Christ the Redeemer

Been here 3 months now and decided it was time for me to cover some of the ‘touristy’ things. We headed to Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redentor) one of the seven world wonders.

Some History for you: The idea for erecting a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid-1850s, when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. Princess Isabel did not think much of the idea and it was dismissed in 1889, when Brazil became a republic country with laws mandating the separation of church and state.   The second proposal for a ‘landmark’ statue on the mountain was made in 1921 by by the Catholic Circle of Rio.  A local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue; and it was sculpted by French sculptor Paul Landowski.  The monument was opened on October 12 1931.

Getting to the top: Head to the Cosme Velho District(Rua Cosme Velho 513) and hop in line to buy your ticket for the small (cogwheel) red train that goes up the mountain to Christ. Note: You can also get a taxi all the way to the top, but with the train you get to enjoy the steep tour through the Atlantic Rainforest up to the foot of the statue, offering stunning glimpses of Rio from many different angles.  The train leaves every 30 minutes on a 17-minute ride that is almost straight up (you will be sliding forward in your seat! There are actually 4 stops along the way- first one made me a little nervous, felt like we were going to roll back down, thankfully we kept chugging along.  Yes a Bom de Samba will join you on the way up! Once you get to the top be prepared to climb a number of stairs to get to the base of the statue. Note: there is an elevator if you need it.

Once you reach the top the view is absolutely breathtaking!  The entire city spreads out in a magnificent panorama during the day, it really is incredible and worth the trip up! But make sure you go on a clear day!!! Check out the fog rolling in… it covers everything!

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/FF4C3610DCFog rolling in produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/9C6A563FD7Christ the Redeemer produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

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Can You Tell Which Car Is BULLET PROOF?

Can YOU tell which car in the picture above is bullet proof??

Give up?

OK, I’ll tell you.  The bullet proof car is the one on the right!

Since the best surfing beaches are 45 minutes away and there are great towns and islands to visit only 2-3 hours away we decided to get a car.  After much research and visiting a number of dealerships we decided on a Toyota.  Of course being a good salesman in Brazil, the man showed us the car we liked in the bullet proof version…..

For those wondering, it is not totally unusual for people to consider buying a bullet proof car here…. anyways if you knock on the window of the bullet proof car it feels and sounds as if you are stamping on cement (nothing is getting through that baby!).  The door is SO heavy, if we got it, it would be a mini work out for me just to open and close the door! See how thick it is (see above pic)

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Ruins Park- Santa Teresa

Thinking of visiting Santa Teresa for the day? Take the Bonde (tramway) from Largo da Carioca station for R$.60 to the top of the mountain where you will arrive in Santa Teresa.

Parque das Ruinas (Ruin Park) in Santa Teresa was the home of Laurinda Santos Lobo, and was one of the most lively spots of Rio’s until the 50´s. It is currently used as an exhibition hall, auditorium and the setting for various special concerts, open to the public it is a great place to visit before or after lunch.  The view is breathtaking, you feel like you are on top of the world looking down on Rio—- For you shutter-bugs, this is a great place to take lots of pictures:)

It is fun to explore all 3 levels of this hollowed out skeleton of an old mansion, each floor creating a unique view of Rio.

There is also an outdoor bar/café so grab a coffee or a snack and enjoy the view!

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Enjoy Drinks With A View at Bar dos Descasados

Whether you are heading to Santa Teresa for dinner or drinks, everyone you meet will tell you that you must go to Bar dos Descasados at the Santa Teresa Hotel.

The hotel occupies an old house that was once an old coffee plantation home…. and the bar area was actually once the slave quarters! Now, fully restored, the decor is extremely tasteful, using and abusing a lot of demolition wood and the beauty of Brazilian handicrafts. But the real reason people gravitate to this tucked away beautiful hotel is for the breathtaking view of Rio and the delicious drinks!

Spend an afternoon or evening (or both, once you get comfortable you may not want to leave) lounging in a big comfy chair,or plush cabana bed on the terrace. 

Order the ‘French Pink Mojito’ (champagne, rum, cranberry and mint) or the ‘Iced Teresa’ (Mojito with Mate) both are delicious while you enjoy the fabulous views of Rio de Janeiro. If you are hungry for a little snack I recommend the freshly made chips with alioli dip. Though I didn’t eat there, the food looked great and the desserts were to die for— might actually have to make a trip back specifically to try the desserts!  Tip:  This is a prime sunset spot so try to get there half an hour before so you get a comfy seat! 

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Easter

Everyone know that as soon as Christmas is over, all of the decorations and candy in Duane Reade/CVS magically transform into Valentines day decorations & candy almost immediately…. Brazil is largely a Catholic country, so instead of xmas to Valentines (since Valentines here is in June) we experience the transformation from Carnival to Easter almost overnight! 

At every Zona Sul(the popular supermarket here) and Lojes Americana (ie Kmart/Target) the ceilings are covered with hanging chocolate eggs.  As you can see below, there are many different kinds- from crunch bar, to bon bon, white chocolate and fruit however you fancy your chocolates you will find them in egg formation.  Normally, the eggs are hollow chocolate with smaller chocolates inside- great item to bring to someones house!  Yes here in Brazil, if someone invites you over, you are supposed to bring a gift- chocolate or wine will do.

Prices on these babies range from R$15 (for the little ones) to R$400 at the fancy chocolate places for the larger ones.  Pretty crazy what people are spending on these chocolate eggs.

It is a mandatory holiday here so no one has work Thursday or Friday——-

Happy Easter

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Hottest Place to be Easter Weekend…. Rio

People from all over the world flock to Rio to celebrate Easter! Starting at 8am the beaches are fully packed!

It is amazing because in America if anyone sat this close together people would think it was very strange, here it is completely normal…and no one is bothered by it.

The beach stays crowded till at least 6pm…

Beautiful pink sunset behind the mountains

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Tiradentes Palace

Today I went on my first field trip with my Portuguese class to explore Centro (see previous ‘downtown’ post), we went to Tiradentes Palace which was the old building of the National Congress of Brazil between 1926 and 1960…Today it is the current seat of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

Some history for you: In 1922 The Imperial Parliament building was demolished, which gave rise to the Tiradentes Palace, designed by Eclectic Style architects Archimese Memory and Cuchet Francisco.  Named Palacio Tiradentes because it is the site of the old jail where Tiradentes, the leader of the greatest colonist conspiracy against Portugal, was held before his execution by hanging on April 21, 1792.

The facade is lined with concrete, and the allegorical sculptures represent the Independence and Republic. As beautiful as the faced is, it is the inside that is truly magnificent. As you enter, the first thing you see is a gorgeous marble stairway- huge slabs of white marble in perfect condition. The room below is one of the smaller meeting rooms with fresco’s representing the Tiradentes story dancing across the ceiling.  Almost like water colors the paintings are faded, done in pale pastels.

The decorative panel (see below) from Tiradentes Palace House was run by Eliseu Visconti in 1926 and represents the signature of the first Republican Constitution of 1891. The large panel, was restored in 2001, depicting a life-size portrait of the sixty-three constituents. Even from across the room you can see how detailed this painting is and how much pride people feel when looking at it (my teacher was quite moved).

The inside of the dome, is covered with a beautiful stained glass panel which represents the sky in Brazil the morning of the Proclamation of Republic November 15 1889.  The dome was created by Brazilian artist Gastão Formentti and completely restored by Ópera Prima Arquitetura e Restauro, a Rio de Janeiro company. The massive paintings surrounding the dome are historic scenes celebrating the Republic and the story of Tiradentes. It was truly an incredible experience.

Guided tours are free Mon-Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun and holidays noon – 5 p.m, since mine was part of class it was Portuguese only (meaning I actually understood about every 5th word the woman was saying), but don’t worry, you can take a tour in English

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Another Beautiful Church in Centro

Located in the heart of downtown you will find some of Rio’s most magnificent churches including Igreja de Sao Jose.  I was actually shocked at how bright and full it was on a Wednesday afternoon—I went on a class field trip

The church stands beside the Tiradentes Palace and the Imperial Palace, a few meters from the Church of Caramel (they feel quite similar inside).  Work on Irgeja de Sao Jose began in 1808, and was completed 34 years later. The bells are known for making ‘the most sound of the city’.

As you can see, the church is a beautiful mixture of traditional Brazilian colonial and Rococo styles. Located on Avenida Presidente Antonio Carlos, s / n. Centro. It is open daily from 7am-5pm

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A Tour of Sitio Burle Marx…

Burle Marx was a Brazilian visionary landscape architect as well as a painter, ecologist, naturalist, artist… you name it, he’s done it. He is responsible for the small black and white tiles flowing like waves along the entire beach promenade.  The creative use of tiles continues throughout the city- a stunning work of art, and a challenge for those in heals to walk on (It is quite challenging, and walking around, you will notice many people decked out in nice clothes, with Havianas on their feet!)

I took a trip up to his Santo Antonio da Bica sítio in Barra de Guaratiba, an estate he purchased in 1949 to store his plant collection. In 1985 after he passed away the property was donated to the Brazilian government in trust for posterity and has become a National Monument. FYI– You have to make an appointment to visit (9:30am or 1:30pm slots available) and it costs R$8 when you arrive.

It is beautiful, as one would expect from South America’s foremost landscape architect, and holds an important tropical botanical collection. In this first section (above) while walking through I actually felt like I was inside my favorite childhood book The Secret Garden. When we reached the agave area (below)it felt more like a scene from a Dr Suess book, each area had something unique that you could relate to- in my case send me back to my childhood. There are more than 3,500 different species of plants! Unfortunately there are also about 3,500 mosquito’s—remember to use bug spray!!! I am SO itchy now:(

The sítio has a marvelous house which was unfortunately under construction while we were there and a small Benedictine chapel that dates back to the 17th century; dedicated to St. Anthony, featuring a small shrine to Our Lady of Aparecida, one of Brazil’s patron saints.  You can still attend mass or even get married there if you want to, its been beautifully restored and you almost feel transported to the 17th century when you enter.

There are a number of sculptures scattered throughout the massive gardens, unfortunately none of the water sculptures were up and running but we were able to enjoy the wooden sculptures surrounding his huge studio (more like its own house).  The below is my favorite.  The piece of wood it was found on a sunken ship and carved into an image or Christ with people holding on to his beard and body trying to be saved.  With exquisite detail, I found it to be quite moving.

This is a little corner of Rio that Burle Marx left for the world to marvel, experience and learn from.

If you take a morning tour, head over to Grumari or Prainha to catch some waves or just relax on the gorgeous beaches

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How do you take your Coconut Water?

For those of you who are not familiar coconuts and coconut water are very popular in Brazil.  Everywhere you turn you will see coconuts- hanging off the kiosks lining the beach and people are eating or drinking out of them. If you like coconut water, you will LOVE this! It is deliciously fresh (can’t really be fresher then straight from the source itself!) and when served ‘gelado’ (iced/cold) it is unbelievably refreshing.  Now there are 3 ways coconut water is sold:

Option 1. The obvious one- Buy it in any store.

Option 2. Directly from the coconut: At each kiosk (they line the beach in between the posts) you can enjoy fresh coconut water straight from the coconut! Here’s how:

Step one: Go to a kiosk and order ‘Um agua de Coco, gelado por favor’ (I usually hold up one finger just in case the man can’t understand me).  The man will then grab one of the coconuts from his stash, then pick up his large knife and begins the process:

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/923A18E107Direct from the Coconut produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

AHH I am always SO nervous he is going to slice his hand off! I mean one little slip and… he’s finished! When it’s ready- Grab a seat, and enjoy the people watching on the beach as you sip your refreshing coconut water. When you are finished with the water, the man will open up the coconut, and create a little spoon from the outer shell for you to eat it. Delicious!

Note: While sitting on the beach you can order agua de coco from the person you got your chairs from and they will bring it to you:)

Option 3. Coco Express.  There are a number of these vendors lining the streets in Rio, usually a few blocks from the beach. This contraption has a large spike/ funnel on top.  The person working it will grab a coconut, shove it on the spike with all his might and the fresh, crisp coconut water pours out of a spout below and into a cup.  Quick and easy for you to take on the go.

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