Rio de Janerio

After a very long flight overnight, arrived in Rio de Janerio. Very warm here, they announced it as 88 degrees or so when when landed, and I tend to believe it. Also discovered that Rio was 3 hours ahead of where we started, not the 2 I expected. Didn’t think about daylight savings time. Met the Princess reps after going through immigration and customs. Apparently there was only 1 other couple on our flight that was going to the ship, which kinda surprised us, but they put both groups on a bus and took us over to the JW Marriott on Cococabana Beach. Saw a little of the city while driving through, and one immediate impression was that traffic was pretty bad. People on scooters and mopeds would just drive between cars, and everyone changes lanes to gain any advantage they can.

Arrived at the hotel, and we were able to check in and get access to our room immediately even though it was still only about 1:30pm or so. Met with the Princess tour rep in the hotel before going up to the room, and their recommendation was to use a tour to try to go to the Christ the Redeemer statue, because it’s busy this time of year, and tour groups jump the line. Otherwise, you can get there, find a long line to get tickets, and then have a wait before your particular train time comes. Cost a little more to do it this way, but also meant not having to deal with taxi’s, and hopefully not have problems with getting on a train up the mountain. Unfortunately, as she started to sign us up, she discovered that the tour was already full. So, we headed up to the room to take showers and change since we’d been travelling for the previous 20 hours or so. Came back down, and when Cathy talked to the woman again, apparently she’d found space. (I think she’d oversold several people already, and what she’d done was find another tour to put everyone on, instead of the one that she was originally selling.) So, we frantically ran back up and grabbed the better cameras, and some more money since we needed to change some over to Reals. Turns out there was a desk in the hotel that we could do that, although the exchange rate wasn’t particularly great, but we were in a hurry.

Turns out that the tour that she put us on was basically I guess supposed to be a Spanish speaking tour. The guide was doing his best to give both English and Spanish explanations (we weren’t the only English speakers on the tour), but it definitely made things a little more interesting. Basically, after everyone was picked up, we drove by Ipanema Beach, then stopped at a beach that a lot of people use for landing hang gliders, and we could see where they were launching from up on top of the hill. However, what it really was was a lot of sitting in traffic. Rio’s traffic is pretty bad, and we spent a lot of time going very short distances. Then we headed to the train up Corcovado. It’s a cog railroad that heads up the mountain, and is pretty steep in places. At the top, you go up an escalator, and then either take an elevator or a set of stairs up to the base of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Our guide was sending us up the elevators, although they seem to be pretty inefficient to me, and could only handle about 10 people at a time.

It’s a big statue, I guess mostly made up of concrete. I’ve got to think it must have been a real pain to try to build in this location, because I honestly don’t know how they’d have gotten the materials into place. And the view from up on top is excellent. You can really see all the way around, and on the day we were there it was pretty decently clear (some haze around Rio, but not too bad). Now, you always see pictures of people posing in front of the statue, but it really isn’t that easy to do. On most of the observation platform you’re really too close to take a picture of someone standing in front of the statue (although a fair number of people were trying by lying on the ground). The one real spot you can do it is by walking down to a slightly lower observation platform in front of the statue, and then taking a picture with your subject standing on the stairs. Of course, everyone else is doing that, so you’re never going to get that picture that has nobody else in it. At the time of day we were there you could also only use about half the stairs to pose on, because the sun was behind the statue, and you had to stand in a place where it would block the sun from being directly in view.

After that, it was back to the hotel. We changed, and then headed out for dinner. We’d decided to try a churrascaria called Porcao (apparently pronounced por-cow). I’d read that it might tend towards a little on the touristy side, and there may be better choices, but it wasn’t too hard to get to, and there’s a nice view of Sugarloaf from the dining room (although by the time we got there it was starting to get dark out). Cab from the hotel to the restaraunt was about 20 reals (slightly more going back to the hotel because of the road configuration). I think most of the cab drivers in Rio think they’re Ayrton Senna reborn.

So, at this type of restaurant, basically what you have is a lot of waitors coming around with skewers of various types of meat. They stop at your table and tell you what they have (generally took a second request for what it was from us because we’d need the english translation), and you’d let them know if you wanted them to carve you off a piece or not. And they have lots of different types of cuts of meat. They also had some chicken, and sausage, and some pork. (And chicken hearts, although I wasn’t particularly interested in that). And they keep coming, and coming, and coming. They give you a little disc to flip back and forth between saying yes to stop by or no, but they only sorta pay attention. Oh, and then they also had a large buffet of salad type stuff and other side dishes. They also dropped off at the table a plate of french fries, a plate of fried bananas, some onion rings, and some sort of pastry type thing that seemed to have cheese in it. The meat is pretty salty here, I guess that might be somewhat common in Brazil? I’ve also seen people speculate that they do it to get you to order more drinks, which aren’t real cheap. We had a total of 3 caipirinhas between us (at 17.50 real each), plus a bottle of water each (3.50 each). Dinner ultimately ended up being somewhere around 260 real, which works out to around $145 or so. Not particularly cheap, but it’s not like it’s something we’re doing all the time. And we definitely ate a lot. Neither of us had gotten any lunch, and our breakfast was some airline food, so we were both pretty hungry at the time. We didn’t leave hungry.

Went back to the hotel, and then wandered a ways up and down Cococabana beach. We’d been told that there’s something of a street market set up along the walkway in the evenings, but really didn’t find that much of one. We did make it far enough down the beach to where we’d seen a street market set up during the day, but it wasn’t really anything to write home about, and the vendors were starting to close up for the night. So ultimately we headed back to the hotel.

Our hotel was the JW Marriott. It was one of 2 choices that Princess had for their pre-cruise stay, and the other choice definitely had some sketchy reviews. But the JW Marriott through Princess was about $400/person for the 1 night (that did include transfers, but even if you booked the hotel directly they want about $500/night). It’s a decent hotel, but I’m not sure they’re not overreaching some in level they claim the hotel is at. Rooms are pretty small, and for what we paid that got us a view of the inner atrium of the hotel. I think a lot of it is really just location (which is admittedly, right across the road from the Cococabana beach). Basically, I thought it was pretty decent, but not quite living up to the standard one would expect for the price range. That said, the concierge desk was pretty helpful, including letting us borrow a stapler, since we’d forgotten one to put together our luggage tags for getting on the ship.