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!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney 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.