Well, hasn't it been a pleasant week's holiday in Rio, all at my company's expenses? It seems that I'll finally be going offshore tomorrow, though likely only for about ten days, and after seven days by the beach I suppose a little light work might do me good.
Most of my week has been very gentle, and a mixture of eating, resting and playing chess. But there have been moments of action, such as the visit to Cristo Redentor as mentioned in the last entry. Here are the other moments of action, the first taking place on Friday, the second yesterday, and the rest today.
Unusually for me, I got very drunk one night. In fact, this may well have been the most I have drunk in quite some time, as I sincerely felt the entire of the next day. A rare convergence of five operators from our company (not quite a record, as I once was part of six in Nigeria, also a drunken occasion) meant that a few cheeky beers were in order, and as the first of these beers was at 4pm, with the pace not letting up for another thirteen hours, you may imagine the state of us. It was a terrific night, one of those completely unplanned for. From hotel bar to hotel restaurant, then to a bar in an unmarket area called Leblon, then some club with surprisingly good music, barely a moment went by without me scoffing a beer. I estimate I must have had about fifteen pints over the duration. The night was fuelled by the random meeting of some girls from Sao Paulo in the Leblon bar, one of whom was only seventeen (! - don't worry, we didn't abuse her), and one of the outstanding memories of the night are of seven of us stuffed into one of the girl's cars as she careered around, surely illegaly. A very enjoyable and often ridiculous night (especially if you'd seen my strutting-cum-dancing on the dancefloor).
In Rio, a city of near infinite charm and quirks, with gorgeous colonial architecture and world class beaches packed with honeys and windsurfers, with remarkable favellas on stilts spilling down improbably steep green mountains, with streetside bars and open revellery, with mayhem and party threatening to burst from every corner, what better to do than visit a big, sterile shopping mall? Because that's what I spent two hours of my Rio experience. I don't recommend it.
Called something like Pao do Acucia in Portuguese, Sugarloaf Mountain is a giant chunk of rock, sheer cliffs all around, at the end of Copacabana beach, giving a truly fantastic view across the city. The only way of access is by two cablecars, the first to a nearby hill and the second to the Sugarloaf itself. Without photos I can only now use superlatives to describe the splendid beauty of the view and the drama of the ride, but fortunately I do have some good photos. Unfortunately, I really can't be bothered putting them on.
While in the Centro do Rio (for non-Portuguese speakers, this means "Rio Centre" - hope that clarifies matters) we stumbled upon the Candeleria cathedral rather inadvertently - we'd been looking for a different one. I was very impressed. I tell you, these Catholics may have some crazy notions but they sure can build nice churches (Protestants - take notes). From the scorching heat outside, the dark and grandly spacious interior was an extremely pleasant cool, and the decor ornate and elaborate and a magnificent work of craftmanship. It was a venue that instilled a genuine sense of awe, and a greater wonder, to my book, than a piece of 1930's concrete in the shape of Christ. I'd never heard of this cathedral before, and only chance had me encounter it, but I would recommend it. If not for my impatient colleague, who is new to the company and adapting very poorly to the non-Scottish conditions, I would have happily sat here for an hour or two.
The Metropolitan Cathedral
This is the place I'd been looking for when stumbling by mistake in the Candeleria. Built in the 60s, this conical chimney of worship is an astonishing example of the architectural insanity of that decade. I would describe this 20,000 capacity cathedral as a work of "ugly magnificence". Because, gosh, isn't it ugly? A flat-headed cone with innumerate blocky square windows jutting out from all around, there is no mistaking that this is a work of sheer concrete. Inside, it improves a little. Four colossal stained-glass windows run up the sides of the cone, impressive in size although nothing special in design, and not a patch on the Candelerias. Most of the rest is just simple seats and a pleasant central pulpit area, but surprisingly humble for a large Catholic cathedral. The atmosphere was cool and relaxed though, though not as inspiring as the Candeleria's. My colleague was none too impressed with this venue and spent 80% of his time here in the gift shop buying two big plates.
Santa Maria? Something Maria? Something something?
I visited some other place after the Metropolitan Cathedral, but can't remember the name. It was very nice though, very colonial, very high up, and involved taking a genuinely remarkable wooden tram that bumped, shunted and groaned its way up and down the hill, and had at least a thousand youths hanging off the sides. But what was the name of this area? It's definitely something like Santa Maria, but without either the "Santa" or "Maria" parts. Maybe my colleague would remember.
Anyway, the fun stops here, as I need to get ready (i.e. strip naked and sleep) for a 7.30am helicopter tomorrow. There really is no need for helicopters to be this early.