April 7, 2007
As is normally the case in Brazil, breakfast was included today at our hotel. However, instead of the normal potpourri of fruits, pastries, and fresh juices, here we just got some bread, crackers, and a cup of coffee. All of the tables already had the food set up for one person, but when my parents both sat down at the same table, the Godfather immediately went to work counting out the exact amount of bread, down to the last crumb, that would be rationed for two guests. He then stood right next to them as they ate, making sure they didn't try anything funny like taking a cracker from another table.
When I ate my breakfast, I decided to test the Godfather a bit. I quickly drank my cup of coffee and asked him for another cup. From his reaction, I thought he was going to give me a kiss on the cheek, but he returned a few minutes later with a fresh cup. I started talking to another guest who's an American with Portuguese parents. He said that the Godfather came from Portugal, and his reaction to my asking for more coffee was typical for someone from that country. So this Godfather's not Italian? The Portuguese Godfather. I like the sound of it.
Some other lady made the mistake of sitting at a table away from the entrance to the breakfast room. The Portuguese Godfather made her move across the room and proceeded to turn the lights off in the area where she originally sat. It was a cool day, so my dad didn't have the air conditioner running. Nevertheless, as soon as he left the room, the Portuguese Godfather flipped off the switch with ninja-like reflexes. Are all Portuguese really like that?
A visit to Rio isn't complete without heading to the top of Corcovado Mountain to see the big Jesus, so that was the first place we headed to this morning. At the bottom of the mountain, a guy with an official looking ID and nice uniform offered us a ride in a taxi to the top. He said he'd stop at a couple places along the way, whereas the train went straight there, and offered us a deal for slightly more money than the train would cost. That was a horrible deal! Taking an unofficial route should cost less, not more. His starting price was so high, I didn't feel like haggling with him would even be worth it. Instead we opted to take the train, which itself was ridiculously expensive. You've gotta love these tourist attractions.
My guide book said to sit on the right side of the train for the best view going up, but there was a problem: The seats were facing opposite directions, so there was no right side! Oblivious to the situation, I started to sit on one side, then noticed that I was on the left and switched to the other side, but I was still on the left. I was so confused I wanted to cry, so just stayed put. I don't know about the view, but I was glad I chose the side I did because I could instantly pick out the annoying American lady on the other side as she yelled at a guy for not having change for her large bill with which she wished to purchase a can of Coke. I would've gotten a headache if I had sat any closer to her. Why do Americans have to be so loud all the time?
The ride up was littered with scary statues of kitty cats and religious figures. A few brave souls chose to forgo paying and were walking the 710 meters to the top next to the train. I say that they were brave souls not because it was a high walk, but because robberies along that path are common. We stopped a couple times along the way to get views of the city's landmarks, but it was too cloudy to see much of anything. I sure was glad I skipped the taxi ride.
Once at the top, we were free to walk up the platform with Cristo Redento (Christ the Redeemer) on top. Because of the clouds, the view was generally less than spectacular. However, every now and then I got a glimpse of Ipanema, the Maracana, the favelas, and of course Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). We stayed on top for nearly two hours hoping the clouds would fade, but it never happened. Just for the heck of it, I sat on the left side of the train on the way back down.
In the afternoon, I had some major problems getting money. Rio is littered with ATM's, but on this lucky day, none of them wanted to feed me. Most of them claimed they couldn't read my brand new card, which was scary indeed. My parents' cards weren't working either. We tried about of hundred machines, but none worked. I've almost never had a problem with even a single ATM, so this was really bad timing. How could any of us continue our trips without money? I was getting ready to start washing windshields when I decided to try one last bank. It actually worked! I took out as much money as I could and nearly kissed it. Thank you HSBC, my parents' vacation would've ended in a real bad way without you!
The original plan was to go to the top of Pao de Acucar this afternoon, but it was still cloudy, so we decided to put that idea on hold. Maybe we'll have time to squeeze it in before my parents have to leave. Instead, we took the bus to the famous Copacabana Beach and tried to go to the fort that overlooked it. Unfortunately, it was already closed because it was a weekend. We ended up getting a beer and coconut and watching the sunset over Copacabana.
We went out for pizza for dinner tonight. We ordered one big pizza for the three of us, which was brought out impossibly quickly. The waiter gave us one piece each and took off with the rest of the pizza before I could protest. I was starving, so I started to whimper at the prospect of trying to get full on one slice. When we ate our one piece, we were getting ready to leave, but suddenly the rest of the pizza reappeared! The waiter explained that he was just keeping it warm for us. Then he brought out cold glasses to pour our beers into if our original glasses had gotten two warm in the five minutes since we received them. And I thought I had already seen it all in South America.