate across in the food mall in a Chopp (Beer) house. Had a smashing carpaccio and salmon, nice staff and Mike had about 100 beers to chose from.


Friday 31st July

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , — sukisuzy @ 1:08 pm

Still raining, not particularly cold but not warm either. Washed hair to feel bit more human, switched on hairdryer, thought the wiring looked dodgy and after a few minutes the motor went slow and the holder on the wall, sparked, smoked and died. Went to breakfast, (very good, lots of cake, different sorts every day, my kind of breakfast) – when we got back a smiling boy and a scowling fat man brought us a box with a new dryer. What we’ve come to understand is that at least 2 or 3 people are employed here where one would be in Europe – wages are probably low, living is certainly cheap. This has the effect of over attentiveness in some cases – take a sip of wine and they shoot over and top up the glass – or indifference as in the staff at breakfast who stand in a row chatting and don’t move any item of crockery the guest may have finished with until the table (very small) is full and the guest gives up and leaves.

Went out in the drizzle to look for the beach and the hotel in which the conference is being held. Walked for miles along a picturesque canal thinking that we needed to be on the other side and not seeing how to get over. canalAll the way along the road were landing stages and some had funny looking boats on them, sometimes with a man on it, sometimes empty. We asked someone and disagreed about what she had said, then we asked another couple who spoke very good English and they took us back to a landing stage and said this boat was for use by their condo and it took them across to the beach side of the canal. However we had walked so far that it would be at least 30 minutes to get back to the Windsor hotel … We waved goodbye to our new chums and got across free with the grumpy old man kept specially for the purpose.

When we got to the seafront and turned left, the wind and rain hit us and we realised how sheltered the canal path had been. Umbrella blew inside out several times and we looked for a café. The only one we found was a sitting outside one and people were, admittedly under (leaky) awnings, sitting outside – they don’t seem in the least phased by the rain and certainly make no concessions in their dress. There were a few umbrellas, but positively no raincoats, and most people were in jeans or shorts, t shirts, flip flops. I wondered if it had caught them unawares, or whether they didn’t care. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re on the edge of mountains and rain forests and everything is verdant so rain can never be far away, but then neither is the sun, and it’s not cold. Walked a bit further on and we found large green coconutty things on the grass, don’t know what they are called. but they had deffo fallen off this palm treegreen things


there was also a little street market and I liked the arrangement of vegetables on this stallveg boxes

We got cold that day because we had jeans and jackets on which got thoroughly soaked but if we’d worn light stuff, it wouldn’t have had the same effect on us – we know now as we got soaked last night, but of that more later.

So having walked round ourselves and got lost, we eventually arrived at the Windsor and were accosted by a charming French jewellery salesman called Pierre who came from Nantes and had married a Brazilian woman, spoke impeccable English and told us all about the fabulous factory tour we could take to see the wonderful jewellery being made. I saw the advantage when he said the factory was in Ipanema and we would have a car there and back and spare time – aha, my kind of tour. So we agreed to do that at some point.

We found a shorter way back but got lost several times and arrived on the highway not knowing which way to go to get back to the hotel. We walked a long way in the wrong direction looking for a number, we knew we were on the right side but the numbers didn’t sense – 2001 was followed by 1679 (we were trying to get to 487 so this was a relief), then was followed by 1718. We asked in an HSBC bank, (Mike has great faith that they are all knowing in HSBC) and had been going the wrong way. We walked for more than 3 hours and were knackered altogether.

Coffee is cheap here but decaff is not the norm sadly. I’ve brought decaff tea and a kettle so life isn’t so bad!

Went to a grill in pouring rain, had a Portuguese speciality which is round after round of different cuts of beef roasted on a spit and sliced at the table. We also get chicken and sausages and lamb, far too much but gorgeous. Started with salad from a big round table and a waitress followed me straightening up the food in the trays before the next person came along – irritating, especially as the next person was Mike!

And yes, it was pouring when we went back. Have entirely the wrong clothes, white pedal pushers now muddy from the water thrown at me waist high by the cars and lorries. Have long white trousers, 4 floaty summer dresses, summer tops and sandals, useless when it’s pissing down. Got a pair of trainers but they’re letting in water … I have a suede jacket and one umbrella between us – can feel a trip to the shopping mall coming up for cagoules – not cold though.

The toilet seats here and in the Windsor are square – whoever thought that was a good idea? My bum is round, very round and does not take kindly to being forced into a square, so unless Brazilians have square bums, I guess the designer is male and does colonic irrigation, therefore never has to endure the discomfort of a square loo seat. Grr

Flying down to Rio!

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , — sukisuzy @ 1:00 pm

Thursday 30th July 2009

Arrived in Rio after a bumpy but otherwise uneventful journey, BA must be on an economy drive as we didn’t get the drinks trolley nearly as much as I remembered – only an aperitif and then the drink with the main meal. Later we had a cold snack with soft drink, then much later a microwaved Cornish pasty or something equally unappetising, again alcohol free area. Over 900 hundred pounds and no booze? Let’s move on, I could get really maudlin.

We had been promised a nice balmy night in Rio – it started raining as soon as we left the aircraft. Being late we got a taxi, Barra de Tijuca is a long way out of Rio. We got a taxi driver who spoke very little English, and who was under the impression we would be thrilled to hear him mangle the language and fill in the gaps in his knowledge, (“my wife speak very, very good English, she very good”) after an 11 hour flight and a long wait for bags. He wanted to point out all the very important places in his city but didn’t know what they were called in English, so we played 20 questions in French, Italian and English to try to cobble together the significance of the monument we had just shot past at Ayrton Senna speeds, while he answered the phone (hands on), and changed channels on his miniature dashboard tv. He tried in vain to show us the Christ the Redeemer statue, but we gathered by the waving hand and the swerve across the carriageway that the mist had descended with the rain.

First impressions of Barra was of a low rise Las Vegas – vulgar neon signs, but shops not casinos near our hotel – stretching for 15 kms on both sides of an enormous and very fast 10 lane highway with, we discovered later, only one official crossing point giving a 30 second countdown and you can’t get all the way across in 30 seconds unless you sprint, or are on a motorised skate board, so everyone gets caught on the last 2 lanes and has to wait for the whole thing to begin again. 5 seconds extra, Lads in the Traffic dept, and we could do it, what have you got against pedestrians?

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