April 6, 2007
It took a long time to get to Rio de Janeiro. The taxi showed up early and the driver was eagerly waiting for us. That wasn't a surprise; he slyly set the meter to "2," the higher rate that's used during nights and weekends. We got to the airport way too early and easily could have slept another hour. Oh well, it's better than showing up late. We had two flights to get to Rio, stopping for an hour in Curitiba along the way.
From the airport in Rio, we took a bus into the city. We went past all of the wonderful favelas of northern Rio on the way. I asked the driver when we'd pass Largo do Machado, in the Flamengo district, and he stopped the bus and told us it's just two blocks to the right. That was lucky. I thought we were on a different road that would take us right past it, so we almost missed it altogether.
Flamengo used to be where the rich people of Rio lived, but once the tunnels through the surrounding mountains began being completed about one hundred years ago, the rich moved further and further away from the center, a trend which continues to this day. Nowadays, Flamengo is a middle-class area, so it's still pretty nice and safe, but it's not near any swimable beaches, so it's relatively cheap. I scoped out the area a few days ago and found a few decent hotels, which I led my parents to today.
I could tell my parents weren't very fond of the first place I showed them, so we went to another one nearby. The guy at the reception desk was old and skinny with slicked back hair and an emphysemic voice that made him kind of like a thinner version of the Godfather. I had my work cut out for me on the bargaining front, but eventually I got him to knock the price down a little bit. My parents had an air conditioner in their room, and when my dad asked the Godfather how to use it, he sneered at him and flipped a switch behind the desk to turn it on. The guy was a real cheap bastard. My dad neglected to turn off the air conditioner when we left because he wanted the room to be cool when we got back, but I didn't like the looks of it.
We took the bus out to the botanical gardens, which are just south of the Jesus hill. It was a huge park with lots of trails, many different types of flowers, monkeys (see, I told you they exist), and even a lot of royal palms and huge trees similar to the one I saw the miners cut down in the Guyanese jungle.
Next we walked over to Francisco's place in Leblon. I picked up a couple things that I had left behind, and we spent some time visiting. My ever-observant mother noticed that Francisco's window was open and asked if he ever had a problem with pigeons flying inside. Francisco began to answer that he normally kept the window closed, so he's never had any problems, but before he could even finish, a pigeon flew right into the window! I grabbed a broomstick and pushed it out before it could do much damage, but we decided that it was time to head out after that faux pas.
When we got back to the hotel, the Godfather was fuming. Not only did my dad leave the air conditioner running when he left, but we also neglected to leave our keys at the desk. If we had gotten robbed, he would have had to spend money to replace them. I told him I was sorry, we're just foreign tourists who don't know any better, please don't kill us. I'll even leave my light off tonight, purely out of respect.
With the long flight and all of the running around the city, this was a long day, so we went to bed early.
The photo album for this entry is here.