If it's Saturday, it must be Rio

Trip Start Nov 07, 2013
Trip End Dec 11, 2013

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Saturday, December 7, 2013

If it's Saturday it must be Rio.  Ken and Andrea arrived early this morning for the last port of the cruise.  Unbelievable.  It seems like yesterday we all toured Rome and it seems like a lifetime ago.  We have two tours today and then to bed as we have to get off of the ship tomorrow morning early for our last official tour.
 K & A spent the morning packing.  After lunch it was on to the tour bus for a trip through Rio and up to the Christ the Redeemer Statue by cog wheel train.  A look out the window (Andrea could see Corcovado, the mountain the statue is on from the ship) showed her that a view would be dicey today.  Clouds came and went over the mountain,  Rio is the second largest city in Brazil, with 6.5 million people in the city and 13 million in the metro area, As you have already been told, the Portuguese were the first Europeans in the country now known as Brazil, arriving in 1502.  

Andrea is aware that one of the burning questions in your lives has always been "Rio means river in Portuguese, but Rio de Janeiro is not on a river, what gives?"  Well, here's the deal, this bay is so huge that when the Portuguese got here they thought it was the mouth of a large river, not a bay.  They found it in January so named it River of January.  They forgot to consult their GPS and were wrong about the river part.

Here's some other things to know about Brazil and Rio:
-This is no longer the strongly Catholic country it used to be - only about 65% of the population is Catholic.  There is no longer a national religion in Brazil
-Rio is a city focused on beaches (You probably already knew this, but Andrea can attest that it is true - there are always people on the beaches, but no one appears to go in the water - they work out and play volleyball)
-Soccer is the biggest sport in Brazil, volleyball is the second biggest and they also play a game which is volleyball but you can't use your hands.  (Andrea worries about the brains of the young people here from bouncing balls off of their heads- seriously, this isn't good)
- Rio really doesn't seem like a tourist destination, at least for non-Portuguese speaking tourists.  Most of the people working in the service industry seem to struggle with English-including the tour guides.  This will be interesting when they host the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016.
-Education is an issue in Brazil.  It is a huge, developing country, yet they only require their children to attend school through 7th grade.  They do have free pucbic schools, but they are only 4 hours a day.  So figure out 4 hours a day to 7th grade and you start to understand that there is going to be a problem.  Of course, the private schools may be more demanding
-Andrea is not sure about the truth about the Favelas.  In case you didn't know, Favelas are the residential areas that climb the steep mountainsides in Rio and other Brazilian cities.  At first glance they appear to be very substandard housing.  But as soon as Ken and Andrea began touring, the guides told them something different.  The Favelas are not the slums of Mumbai.  The government has put in electricity and running water.  There was a time that Rio did not provide police services to the Favelas in Rio, but that has changed.  Now, if you look more closely, as Ken and Andrea have done because there is a Favela going up the mountain right outside their hotel, there are satellite dishes on the houses, what appear to be new windows, electricity, air conditioners etc. Many of the homes appear to be in good repair, some aren't.  What they don't have is streets in front of their houses.  They are all piled on top of one another so they have to park elsewhere and walk up, or they don't have cars.
-Crime many people on the ship were afraid to go into Rio.  They had heard about the horrendous crime rate.  A few people did have things taken in Salvador and most of the people on the ship were older and some didn't seem to get that they shouldn't wear their jewelry around town, even though they were told over and over again.  Andrea put all of her diamonds away,...At any rate, here's what Ken and Andrea observed: there are people out in the main public areas all of the time, from early morning until late at night; lots of people including families.  We wonder if this crime thing isn't American hype.  It just doesn't feel scary here.  Now Ken and Andrea did not wander about aimlessly in the lesser known parts of town so they can't speak to that, but it does seem fine in the shopping and beach areas.
-People in Rio live in medium rise apartments  There are no single famliy houses to speak of.
-Rio is surrounded by black granite mountains.
-Tijuca National Park is an Atlantic rainforest and is included in the city limits of Rio.  It is the largest national park in the world which is withing a city. More about that later,

Ok, that's enough editorializing.  A & K rode the bus through the Rio traffic.  Although we got on at 1 pm, the guide soon explained to use that our tickets to go up to Corcovado were for 3:40 pm, so he was taking us on a bus ride.  We drove past all of the beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon) which were filled with people on a Saturday.  We drove past the Copacabana Palace Hotel  and a park, (which is called Flamingo Park, although no Flamingos were apparent) which is all on land reclaimed from the ocean.  While we were driving around we learned about Brazilian history (again).  We also learned that the Christ the Redeemer statue was built in 1929.  It was built to commemorate Brazilian independence.  We have no idea how they got all of that granite up the mountain.  The statue itself is covered with mosaics made of soapstone.  The base is black granite.

After this bus ride, we finally went to the cog railway to take us up Corcovado.  Well we got there around 3 pm and had to wait and wait.  There were long lines of people and the trains only came every 20 minutes.  Apparently they had had some mechanical problems earlier in the day that backed everything up.  We did note they had a great deal though.  If you bought a ticket to go up to the Christ the Redeemer, you could get a discount to go to the top of Jungfrau in Switzerland.  We are getting right on this and getting our tickets to Switzerland as we speak.

 At any rate, after wandering around the small souvenir shops, we finally got onto a train and rode up the mountain, through the rain forest.  Beautiful views on the way up.  When we got to the top it was pretty cloudy and foggy.  The statue is huge and kind of looming through the clouds.  As we people watched we saw that there was a wedding party going up and there is a small chapel inside the statue which had a string quartet.  We hope they all eventually got to the statue.

 We walked around and took pictures and then waited for the ride down,  A four hour tour soon turned into a 6 hour tour. It appears we were learning about Brazilian time.

We returned to our ship and quickly got to dinner for the last time on the ship.  We had Italian buffet with our new friends, Brian and Nancy, who are from Kent in England.  We truly enjoyed their company throughout this cruise and already miss them.  Then Ken, Andrea and Nancy went off to see a Samba show.   Brian decided to stay back on the ship and watch the movie.  We were supposed to leave for the show at 8:35 pm.  We waited and waited for our bus.  Finally about 9:15 or so we finally got on the bus.  Our tour guide, who was Danish, told us we had a 45 minute ride to the show.  We drove in exceedingly back up traffic.  Our guide explained that we were lucky because we were going to see the world's largest Christmas Tree on our way to the shoe  In fact, this was why the traffic was so backed up.  Everyone was going to see the Christmas tree.  The Tree is floating in the middle of the lake, that is in the middle of Rio.   We did see the tree, but Andrea didn't get any pictures because it was impossible from the bus.  It was basically a light show.  It changed color and design and was very large.  They move it everyday, so people get a different view.

On the to show.  This was a show that started at 10:00.  Needless to say we were quite late. It is supposed to give tourists the flavor of Carnival.  As our port lecturer said "it isn't very sophisticated"  We saw fantastic costumes accompanied by scantily dressed dancers.  They had an announcer who did things like pull people out of the audience, to sing songs associated with the countries they came from.  It all seemed very Telemundo, except it was in Portuguese, with some English mixed in.  There was a guy who did the bolo thing with balls on ropes.  He was very good,  Of course we only got to see half the show - but that was plenty,  Check out the pictures.

Then it was off to bed for an early morning getting off of the ship

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