The surprising thing about my month in Rio has been the amount of rain we’ve had. There’s been about a week of nearly solid rain, and yes, I’m lucky to be here, but it really sucks. Rio is an outside city - everything I love about this city is not a building — we did all the good museums and being stuck in our dingy AirBnB with its cockroaches and such little space is getting a little old. We take a trip to Barra, the beaches south of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, but it’s rather boring. It’s pretty much the same as Copa, but way less people, way less beach, and way less restaurants, hotels and bars. Not really worth coming to, in my opinion - there are way nicer places in Rio. The rain provides us with an excuse to do something mundane so we go to RioSul shopping mall and buy tickets to a movie. It’s fun, exciting in an “I’m a regular person in Rio kind of way”. We see The Invisible Man with Portuguese subtitles, and I really enjoy myself, sitting in recliners and eating popcorn while trying to match the English to the Portuguese. It’s so normal! The thing about travel is - it’s exciting and you get to see and do things you have dreamed about doing your whole life, but it’s tough too. It’s hard being away from people you love (and your cat), your house, your bed, your routines. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world, but travelling for this long is not easy. Worth it, yes, but sometimes I just want to wake up in my own bed, get up and have normal toast and normal coffee for breakfast and have somewhere to sit besides a bed. Travel definitely makes you appreciate what you have at home.
We finally get bored enough that we actually do some walking tours in the rain. We get soaked on the first one - uncomfortably soaked, and don’t see much more than we did on the others. We walk along the marina and see Marinha Do Brasil and there are sailors out front which makes me wish I had brought my real camera, but the rain is too heavy. We walk through Pedra do Sal again and it looks so different with no Carnaval parties going on. It's practically deserted in the rain. We visit Olympic Plaza and see where the torch burned; right across from the magnificent Candelaria Church. I love old stone churches - they look so regal and this one is no different with its white dome flanked by two columns. Crosses adorn each of the three rooftops, and they draw your eyes upwards.
The next morning, we are surprised with sunshine when we exit the metro station downtown for our next walk. I immediately panic because I’m not wearing any sunscreen, but we spend most of our time in the shade. Our first stop in the city centre is the Colombo Bakery. I had heard of this famous Rio landmark, but I was not prepared for what it would look like. I feel like I’m in the hotel lobby of a 5 star hotel in a 1950’s movie. This place is classy. It’s set down an ordinary street and I have to look twice before I realize that is where we are. The entrance has baked goods for sale in ornate glass display cases, and you have to pay first before handing your slip to the attendant. In the back is a restaurant, where waiters in black and white take orders from rich looking people sitting in wicker chairs at marble top tables. Huge mirrors gilded with brass hang from the walls, and the walls also seem to be made from marble. The gray, white and blue tiles give the place an almost Arabic palatial feel. There is a partial second level that consists mainly of a balcony that wraps around the wall. It looks like the perfect place to have a coffee. I’m definitely planning to come back.
We carry on to XV Square which used to the be the old port and is home to the Imperial Palace, the house of the Royal Portuguese family. We stroll through Cinelandia, a formerly upscale part of the city not unlike New York's Broadway. In fact, it's nicknamed Brazilian Broadway because it is home to so many theaters and cinemas. The stunning marble Municipal Theater is its centerpiece, and the green and gold capped domes draw your eyes in immediately. The National Library is also here, and got its start when a 1755 earthquake in Portugal caused significant damage to the Royal Library. In 1808, John VI brought 60, 000 books to Rio to be housed in the National Library.
When we turn the corner, I am surprised to see that we are really close to Lapa, Rio's Bohemian neighbourhood, and one of my favourite parts of downtown. I can see the arches in the distance, but the colourful buildings and graffiti are what make this area so interesting to me. It's a photographer's dream, and I plan to spend a lot of time here with my camera after my mom leaves.