“Down in New Orleans (dancing in the street);
In New York City (dancing in the street)
All we need is music, sweet music ( sweet sweet music)
There’ll be music everywhere (everywhere)
They’ll be swinging, swaying, records playing…”
There are all sorts of benefits to cruising but one that stands out is the luxury of saying goodbye to your luggage at your hotel and the next time you see it is in your cabin. Sadly, the service does not include unpacking!! Nevertheless, coaches brought, direct from the hotel, as many of the 500 people due to embark Queen Victoria as were staying there. Having left at 11, I had made the 1 hour transfer to the other side of Rio, checked in, met Dennis, my room steward, had lunch and unpacked by 2.30.
First impressions of the ship…it is “proper posh” and a definite step up from my previous experiences. However, looks can deceive and the passengers seem just the same sort of mix, if slightly more cosmopolitan. I have already been invited to “come and visit with us” by a couple from Kansas City, been told a slightly off-colour joke by a Cockney guy (whose wife promptly hit him with ‘Hello” – ouch), and had a cup of tea on deck with some Australian people I met at the hotel.
There is a bottle of champagne on ice in my room, as a welcome from Cunard, but that is bothering me and I may ask Dennis to pop it into my fridge. There is something a bit sad about sitting on your own in your room getting quietly wasted on champagne. But given the price of drinks on board, I may be quite glad of it at some point!!
I have only met two of my dinner companions, a very pleasant couple, but the others were apparently living it up in Rio, as sailing is not until 10.30. One discovery I did make was the fact that the Captain is a woman. I wouldn’t mind betting that she took some stick about ‘parking’ the ship! Later tonight we set sail for Montevideo and tomorrow night there is a big celebratory ‘Burns Night’. Special offers on whisky available, one of which is $125…for a glass!!! Good job I don’t like it!!!
When I set out at 7 am this morning to join the tour “A Day Out in Rio”, I had no idea that I would only arrive back over 12 hours later!! The temperature early this morning was 35C and stepping off the bus this evening, I noticed it was still 31C. Is that why I feel rather drained, or is it simply the awesome spectacle that is Rio de Janeiro had left me weak at the knees?
The first stop was the Cathedral… and after all, this is a good Catholic country. It is an unusual building with some significant stained glass but I felt it was somewhat lacking in soul. I, for one, did not complain that the stop was just 15 minutes. And I have to say that we went from the manufactured appeal to our Christian ethic onto a blatant encouragement to come and feast the senses at the Rio Carnival in March. We did a drive by the route for the Samba Parade and everywhere advertises this (because sex sells), along with invitations to the World Cup and the next Olympics. But here is the challenge for Brazil (and Rio in particular)… nothing is ready, nothing looks as though it will be ready any time soon and the Brazilians themselves reckon they may lose at least the World Cup matches in Rio. I can’t believe how they can get there in time having seen what has been done/what is still to do.
Then it was off to the serious stuff. A trip in two cable cars up Sugar Loaf Mountain for some of the most spectacular views of Rio (at least that is what I thought at the time). From the top, Corcovado Mountain (with the statue of Christ the Redeemer) is right there in your line of sight before you do a sweep to take in the islands, the clear blue sea, the fabulous beaches and the city that houses 6 million people. It is all laid out at your feet and, at each turn, there is something new to look at. But it’s a long process to get to the top, to see, to explore and to take hundreds of photographs.
This afternoon’s big event was a visit to Jesus! At least it was to the top of Corcovado (hunchback) Mountain to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer. This time it was via a train up the incredibly steep, almost vertical, track. The track is cut through the dense undergrowth of the Tijuca Forest but looking at the widely varied foliage at least took your mind off wondering whether the train would actually make it! We then faced an exceptionally steep upward stagger to the lifts which decanted us to stare upwards at the rear view of Jesus. To meet him face-to-face, so to speak, there were a couple of elevators and some more steps in order to look down and see what he sees day after day. That’s when the view from Sugar Loaf Mountain got relegated to second place in the vista stakes! Incredibly, it was difficult to move at all on the very top of this mountain. Apparently everyone wanted a photograph with Jesus and it seemed the best place to achieve this was from lying on the floor. Therefore, it took some considerable agility to step over, step around and between the legs of these bodies on the ground. I was happy to see the statue’s fingers had been repaired after one was sheared off during an electric storm. You couldn’t see the join (!), nor could you see evidence of repairs to the face. In fact, Jesus was in great shape and my lasting ambition to see this fabulous statue was finally achieved. It was even better than I imagined and hard to tear myself away in the setting sun.
So that was Rio. Tomorrow my suitcases will be collected at 7 am and later in the morning I will be taken to join the ship to begin another epic cruise. Much as I dislike the packing/unpacking process, it will be good to hang up the frocks, establish my base for a week or two and share a few more adventures along the way. Watch out Queen Victoria!!
Rio de Janeiro – up close and personal with the “beautiful people”
After yesterday’s long, and exceptionally bumpy, flight, I promised myself a gentle and relaxing day today. That meant I was having breakfast at 06.00 (8 am UK time) and getting myself organised for a big trip of the Rio sights tomorrow. How lucky that I did this early as, apparently, I grabbed the last available place on the tour.
That left me with the prospect of a visit to the beach – and why go to one when there are two famous and fabulous beaches here. By the time I had walked from my hotel to Ipanema Beach, I was ready for a drink and noticed that at the numerous bars a coconut seemed to be the favourite. Oh my! These huge coconuts are kept in ice cream freezers and, when you order, they hack off the top and serve it to you with just a straw on the side. Ice cold coconut milk is definitely one to enjoy. They do offer a rather savage looking knife if you want to attack it and get at the flesh but I was heading down to Copacabana Beach. I have to say that this is a long walk and, by late morning, the temperature was way up in the 30’s, but I was having such a great time wandering along the water’s edge, avoiding the pounding surf (most of the time), ‘people watching’ and more than entertained along the way. There were all kinds of sports going on – beach volleyball, beach tennis and…hugging! It seemed to be the thing to do… to stand at the water’s edge in a very long hug before rushing off to an open air gym, stretching exercises, press-ups or just looking glamorous. (There was a vast amount of that.) I was so relieved at times to see ‘normal’ bodies lining up with the ripped, honed, toned and those that were merely “incredible”, that I made a point of ensuring they featured in my photos.
This long beach has zones all along the way. Each appears to be significant but I couldn’t work them all out. I did know that one was for the wealthy and beautiful, one might be for the available, and one is certainly very sports orientated. I thought I had a personal welcome party going on at another with lots of ‘Rainbow’ flags but this zone was distinctly “gay pride”.
By the time I got to the point where I knew I could get a shuttle bus back to the hotel, I was much in need of another drink. I don’t know more than a couple of words in Portuguese but, after lots of fun with the waiters trying to order things like sparkling water with lime (which they pretended not to understand), I managed to convey, “You choose a drink for me”. And that, members of the jury, is how I came to be drinking a ‘caipirinha’ Brazil’s national cocktail.
Absolutely fabulous (it certainly contained lime) but is somewhat powerful and I was, therefore, grateful to be going back on the shuttle bus. The remainder of the afternoon was then truly lazy with a swim in the pool and reading in the shade. Now gearing up for tomorrow’s eight hour tour of this truly spectacular place.