Wow.  Unreal. From the New York Times:

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former New York Mayor Rudy Giulianisays Rio de Janeiro can become a safe city before it hosts the 2016 Olympics. And his consulting firm will be paid to offer advice on how to make that happen.

Giuliani visited a slum in Rio on Thursday and praised Rio’s efforts to bring order to the violence-plagued areas where drug traffickers hold sway.

Rio Governor Sergio Cabral says that Giuliani’s consulting firm will be contracted to give security advice. Details of the deal were not disclosed.

Giuliani oversaw a drastic drop in crime in New York during his tenure as mayor from 1994 to 2002. Backers attributed the improvement to his zero-tolerance stance.

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São Paulo

October 6, 2009

After spending Friday afternoon at Copacabana, toes in the sand, watching the anticipation and then the revelry around us we had a Portuguese lesson, and then went out.  Thanks to Robby we discovered Casa Rosa, a sprawling villa in Larangeras that was a long-time brothel and is now a bar/club hybrid.  The huge patio was packed with college kids who constantly filled small cups with cold beers from the bar tender, like we were at a keg party.  The rooms branching off of the patio played different kinds of music with couples bouncing up and down and trancing out and sucking face (as Brazilian teenagers tend to do).  From there we jetted over to Lapa, which was more packed than we had ever seen it.  It seemed as if the whole city was out, whooping with joy.  After a late night stop at Carioca da Gema for a little samba we were Olympiced out.

Saturday morning we headed to São Paulo.  Scott and I have been bouncing around the idea of moving there (for job opportunities, a more cosmopolitan, culture-packed city) and we were excited to go explore it, walk its streets, and see if we could leave behind Rio’s beauty.  We wandered up Faria Lima and through Pinheiros with a sort of “are you my home?” attitude.  After parts that looked like the area around Penn Station with too many vendors and stores with bins of cheap clothes and sneakers, we found cute restaurants, a few cool galleries, an amazing looking cemetery and more music stores than I have ever seen.  We wandered past a Saturday flea market.  IMG_0191From there we went to Karen’s to say hello to the family.  Andre had gotten us tickets to the Corinthians game (thank you!), so the three of us headed with Andre, Mark, and a friend named Ricardo to Pacaembu stadium.  It was awesome, an amazing game with tons of energy.  The stadium was packed and fans in jerseys streamed toward the venue.  The bleachers were rowdy and catchy percussion chants echoed throughout.

From there we had a delicious picanha dinner with Andre and Karen, where marinated meat was brought with all of the sides to the table, along with a sizzling grill.  We followed dinner with a night out in Consolação.  Just on the other side of Avenida Paulista is a small, sloping neighborhood that’s supposed to be slightly dangerous.  It didn’t feel dangerous at all, and the club was totally outfitted with hipsters wearing skinny jeans and colorful sneakers.  A sea of plaid and retro glasses bobbed to popular music, and Scott and I were thrilled to take a break from samba and just hang out in a regular New York-style bar.  A few blocks away there were prostitutes hanging out on the corner, and a few more bars with throngs of people waiting outside.  It was a cool neighborhood with so much buzz on a Saturday night.

Sunday, Scott and I went for a run in Ibirapuera Park (totally packed) and tried to navigate the trails.  We had lunch at a great bistro in Jardims, and saw this plant covered house.  IMG_0193It’s hard to tell how cool it was in the picture.  The design was awesome, and just one of those things you don’t see everywhere.  We stopped in Livraria Cultura to see if the new Time Out guide for São Paulo was out yet, and then took the subway up to the Praça da Luz.  We stopped at the Memorial da Resistência, a well-designed museum that showed the anti-military movement that took place in Brazil in the 1980s.  We then went to the other Pinacoteca, where there was a Matisse exhibit on display.  There was also this exhibit with shallow pools of water with white bowls of different sizes that clinked together at random to create a sort of wind chime effect. IMG_0194Scott’s cousin Elen went to the very stylish opening of the exhibit and said that a woman fell into one of the pools and broke all of the bowls.  Pretty embarrassing.  We spent the rest of Sunday night in Vila Madelena, hanging out and watching the crowds ebb and flow through the bars on the hilly Silver Lake-like streets.

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Monday morning Scott and I tried to run ten miles around the city (a feat considering the condition my calf was in–it’s feeling great now).  In the bright sunshine we fought the city and it was a draw.  It was too hot, and we had to stop for traffic every few blocks.  Even running the perimeter of Ibirapuera was tricky and involved highways and getting stumped by dead ends.  Scott and I spent the rest of Monday wandering around Itaim Bibi and Vila Olympia, trying to figure out if we could live there.

Monday night we had dinner at D.O.M., which was number twenty-four on the S. Pellegrino list of the world’s 50 best restaurants.  We got the four course tasting menu (blind, we just told them our preferences and allergies, like at Blue Hill), and it was pretty extraordinary.  So interesting, in fact, that I was going to take pictures of each course, and then I forgot and only took two.  There was a palmito skin stretched out on a piece of slate, with scallop ceviche, some french herb, some basil, and slices of pear.  It was an amazing combination of flavors.  The next course was a fried oyster with marinated tapioca and salmon roe (not my favorite).  The third was an Amazonian fish, Pirarucu, with a salsa verde and a root vegetable called tucupi, and tapioca marinated in red wine and açaí.  The fourth was a soup that was presented as a rich veal stock with super crispy wild rice, topped table-side with a cream of mushroom foam.  The fouth/fifth course (which was like a bonus since we had technically had four courses already, but thought it would be odd to end with a soup before cheese and dessert) was crispy duck confit.  It was incredible.   IMG_0201

From there the cheese course was mashed potatoes with queijo minas and guyere that was brought out by a waiter juggling the starchy, cheesy mass stretched and twisted between two spoons.  He dropped a dollop onto each of our plates.  Our dessert was some kind of nut cake with whisky ice cream, chocolate sauce, and the whole thing was sprinkled with coarse sea salt, black pepper, and spicy curry.  It was delicious.  Scott’s nut-free dessert was stunning. It was milk pudding, with citrus gelee and banana ravioli (the middle thing that look like jelly fish) with a kind of candied shimeji mushrooms.  I was enthralled.  To top off our time in the big city before we left this morning we had a drink on the roof of the Unique Hotel (in the shape of a ship, or a concrete slice of watermelon).  It was a great way to end our high roller night.

Viva Sua Paixão

October 2, 2009

Here are some of Scott’s photos from today:

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Olympics Day

October 2, 2009

Here we go!  Any bets? It feels pretty hard to say right now, but there’s no question Rio wants it.

Jogos Olimpicos

October 1, 2009

The Olympics is all the buzz here this week, it’s pretty much all anyone is talking about.  There’s so much anticipation and energy, and I think a feeling that Rio really should win, but there’s a little bit of hesitation, too.  There’s no question that it’s exactly what Rio would need to become a really world class city.  The billions of dollars that would pour in for infrastructure would be an incredible asset, but the educated Brazilians that we’ve talked to feel a little bit burned by 2007’s PanAmerican games, where the government over promised and under delivered.

It’s pretty cool here now, though, with a huge venue set up on Copa for the announcement.  They have screens and acts planned.  It feels like a special time.  The video for the 2016 bid is pretty damn cool, too.

On a side note, we took a helicopter ride today.  From Morro de Urca we went around Sugar Loaf, then up to the Corcovado, over Rocina, and to the beaches.  It was indescribable.

2016 Olympics

September 3, 2009

There are signs for the 2016 Olympics everywhere in Rio, as they compete with Chicago to host the summer games.  “Live your passion,” they say in optimistic type.   Everything about Brazil seems optimistic these days, and the poster, the idea of having the Olympics in this city, seems like a great encapsulation of a forward glance.

Scott and I talk a lot about how it’s possible that Brazil is about to have its moment, hit center stage.  These very internationally exposing events have the potential to carry it the last bit that it needs to go to make Rio a world class city again (Sao Paulo is there–a world class city) .  In Rio, instead of a gaping crater where there’s supposed to be a subway stop in four months at Praca General Osorio, there will be a real metro line that goes to Leblon.  The traffic will ease a little, restaurants will serve really top notch food instead of almost there food, Azul (Brazil’s Jetblue, started by the same founder, David Needleman, who happens to have been born in Brazil) will hit its stride. It’s sort of an amazing time to be here.  It feels like we’re cheating the recession, escaping it in a sunny somewhere that’s sort of unbelievable.

Or maybe none of this will happen and it will be a missed opportunity.  Perhaps gymnasts and runners and athletes of every kind will descend on Chicago instead, and the subway system here will still be under construction in twenty years.  It’s hard to know.