Friday, June 18, 2010

We woke up a little earlier today, and surprise surprise, breakfast was much busier. We didn't get the same table we had the previous three days, right next to the window, second from the corner. If the window next to that table opened, that would be one of our favorite breakfast locations. As it is, it's just extremely good.

We took a cab over to Sugar Loaf, which like Christ the Redeemer was a mediocre excursion in 2008 that we hoped to improve upon. It was really cloudy and windy in 2008, and while we knew it would probably be hazy today, we at least knew it would be sunny with no wind. When we got there, it had just opened, and half the people on the cable car were employees going to work at the stores up on the top. There are three stations - one at the bottom, where the parking lot is, one in the middle, and one up on top of Sugar Loaf. There are stores and restaurants at the middle stop and up on top. On the second cable car ride, we saw a guy cleaning the top of a cable car that was headed out - check out the second video below.

It was still hazy, but it was supposed to get cloudy later in the day, so we figured haze was better. Up on Sugar Loaf, there were lots of lizards and tiny monkeys, and very few people. There was one other couple that we kept seeing wandering around near where we were, but the only other people were workers sweeping up leaves. The monkeys were jumping around in the bamboo and chasing one another. They have very interesting noises, which can't really be easily explained, but are fortunately audible on the video below.

It was a really nice day outside, and it was nice to just watch the planes fly into Santos DuMont airport, and also watch a number of birds flying around, coasting on the thermals. We don't recall flying into SDU in 2008, and we flew into the other airport this year, but for people planning a trip, try to fly in during the day and sit on the left side of the plane. The regular landing pattern seemed to go right over Copacabana, and then bank left shortly before landing. People on the left side of the plane should have a pretty good view of the Christ Statue. The birds rising on the thermals reminded us of the Andean Condors we saw in Colca Canyon. Not the birds themselves, but how they just coasted along the edge of the hill, gradually circling higher and higher on the warm air going up the mountain. All told, this was much better than the last time we visited Sugar Loaf.

Back at hotel, we watched first half of Slovenia vs USA from first floor bar. Our accent, plus our attire, no doubt gave us away as Americans, so the bartender was helping us root on our team. Unfortunately, the USA was absolutely horrible, we were quickly down 2-0, and the bartender felt sorry for us. At halftime, we went to the nearby restaurant, the Balcony, and hoped for better luck in the second half. We're not huge USA football fans, not because we're un-patriotic, but because very few Americans play in any of the elite leagues, and we didn't really know any of the players.

Nevertheless, between watching the USA in a foreign country and being the only USA people around, plus having a couple of cocktails at lunch, we became increasingly boisterous fans in the second half. The US made it 2-1 pretty early in the second half, which gave us some hope. Late in the second half, the US actually tied it up, and we (mostly Justin) cheered quite loudly, attracting attention from the Brazilians, who were either amused at a US soccer fan or amused at a drunken tourist at 1 in the afternoon. The US should have won - they scored a third goal right near the end, but it was "disallowed" for who knows why. Justin was cheering wildly until it was called back, and we never did figure out why it was disallowed. [As it turns out, people in the US never figured it out either.] After lunch, and after the game, we went back into the hotel, and the bartender from where we watched the first half came out of the bar, raising two fingers on each hand and smiling.

We packed stuff for heading home (sniff, sniff), and then Crystal took a nap while Justin walked down the beach. He went to Arpoador (the little corner area between Copacabana beach and Ipanema beach), and got some pictures of both beaches, plus some of the surfers (the area on Ipanema right by Arpoador is one of the few surfing areas around). On the walk back, it became increasingly more humid and cloudy - it seemed like it was going to rain. In spite of that, we walked down the beach to some of the beachside bars to spend our last couple Brazilian reals, then headed to dinner at Marius. We really enjoyed it two years ago, but it has gone way downhill in the last two years. For one, the prices went way up. For two, the number of patrons went way down, so its vibe is gone. The food itself was good, but since there weren't many patrons, they didn't come around that often with food. We still got our fill, but we won't be back for a third time.