Sunday, December 30, 2012

Brazil Day 10: Rio can be so generous!

We walked passed what is possibly the first Churrascaria (Brazilian Steakhouse) we've seen on this trip. Maybe it's because we weren't hunting them out (I don't eat meat - and we rather have many little many than one big one). Maybe it's because we've been spending almost all of our time in "neighborhoody" neighborhoods rather than tourist-oriented ones. In fact, now that I write this post, I see that the Churrascaria we saw is actually owned by an American Private Equity firm. I guess the Churrascaria has taken on a life of its own in America - here in Rio it doesn't seem so pronounced. I would call an Acai shop or Lanchonete (both of which we ended up at again today) way more common Brazilian restaurant than a Churrascaria.

Is McDonald's giving away
free ice cream or something??
Olga posing with Sugarloaf
Everybody ready to climb?
another Acai slushie!
Hopefully not the last!

After visiting the Museu da República - which I found mostly skippable except for its nice garden and unintentionally creepy "caves" - we made our way to Sugarloaf Mountain. When people come to visit Rio, there are two main sites that stick out -- literally: Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain.

View of Rio from Sugarloaf
(by night)
View of Rio from Sugarloaf
(by day)
Heading up the final stage
from Mt Urca or Mt Sugarloaf

Having limited time, we decided to visit Sugarloaf because a very cute neighborhood Urca is at the base. More on that later. It's incredible how quickly the Sugarloaf cable car system was originally built. Imagined in 1907 during Rio's World Expo, planning started in 1910, it was completely built and running by 1912. This is especially incredible when you consider it took almost that long for us to ascend and descend ;) With the New Years crowds in full force, we spent about 15 minutes looking at the view and 3+ hours waiting in 5 separate lines for tickets and for the two sections of cable cars to take us up and down Urca and then Sugarloaf mountains. We were there so long that that the sun completely set and we got to see the views in day and night versions - pretty cool!

One pizza: half tuna and onion,
half banana and cinnamon.
All delicious!
Churrascaria and gas station
Maria and Osman,
thanks for dinner!!!

Finally back at the base, we explored Urca neighborhood and found the hotspot Garota da Urca. They have a few other locations, including Garota da Copacabana (Girl from Copacabana), and one can assume they might have a location in Ipanema as well (all of these are neighboring beaches). The restaurant was really happening, yet the Maître d' was able to find us a table very quickly. Shortly, an elderly couple wandered by and asked in perfect English if we were coming or going (the table was still messy from the previous guests). I explained the situation, they asked if they could sit, and pretty soon we ended up having a lovely dinner together. They live next door and come to the restaurant for beer, an appetizer, and ice cream every Sunday. Before I knew it, Maria and Osman, an adorable couple married for 59 years and counting, had bought us dinner!

Olga adds a lot more insight into the museum, mountain view, our dinner - do yourself a favor and check out her blog!

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