We spent our second day in Rio, February 25, exploring the city on foot along with our friends Robert and Bill. Because our ship was docked much further down to pier than last time we were here our GPS app took us down some streets with which we were not previously familiar. We crossed some tram tracks and also a mosaic sidewalk with a pattern similar to the one at Ipanema beach. This probably wasn’t the safest route (although we had no trouble). At one point we were waiting to cross the street and Robert was consulting a map with his small camera hanging from his wrist when a local woman who spoke no English approached and indicated urgently with gestures that he should keep his camera in his pocket or in his hand at all times.
Walking down a street we think is Rua dos Passos we happened upon a church set right up to the sidewalk called Igreja do Santissimo Sacramento da Antiga Se (Church of the Blessed Sacrament of the Old See). This congregation has its roots in the 16th century and the current church was built from 1819 to 1859, when it was consecrated. The interior is a very large and airy space with walls covered in carving and other art. We stepped inside but couldn’t explore the church because the floors had just been mopped. The outside, however, was very sad because the walls and even the sculptures set into the facade were covered with very ugly graffiti. Very little respect for what would otherwise be a beautiful landmark on an otherwise nondescript street. The sidewalk in front of the church was covered in black, white & red mosaic.
Another example of what you may see walking off the beaten path, we came upon the Catedral Presbiteriana do Rio (Presbyterian Cathedral of Rio). This is somewhat unusual in what is a mostly Catholic country and the building was unlike most of the large churches we saw in Brazil in that it was built in a gothic style and the interior is relatively plain and all white. The oldest Presbyterian church in Brazil, it was opened in 1874 and has been renovated several times since, most extensively in 1925. There is a large garden in front that has a sculptural depiction of a pastor preaching to his flock.
Our first objective today was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro. Opened in 1979, it is in a very modern style inspired by the Mayan pyramids in Mexico and does not look like any other church you may have seen. It is quite massive – almost 350 feet in diameter and 250 feet tall – and the inside is all one huge room. The interior is lighted by a skylight in the shape of a cross and four gigantic stained glass windows that stretch from floor to ceiling. There is a pipe organ behind the pulpit and a gold cross hanging over it that looks like it is floating in the air. Nearby, but not actually attached to the cathedral, is a large tower topped by a cross that we think has either bells or speakers on each level. When looking at it from the right direction you can see Cristo Redentor far behind it on its hill.
On our last visit in 2012 many of the downtown buildings were being renovated for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics to be held in Rio, and could not be entered. That included the national library and Mary was particularly interested in seeing the reputedly impressive interior. So we walked over to Cinelandia quare to visit it, along with the other important buildings there. We walked through a tunnel under a highway that had some intriguing wall art and another that had some homeless people asleep under the graffiti. At one point we decided we were headed in the wrong direction & had to turn around, but Bill is a fast walker and he was almost a block ahead of us and never noticed that we were not with him. Robert had to run all that way, in suffocating heat and humidity, just to let him know we were going a different way. He was not happy.
We arrived eventually at Cinelandia square to visit the Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil. While the library’s roots date back to 1810 when the Portuguese national library was transferred to Rio, the current building opened in 1910. This is the largest library in South America and the seventh largest in the world with some 9 million items in its collection. It supposed to be quite a sight inside, but we have no pictures of the library, inside or out, to show you. Why, you ask? Because I just found out, as I was writing this paragraph, that the building we thought was the library was actually the Camara Municipal do Rio de Janeiro! It currently houses the city council and the National Library is about a block away. The Camara building was closed when we were there because of the construction of tents for Carnaval celebrations and we felt bad because we thought we had been denied entry to the library on two visits seven years apart. But who knows whether we could have visited inside the library if we had actually found it? Anyway the Camara Municipal was itself a beautiful building.
Across the street is the striking Teatro Municipal with its partially gilded roof. Opened in 1909, this is largely a venue for ballet and classical music, although in the past it has presented opera as well. Its architectural design was inspired by the Paris Opera. Sadly, this building also was not open the day we visited, so we were unable to see the reputedly beautiful interior.
This plaza had mosaic sidewalks in several different patterns
Well, by this time we had done quite a bit of walking on what we may have mentioned was a particularly hot and humid day (big contrast to Antarctica just a few weeks earlier). If we had known the library was just down the street we surely would have gone there. But we didn’t know, so we hailed a cab back to the port and reboarded the ship. When we reached the port Bill & Rick went back to the ship while Mary & Robert perused the many vendor kiosks set up outside the entry to the pier. While looking at a vendor’s wares Robert spotted a guy in the process of stealing jewelry from the vendor’s table. He called out & the guy dropped what he had taken and ran. There were no police around so he got away but Robert was a hero to the vendors nonetheless.
Before we left there was a sail away party by the pool on the lido deck. The band that usually played in the Ocean bar – easily the best Ocean bar band we have seen – played on deck for the party. And of course the ship penguins participated, wearing their Carnaval beads.
We saw in the last episode how beautiful the sunrise sail in to Rio was. We were sailing away just before sunset, retracing pretty much the same route, so this gives a different perspective on the scene. It was gray & a little foggy when we sailed away and birds were again circling overhead.
As we sailed out into the bay we passed the long bridge across the bay, in front of which is an island with a marina, then a group of four tugboats (perhaps standing ready in case we needed help?). We had a last look at the favela by the port and we passed the old customs house.
We passed the small airport again and saw a plane just passing Corcovado mountain after takeoff. We also passed what looked like an offshore oil derrick as we sailed toward Sugar Loaf mountain.
We approached Sugar Loaf as the sun was setting, and could see Cristo Redentor all lit up to stand out in the dark.
We sailed around Sugar Loaf and headed out into the Atlantic. We had a view of the back of Cristo Redentor with Copacabana and Atlantic Avenue stretching out beneath it. And there was one last gasp from the setting sun. Goodbye to Rio!