Busting out of the Marriott Bubble

Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
Trip End Nov 09, 2010

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tamaraīs report...The days are all starting to run together already- bliss!  A couple of days ago we spent the better part of the morning planning how we would get to the farm by Feb 1 and still see stuff along the way.  We had wanted to take the bus from Rio to Iguazu Falls, to Buenos Aires, to Mendoza.  Well, those trips alone are over 60 hours in bus rides, and considering we canīt leave Rio til Friday since we are waiting for the credit card... that would give us a little over a week to do all that and it just seemed a bit crazy!  It was also funny that the conceirge at the Marriott was visibly horrified that we would even consider such long bus rides! :)  So, I did some research online to get an idea of airline prices, and then we went to the Marriott travel desk.  We were able to book the flights without too much heartburn over prices (and cheaper than I couldīve gotten!!), but we had hoped to see more of Brazil and Argentina along the way.  Oh well, plenty of time for that later! :) 

After that, we had burned up half the day (Brazilians have their own time table!) so we decided to walk to Ipanema beach (next beach beside Copacabana).  We went to the bar where the famous song "Girl from Ipanema" was born- back in its day it was the place where the artists, poets, intellectuals hung out.  As we were eating fries and having a couple of chopps (draught beer), we were laughing that we had not really had much of an adventure yet because we were clinging to the comforts of the Marriott Bubble- so we vowed the next day to get out there!! 

Yesterday was indeed an adventure!  We woke up to beautiful blue skies and decided it was a perfect day to go visit the giant Cristo Redentor.  We asked the conceirge to tell us how to get there by bus.  She suggested a taxi.  I asked her if she thought we would be safe on the bus and her response was "well, they donīt speak English, maybe you want a taxi?"--we decided to give it a go anyway :)  So, off we went to Avenida Atlantica, the main road by the waterfront.  There were no bus stops and we were noticing that people just flagged down the buses.  After about 15 minutes in the sweltering heat, we realized we were waiting on the wrong road!  So we had to walk a couple of blocks inland, waiting another 20 minutes and finally saw bus # 584!  I was so excited to see it that I started waving frantically- the driver saw me, started laughing and waving back!  At first I thought he was going to keep driving on by, but he did pull over and chuckled when we climbed aboard. I think my enthusiastic wave was a bit more than the subtle raised hand that the locals use!  Thank goodness the bus was air conditioned, because we were crammed on there like sardines, and every time the bus stopped we were thinking there was no way another human could fit, but somehow 4 or 5 more people would climb aboard!  At one point, I nearly fell onto the person sitting down in front of me, and turns out he was an American from San Francisco named Jason with his Brazilian friend, Vivi.  Vivi was not a local to Rio but obviously spoke Portuguese which was incredibly useful for the rest of the day! Vivi is one of these wonderful, generous, kind, open souls I call a "collector".  What I mean is that she collects people like the pied piper--she was very inclusive and there were always people she was helping out (us, Argentinians, other Brazilians).  It was so fun to be around her- she wanted to tell us everything about Brazil and wanted to help me learn Portuguese as well (Iīm definitely picking up a good bit).  When we arrived at the base of the Cristo, she figured out for us the best way to get up the mountain- there is a train or shuttle buses.  We took the shuttle, which was great because it stopped at a gorgeous lookout along the way (well, there was a shuttle, then another shuttle, then 250 stairs to climb!).  Once at the top, there were hoardes of people all jockeying for position to get photos of the massive statue.  The statue was cool to see, but the best part was the incredible view of the city below.  It was breathtaking. 

It took us a couple of hours to get back to the beach area and to find something to eat. We ended up at a salad bar type place where they grow their own organic fruits and veggies.  I donīt think the food was particularly Brazilian, but it was fresh and good!  For the foodies I did have an interesting cold salad with some kind of greens(maybe collard?), shredded corned beef, brown beans and tons of parmesan cheese (looked like tabouli, thatīs how much parmesan, but tasted nothing like it!)  Then we traded cell phone numbers with Vivi and decided to meet up around 9pm to go to Lapa to see some live music.  She texted at 9 and said it would be more like 10 (Brazilian timetable!)- we considered bailing out but decided we didnīt want to miss an opportunity to see some nightlife since the Marriott people and guidebooks all scared us away from going out on our own!!

So, dressed in our finest clothes ;), we met them out front in the taxi and off we went! Lapa reminded us of New Orleans- bars and restaurants all concentrated in a 2-3 block area with live music blaring out of all of them.  Vivi had already picked a place for us to go for the night, so we were really just looking around until it was "time" to go into our club.  I would have liked to stop in some of the other bars (and maybe weīll do that on our own tomorrow night!) but every place has a cover charge, so if you arenīt staying for a bit it can get expensive.  Around 11:30 we went and stood in line at our club.  Every person gets a card, where you write your name and every time you want a drink you hand your card to the bartender and they mark it up.  Then you stand in line at the end and pay for your drinks and the cover charge.  The place was like a warehouse, with 3 stories and packed to the brim.  The band was going to come on at 1am.  While we waited for the band, there was a movie screen above the stage playing a strange assortment of Disney clips and flappers dancing to American music.  Imagine listening to the Beatles, watching Donald Duck, drinking knock-your-socks-off strong Caipirinhas and sweating with a thousand 20-40 somethings-before the band even starts!  Finally the band comes out, dressed in Mardi Gras type attire - joker hats, feather boas, and shiny shirts.  There were 13 people in the band, including 2 saxophones, snare drum, bass, guitar, gourds with shells around them, key boards, giant drum.  The music was not what I expected,but maybe I donīt know what Samba is supposed to sound like--it seemed more like ska with some "big band" thrown in.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as the Brazilians, who were all bouncing up and down singing every single word!  It was a fabulous atmoshere and great to experience the Brazilians enjoying life!  Contagious!

We are currently enjoying our last moments in the Marriott VIP lounge before moving to the Bamboo Rio Hostel! This morning as I was re-packing my bag, I was already wondering what I could get rid of.  So far the most useful items have been the REI clothes line and Keen sandals!  Our friend Ken who has traveled extensively predicted we would ditch 30-40% of our stuff in the first month and 90% by day 299!!  Weīll see how prophetic that turns out to be!
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Michelle Spodnik on

Good for you guys busting outta the bubble, and I was so glad to hear you hooked up with a helpful Brazilian, it seems like that is always the way you really get the opportunity to experience the off the beaten path of tourists places like the music scene, love reading about your adventures, keep it up, oh and loved the gnome pic meeting Jesus!~

Levi on

Lovin' the stories...keep'em coming...

Bo on

Jeff doing the samba at 3am with the gnome in tow. The Bedias birthday shirt ideas continue to expand

Eric Shamban on

Just awesome, you guys. I can tell the excitement is contagious!!!

KO on

Not sure if you had Brazilia on your itinerary, but had a Friend who went and said it was pretty amazing. Please stay safe and enjoy. Does your camera take video clips? If so, you should post to facebook!

Irene on

That sounds like Ken advice! Glad you guys decided not to take the 60 hour bus ride! We took what supposed to have been a 10-hour bus ride in Peru from Nasca to Arequipa, which ended up being 12+ (somewhere in the middle we think the bus tire blew out). Freezing cold with White Chicks repeatedly playing on the video screen at a blaring volume. That was a bus ride from hell.

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