Ohhhh Sou Carioca…

March 28, 2010

Last night was unbelievably fun.  We had a couple of cold chopps at Jobi, our old favorite, where the waiter recognized me (I think as the gringo that never really left), and chatted with some Brazilians, and then headed to Lapa.  Laura, the little sister of a friend from high school is here on a Fulbright and lives pretty much under the Arcos, just down the street that gets super crowded on big nights.  Her apartment was beautiful and it was fun to hang out with other American girls.

We made our way to Carioca da Gema, which was quiet at first–the band had taken a break, but as soon as the diva-ish singer, a visiting act started singing everything picked up.

She was wonderful, and the band all had these wide grins on their faces, like they were in on the secret that they were in one of the best places in the world.  We made friends with Carlos, a Spanish guy from Valencia who was about our age, and danced and danced until we got hungry.  On our way out, around 3am, we ran into another friend and it was nice to catch up, to hear how Rio’s been for him since we left a few months ago.

There are a few things that are interesting, I think, to point out.  The first is the role reversal.  Brazil is still pretty much a patriarchal society, and also Scott was bolder about speaking Portuguese from the beginning, so I let him do a lot of the work when we were out and about.  Now that I’m just with Lindsay, who’s mastering the Portuguese basics of obrigada, desculpe and tudo bom, I’ve definitely taken on the boyfriend role, ordering everything for us, telling taxis where to go, fielding questions of all kinds.  It’s a funny reversal, and actually sort of welcome.  I also realized last night that while Scott and I spent a lot of time together over the last year in general, we obviously always went out together, so I had never been to Carioca da Gema solteira.  It was a different experience.  I accidentally made eye contact with Carlos, our Spanish friend, without realizing that to people who aren’t in relationships that this didn’t just mean, “hey, isn’t this samba club so much fun!  Isn’t dancing great?”  I’m  100% out of practice.  There was another guy who asked me to dance as I was totally absorbed in my phone trying to send Scott and Lindsay’s sister Jess a picture from the dance floor.  I was so flustered I very rudely said no.  Oops.

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Christmas in Rio

January 1, 2010

From Sao Paulo, Bob, Barbara, Scott, Emily and I flew the short flight back to Rio.  We arrived to an entirely different city than the one that we had left at the beginning of December.  It was packed, people everywhere, and sticky hot.  The people generated more trash, and by the end of each day, the beach was littered with plastic bottles and wrappers and coconut shells and other detritus in a way it hadn’t been before the holiday season.

That said, it was great fun showing Scott’s family our Rio apartment, introducing them to Marcos (he was the doorman who unclogged our kitchen sink with MacGyver-like skill).  We noticed the changes in our pretty Leblon neighborhood–a new pizza place and Lebanese restaurant that we would have loved to have.  The walk gave me saudades and I was super excited to go running up and down the beach just as before.

The first night we were in Rio, we had a memorable evening at Carioca da Gema.  We arrived early enough to get a table in the main room and listened as the music built and the dance floor filled up.  The capairinhas ran sweet and strong (something we would all regret a little later) and we had a great time, progressing from eating to drinking to bopping in our chairs to full foot moving dancing.  At midnight, as it turned to December 24th, we toasted to Emily’s birthday.

The next morning we had brunch and went to the Corcovado.  Later in the day, as we headed back up to our rooms to relax and get ready for Emily’s birthday dinner, we heard the concierge tell other guests that all of the restaurants that were open that night were totally booked.  We smiled smugly, knowing that we had made a reservation at Zaza Bistro six weeks ago.  Ready to go, Emily in her sequined party dress, we walked past carolers and palm trees spun with Christmas lights, we walked to the restaurant.  I had the email confirmation in my hand.  We arrived at the restaurant.  It was closed.

Back at the hotel (the lobby was full of girls in small red dresses singing, too), we stood with the concierge, trying to find any place that would take us.  We called everywhere we could think of.  In the end, we were left with two choices–being squeezed in to the hotel’s dining room and subjected to the pre fixe Christmas menu, or trying our luck at a restaurant called Marius– an all you could eat seafood buffet for an exorbitant price per person.  Deciding that anything outside of the hotel was better than any hotel restaurant, we piled into a cab and went to Marius.

The waiters were dressed as pirates, and the outside looked like the Jeckyll and Hyde restaurant on Sixth Avenue in New York.  It was like a Disney restaurant, with strange, off-putting decorations–ships, steering wheels, shells, sea glass, bottles–coming off of every wall.  We sat down, unsure of how to deal with the situation.  We didn’t know whether to just go with it.  We debated staying, starving, we started picking at the bread basket (which we would be charged for).  Bob ordered wine.  We weighed the pros and cons of leaving, of just ordering room service, of staying and downing some seafood and chalking it up to a crazy experience.

Eventually, we got up and went to the buffet.  It looked inedible, unsanitary.  We looked at the wilted, greasy salads, and fish floating in viscous, mayonaise-y substances.  Still uncertain, a few of the waiters walked by to replenish the chafing dishes in the buffet wearing surgical masks.  That did it, it was time to go.  We went back to the table, downed our wine, asked the waiter for the check, and had to try to explain why we didn’t want to stay.  He offered to move us to another table.  In our unnuanced Portuguese, we just explained that this wasn’t for us.  And it wasn’t.

The Behars are well-accustomed to having adventures on Emily’s birthday–they’ve had a few restaurant mishaps and run-ins with traditional seven fishes menus.  This time, after checking every restaurant that was open between Marius and our hotel (one fully packed pizza place and one second floor Chinese restaurant that Scott couldn’t figure out how to get into), we wound up at the makeshift dining room in the hotel lobby that accommodated overflow.  At 11.30pm we sat down to their pre fixe.  It was delicious, and Emily got another memorable birthday, if not so seamless, birthday.

I asked Emily to write a guest entry.  I’m hoping that by writing this here, she will feel pressured to do so.

The Addition of Friends

September 12, 2009

On Thursday night we went on a friend date with our upstairs neighbors.  We couldn’t be more excited about having friends in the building (let alone the city) and after drinks at Jobi we now have great new people in our lives.  In addition, the lovely Julia Gates jetted over after doing some business in Sao Paulo. We tore up the town last night, with some other new friends, a couple about our age visiting Rio from San Francisco for a couple of weeks.  We had a pretty standard night of sunset drinks at a beach kiosk with our new neighbors, dinner at the Cobal de Humaita, and then samba dancing in Lapa.  There was an amazing old man dancing by himself at Carioca da Gema, bald and spectacled and blue-suited.  As Gates said, he looked just like Sam from that kids game Guess Who.  He shuffled and twirled and spun us all.

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This morning Julia and I went to the Corcovado (third time’s a charm!) and then we just went for a long walk all along the beach into Copa  We also stopped at the Laura Alvin Casa de Cultura in Ipanema, a hybrid movie theatre, performance space, art gallery, museum and book store.  There was a very weird exhibit that featured hands reaching out of holes in the wall.  In one room they just held a photograph, in another just an illuminated lightbulb, and in another the pair of hands rolled cigarettes.  It was totally weird.

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We also have a new Portuguese tutor, so all in all our lives here just got a little bit richer.

I just had this piece “Twelve Ways to Experience Rio de Janeiro Like a Carioca” published on Matador.

Check it out…

Contemporary Rio

August 23, 2009

Andrew and Amy arrived yesterday morning, and we’ve been navigating the best parts of Rio in a group of six.  It’s been amazingly fun to show off our city, despite a lack of cooperation with the weather yesterday afternoon.  It presented its worst, most cloudy, drizzly side.    We took the ferry across the bay to visit the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi (Niteroi is Rio’s Hoboken), which was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer.  The collection was small and sort of awkwardly spaced in the building–which is clearly the main attraction in itself–but I very much liked the work by Alfonso Tostes.  It was organic and beautiful, fusing wood (drift, rafters, and others) with polish, and human looking joints notched in.

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From Niteroi we went to Copa to check out one of the street fairs, and spent the night at Diagonal, our favorite neighborhood Brazilian restaurant and Lapa.

Lapa, while always fun, was especially great with so many friends around.  It made for much more lively discussion drinking in the center island between the Arcos, and more fun spinning and foot shuffling at Carioca da Gema.

On our way home, our cab driver got pulled over by the police.  Everything was fine, but it was totally unclear what had happened.  He may have run a red light (something that happens all the time, every night here), and he claimed that the cops had confused him with someone else, which was sort of amusing.

Today was filled with açaí, Koni, surprisingly sunny weather, a very exciting Botafogo v. Corinthians game (3-3 tie, street fair day in Cincinnati! seriously), and lots of basking in having everyone here.

Oh, and we also discovered that there’s an American couple living on the 8th floor of our building, about our age, teaching at the American School.  Potential friends?

Samba na Gema

August 16, 2009

The singer’s voice was clear through the guitars and drums and tambourine that splashed across the room full of cariocas shaking with the samba.  Feet moved unbelievably quickly, a young woman with long dark hair twirled circles around her namorado.  Older dancers and revelers sang along with the bossa nova tunes that they knew so well and everyone shook and jimmied and the energy of the room carried us up over our caiparinhas and over the emptiness of the Lapa Streets.

Even boys who don’t like dancing get swept up in the samba, in the sheer kineticism of crowd.  Both Scott and Chris boogied down with me and Jaime, twirling and feeling the pulse of the music.  

Rio Mornings

August 8, 2009

Everything gets cleaned early Saturday morning in Rio.  All along the sidewalks you can hear brooms pushing soapy water along the stones.  Men lean out  windows and shine the surfaces, bodiless hands holding rags sticking out between the bars separating the apartments from the street.

The sunshine scrubs cariocas of whatever they did last night, starting clean on the white beach, running, walking, chatting, drinking agua de coco.

Scott and I bounced around last night. We had dinner outside at the plastic tables at the Cobal da Humaita.  We walked over to the Cinematique and saw a Brazilian rock indie band.  It was awesome–a  little too cheesy and happy, but the band members were wearing the right hipster jeans and t-shirts, Vans and Converse.  The lead singer kicked when he should, and aside from the words being in Portuguese, we could have been on the Lower East Side.  From there we went to Lapa, which was even more packed than usual, drums thrumping under the arches and waves of cariocas danced, drank, and filled the streets.

Lapa

June 28, 2009

We woke up to sun this morning after a super fun night in Lapa.  Although I have to say we went to one of the most well-known samba clubs, and it was a little like going to the Hard Rock Cafe, the only difference was that Cariocas lined up to get in, not tourists.  The menu was  cheesy and laminated and the lights were 50% too bright for any self-respecting club, but it was packed and the queue stretched down the cobble stone street.  We saw, ate, and went outside to this:

LapaWhere we bought some beers from the booze cart for a dollar each and took in the energy of the Arcos.  Samba music played all around, and it was more fun to be sitting on a bench in the middle of it than to be in a bar paying more…