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Amazing Rio

January 14, 2010

In the Tijuca Forest

It was up and at’um at 7am.  I actually woke up at 5am and could not get back to sleep.  Rio is such an amazing place … your mind races with diverse images as the stories of this great city play in your head.  Today, we set out for the Tijuca forest.  Up in the thick jungle, benches and points of interest are constructed from beautiful old Portuguese tile.  The tile was reclaimed from Rio as modern construction replaced centuries old structures.  We heard lots of bizarre stories.  These were stories so unusual that you could never make them up.  The cannibal story was especially creepy.  Our guide also did tours through the favellas (slums).  These areas are war zones where some of the people openly carry machine guns.  There is an abundance of drugs and poverty in the favellas.  He said it was OK for him to go there because his company gives money back to the favellas.  Anyway…

The Favellas

In the afternoon it was off to Sugar Loaf.  We rode a hanging cable car up to the first peak then a second car up to the top.  The clear Plexiglas lift dangled high in the air and offered a perfect vantage point.  Sugar Loaf is situated in the harbor looking back at one of the most stunning views in the world.  Rio was scattered as far as the eye could see only to be interrupted by spectacular mountains covered with lush green jungle and the bold blue of the Atlantic Ocean.  Add to this scene miles and miles of crescent-shaped beaches and an immense harbor – it was truly breath-taking. 

Sugar Loaf in the Distance

Cable cars to the top of Sugar Loaf

Our adventures made for a full day – but there was more to come.  We headed back to the hotel and then off for an evening meal.  This time we got a little creative… we trucked off to the Baghdad Cafe.  They served an Iraqi menu which gave us all sorts of new delicacies to try.  The waiter was an Iraqi who could not speak English or Spanish.  Portuguese was hard enough for him and it didn’t matter since we did not know Portuguese.  So, as we ordered, it was via a process where we made animal sounds and pointed to the menu that we could not read.  Clearly, the menu was of no use to us.  Our various grunts eventually determined what we would eat.  We could not pronounce the items listed on the menu and, even if we could, we had no idea what they were. 

We ended up with a magnificent meal – a feast of meats and veggies wrapped in grape leaves and other mysterious foods and spices!  I ordered black tea with herbs floating in it (probably spearmint) and it was strong.  I later learned what strong was when I ordered coffee that came in the little glass. 

Belly Dancing at the Baghdad Cafe

It was all excellent…  but the belly dancer was the highlight!!  Long dark hair, dark eyes, graceful movements, sheer red sash with bright sequins, a sword and burning candles.  This must have been the traditional entertainment for the Iraq of old.  The music and the motion was mesmerizing.  We had great intentions to turn in early so we could actually get some rest.  Lights went out a little after 1am and our time in Rio was soooooooooo amazing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2010 7:38 pm

    Awesome pictures (as always!) And as for turning in early, I am glad to find out that you did not. You are on vaction in a far away place, and going to bed early just doesn’t seem right. And as for the picking food at random off of a menu you can’t read to a waiter that you can’t understand, I think it is best to not know what you are eating. I find the food much more enjoyable if I don’t know what it is. How was the native food??

  2. January 14, 2010 9:47 pm

    The food was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!! We totally scarfed the food at the churrascaria (see the other Rio post) and the Iraqi food was so tasty, though not native to Rio. The meats are well seasoned and desserts are exotic. I like to try new things and I really enjoy the uncertainty of an evening like we had at the Baghdad Cafe. When I have travelled to LA, Portland, Philly, San Francisco, Miami, NY, etc. I like to sometimes hit Chinatown and go into a neighborhood restaurant. I may be the only one there that does not speak Chinese. I will try things which are completely unfamiliar. Occasionally they do not have an English menu. Most of the time it is a delicious surprise. Sometimes…. well, I do not hit 100%.

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