It is so hard to believe that this adventure has come to an end. In just a month, I have done so many things that I never, ever thought I could imagine. I climbed and slid down white, crystallized glacier caps. I fell countless times as my feet sank to my thighs in the snow. I befriended thousands of penguins as they marched along living their lives oblivious to my presence – and I loved every one of them! I saw seals with kind eyes pop their heads out of the water like a dog greeting his owner. Then, there were the whales. First, there were the Killer Whales circling my penguin friends with a group-like determination to ravage their prey. And then, the Humpbacks – flopping their great tails with a monstrous enthusiasm yet being playful at the same time. Buenos Aires is where I first lost my Spanish and gained it back. The food, people and streets of life are tremendous. I love the colors of the streets, music, the history, Recoletta Cemetery and the passion of the country! Then, we went on to Rio – the sun, the beaches, the people! Never have I seen such a beautiful sunset in all of my life. It was a proper display of appreciation as the thousands of people applauded the sun as it blew a final kiss for the night to us and promised to rise the next day. And lastly Iguazu Falls – truly a great wonder of the world. You could spend days upon days there and see something different each time you go. The magnificence of the pure power of each vein of the falls is mind-blowing. You see a different perspective with each step you take and angle of the sun against the water. Or, perhaps you are walking the trails away from the falls and a new creature or plant appears. Iguazu is life, and this is what this adventure was for me – living!
There are so many people that I have to thank for this adventure of a lifetime. In order for all of this to have happened, permission was bestowed upon me in countless ways. Permission to live, permission to try, permission to go, permission to share, and permission to make mistakes were all given to me in every second of this journey. Because of this permission, I say, “thank you” – from the bottom of my heart.
And so the list of gratitude for permission begins…
My Grandmother – She was the first world traveler that I knew. She lived and enjoyed life like no other. She traveled places at every age – as a child, teenager and octogenarian. She traveled places that seemed so obscure and many times alone – as a young woman in the world. She gave me the permission to even dream of Antarctica – and every place I have been or will go.
National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions – Not one part of this would ever have been possible without them. It is humbling to think that they chose me to be a member of the Grosvenor Teaching Fellow family. Amy Berquest and Nina Page were the lifeblood of this connection. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And, of course, all of my friends from the expedition. You made every breathe and sight worth sharing; I am proud to call you friends!
My Mom and Family – Nobody argued with me when I said I would not be home for the holidays. It was accepted and supported. And, my mom has continued to be an extension of my adventurous grandmother. She has traveled more than anyone I know and continues to do so. I live by her example – and look forward to more traveling because of her!
Dr. Hagstrom and Walt Disney Magnet School Family – From the moment that I found out that I would be on this wild ride, I was met with excitement and support at every turn. Words cannot describe the appreciation I have for the support and permission to be gone from school during this time. To my first grade team, to staff and every part of the Disney community, I have eternal thanks.
My Penguins and Their Families – Thank you for allowing me to leave you for the two weeks in December. I adore each and every one of you and love that you followed me along this way. I can’t even tell you how much I missed you and wished that every single one of you were here at every juncture of this trip. When you posted something, it made me so happy to know that you were connected me from across the planet. You made me so very proud.
Mr. Sanders – My partner in all of this. We share a bond like no other. You gave me permission without even knowing it. You chose to join me beyond our original expedition to the white continent. We extended our adventure together and pushed our limits of cultural comfort, language and social understanding. We changed our lives together; I will be forever grateful to be transformed by this, together with you.
So with that list of thanks, my journey comes to a close. Things begin with excitement and come to a close often with bitter sweetness. It will be wonderful to see my friends, family and kids. I will miss the adventure and will be planning my next travel voyage soon.
Lastly, thank you for following my blog. I give to you something that was given to me through all of this. I give you permission. Permission to run, laugh, play and enjoy. Dream of the places you never thought you could go. Do the things you never imagined possible. When you question if something can be done, do it! A wise, youthful friend once told me, “Book that trip now! If you don’t book it, it will never happen!.” She was very right. If you want live a life of adventure, endless possibilities and dreams, make it happen this very moment.
I extend the permission right now! Go!
It is hard to imagine topping our day yesterday. In fact, we are not even going to try it! We began our day with a plan. We first went back to Iguazu National Park to see a little bit more before our plane took off to bring us to Buenos Aires for the last time. Gustavo was there for us in the morning as usual.
We made our way through the similar paths that we walked from the day before. I was praying that we could avoid the rain. You have no idea how difficult it is to take photos of any kind when it is pouring. At this point, I am thrilled that my camera still works!
We only had a few hours to spend in the park and agreed that going back to “La Garganta” would be a little risky with the time it takes to get there (2 trains, lines and then the mile long walk) and a flight that we have to catch. So, the Lower Trail was our path. We also wanted to do some shopping in the gift shops – priorities!
The air was very still this morning – almost unsettling. The various sounds of nature were there – but different. There wasn’t much of a breeze and the humidity was so heavy. In my mind it could only mean one thing; we were going to get blasted by a major storm. What was wonderful about this morning is that there was a myriad of different birds flirting with my camera, a lone deer forging for his meal, spinning spiders waiting in a stealth-like fashion for their next victim and living things presenting themselves to us. I was so excited to see the deer; I had to work very hard to get the photo you see here.
Shopping was even more interesting. It was HOT. It was HUMID. It was GROSS. And there we were… looking at winter, wool sweaters for ourselves. I am please to report that Mr. Szymanski was able to find a very cool sweater unlike any he has ever seen. Mr. Sanders was not so lucky.
We then made our way to the airport. If you can understand that when I said the air was gross, the airport was even more so! Sitting still meant having a drenched shirt full of your own perspiration. We thought about changing our shirts but that would have been a temporary solution. We would just be sweating through the new clothes in moments.
And then it came – the rain. It wasn’t just any rain. Before it came, you could see airplanes on the tarmac, people moving luggage and trucks going by. Suddenly, the windows became WHITE. It wasn’t from the steam of the humidity. It was because the rain was falling so hard. It was a complete RAIN OUT. We wondered if this was what it looked like when we got hit in the monsoon the day before – probably. Our flight was delayed because of this – and all we could do was sit. Eventually, our flight was ready and we made our way back to Buenos Aires.
We found our hotel and got ready for some fun New Years Eve celebration! Mr. Sanders has been very handy with his iPhone map skills. We made our way 2 blocks from the hotel and found a great outdoor restaurant with a fixed menu for the evening. We made friends with the people around us and reflected on what an awesome trip this has been. As midnight came, people took to the streets. Fireworks lit up the sky and there was a magical feeling of happiness emanating from the crowd.
Wishing all of you – my friends, family, my penguins in Room 108 and readers a most healthy and happy 2015!
Our tour began with a jeep ride through the jungle. The tour guide was very nice and she pointed out all of the possible things we might see while in Iguazu: Jaguars, various cockatoo, the coatimunids and much more. The sounds of the forest were amazing. Cicadas sang their humming chirps, birds would call to each other with sweet songs and the leaves would bustle in the breeze. Everywhere you looked, there were vines hanging down and across the trees; leaves of all the hues of green wove together to paint a colossal landscape. Giant vultures flew overhead scanning the world around them for food.
We planned a long hiking day through the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls. Little did we know what we were in for today! If you thought we were wet yesterday, hold on to your horses!
We woke up and were greeted by our driver from yesterday, Gustavo. It was a nice, half-hour drive to the falls. When we got to the park, Gustavo showed us the ropes; it was then when I told him that I saw these amazing boats charging right up to the falls. We wanted to do it! He brought us to the kiosk for the adventure rides where we signed up for a jeep tour followed by the “shower” session.
Then, we walked down this long stone-carved stairway down to the river to our fantastical boat adventure. We strapped ourselves in to our lifejackets and off we went. We were allowed to take photos of the falls up close as we felt their thunder booming down into the river. It was still hard, though. I was amazed at the amount of people so brave to take their photos with their iPhones and fancy cameras. As the boat climbed its way closer to the falls, the tour operator motioned for EVERYBODY to put ALL electronic equipment away. NOW! And then it came, a downpour of rain unlike any other as the driver plunged the entire boat into the “mist” of the bottom of the falls – but it was NO mist. Think of the hardest, strongest hose being sprayed into your face with a sprinkler that is the size of a building! Then, you have it! My sunglasses practically were thrown off my face. I prayed that my waterproof bag was closed tight. And, Tyler and I just looked at each other in awe. Awe of the water. Awe of the force. Awe of the silliness. Awe of the experience! And were we wet – feet, hair (don’t laugh), mouths, clothes. There wasn’t a pore on our body that was dry.
After that, we explored the parks. The sounds of the forest came back. I hoped to see a cockatoo – nothing. I didn’t want to see a jaguar – nothing again! Lots of birds and various veins of the falls were there for us to walk through with the various catwalks weaving through the forests. There are several trails in Iguazu – the Upper Trail, the Lower Trail, the Green Trail and perhaps many different parts we didn’t even get to! In order to get to “The Throat of the Devil,” you have to take two trains. This became comical because we didn’t know you had to make a transfer – so perhaps Mr. S. and Mr. Sanders had to make a couple slow chugging train rides to get to this devilish larynx.
When you get to the final destination of “La Garganta del Diablo,” there seems like a mile of weaving metal catwalks 20 to 30 feet above the river. We went and slipped the whole way because we were still wet from earlier. Photos have been very difficult because of the rainy season. At any moment, the sky seems to want to sprinkle us with a tropical rain – reminding us that we are not in Chicago.
It was probably 5 p.m. as we made our way. On and on… down the metal planks moving past the lines of tourists trying to see this impressive sight. As we made our way to the final landing spot, the sky seemed to come to life. The rain started again. First, it was a sprinkle. Then, it became a rain. I tried to be bold and take video of the monumental natural beauty before me. The rain then turned to buckets. Suddenly, there were cats, and then dogs, flying past us – as this was no longer a rain. It was a full on monsoon. Thunder cracked. Lighting crashed through the clouds and perhaps there was a cow flying by. BECAUSE IT WAS THAT BAD! The rain was no longer rain. It felt like hail crashing against us. I had to hold my hands up to my head and neck because it felt like a million nails pummeling into us.
I finally looked at Mr. Sanders after about 15 minutes of this and said, “This is amazing but I am no longer having any fun.” He agreed and we made our way against the wind, against the nails of rain now spraying us in our faces.... back down the mile of catwalks to get back to the train. Photos just were impossible.
As we finally got back to our taxi, Gustavo was nowhere to be found. We were late. No idea on how we were getting back, we just hoped that he would be there eventually. He came. We luckily had towels to, at least, keep us warm. And, this adventure was EPIC!
It is hard to write and travel so much when there are flights involved. Even though you might leave early, there is a stress that naturally exists. We first hit the streets of Buenos Aires for some quiet time and food. Both have been much needed; we have been running constantly for now 20 days! We walked the streets of Palermo so more and visited a street market. I love them! There is so much life going on in these kinds of places. The colors were fantastic. I took some close-up shots of some of the products. It wasn’t until I was back at the apartment that I realized that I should have spent much more time taking impromptu shots. The photos that I am including here are just a small, small sampling of the hues and bold flavor of the goods being offered.
Mr. Sanders and I then embarked on our way to Iguazu Falls. The journey began almost being completely stressful. We tried to use the automated tellers for our boarding passes in the airport. Broken. Frustrated, we looked at the line for getting them manually. It went on forever! Out the door. Twisting like a serpent waiting to eat us so we could not make our flight. I really assumed that we were going to miss it. Then, Mr. Sanders got the idea that we should try out another machine. Suddenly, we were on our way to one of the most beautiful, natural places ever!
We landed and found our way to the “remise” stand. That is a fancy word for a private taxi. How they are different or similar is uncertain. They look like regular taxi cars and the drives are generally pleasant. We checked into our hotel had a surprising oasis/resort feeling. Honestly, we had very little plans on what we were going to be doing once we arrive – other than “go to the falls.” We were met immediately by the kindest of staff; they offered immediate guidance. We were directed to hire a taxi drive to whisk us over the Argentinean border back to see the falls from the Brazilian side because we only had 4 hours left before the park closed. So, we were off!
Our taxi driver, Gustavo, acted more like a guide, a friend and someone whom we could trust. He was expeditious in the way he managed our passports at every stop. He walked us to the front gate of the national park telling us exactly where to go on the Brazilian side. He was waiting for us upon our return!
So… the best part! The falls! There were coatimundis roaming the paths in browns and oranges. At first, they were so exciting to see. They look like they are related to a raccoon and, at first, look so much cuter. You hear birds calling to each other hidden deep in the canopies of the forest as you are walking down the path. Then, you get to the first landing – and it is breathtaking. Cascading veins of water falling by the tens in every direction you look almost like pieces of tinsel on a Christmas tree. We were awestruck – until the rain came. It rained. And rained. And rained some more. It was a full on summer tropical rain where you are soaked through the bones!
It is amazing to see the massive amounts of waterfalls that this natural world “wonder” offers. It almost seems as if they will never end. We were excited to see that Devil’s Throat (the observation point where you can walk over the falls) was open. This area had a strange change in temperature. It was almost chilly in Iguazu. At this juncture over the falls, the air temperature seemed to rise almost 20 degrees as you are sprayed in the face by the rainstorm generated by the falls. Photos were very, very hard to take with the rainstorm and water blistering us from the falls! Tomorrow, we will be hiking and walking the paths on the Argentine side! I do hope to share better photos with you!
We woke up to another beautiful day in Rio. The clouds were no longer protecting us from the sun and temperatures felt like they were already 90 degrees before 9 a.m. Today wasn’t a big day because we had to leave around 1 p.m. to come back to Buenos Aires. Our plan is to stay a few days in a different neighborhood before heading off to Iguazu Falls.
Our taxi ride was pretty long – terribly long actually. Traffic was difficult getting out of Copacabana; we were lucky to have left a little earlier than we normally had planned. The language, as I have written, continued to be an obstacle for us as well as a perpetual joke amongst us. I just now assume that I won’t possibly get what I want and have to be flexible! J
The flight back to Buenos Aires was full of screaming kids. GREAT. There were probably 8 or 9 little people on our flight; they all were seated up towards Mr. Sanders. I was lucky to be towards the back of the plane even though their wailing was inescapable. It makes me so thankful to have the lovely darlings in my class!
We got to our apartment in the Palermo District in Buenos Aires. It is full of a different kind of life and reminds me a lot of Madrid. The streets have cobblestone, people go out later. Everywhere you go there are cafes and musicians creating a living sound all of its own. There are people of all ages eating, meeting with families, and enjoying their summer. Palermo has a neighborhood feel with a bit of a “hip” flavor. There are many independent shops and interesting things to investigate at every turn.
Above and Below; Japanese Garden
Monument for German Park
We spent today walking the streets. Me, I am mostly lost. Mr. Sanders has Google map location on his phone and navigates everywhere. We strolled through big parks – one German, one Japanese. We toured the outside of the zoo – where graffiti around the walls clearly said that people were not happy with, “the incarceration of animals.” Mr. Sanders would not want to admit it; however, we found a Starbucks and enjoyed a big, cold, icy, delicious iced-coffee. We are off to do some more neighborhood explorations! I'll post more photos of Palmermo tomorrow! Adios!
Big surprise – we enjoyed the beach again today. The weather was by far the best so far. It was sunny all day and the water was a deep emerald green. The waves were full energy today – occasionally knocking someone over and tumbling them over into the shore. It happened to me, and it was a ton of fun!
After spending a majority of the day at the beach, we decided that the famed Ipanema Sunset had to be seen. It was unreal. The sun came down from the clouds with the power of a bomb exploding in the distance. People lined the shore as it slowly made its way down to the horizon line. People were posing and taking selfies, trying to get the best shot. It was hard. I tried many times to capture Mr. Sanders with multiple different exposures and camera tricks. Nothing worked. Every time, he showed up as a dark silhouette against the background. Colors of fiery red, burnt oranges and electric yellows blazed through the sky. When the sun finally went to sleep, the crowds cheered and applauded paying homage to the incomparable show that nature displayed.
We then walked over to the lake where a famed tree has been erected for the holidays. They say there are 3 million lights on the tree! When you get there, it plays a variety of holiday music and changes during the musical transitions. From all green, to a bright sunrise, to a deep right purple and even all black! It truly was a sight to behold and am so glad we got to see it. This afternoon we officially take off. I will miss Rio, the beach, the beauty and the casual lifestyle it offers.
Today was one of the first days that we have been able to really sleep in. One of us slept in much later than the other! J I chose to get up and go to the beach. The weather didn’t really want that – it was cloudy, overcast and not really hot. So, I decided to wander and wander and wander. As a traveler, I enjoy listening to the sounds of the people – the greeting of each other from across the street, the ordering of a juice from a corner vender or picking out vegetables from a farm stand. For me, I love learning about how life is so very different from what I know. I sauntered through the streets for about three hours. At times, there was a real hustle and bustle of people going places. All in summer attire – sun dresses, bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts. Flip-flops are the “way” here in Rio – even on Christmas Eve. Before we came, we were told by COUNTLESS people to be careful here; it has almost been to the point where we were frozen in pre-perceived fear. Each day, we have become a little more adventuresome and brave. On my walk, I was certainly careful. I only brought a small amount of money, my room key and my iPhone. In Chicago, clearly the mayor’s son can be mugged across from his house; here, I am happy to give it to someone. My phone is quite old, and I am ready to upgrade.
I dodged in and out of the various streets. Yes, as I walked things became less populated by people and not so “nice.” The road became dirtier, houses more broken and I was watching everything that moved by. Don’t worry, really. I was being careful. After a bit of that neighborhood, I turned around and made my way back to the hotel. I didn’t take photos because it is rude to capture images of the misfortune of others. The life of Rio is very different a few blocks away from the main beachfront; you have to be careful. I did manage to take some photos of a colorful flower stand selling Christmas arrangements to people getting ready for their dinner and the marvelous fruit stands. There was a lone park in all of this that seemed quite tranquil with people there. From a distance, I thought they were all having a lovely afternoon, playing chess and enjoying the calm temperatures and slight breeze. After one shot of my camera, someone who did not appreciate my photography was yelling me at. I moved on and then made my way to the beach for a full afternoon of relaxation. It was still overcast and really not much to report other than I had a nice, good nap.
It was Christmas Eve and Mr. Sanders and I took Carmen (from yesterday) up on her offer to make a reservation for us at a fantastic restaurant. We were skeptical. Would there be aliens? Would there be food? A pyramid perhaps? I apologize. It has been a running joke since yesterday.
Our reservation was for 8 p.m. as suggested by Carmen; I might add that we did not get any strange looks when we suggested the time. We were given a suggestion to walk around the area when we got there because it has interesting features. I envisioned old, quaint streets and neighborhoods from maybe a few hundred years ago. We pulled up to the restaurant at 6:30. It was a ghost town. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. We even wondered if we were in the right place. We decided to walk and see what there was to see. We strolled down the beachfront in the Flamengo neighborhood. It was surprising to see people jogging and carrying on as if it wasn’t a holiday. We know that not everybody celebrates Christmas; it looked as if it were a workout day and just as if it were a regular evening in Rio. I tried to order a Coca-cola. I got a coconut with a straw. Whoops. I realize now what I did wrong. :)
We were starving and held off until our reservation time. Does it shock you to read that there was STILL nobody at the restaurant? Famished, we decided to go in. Being the second people to arrive, we saw the spread in all its untouched glory. As Carmen had promised, there was food presented unlike anything that we saw before. There were “sushi’s, shrimps, breads, gelatin molds, crab, etc.” Everything was displayed as if it were made for a king. Colors galore – reds, salmons, burgundy sauces, and creamy salads. We were a bit confused – nobody was offering to speak English and we muddled through it! Suddenly we were barraged with meat upon meat. Skewers of different steaks, chicken hearts, pork and lamb were flying around us asking if we wanted more. And more. And MORE. It wasn’t long until we found ourselves in a food coma. I think I am switching to vegetarianism for a little bit.
We bellied up to the desert table that was as stunning as the main buffet. Eventually, we attempted to pay for our bill and catch a cab in the rain. The drive home was lovely down the main costal strip in Rio. People were still partaking in late evening beach life eating and enjoying the rush of the waves combining with the pouring rain.
We will soon make our way back to Buenos Aires. We will miss the sun and sand of Rio. I am excited for two days of strolling Buenos Aires again and the off to Iguazu Falls! Bon Nuit!
It was a very bright and early morning today. I am looking forward to some sleep very soon! We scheduled a tour pick-up for 7:30 a.m. It seemed a little pricey, but I wasn’t going to try to figure out how to get up the mountain to see the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer.
We were met in the lobby of the hotel by Carmen. She is a lifetime, self-proclaimed “liver” of Rio. She explained to us that the name for people who are born and raised in Rio is “Carioca.” She showed great interest in the history and beginning stories of Rio. Things became a little strange when we told her that we were just fresh off of a trip to Antarctica. We were thrilled to learn, from Carmen, all about the supposed pyramids that have been discovered there. We tried to explain to her that we were just visiting the continent and didn’t see such thing. Oh… but the story just didn’t end there. I was puzzled and honestly was starting to feel a little shorted by my folks at National Geographic! How dare they not show us the pyramids? ;)
Carmen was very pleasant and her English very clear – which was a big positive. The Portuguese language has been super funny, sometimes difficult and confusing to us. We aren’t sure if it wants to be Spanish, French or Italian. I have completely quit trying and have accepted my “American” roots while always trying to be polite.
Carmen was on the spot with our very small photographic windows. Within a minute of ascending to the statue, fog began to magically appear as if we were in a movie. She told us to quickly pose – and she expertly snapped photos. Then, the giant statue began to disappear into the white, mystical haze. We were literally in the clouds – with nothing to see. I cannot lie; it was a little disappointing. I hadn’t looked at my photos at that point and felt sad. I had traveled all this way to see one of the new wonders of the world – and it vanished! I was very happy to see later that Carmen captured wonderful photos. I can relive it over and over. We really only saw the stature for less than 2 minutes!
This is what we saw RIGHT AFTER this photo was taken! Courtesy of Mr. Sanders. That white stuff is where the statue is SUPPOSED to be!
We then made our way to Sugar Loaf. It is a mountain that soars from the waters off of the shore of Rio. You take a cable car to get up to the mountain. On our way, we learned more about Carmen. She travels and loves it. She has been to many places in the United States. One particular story involved her capturing “orb-like energy” in photographs while she was visiting New York City. There was not point in debating her at this juncture. Mr. Sanders already thought I was pushing it when I challenged her about the pyramids in Antarctica. I was so close to asking her about aliens that have crashed there. Mr. Sanders would have abandoned me for sure. If you take a moment to Google these things, please know that there are NOT Aliens, Orbs or Pyramids in Antarctica. Carmen is just a little weird although very well experienced in giving tours.
Back to Sugar Loaf… It was lovely. There were cute Marmosets monkeys climbing all around and entertaining the folks. The climb up the cable was steady and quick with 2 levels of climb switching from one rock formation to the other. Daring climbers were scaling the vertical mountainside; I wondered if National Geographic were here if they would make us rappel the steep slope. If you sat long enough, you would be sure to find reptile life, blending into the rocks in which they sat. All of this, of course, was bathed in new fog coming through.
It was a fun day and evening as we ended sitting on the beach of Copacabana with one of Mr. Sander’s old roommates from New York City. His friends were all 20 years younger than Mr. Szymanski. It was fun to feel like I was in college again. We laughed and enjoyed watching the sunset, taking in the ambiance of Rio. Waves were crashing, and people were fishing off the shore. The sky setting in the night was replaced by the reflection of the hotels and buildings on the oceanfront. Sometimes, you just have to take a big breathe and take it all in!
You know that you wanted to see a photo of Carmen! I don't see any orbs or aliens. Do you?
I know that many of you are celebrating a visit from a jolly, old man in red right now. Regardless of what holiday you celebrate! Wishing you a wonderful, and safe holiday season! May the orbs and pyramids be with you!
Today marks the official relaxation period for Mr. S. and Mr. Sanders. Yesterday had pretty heavy toll on us. The morning was lovely with a walk through the park and then we made our way to the airport. Getting in to the hotel at 9 p.m. just made us want to relax.
We woke up and decided to experience the life of Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches. Immediately stepping out of the hotel, brought a strong burst of sunlight across our skin – little hot tingles combined with a new humidity set the stage for the day. It was hot! We made our way across the street to hotel’s beachfront. The sand was burning hot; you had to wear shoes to get into the water. The water was calm and allowed for many people to rent SUP’s (Stand-up Paddle Boards) into the evening. Many snoozes and dips into the water later, I felt the urge to go for a long walk down Ipanema’s shoreline.
Copacabana beachfront is one of the most famous in the world. It is located in the South Zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro. There are two forts at the ends of Copacabana to protect the people from the many pirates taking advantage of the many islands and coves around the bay. Fort Copacabana was built in 1914 and Posto Seis and For Duque de Caxias was built in 1779. Walking down the beach was fun with lots to see! The promenade is paved with black and white Portuguese pavement in a geometric wave. Many people, including Mr. S. at times, walked down this pavement when it wasn’t too hot.
There is so much life on the beachfront. People play volleyball and also a kind of “football/volleyball” with their feet. It was so amazing to see young and old pass volleyballs between them without their hands! Walking down more will bring you to a musical event or two – perhaps a Jewish celebration or local musician playing for the passersby. It has to be noted that it is absolutely true that the people of Rio are beautiful – stunning actually.
As we decided to walk back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, Mr. S. and Mr. Sanders came across a school getting out. There were hundreds of children who were liberated from school. Each student had a special present that they received from school. You could see the excitement in their hearts as they showed their new gift to their friends and family. It made me miss my kids even more!
Tomorrow should be a fun day. We plan to go to see the Christ the Redeemer statue and tour up a cable car ride to Sugar Loaf! We are so excited and thrilled to be here! Bom Nuit!
So, to begin, I have to say that the hotel we stayed in Buenos Aires was quite nice; everywhere you turned the staff was helpful and made every effort to make you happy. Mr. Sanders and I were excited to have more than 3 feet of space between us! Our cabin on the ship was tight. We had two T.V.’s, a chaise lounge, desk and an enormous bed! Our flight leaving to go to Rio was in the afternoon; so, we had time.
We took advantage of the breakfast offered at the hotel and then decided to meander around the district, exploring a little before our 1 p.m. pickup to go to the airport. It was a lovely day in Buenos Aires. The temperature was about 80 degrees without any humidity. We made our way to a local park area in the Recoletta district. There was a little city of booths being setup with people selling their crafts, handmade treasures and some occasional food. It is a good thing that they were setting up because I seem to like looking at that kind of stuff. J The hotel (Melia) agreed to hold on to all of our arctic wear so that we could travel with only our summer things! Even if I wanted to buy things, I really couldn’t. There isn't room in our summer bag!
We made our way over to an impressive building – it looked kind of like the Museum of Science and Industry. Big. Columns on the perimeter. Old. Dirty. It was impressive, though. It had a presence as if to say, “I am here and pay attention!” It was the Buenos Aires School of Law. Further down there was a giant sculpture that Mr. S. needed a photo with. It was a giant lotus flower, silver and in the same style of “The Bean” in Chicago. Another cheesy photo opportunity lead me to posing like one of the strange advertisements that we saw all over the street. People seemed to have strange facial expressions to sell something as simple as a sell phone. Perhaps, I was in a silly mood. There was a photo in our lobby above the headboard from Eva Peron’s bed when she lived in the apartments in the hotel.
Walking down the street, we hear someone say, “I hear English, you must be American.” Can you believe that after chatting with the couple, we found out that they are friends with a pair that we met on the voyage to Antarctica? The woman of the couple is a travel agent in the states and had a ton of business cards for us for tour opportunities in Rio! What luck! We haven’t really planned what we are going to do here yet.
We wanted back to the hotel, stored our luggage and found our driver waiting for us as promised. Again, all of the people have been so nice and follow through with what they say they are going to do.
The flight from Buenos Aires to Rio was smooth and quick. The three and a half hour flight brought us to Rio around 7:30 “Buenos Aires Pacific Time.” Coming into the city, you could immediately tell the difference in geography. We flew over water for most of the flight. It was exciting to finally see land. The view offered mounding green hills with almost river like veins surrounding each mound. Things were very green and not as if chards of giant pieces of chocolate were rising out of the earth. After going through customs without a problem, we found a taxi and arrived at the Sofitel Copacabana. The hotel is fantastic. Great service. Pretty top notch.
We ate at the hotel, relaxed and enjoyed the soft, warm breeze of Rio from the hotel’s restaurant patio. Our hotel overlooks the south end of Copacabana. I see beautiful beaches, calm waters and paddle boarders as I write this. We have five days here – so some relax time is planned! Though, you know Mr. S. I will be looking to do some wild and adventurous things as usual!
Mr. Szymanski is a 7th Grade Math, Reading and Writing Teacher at Gary Elementary school in Chicago, IL He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.