Jackie Steves is guest-hosting her Dad’s blog with 17 posts in 17 days. Follow the adventures of Andy and Jackie Steves as they ‘ the first Steves to venture into South America ‘ report on their experience.
Elvarado met us once again the following morning for a full-day tour. He drove us in his car to our first stop: the Christ the Redeemer Statue on Corcovado Mountain. Rio is such a fascinating sight of a city I would be content just riding around all day watching it out a car window.
The wind parted the clouds just long enough for us to have a few Kodak moments. I love this statue. While many crucifixes show a suffering, slouched, dying Christ, this one is strong and resolute, showing that while Jesus was crucified, he was actually not defeated. Sacrificing his life was a tremendous feat of strength, and the bold posture of Christ the Redeemer is a great representation of that.
On the tram ride back down from Corcovado (through reclaimed tropical forest), a quartet of samba musicians played for us. A few Brazilian passengers on board raucously joined in a fun verbal interplay. When the man singer passed out a shaker, I realized the interactiveness of this musical genre. I envy Brazilians for their playfulness and tendency to spontaneously break out in group song/dance.
Elvarado drove us north along the coastline, breaking to show us his favorite beaches. Each of Rio’s beaches has its own personality ‘ anything from famous to secluded, wealthy to poor, wild waves for surfers to calm surf for kids.
Maracanã, their beloved football stadium that holds such a sacred space in Brazilian hearts, didn’t do much for me and Andy, who have very little to do with soccer since we stopped playing in middle school. It is fun, however, to marvel at a city that is so wholly devoted and in love with a single sport. While in the States, the most popular sport seems like a toss-up between baseball, American football, and basketball, here one sport dominates. That’s soccer.
Everything is an all-out team sport for Brazilians: their overwhelming shared love for soccer, their breaking out in joint song, and their devotion to putting on the world’s biggest three-day party every Mardi Gras ‘ Carnaval.
We visited their Sambodromo, a long, massive, one-sided concrete stadium. Its sole purpose ‘ to house the Carnaval parade. Seats are very plentiful, but their extremely high price demonstrates how much Cariocas prize their celebration. In the small, adjacent museum we saw a few examples of the extravagantly showy costumes worn by the samba schools in the parade, made new each year! We also viewed a video recording of the event ‘ unreal! Puts all other parades I’ve seen to shame.
I had apprehensions about this huge space-rocket-shaped construction that claimed to be a cathedral. They were all dispelled, however, once I walked inside the Nova Cathedral to see a bath of natural light colored by gloriously large stained-glass windows on all four sides soaring up to a great height as if in praise of God. The shape that reminded me of a rocket ship actually represented a bishop’s hat. A great wooden cross was awesomely suspended over the altar. Among the sculptures of saints decorating the quadrants of the cathedral, that of St. Francis particularly spoke to me with its dynamism and grace.
Our final destination with Elvarado was Sugar Loaf Mountain, yet another high viewpoint of the city. You know you are in a truly beautiful city when two of its main tourist attractions are high above on the mountains to offer views of Rio. We rode two cable cars up to this funny-shaped mountain. Clouds interfered to limit our visibility, so the $25 we each paid was a bit of a waste on this cloudy afternoon.
Despite being exhausted from getting only a couple of hours sleep the night before, we knew it was our last night to see Lapa in action (the next night was a Sunday and then we would fly home on Monday). So we rallied to return to our new favorite nightlife hotspot for the second night in a row. We shared feijoada, the traditional meat and black bean stew here. Salty, but good. We had finally found out that most entrées here were plenty for two people, which really helped our budget. We wandered around people-watching and peeping in on bars with samba bands playing. If only the nightlife was like this in Georgetown (where I go to school)!