Not That Bel-Air Hotel

August 21, 2009

We sat, not talking, as the bus wound around the dark mountain curves, passing slower trucks and getting passed by impatient cars. There was nothing left to say. We had been talking about not going to Teresopolis when Scott got out of work late, and we all discussed it again when it took us over an hour to get to Rodaviaria with all of the traffic. We even talked about it after we had bought our bus tickets. Eventually this bus took us out of the city and after an hour started climbing.

When we got to Teresopolis, there was no way to tell the bus driver to stop at our hotel as we passed it (sadly not in the middle of the town as I had assumed, or told Scott). The bus kept going farther and farther away. We got off at the next place we could, assuming we could catch a taxi back. There was a taxi stand, but no taxis. I tried calling the number on the taxi stand, no luck. I tried calling the hotel and tried explaining that we needed a taxi, and the person on the other end heard we needed a room and gave me the rates for the night. No record of our reservation at the Bel Air Hotel. I finally communicated in Portuguese that we needed a taxi, as we stood on a sketchy street corner in the dark, when a taxi pulled up. We got in.

Caldun, the person I had been emailing with about the reservation met us at the door. “Which one of you is Brooke?” He asked. I told him I was. “Welcome! I told you we have live music and wine and cheese, come be my guests!” I thought he was going to hug us, and behind him, two Brazilians with guitars and microphones were singing, “I wanna know… Have you ever seen the rain?” Credence Clearwater Revival filling every air molecule in the brightly lit hotel. We put our things down in our rooms and went to join the fifteen or so men who had been part of meetings for their company. They were very drunk, and started singing the Beatles, karaoke style, in the tiled bar room. A bottle of Cote du Rhone was poured into huge, bulbous glasses for us, and we had no idea what to make of the scene. A waiter wearing a Bel-Air Hotel uniform, an older gentleman with crinkly eyes, tanned skin and gray hair asked us if he could get us anything else. He was proud to have Bel Air Hotel embroidered in blue on his white jacket, and on the white shirt underneath. We laughed at the idea of him proudly showing us a tattoo with the same inscription below that. We laughed and took in the scene. “We just reopened on Friday,” the owner told us, explaining about renovations, and how he went to USC, that his family lives in the US, and asking us questions about ourselves. It was hard to know what was real, but we were so happy to be a part of this ridiculous scene, the only guests besides the reveling shipping company employees celebrating the end of their conference that it didn’t matter.

It was about 10.30pm and we were hungry, having not had dinner yet. We asked Caldun, our host, if there was a restaurant, if we might be able to have some dinner. He brought us upstairs to a huge empty expanse of tables, showed us the deck and plans for glassing it in, brought us into his brand new banquet hall (86 high hat lights!) he told us. We sat at the table, and we asked again what we could eat (they opened another bottle of wine and filled us up).  He glanced at the two chefs, who materialized behind him with their own bulbous glasses of Cote de Rhone, and started talking about filet with roquefort sauce, salmon, shrimp, trout.  We glanced at the two chefs for some clue of what would be easy, or even possible, and they grinned, and then realized that they were drinking and quickly ducked their arms behind their backs.  Everyone laughed, and we ordered four steaks.  They went and turned the lights on in the kitchen, and fifteen minutes later four perfect plates with deliciously cooked filets, circled by fried potatoes lay in front of us.  It was delightful, and indulgent and totally bizarre to be in this empty restaurant, in this empty hotel that just opened.

Once every morsel of steak, cheese and potatoes were devoured, Caldun came back (new glass of wine, new cigarette) and asked if we wanted dessert.  He started naming things, bananas flambe, ice cream, poached pears (which came accompanied by a story about some high roller who took a picture and said that they don’t have things like that in the United States.).  We declined dessert, agreeing that our two chefs had worked enough and all of the employees should kick back after hosting the conference, and now us.  Caldun disappeared and we laughed about everything, and he came back a few minutes later with a chocolate pie, sprinkled with KitKats in one hand and his Marlboro Red still in the other.  In disbelief we licked up every bite of pie as well.  Our garçom cleared our cleaned plates and then looked at the almost empty table.  He stood for a second, and with a veritable light bulb above his head ran out of the room into the banquet room.  He came back with a dish of candied peanuts and bright Brazilian taffies.  It was an amusing touch.

This bizarre and super fun night gave way to the strange feeling that we were in The Shining, or the Bates Motel.  There had to be a catch.  We were in an empty hotel in the middle of nowhere and I lay awake waiting for someone to come in and kill us.  After falling asleep eventually, we woke to deep  fog, an extensive buffet breakfast just for us, and a bus ride back to Rodaviaria.

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One Response to “Not That Bel-Air Hotel”

  1. Dear Future Costumer of Hotel in Teresopolis and Rio, Before leaving your country and Taking your airplane to Rio Galeão, please do your Schedule for taxi with a taxidriver that talk English.
    The site is http://www.taxitere.com.br , so you can do a Agendamento, fill out and leave your email and cellphone.
    The driver is George Fonseca, 55-21-9988-2979

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