Friday, January 7, 2011

Cyndi had a Great Birthday (In Hindsight)

View from our hotel on Copacabana Beach (left), Rio Scenarium (right)

Getting there (Jan 4th)
On the plane, we started noticing that we couldn’t tell who was Brazilian and who was American, nor could others detect our nationality. Wide array of skin color, hair type – a true melting pot. Language was the only distinguisher. We also discover at this point that Portuguese doesn’t sound similar enough to Spanish to be understandable.
When we changed our watches to Rio time, suddenly it changed from 7pm to 1am, thus beginning the birthday day. Cyndi got a 30 hour birthday!!
All in all the trip was easy, but long, with many birthday congratulations from airline staff, including a gift of a bottle of champagne on the last leg!

Looked like Hawaii. Looked like many other Latin American countries – griminess, poverty. It was also very overcast and occasionally rainy.

Hotel on Copacabana beach. Changed rooms.. got upgraded. Charged for upgrade. Were informed later no charge for upgrade. Beautiful room. Total ocean view on the 9th floor.
Dead tired. Out to explore. Flagged local mini-van to Ipanema beach – only R$2. Same as Copacabana beach. Had coconut. Sliced in cool way to scoop out meat using piece of shell as spoon.

Feeling like nothing sun. nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Brazil first day disappointment. Is this the comedown from previous days of workaholic behavior? Total need to organize, plan and control our environment..just like at home… When will vacation mode kick in?
Walked streets around hotel eclectic group of shops from pharmacies to health food store to art gallery, banks and flip flop shop.

Due to above-mentioned Brazil first day stress and mixed with a bit of PMS, Cyndi has a meltdown and crawls into bed, not before noticing the beautiful roses mom had had delivered to the room. Thanks mom! Mom, insensitive, but trying to uplift the birthday girl’s spirits, welcomes a parade of hotel staff. Please note that Cyndi is in bed under the covers during all of this, occasionally covering her head with the sheet recovering from the meltdown.

Entry 1: Waiter with chocolate ice cream (mom had noted that Cyndi was craving this.)
Entry 2: Maids with good night chocolates. They were so delicious, that mom stuck her head out the door to say yum yum, and the maids promptly handed her more.
Entry 3: Staff member appears with crystal vase for roses, and mom tips her a rose.
Entry 4: 2 hotel staff walk in with a tray of sweets, small gift box and card. We are both surprised! They enter saying, “Excuse me. Sorry.” Clear table by window, removing our purses, etc; and put out white table cloth with plate, sweets, etc. It turns out to be a birthday gift from the hotel.

Feeling like nothing to do in Rio. Rainy. Mellow. And don’t seem to be many activities around our hotel.

Mom goes down to figure out some fun night activities. I get a much needed nap. Vitor at the desk at first says, “ Oh..Tuesday night... there’s nothing to do… “ But wait! Isn’t this high season?! Where are all the tourists? They must be doing something! He does find out about a place with a band in Lapa. And there are supposedly a lot of bars around there.

The hotel arranges a taxi – R$30 flat rate. We get to the neighborhood, and it is super cute…all cobblestony. Closed off alleyway. No cars allowed. I decide I need a cocktail and mom needs a rest. The first place we see is adorable – Santo Scenarium!! The interior is all mirrors, cloth hangings, angels and candlesticks - a totally religious motif and gorgeous. The entry to the bathroom had a podium with a bible in Portuguese. The owner is just the cutest ever.. a gaucho from the south with excellent English. He offers an array of options for mom – the vegetarian – who is hard to please foodwise in Brazil. “Vegetarian? Haha! I don’t know where you can get that type of food! Not in Brazil!” But again, a fine example of Brazilian hospitality. The food is amazing. As we eat, we watch a steady stream of revelers going to the Rio Scenarium with the crowd thickening at the door (pic below). And again are astounded by the array of colors, not knowing which ones are tourists. We are also surprised to see the passion as lovers show obvious PDA. So Latin; so non-American!

Across the street is a charming cafe with a male singer on a guitar crooning Brazilian music. Looking at this place, we wonder, is this the hot bar we saw in the magazine picture mom had given me in Reno as a clue to my secret Birthday vacation destination? It looks very similar, but somehow not quite right.
Went to Rio Scenarium …. 4 stories with great bric-a-brac all over. A blend of antique mall, rock concert venue, with a Rocky Horror elevator – which we rode, of course. Great music. Watching folks dance on the dance floor, we fell in love with this beautiful dance.. wondering what it was.. the samba. Decide we must take Samba lessons.
On the third floor, approaching the balcony, we realized that this place was the same place as the “clue” picture.... we had found –happened upon – via Victor, the “hottest” place in Rio on the first night.

Taxi driver wouldn’t take extra money. Fare was 20.80. Mom gave 20. Driver wouldn’t take extra 1-2 she was trying to give. Again, a fine display of Brazilian graciousness and hospitality.

Day 1 Summary
We did a lot of complaining, wondering if we should leave – go to the Amazon, change hotels at least to more lively location, etc. In writing this today, we are enlightened, understanding that all of that was just tiredness, comedown from workaholic mode, our ridiculous obsession with perfectionism and not yet being adjusted to the pulse of Brazil.

Happy Birthday is called Feliz Aniversario, which is so cool when you think of it in the American interpretation of anniversary –that is, something involving two people. It is a true Aniversario of our 40 years together.

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