heavy metal trombone trio

We’ve passed the one-week mark in Rio, with three weeks to go. We’re in a very small apartment just one block from Copacabana Beach, and with only one day of rain so far, we’ve been down at the beach almost every day. We’ve also done lots of walking around the area, and everywhere we looked we saw people in restaurants, bars, and on the sidewalks outside, watching the Olympics. We watched quite a few competitions ourselves, including the infamous women’s soccer match between Canada and the US and many other Canadian near-misses.

Brazil earned one less medal than Canada, but took three gold medals against our one. They finished with more medals than any other country in all of Central and South America, including the Caribbean. Rio hosts the 2016 summer Olympics, but we haven’t seen anything that celebrates that just yet, although we are aware that work has started on converting an old Formula 1 racetrack at the west end of the city into what will be the main Olympic site.

We fit in a visit to the National Museum, housed in what was originally home to the Portuguese royal family when they fled Portugal and established Rio as the capital of their empire early in the 19th century. Oddly, the museum features an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts, and tucked into a small cabinet in the next room is a dubious gathering of First Nations artifacts from “Vancouver” – in the photos below. One of the other photos shows the massive cannon and bunker installed in 1914 at nearby Fort Copacabana, designed to fire 305mm shells at invaders, curiously now pointed at Copacabana Beach!

Oh, and the pink Beetle – as a child Deborah desperately wanted one of these, now if we could just figure out how to slap a FedEx sticker on it and sneak it home!

Last night we caught up with a young couple from Australia we first met in the Ecuadorian Amazon; they’re heading for Argentina and Chile before returning home in October. They are both health professionals and like us, took a year off to travel.

Together we went over to the Bourbon Street Festival, a free outdoor concert beside Ipanema Beach with musicians from New Orleans. After a late start a number of bands did very short sets before the main acts performed, including Bonerama, fronted by three wild trombone players – I swear they covered a Rage Against the Machine tune to give the phrase “heavy metal” a whole new meaning!

Speaking of sounds, after seven months of listening to Spanish and working hard to pick up key words and phrases, it’s quite a challenge for us to figure out Portuguese. In print the words look very similar to their counterparts in Spanish, but spoken it is a dramatically different language. When we’re laying on the beach, we try to figure out what the food sellers are offering as they wander by, and on one occasion I picked up the word ‘frango” which means chicken, but with this one translated word in mind, what I thought I heard, clear as a bell, was “buy my chicken you sons of bitches”. That got my attention!

hangin’ with the girl from ipanema

Happy long weekend to our Canadian readers!

After more than three months at high attitude (except for a few days in Lima and our time cruising the Galapagos Islands), we are firmly lodged at sea level for the month of August. And there may be no better place on earth to enjoy sea level than Copacabana Beach.  Blue sky, blazing sunshine, soft clean sand, and no high altitude sickness!

We’re in a small studio apartment about 100m from the south end of the beach, with a side view of the beach out our 11th floor window. We’re also just a few blocks from the west end of Ipanema Beach, so we have a huge decision to make every morning – will it be Copacabana or Ipanema today?

Copacabana Beach is about 4 km from one end to the other, so we’ve decided that a good way to start the day is with a walk along the water’s edge from one end to the other and back – followed by a few hours soaking up and sun and surf. Everything you’ve heard about sun-lovers here is true, men and women alike sport swimsuits manufactured from postage stamp-sized bits of fabric and string. But it’s a very democratic beach – people of every shape, size, and colour enjoying the sun and sand.

There are several kiosks along the side of the road overlooking the beach, offering glasses of ice cold chopp Brahma (draft beer) for about $2 each – the perfect way to cool down late afternoon.

Of course we’ll check out all the attractions Rio de Janeiro has to offer, museums, galleries, parks, interesting neigbourhoods and more – but they can wait for cloudy or rainy days!

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro