Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day Thirteen – Tour of Rio (Christ the Redeemer, Escadaria Selaron, Sugarloaf)

Originally, our itinerary had us planning to go to the Ipanema Hippie Fair on this morning.  However, after talking to our tour guide Alex, we learned that the fair is open from 10a-6p, so we didn’t have enough time in the morning before our planned activities to go and get back.  So we decided to wait and see if there was time when we were done with our Tour of Rio.
Alex was our tour guide again, and picked us up in a van provided by Be a Local.  We started first by driving up the hillside to Corcovado, the mountain that has Christ the Redeemer at the top of it.  After ascending many steps, we were able to be directly in front of the statue that we were able to see from our hotel window (drastically different in size, though!). 

After leaving CTR, we drove through a few small sections of the city, including a stop in Sta. Teresa village, where we were able to get out of the van and visit a local art shop.  We walked a bit around Sta. Teresa and then got back onto the bus and headed over to Escadaria Selaron, also known as “the steps” in Rio.  Jo mentioned that the steps were featured on an episode of The Amazing Race, but that’s not a show that I watch regularly.  These steps were formed by a Chilean artist, Jorge Sealron, in the 1990s, when he started to repair the steps outside of his house and covering them in colorful tiles, which ended up coming from all over the globe.  In total, there are 250 steps with over 2000 tiles from over 60 different countries.  We even found a Maine tile!

After the steps, we headed over to Sugarloaf, which is located on Guanabara Bay.  Originally, Sugarloaf was thus named by the Portuguese people who came upon Brazil by ship.  The mountain was white, because it was covered in seagull poo.  Today, the mountain is regular dirt (brown) colored, as locals harvest and sell the seagull poo as fertilizer.  To get to the top, you take two cable cars.  The first leg (1 KM) takes you to the top of Urca Mountain, which gave us a great view of Copacabana and CTR.  The next leg took us to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (396m tall) where we were greeted with beautiful 360 degree views of the beaches of Rio.  When we descended back to Urca, we were greeted by a few monkeys in the staging equipment near a few of the restaurants.  Though the signs say specifically NOT to feed the animals, our tour guide, Alex, was able to get a few pieces of banana from a nearby smoothie stand and lure the monkeys out from hiding.  It was amazing to see the Mama and baby try to reach (but not too far!) the fruit from his hand. 

While a few of our group were dropped off at the Market after our Sugarloaf tour, the rest of us went back to the hotel.  We were ready for a shower and some downtime.  We met back in the hotel lobby at 7pm to head over to La Trattoria Rio, Copacabana (literally around the corner from our hotel) to meet with Lenny Abbey, the head of the National Olympic and Paralympic Committee Relations and Service for Rio 2016 and also met with an Olympic-scholar and her son to hear about her work on the Transforma Program within Brazil.  It was interesting to hear their two opposing viewpoints on the changes that had just been released for the 2020 Olympics and beyond by the IOC.

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