Tuesday, August 5, 2008

the most beautiful city in the world

I call this my "travel blog," although I normally use it to document more symbolic travels. Well, now I get to use it in the literal sense. I am in Rio!

My parents and I landed in Sao Paulo on Sunday night after a full 22 hours of travel, including a very surreal 5 hour layover in Miami. We found a hotel in the airport and rode the elevator to the top floor to have breakfast at 7 am est, and then slept of their wicker chairs. Once we arrived, my dad's cousin Tavino surprised us at the airport and swept us off to Tia Junia's house. She lives in a very large almost-mansion in some neighborhood in Sao Paulo. Turns out a lot of my family here is rich. Her husband, who passed away, was a famous civil engineer, who I guess designed the whole subway system for the city. I can't say much else about it because I barely had time to get an impression of the city before we left for Rio the next morning. Truthfully, the city's biggest impression on my was physical, in my lungs. I had to buy an inhaler yesterday for all the chest pains it left me with after one night. People who claim LA is polluted do not know the meaning of dirty air. My dad told me that all of his childhood he had asthma - now I know why.

Since we landed in Rio, I have been enchanted, non-stop. I cannot describe this city and do it justice. First of all, the lagos and inlets of the bay curve around and around, so there is waterfront literally everywhere. Brazilian culture permeates, but there is something European lingering also. And EVERYWHERE is beauty. My family described it to me as maybe a subtle reflection of the surroundings. Seriously, when you see the views this cuty has day in and day out, when you hear the birds and smell the clorophyll, you feel instantly inspired to live life the fullest. The food - oh lord. Brazilians know how to cook and they do not settle for halfway decent. We went to a sushi bar, and they have created this way of eating sushi in a cone shape that was some of the best sushi I've ever eaten. I ate the best pizza of my life at a bodega-style outdoor restaurant at night with a view of an entire lagoon, with a guy playing slow samba music on his classical guitar. It's the stuff of fairytales, but very common in Rio. The alcohol is the strongest I've ever tasted. it's the kind of stuff college students chug down to get drunk fast and not have to taste it. Caiparinas are basically a national drink made from cacasa, which is a liquor made from sugar. Sounds like it would be sweet and easy, right? Ha.

We are staying now with Lucia, who is another of my dad's cousins, in her - get this - penthouse apartment, which is the top two floors of a building. Behind it is a giant rock. seriously. also, a tree is growing out of it, which is pretty cool. It is two stories tall and when we went up to the second floor on our tour, it turned out she wasn't kidding when she said it was a party floor with a pool and a sauna. There is also a magnificent view of the lagoon and of cristo el redentor. she also has a live-in maid. The aunt we are staying with in sao paulo also has a maid and a driver. Brazil is a very divided country among class lines, so it is common here for the wealthier families to have full time help.

well I am just overflowing with information! I have tons more I could write about, and I'll probably get to it eventually, but I need to go get ready. We are having a lot of family over tonight for a dinner/party/get-together.

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