Now that we were safely ensconced in our hostel in Rio, it was time to get out there and see the city! For the first-time visitor, there are two absolutely de rigeur sites to see in Rio de Janeiro: Pão de Açucar, or Sugar Loaf Mountain, and Corcavado, the mountain where the Christ the Redeemer statue is located. The agenda for today, Day #6, was to start with a visit to Sugar Loaf, the 2nd-most popular site in the city.
The name Sugar Loaf, adopted in the 19th century, is assumed to have been derived from the rock’s shape, which resembles the conical clay molds once used to refine sugar. It is one of the highest points above sea level in Rio. To get there from our hostel, we all first took a 30-minute public bus ride to the base of the mountain, where we secured tickets and began the first of two cable car rides to the summit. The first leg took us to Morro da Urca, a separate, lower, boulder mountain with a flat top, where there are spectacular views. But then there is a second, even more thrilling cable car to the summit of Pão de Açucar, affording even more dramatic 360° views over Rio, Guanabara Bay and the surrounding rain forest-covered mountains.
Here the group spent a couple hrs picture-taking, eating, souvenir shopping, etc. Some saw the little marmosets which proliferate in the wooded area around the summit. I got some spectacular views of commercial jets circling the bay as they came in for a landing at an airport several miles across the water, but perfectly visible from Sugar Loaf. And we had an ideal day to be there – clear, sunny, a gentle breeze. Definitely an awe-inspiring occasion.
Eventually, however, I and another group member, Jeremy Emmert, left the others to embark on missions of our own. Jeremy wished to walk the entire 12 km (8 miles) back to the hostel, independently, both for the exercise and the adventure, and I wanted to tour the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. So we descended Pão de Açucar the same way we went up – by cable car – and after a short walk together, parted ways. Later Jeremy told me he had no trouble finding the way home, using the theory that as long as the beach was to his left, he just kept heading that direction and eventually it would bring him home. And though it took him a total of 2.5 hrs to reach Che Lagarto Ipanema Hostel, he intentionally stopped several times along the way to rest, have a beer, do a little shopping, etc. He said he thoroughly enjoyed himself during the process.
As for my part, the goal was to visit the venue with the greatest single concentration of Brazilian art in the country, again, the Museu Nacional de Beles Artes, located in downtown Rio. In order to get there, it required a ride on the metro, the nearest station of which was a good kilometer away. After asking for directions a couple of times, I found the Botafogo station. Since there is only one metro line in that part of Rio – unlike in São Paulo – it didn’t take much effort to determine which way to go. Downtown was considerably N of where I got on, so N is the way I headed, 5 metro stops, to the Cinelándia stop. From there it was a very short walk to the museum, but not before a lovely (again, paid-by-the-weight) meal at a nearby diner.
It must’ve been my lucky day, because entrance to the museum was free for everyone that day (Wednesday). I had almost 2 hours until closing, and that was the perfect amount of time to see the wide range of (mostly) paintings and sculptures. While a lot of the art in the Belas Artes might be dismissed as either derivative of European styles and techniques, or highly influenced by such art, one could also see the local traditions, costumes, and subject matter native to Brazil in works as early as the Pernambuco Landscapes by expat artists living in that Dutch-occupied area. Anyway, it was a visit well worth the time and effort, and one I highly recommend.
The trip back to the hostel was fast and easy, first riding the metro now 10 stops S to the end of the line at the very recently-completed Ipanema station, followed by a quick bus ride back to the hostel. A very rewarding and memorable day, to be sure!