Let me set the scene. It’s a cold day at the end of December. The Christmas festivities were coming to an end and New Years Eve was hours away. I’m schlumping home from work, purse, grocery bags, bulky coat and all. My husband jumps out of the bedroom shouting, “Oye, Mamita! Nos vamos pa’ Rio de Janeiro!” After peeling my eyebrows away from my hairline, I ask for details. “I went to AAA today and they had good prices, so we’re going.” We had been talking about taking a vacation, but never in a million years did I ever think I would be going to Rio.
My husband and I had been working on our marriage. I was going to therapy and he was staying out of my way. We began taking childless vacations only three years earlier. Prior to that we’d always traveled with our daughters, but now they were either working, studying or taking their own parentless vacations. So, yes, I was ready for Rio.
We left for Brazil on a ten pm flight. Ten hours from Newark to Sao Paolo sounded doable when we discussed the trip. Thanks to a full day at work and a bottle of Tylenol PM, in my purse, I was able to get a few hours of sleep on the flight. A brief layover and then we were on a smaller place to Rio where we arrived at one pm (ten am in NYC).
Summer was just beginning in Rio, so shorts and flip flops became our uniforms for the week. The coats hanging in the hotel room closet reminded us daily of what we left behind. Of course we had an ocean view room, but only if you plastered your face against the window and looked up the street. It’s all good, we’re in Rio! With only a week, we had to take advantage of every moment. We hit the streets right away, checking out the promenade along the beach, making note of where the restaurants were, and just drinking in the local flavor.
An excursion to Sugar Loaf ended with us walking along the red sand beach and finding a beachfront restaurant favored by the locals. We spent hours speaking with the Cariocas. A friendlier bunch of people I’ve yet to meet in all my travels. Steak dinners and several rounds of Brahma beer later, our bill came to thirty U.S. dollars.
We hit a local rodizio, where we almost ate our weight in meat, and then went to the pre-requisite Samba Show. After all, you can’t go to Brazil without supporting one of the local Samba Schools as they put on shows to raise money for the upcoming Carnaval performances. As tourists, we were allowed to take free Samba lessons before we sat down to what was almost a Vegas-style revue, Capoeira and all. You could feel the vibrations of the drums through the seat of the chair as these statuesque women, with feathers and headpieces, danced all around us and hard-bodied men flew through the air. An absolute feast for the senses.
Speaking of feast for the senses, it was summer, so we took our pastey butts to the beach. And yes, all women in Rio wear thong bikinis. We even saw babies with thongs over their diapers. I had to remind my husband to put his eyes back in his head a couple of times. The best part of the beach was the gorgeous guy bringing me caipirinhas as if they were glasses of water. What’s good for the goose…
A rainy day found us shopping in the business district in Ipanema. We hadn’t bothered going there because we were having too much fun in Copacabana. Both districts are separate and distinct, each with its own flavor. Ipanema boasts many luxury shops and tends to draw the tourist with extra money in their pockets. In Copacabana, we found many artisan shops, and that’s where we spent our money.
As the week went on, we wondered why we saw so many groups of, let’s say not-so-attractive, single foreign men. A trip to a local club answered the question. While we stood off the dance floor, people watching, we saw groups of men sit down and start to order drinks. While they were sitting there talking and drinking, women would walk up to the edge of the dance floor and start dancing. Let’s also just say, these women invented twerking. This time the husband got an elbow to the ribs. We didn’t know that prostitution was legal in Brazil but apparently those hordes of single men we’d seen already knew that. While we spent some time on the dance floor, we gave up when my husband was sandwiched a couple of times. Not that he was complaining. I later had to save him from a group of women, when he went to get us some drinks. I called it a night and said it was time to return to the hotel.
No trip to Rio is complete without going to see Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado. We could see it from the hotel’s rooftop bar, but we had to see it up close. We wound up making two trips to Corcovado. Our first trip was on a cloudy day. We had hopes that the clouds would break, but they never did. The second trip was on our last day there. Instead of paying for another excursion, we just hired a taxi driver to take us. We agreed on a fair price, also promising to pay in U.S. dollars, and we were off. As we climbed staircase after staircase, huffing and puffing, we could see the escalators they were building. Darn. We finally got to the top and found ourselves in awe of both the statue and the majestic view. And then the camera batteries died. Really?! Now? We had a taxi driver waiting for us and a flight home in a few hours. So I ran 220 steps back down to the base, paid an exorbitant amount of money for a new battery, and ran 220 steps back up. It was worth it, sooo worth it. There would be a price to pay, of course.
The flight from Rio to Sao Paolo went off without a hitch. Once we got on the last leg of the flight home, I reached for my purse. The Tylenol PM was missing. Ay Dios Mio! I didn’t panic. I figured that I was already so tired that I would knock out on my own. Hour after hour of feeling the pain in my legs, after climbing and descending Corcovado twice, had me near tears. Everyone around me snoring and making happy, sleepy sounds. I wanted to kill everyone. Starting with my husband, who had the nerve to complain that my fidgeting was interrupting his sleep.
We landed in Newark at six am. By the time we hit the customs desk, we had been sniping at each other for a while. Sniping so badly that we got pulled out of the line. Oh great, I thought, now they’re going to send us to a private room. Sending him dagger looks, that he naturally ignored, I explained to the customs officer that we were just over tired and hadn’t slept a wink on the flight home. It must happen a lot because she just stamped our passports and pointed to the exit.
Our daughter picked us up and knew immediately that something was wrong, we weren’t even looking at each other. All I kept hearing was, “You always this” “You always that”. Ugh.
A silent ride home, a very silent ride. A stop at a diner for breakfast, where we were joined by our younger daughter, perked us all up a bit and the thaw began. We began telling our daughters all about our trip, the good and the bad. The near disaster at Corcovado. The thong bikinis on the beach. Their father’s superstar status at the club. The natural beauty of Rio. All were laid out for them to experience with us. Even the incident at the customs desk. Sleep was next on the agenda.
Would I ever go to Rio de Janeiro again? Yes, in a heartbeat, but only if I fly first class. Since that is probably never going to happen, I pull out my photo albums and remember when I was a fool for Samba, blue topazes, and Brahma beer.
Thanks NaBloPoMo for the opportunity to relive my trip.