Posted tagged ‘Brazil’

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

August 6, 2012

It rained early this morning: just what we needed, more humidity. Already the weather has a stranglehold. I went out to get the papers and gasped. The weather woman claims this humidity will end today but Cape Cod will be the last place to feel the change. I guess I’ll just have to hang out in the AC.

Today is our last visit to South America.

When we were leaving Argentina for Uruguay, we decided to take a short hop plane ride across the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo. The plane was an old prop. When we got on board, the stewardess gave us each a small ticket and a hard candy. Come to find out the ticket was for a drawing. The winner, the man in the seat ahead of me, won a lady’s handbag. That was the first and has been the only time I was part of an in-flight drawing.

Montevideo was a lovely city with beautiful parks, statues and huge sculptures. It was small, especially in comparison to Buenos Aires. I was drawn, as I had been in so many other cities, to the old town. Many of the buildings there, dating from the colonial period, were a bit run-down, but it was still my favorite part of the city. You could see water from both sides of the main street. There were small places to eat, little holes in the walls where we stopped for lunch. The entrance to the old town was the last bit of the wall which had once surrounded the city. Later, we took a bus tour to orient ourselves. Part of the tour was a walk through the General Assembly building. It was empty. The military had taken over the country in 1973 in a coup and dissolved the branches of government. We saw the assembly room with its rows of empty seats.

We finally did some shopping just for the sake of shopping because with the trip nearing its end we didn’t mind hauling extra stuff. I bought some beautiful gold bracelets: one for my mother and one for me. My mother wore hers for the whole of the rest of her life.

We flew from Montevideo to Sao Paulo and had a bit of culture shock. The city was huge, and I felt like Country Mouse. There were skyscrapers, shopping centers and cars, lots of cars, and even back then millions of people. We wandered the streets and stopped in beautiful parks and a few museums, but we didn’t stray far from the center of the city, from the downtown. My Spanish had gotten pretty good throughout the rest of South America, but here I was pretty much at a loss with the Portuguese. I could figure out menus, but that was about it. Sao Paulo was my least favorite stop of the entire trip. We stayed only three days as we were eager to get to Rio.

We flew to Rio and took a bus into the city where we found a really nice hotel through happenstance. We walked by it and liked the looks. Our room was huge and even had a table and chairs.

I loved Rio. It had tons of things to see and great restaurants with wonderful food. We took trips around the city every day. One trip was to Copacabana and Ipanema. Even though it was winter in Brazil, we had to walk the beaches and across the sand. It seemed like a rite of passage. We did some shopping in the stores around the beaches, but they were a bit rich for me. I did buy a few small gifts to take home.

Another trip was to Sugarloaf Mountain. I had seen pictures of Sugarloaf jutting out of the water but never imagined I’d be there. We took the tram to the top. From the tram, as we traveled up to the mountain, we could see Rio spread below us, but it was the view of Rio from the top which was spectacular. Also from the top I saw a US submarine. It was the first time out of a movie I had seen an actual sub traveling on the water. It looked small from where I was standing, but the conning tower was prominent.

Of all the symbols of Rio, I think the most magnificent is the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. It stands over Rio as if to guard it or maybe bless it. A picture of that statue had been in one of my geography books. It was so beautiful I had kept the picture safe in my memory drawer, and I couldn’t believe that so many years later here I was standing on that very spot. We rode to the mountain then climbed the steps to the statue. It towered above us both awesome and breathtaking. Spread out below us was the city, the water and Sugarloaf. I felt on top of the world.

We were in Rio five days. The city was beautiful. We ate in a variety of restaurants, some hole in the wall spots, always favorites of mine, but on our last night we ate in an expensive restaurant as a sort of going away present for ourselves. We were celebrating what had been the trip of a lifetime. We had traveled from Caracas to Rio and been gone eight weeks. That last night we toasted our trip and each other. The next day we flew to New York then on to Boston. We arrived home filled with memories I have never forgotten.

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.”

August 4, 2012

I turned off my AC this morning just to bring in some fresh air. The cats immediately gravitated to the sun streaming through the front door. Fern sprawled. I heard the dog down the street barking and barking and counted two cars driving down my road. The house temperature rose from 68˚ to 74˚ in a little under an hour. I figured fresh air is over-rated, and my street is far too noisy. I’ve closed doors and windows and turned the AC back on. If I really want fresh air, I’ll step out on the deck for a bit, take a deep breath, exhale then hurry back inside the cool house.

Today is shark day on the scyfy channel. It should be dedicated to Cape Cod as a man in Truro was bitten on the legs by what is presumed to be a great white. It was the first attack since 1936. People on shore saw the fin, and I’m thinking visions of Jaws danced in their heads. No one jumped in to help except the man’s son, and I suspect no one wonders why, even the victim himself. Nine great whites have been tagged on the cape this year attracted to these waters by the huge seal population. For the sharks seals mean dining al fresco. For beachgoers, sharks mean wading in shallow water and scanning the horizon for fins.

Asunción, Paraguay was our least favorite stop. The city seemed poor in comparison to the bustling capitals of the other South American countries. Keep in mind this was 1976. We stayed in a hotel, a middle of the road hotel, which looked over the river. We sat on the porch and had breakfast each morning. In the center of the town was a park and a restaurant with outside tables. We were having lunch at the restaurant one day when a man approached us and asked if we were Americans. When we told him yes, he asked to join us. We said sure. He said he seldom saw Americans in Paraguay and was glad to sit and speak English again. Come to find out he was the PanAm chief of South American operations and was going to every country to say good-bye as he was retiring. He told us great stories about the 50’s and particularly the Eisenhower trip. It seemed some airports did not have long enough runways to accommodate the president’s plane. That man’s job was to oversee the construction of lengthening those runways. We sat for quite a while. He thanked us for the company and bought lunch.

The hotel where we stayed was owned by a Chinese family originally from Taiwan. The son worked at the front desk. He spoke with us often as he wanted to practice his English. One night he invited us to a midnight movie. We said sure. It was a Kung Fu movie dubbed in English with Spanish subtitles. Everyone in the audience took part in the movie yelling and screaming and making appropriate death rattles when a Kung Fu master dispatched his enemy. It was the funniest screening of a movie I’ve ever seen. The young man walked us back to the hotel, thanked us for our company and went home.

We left from Asunción for the Iguazu Falls on a bus. We had to pass into Brazil to get to the falls which lie on the Brazilian-Argentinian border. The bus dropped us at a magnificent hotel across from the falls. It was cheaper than we expected given it even had a casino, beautiful gardens and was a three-minute walk across the road to the falls. We were there a couple of days. The first day we took the cat walk around the falls which were so beautiful they almost defy description. The water ran so quickly over what I found out later was Devil’s Throat that the picture I took looks impressionistic, not real water at all but dots of color forming falls. We got soaked every walk we took.

We returned to the city after a couple of days to the same hotel and wandered around looking at the statues and the small parks until we could leave. I had read of a three-day trip down the Parana River to Argentina, and I was hoping they had empty cabins as the boat had originated in Buenos Aires and this was their return trip. Luckily, they had space, and we boarded a day later. Our cabin had two bunk beds but just the two of us. Come to find out only one person on the entire boat spoke English so they were kind enough to sit us with her. She was from England and married to an Argentinian. It amazed her that my pidgin Spanish had gotten us so far. The boat was an old one made of wood. I loved that cruise. They had a movie, The Producers, one of my favorites, in English with Spanish subtitles. We went on a couple of shore excursions. On the last night was the gala. It was the night when people wore costumes. We managed shawls and wore hats we had bought. The most handsome bald man was chosen as was the best costume, the best dancer and on and on. The food was delicious, and we laughed and enjoyed ourselves the whole evening.

The next day we arrived in Buenos Aires.

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