Joined December 2019
  • Day18

    Rio de Janeiro, Day 2

    January 21 in Brazil ⋅ ☁️ 77 °F

    The second day in Rio we started at 6:00 AM again. After breakfast we met with our group and proceeded outside to meet our guide. He came to meet us at 8:30 and this time he had a big bus. There were plenty of room for everybody and huge trunk space for the wheelchair. The to go weather promised to be very good. No rain and the temperature again around 80F.

    Our first stop was Sugar Loaf.

    SUGAR LOAF: An iconic spot in Rio, places right on the other side of the bay, this huge landmark lies on the edge with  the gorgeous Vermelha Beach, surrounded by the Mata Atlantica Forest. 
    To get to the top of the mountain we had to take two cable cars. The attraction is fully wheelchair accessible. The view from the top was magnificent. You could see the whole city. We spent at least two hours on top of the Sugar Loaf. There are numerous observation levels and every one of them present different view of the city.

    Our second stop was lunch. Out tour guide thought that local food is very important part of the tour and also he told us he loves the restaurant we stopped to eat. It is a buffet. You take a plate, pile up the food, then they weigh it, give you a check and after you finish the food you pay. It was pretty good.
    In Brazil everyday meal has rice and beans. The Portuguese brought the rice from Asia and the beans always have been popular in Africa. Brazil has a strong root and influence with Portugal and Africa. So that was a very local and traditional restaurant. They call it "kilo restaurant".

    After lunch we went to SELARON STAIRS It is one of the symbols of the city, The artist Jorge Selaron came to Brazil 30 years ago as a political refugee from Chili
    during Pinochet regime. He first got a little room there and in that abandoned stairways he started placing red tiles everywhere. people loved his work so much that he received tiles from different countries in the World and he always found a space to place in the walls those colorful tiles and suddenly it became a tradition. This work continued for26 years and the stairs became one of the symbolic spots of Rio. When he died, the tradition stopped.
     But the city do not take good care of the is packed with homeless and drug addicts.

    SAO BENTO MONASTERY - Our last place before going to the port was one spot that most of Rio's visitors never go because they simply do not know that this place exists. When people come to Rio they always think about beach, Carnival, the Christ and the Sugar Loaf. People hardly come to Rio seeking for culture and have no idea that we have a small trace with other European Cultures. It is the oldest constructions in Brazil, a baroque Church very Portuguese, one Monastery, a Benedict Monastery, and the Baroque Architecture are typically simple from the outside and very ornate and luxurious inside. The church was built in 1596.

    The abbey was founded by Benedictine monks who came from the state of Bahia in 1590. It is still operational today, along with the Colégio de São Bento (St. Benedict College) nearby. The college, established in 1858, is one of the most important traditional educational establishments in Brazil and claims many famous alumni. The abbey includes the St. Benedict Seminary, with courses in theology and philosophy that are recognized by the Ministry of Education.
    It is very simple outside, but incredibly beautiful inside. All with wooden carvings that covered with gold.

    That was our last stop in Rio. Now back to the ship.

    Next two days are sea days.
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  • Day17

    Rio de Janeiro, Day 1.

    January 20 in Brazil ⋅ ☁️ 79 °F

    We started our day at 6:00 AM today. Got all the way to the top of the ship and watched the sailing toward the city. The view was fantastic: Sugarloaf Mountain, panorama of the city. It was a little overcast, but still very pretty.
    After breakfast we met our group and got out of the ship. We have been in Rio two years ago, but spent there less then a day.
    The weather promised to be good today. Around 80F. We were told that last week was 120F. I guess, we are very lucky.
    At 8:30AM we met out guide Rafi and proceeded to the van. Again, there was no room for a wheelchair. I managed to take wheelchair apart in small pieces and stuff it in the van. Rafi promised to have bigger van for tomorrow. We will see.

    We stopped at the Mirante do Leblon, it is a popular lookout of Rio where we could see the ocean-side, the beaches of Leblon and Ipanema and Cagarras Islands. There were a stands and cafes where people were having drinks mainly the hydrating COCONUT WATER.

    Then we headed west to reach the wetlands of Marapendi.  It is just a curious neighborhood of Rio, very green and with quiet alleys, no cars there and it has some wildlife. We boarded a little boat that local people using as a buses. In that part of the mangrove the smell is horrendous but at least we could take good pictures and for your surprise, we did realize that there are some animals so close to the city. In one of its seven islands called Gigoia we stopped for some drinks and snacks. The name of the restaurant is CAIS BAR. We had some typical Brazilian Empanadas filled with cheese, shrimp, beef and crabs. Some people in our group had beer.

    We continued our day and we drove to Tijuca Forest, it is one of our oldest National Parks, it was created by our Emperor in the 1800s. It is a great area, sadly with almost all the roads closed because of the last storms and the city is doing anything to fix it, so our driver had to use a lot of improvisation. But we managed to see the small Tounay Falls which provides a gorgeous scenario.

    And finally, we arrived at the Botanical Gardens which in Portuguese we say JARDIM BOTANICO DO RIO DE JANEIRO. It is also part of the Tijuca National Park, it is the starting point of many trails to explore the Forest, and also the home of many Brazilian Seeds to replant any species that might disappear, the place also preserves very old trees of the flora from many different parts of Brazil, such as the Samaumas, and the Amazon Palm trees. There we could learn more about Nature Preservation and the importance to keep it untouched. We also had a brief of History as the complex was imagined by the Portuguese King Don João VI and designed by very famous naturalists in that time Saint Hilaire and Von Martius. This place has very high importance to Brazil, because it was part of Charles Darwin's studies and it is one of the top 10 Botanical Gardens in the world.

    That was the end of our tour for the first day in Rio.

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  • Day14

    Recife, Brazil

    January 16 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 86 °F

    Today we spent most of the day in Recife, Brazil.
    Another big city of 1.6 mil and 4 mil with surrounding areas.
    Day prior to the tour in Recife, I sent an email to tour guide asking if we can bring a wheelchair. The answer was "Yes", but also he wrote that he was giving a tour in Amazon river and will not be able to return to Recife on time for our tour. But not to worry, there will be another guide.
    So today we met with our group at 8:00 AM and proceeded to the shuttle bus to take us to the terminal. Unfortunately our guide came late and there were no room in the mini bus to put a wheelchair. I took wheels off from the wheelchair and then it could fit on the front seat next to the driver. Now, no room for the guide to sit, so he was standing on the side of the van the whole time. Soon we figured our that he speaks very little English and does not understand us. He just memorized some words and explanations without understanding.

    Our first stop was Basilica de Sao Bento. It dates back to 1582 and was restored in 1761. It is the only Church in Olinda with a mezzanine level. During Colonial times, the rich people would attend the Mass in the mezzanine, the other "free" people would attend on the ground floor of the Church and the slaves were forced to stand outside. It is stunningly beautiful inside. it has gilded altar and if we understood correctly was suppose to be on display in NYC for two weeks, bus was there for 6 months due to the 9/11.
    We visited another church and another church.... We walk the steep cobblestone streets that not allowing traffic during rain. Too dangerous. We saw many bright colored houses and murals.
    By that time, people started to get tired and hungry, but we still had to see few places before lunch.
    Our next stop was building where it use to be a jail, but now it is a tourist trap with little stores in every cell. Not interesting.
    Our next stop was Governor Palace. We were suppose to have a tour of the Palace, but instead of this we witness an interview with Minister of Justice. He was with a young woman in a turban that covered her head. We did not understand anything, but were told that it is a campaign to help this woman who lost her hair due to the accident.
    After lunch we visited few more places with beautiful architectural buildings, took some pictures and then the last stop was a synagogue. It was established in 1636 by Portuguese and Spanish Sephardic Jews that had taken refuge in the Netherlands fleeing forced conversion and were joined by New Christians, who possibly helped to build the structure and were already living in the colony. It was the first synagogue erected in the Americas. Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside. We stopped into the lobby, which was so well air-conditioned. After a little cooling, back on our bus and to our ship. The shower felt so good.

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  • Day11

    Belem, Brazil

    January 13 in Brazil ⋅ 🌧 82 °F

    What an adventure today was. Belem is a tender port. Actually, we tender in the city of Icoaraci, which is one hour from Belem by shuttle. We were first to board the tender boat at 9:00 AM. Our tour was suppose to start at 10:AM. Brazilian authority did not allow HAL to run their tender boats. Instead we had to use local very "rustic" boats. When we got to the shore, there we lots of people: locals that came from the ferry or were going on the ferry, tourists, vendors and just people hanging around. Somebody told us to get on the shuttle to go to the main port. That is exactly what we did.
    In about 5 minutes I suspected we made a mistake. We should have looked for our private tour bus. Oh well. It was too late.
    After riding for one hour on that shuttle, we arrived at the center of the city. There was a mall and some restaurants. Since we are not interested in this stuff, we had an option to go back on the ship.
    I decided to call the main office of the tour company. The gentleman answered the phone and after I explained what happened, told me to call him back in 5 min. Thank you T-Mobile!
    After calling back, he told us to get taxi or Uber and go to Emilio Goeldi Museum and the tour bus will be waiting for us. Since we did not have local currency, we took Uber.
    After riding for 15 min we arrived at the museum. Unfortunately, it was closed. What a surprise! Now what should we do? Nobody around spoke English. After few minutes our tour bus arrived. We we so happy to see it.

    We proceeded to a different entrance of the museum. They open it for tour groups. Since it is Monday the museum is closed for everyone else.
    Actually it is very different kind of museum. It is combination of batanical garden and a zoo. It was founded in 1866 and is pretty interesting.

    Our second stop was Republica Square with Opera Theater. We could not go inside, but the building is beautiful. The building and the whole city have seen better days.

    The next stop was Catholic Church, Basilica of Our Lady of Nazareth, a copy of St. Paul’s church in Rome built during the rubber boom era at the
    beginning of the 20th century beautiful inside and outside and in a very good shape.

    The next stop was the same place as the shuttle bus dropped us off. We walked a little, had an 🍨. We decided on two flavors: chocolate and something else. Something else was very delicious but the chocolate was not chocolate. It was Acai ice wecream. It tasted like fish.

    After that we got on our bus and one hour later were back on the tender boat.

    Belem use to be very rich city during rubber boom, but now it is crumbling. Roads are bad, buildings are in horrible shape, unemployment is very high and crime is high too.
    Belem is located in the delta of Amazon river. It is always very hot and raining every day in the afternoon.
    It is a big city of 1.5 mil people. People are very nice.
    After visiting place like this , we appreciate the place we live. You realize how lucky we are.
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