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A lesson in expectation management

Blue sky, golden beaches, breathtaking views over Rio’s spectacular mountainous landscape, ... that’s what you expect when coming to this city, no? But on this first morning in Rio de Janeiro, the ‘Marvelous City’, it’s raining. Not just a little bit of rain. No, it’s raining cats and dogs. The sort of rain that promises to last a whole day. It doesn’t feel ‘marvelous’ at all. It’s a reminder that it’s winter in Rio when the weather can be good but also quite European. Breakfast is served on the roofed terrace and we see the rain falling down in the swimming pool. We’re a bit quiet, trying to think what to do in Rio with this kind of weather. It’s a lesson in expectation management and I really have to make a mental click to get myself into looking at possibilities to go out and about. It’s really the kind of weather that makes you want to snuggle up on the couch and read a book, it feels too much like home.

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We have no idea what to expect and didn’t do any proper planning for Rio prior to our trip. “Safety is a concern,” according to Mauricio. “People are generally nice, but just make sure to stay in busier areas, don’t show off with jewelry or big cameras.” The political situation in Brazil is unstable and that apparantly gives rise to more criminality. So far the introduction to Rio is a bit doubtful. But we dress for rain, leaving our bags at home and sticking to a small money belt around the waist. I tuck it a way under my shirt and look kind of pregnant (only slightly) and hope that keeps robbers away too. Surely they won’t harass a pregnant lady? ☺ I bravely install the Uber app (another advice from our hosts) on my phone as an easy way to arrange transport. We decide to head to the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and Uber tells us that driver Rosivaldo will pick us up in 4 minutes. And indeed, in no time a small car arrives in front of the iron gate of Villa Laurinda and we hop in. It feels a bit strange at first, but it all works perfectly. You know exactly what the drive will cost, who the driver is and you never have to wait more than a few minutes. Rio seems to be full of Uber drivers and I can imagine the Taxi companies really don’t like this competition. It’s a service they can’t beat.

Rosivaldo drops us at the cultural centre. We have no idea if there’s anything interesting going on and are prepared to be surprised. Entrance is free and it seems the current exhibition is about football, Brasil’s national proud and in World Cup times very attractive ofcourse. I know nothing about football and it’s normally something I wouldn’t do, but we need a dry place to hide. The exhibition luckily is very dynamic, so even an absolute football ignorant like me gets entertained. We get to hold a competition cup and promptly a guy with a small handycam asks where we are from and if he could get a little quote for internet tv. “She speaks!” Lesley points to me and before I know it I’m saying something about this exhibition on football. Me, a quote on football?! It’s funny and gets us in a better mood about these rainy Rio conditions.

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From the Centro Cultural we head out to the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. We just don’t seem to find our way that well just yet ... It is not advised to roam the streets here with a big tourist map in your hands, so we ask for directions discretely a couple of times. We finally manage to spot the building and see a collection of classical and modern art. So not what I was expecting to do in Rio! It’s lunchtime when we leave the museum and we find a table at ‘Bar Sport’. The waiter serves us with utmost devotion and spontaneously offers to take a picture of our rainy lunch. It’s our first confrontation with poverty too as many beggars and homeless people are waiting on the square in front of the restaurants for some leftovers. I even feel somewhat uneasy when our lunch is served, a really big plate of food. We can’t eat it all and ask the waiter if he can make sure the people out there get it. That seems to be how it works over here. We spot more homeless people as we make our way to our next sight seeing stop. They lie completely covered in blankets on the pavement, sniffing something from plastic bottles. Yep, that’s Rio too.

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We reach the Escadeira Selaron after some more searching. 215 steps full of colourful tiles, a work of art from Chilean-born artist Jorge Sélaron. Needless to say it’s a tourist attraction and a popular spot for photos. We take our time to look at the tiles in more detail, there are many referrals to European countries and art as well as to the Brazilian people and culture. We’re in the more Bohemian part of town and it’s a nice walk up to Santa Teresa where ‘our’ Villa Laurinda is. Santa Teresa feels like a village within the big city, including a charming cable tram and some nice shops and restaurants.

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In the evening we decide to stay very close for dinner and head out to Bar Gomez just around the corner. It’s a place where the locals like to hang out and the waiter serves us some smaller dishes with so much care and pride. He makes us smile. The walls are covered with old pictures. This bar has been here since 1919. It’s around 10 pm when we walk back to the Villa. We feel at ease here in ‘our’ neighbourhood but just across the road the light in the cabin of the neighbourhood night watch is on. Reminding us of the fact that safety in the end is a concern. We carefully lock the garden gate behind us and the door of the Villa. And then fall asleep to the sound of Rio rain ...

Posted by Petravs 11:38 Archived in Brazil

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