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Archive for the ‘Rio de Janeiro’ Category

That little snippet ran through my head more than a few times today. 

It’s a good thing Rio is so gosh-darned pretty given the hours we’ve spent savouring her loveliness. I won’t beleaguer you with tour-bus-tales-from-h*ll because given the outcome we actually could barely have asked for a better happier more hilarious day. 

The first clue things were somewhat amiss was when the tour bus showed up — new, clean, spacious and on time. Oh-eight-hundred, ma’am. At your service. Really? Wow. Rio’s efforts to put all the naysayers to bed has even reached the usually sketchy tour bus industry.

And for complete transparency, given that many of you are seasoned backpackers and know well the benefits of taking off sans plan in hand, let’s just say given geographical and time constraints a guided tour seemed the most efficient use of time.

On we hopped at 0801. This is easy!

We stopped to pick up other travelers from other hotels, adding and discarding along the way according to languages spoken, until suddenly there was only us back on the bus. Whoa. How did that happen? Gestured off, we got on to a much larger, longer bus. Ah yes. This makes sense.

More people on, more people off. Okay, so the promised five-hour tour includes an hour of transportation. Makes sense. Silly us. 

We stopped at 0900 and were gestured on to another bus, smaller shorter, better able to make its way up the hills. Makes sense.

Surprise! It’s our original driver, the fellow who pick us up from the hotel. 

We shrugged, he shrugged. Oh boy.

Another 30 minutes of Groundhog Day (the movie) transpired as we collected and discarded until we had a healthy collection of blonde Californians, a purple haired-Afro-American doctor with a bejeweled American flag on her baseball cap, and Pam and Obama-sound-alike David from Indianapolis, all very energized, enthusiastic and outspoken.

Our guide Mabel (pronounced mah BELL) was also very energized, enthusiastic and outspoken.

“I like Hillary. She is a sister, a woman, like me. You like Trump?”

No, the Americans assured her. Anyone who likes Trump would not be in Brazil.

“Why? They no like Brazil?”

No, Mabel. Trump supporters wouldn’t have a passport.

Okay, so to the Canucks in the back, that was pretty funny. Mabel didn’t quite get the humour but she got the point.

We arrived to our first destination, the base of the oh-so-massive Christ the Redeemer statue which overlooks the city and can be observed from just about anywhere, learned we’d have to take a tram to the top and knew we’d be spending at least another two hours in lineups — one line up for the ticket, the next lineup for the metal detector (today’s apprehended weapons were unobtrusive but observable in a tucked-to-the-side plexiglas box) and finally to board the tram.

And it was very hot — 33 degrees. 

“This is a nice cool winter day,” said Mabel. “You be happy.”

We’re happy, Mabel. We’re happy.

But Mabel’s cheeks were starting to shine. Three line-ups, another bus to take to even get to the tram… 

“I come here last week, before Olympics, it is only me and three people. This is very very busy.”

Well, maybe it was the significance of Christ’s outstretched arms but purple-haired Kay reached into her Mary Poppins handbag and pulled out a blue handicapped sign.

Mabel’s eyes widened then narrowed. We were in.

To the front of the line to get through the metal detector. To the front of the line to get on the bus. To the front of the line to take the tram. And so it went. Forty minutes at the top, have a walk, drink some water, take your pictures, and off we go. 

This statue really is something to behold. And worth the trip.

But then as now, I am very thankful for Kay’s handicapped sign.

Just a note — I’m sitting in our hotel room at the moment and am listening to music coming through the window from the entertainment over in the revitalized harbour area.

A woman is singing a samba-ized version of Hi-ho, Hi-ho, It’s Off to Work I Go.

I leave that one to your imagination.

Really so beautiful. 

When the first Portuguese explorers came to this shore line they saw all the islands (below) and the geographical layout made them think they’d come to a river (not knowing they were still in the ocean) hence Rio and as it was January, Janeiro.

River of January.

I wish I could tell you which beach…. Will get back to you.

Very pretty tho. We were at the top of Sugar Loaf (picture below), the iconic hump in every image of Rio. More evaded lineups (thank you, Kay), two cable cars (four in total) and a quick tour around the top. Mabel kept us efficient, constantly berating the always-at-work-Obama/David for talking on his cell phone. His wife said a big Chicago real estate deal was in the works.

“Hey, Canada!” he’d call me, in a perfect Obama sound bite. “Where are we goin’ now?”

Even as our little tour approached the seven hour mark, we were all pretty grateful to Kay’s magical pass which allowed us to bypass every. single. heart-breaking (to others, mind you lol)  line-up, particularly as she didn’t appear to have need for any assistance of any kind.

How is it you come to have that pass, I asked.

“Sometimes my legs don’t work. It’s the chemo. After the third round that can happen. Or maybe it’s the fourth. Or fifth. Oh heck, honey. I can’t remember.”

Hence the purple hair?

“You still gotta have fun, Canada.”


Oh gee. Have we stopped somewhere?

Could it be Açai Time?

And this photo-collage brought to you by the Amazonian princess. Apparently I didn’t capture every single Açai experience of the last couple of days.

“Hey Canada!”

Yes, Dave?

“Is that any good?”

Why yes, Dave it is.

It’s all very good.

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The princess and I have been on a search for all things açai — do you know açai? It’s one of the wonder wünder marvy trendy hoopla’d foods that costs a Candian fortune to add to smoothies, salads, sorbets, however you want it. It’s an Amazonian berry crushed, mashed, puréed and eaten sweet or savoury, one of those recently rediscovered ancients that if consumed with regularity, should have us both living well to the time when our Bowen house-with-an-ocean-view becomes waterfront property.

So here’s how it’s sold in the grocery stores.  Pre-crushed, pre-portioned, pre-packaged into plastic bags about half the length and twice the width of a freezie (those summertime soccer field treats). In addition to being a healthy antioxidant addition to morning smoothies,  I understand açai can be mixed with onions and herbs to be used as a sauce with fish or beef.

A tigela is a bowl and here, anyways, the cups and bowls of creamy frozen açai are topped with fruit and granola. Bananas are best, according to the ladies at the stalls (we assume that’s what they’re indicating when after pointing to every other fruit they frown and shake their heads, proffering only sliced bananas with a big thumbs-up). 


We always go with the advice of the locals. And as my personal experience has proven time and time again, the nearer I am to the country in which they were grown, the more bananas taste like something I’d like to eat.

** It wasn’t until a mid-80s trip to India that I discovered what bananas were supposed to taste like, and learned I didn’t hate them after all. If you’re not a banana lover, you might try those teeny ones from Chinatown or another Asian market. There really is no comparison.

So this little 400ml cup was prepared in some back room and also, I understand, mixed with guarana,  another magical energy producing Amazonian elixir.

Pushed along in little Revel and Fudgcicle-type carts are the purveyors of Açai-in-a-cup, all real, all natural, only a couple of dollars for a container and a lot more life-affirming that a plain old cup of HagenDaz. Or maybe not. But at least you can pretend to be healthier.

Included with this little pot was a spoon and a granola topping which, along with fruit, is the other preferred manner of enjoying frozen açai. 

But you knew there had to be an adult version, didn’t you? And this looks meek enough, doesn’t it? 

Not. 

There’s some extremely harsh liquor floating around these parts that reminds me a lot of something brewed in the basement by a certain first degree relative of mine, called cachaça (ka-SHA-sa). Mixed with the tart and medicinal-tasting crushed açai berries, it’s a potent reminder of why sky-high Jimmy Choos should not be worn to formal functions. 

I sipped mine slowly. There was no other way that was wise.

Them ain’t raspberries.

And then, because it just had to be done, the most adult version of all.

The taste of this one is pretty much like the orange cloud on the bottle.

Next up: Northern country food that’s frighteningly slimey but startlingly good!

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