The Sugar Loaf

Trip Start Feb 06, 2007
Trip End Jan 14, 2008

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday November 17th Rio
After an abysmal breakfast with cordial instead of fruit juice and rubber cheese we left our bags and money behind, got a train a couple of stops up the line, and walked to what was supposed to be an antiques fair. Well, most of it was trash and the few bits that were treasure were ridiculously expensive. The only item we wanted was just being sold, a stethoscope that our youngest grandsons would have loved. One stall had a collection of dental instruments of torture. We could have bought a plaque scraper and saved our teeth cleaning costs with DIY.
A huge electronic parts complex had another memory stick for Barb, the same price as in Bolivia. It is much easier saving photos this way than on to CDs that need looking after. Curiously out-of-place. the shop next door had the most imaginative undies. A pair of red slinky knickers with an elephant's trunk sticking out the front. Now who would wear these ?
Later we went to the old palace that served as the president's residence until President Getulio Vargas shot himself in his 3rd floor bedroom in 1954. This room has been preserved, with a showcase containing the gun, the bullet, and the striped pyjama tops (blood removed) with a neat bullet hole over the heart. Picture around the walls showed grieving wife, grieving politicians. Vargas'security chief had organised a bungled attempt to assassinate a journalist who had exposed government corruption. Our book doesn't say whether Vargas took his life because he was mortified at being found out, or mortified for failing to control the rorting.
The rest of the palace was furnished in great opulence, painted ceilings, stained glass, and even an elegantly decorated lift. Outside there is a wonderful peaceful garden.
The weather has remained gloomy and cool but no rain. We have much to see here and have no guarantee of sun, so headed off the the cable car up Pao de Ašucar. Wow ! It was 35R ($23) each, and no discount for geriatrics. We joined the queue for the short ride to Morro do Urca, a hill half way there. If you are quick you get to stand by a window and have a view, otherwise you are jammed in the middle of 50 people. The second car goes to the very top of a slender finger of rock, where a series of paths wanders through trees and bushes. Rock climbers hang off  the almost vertical slopes. The views were stunning, of Rio and the islands, and the statue of Christo Redentor on a distant hill when the clouds had the decency to lift.
Half way down again we found a cinema showing a video of the history of the cable car, which was opened 97 years ago amid the derision of scoffers who said it couldn't be done. It included clips from the 1972 James Bond movie Moonraker which had the usual unbelievable footage of leaping from car to car when suspended in mid air. A tightrope stunt man had walked from this station to the top. up the cable, aided by a very long balance pole. He must have been mad.
We decided to go back to Copacabana to see what happens when it isn't raining, and caught a cab rather than try to work out buses. It was about the same cost as 2 buses each, so a good move. There was a large area with paintings on sale, but none deserved house room in our place, they were a load of mass-produced rubbish. Lots of handicrafts and T shirts were there too, but we have seen all this before, lots of times. Pete threatened to buy Barb a 'dental floss' bikini, consisting of almost zero fabric, but was persuaded not to, they were so shoddily made (Barb's excuse). Eventually we got the metro back just as things were starting to hot up. It is a damned nuisance getting older and not having the stamina (or inclination) to start partying at 10pm.
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