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Rio de Janeiro

BRAZIL | Wednesday, 9 November 2022 | Views [111]

Escalaria Selaron—Selaron Stairs—for some reason is a must see

Escalaria Selaron—Selaron Stairs—for some reason is a must see

WE DECIDED THAT A FEW DAYS IN RIO after the birding trip would give us a chance to rest up and regain control of our lives. We stayed at the Windsor California Hotel in Copacabana, an ideal choice with the best breakfast I’ve had in Brazil. The “tall and tan and young and lovely” Girl from Ipanema never appeared—probably just a figment of someone’s imagination. Despite all the hype, Rio is a huge city—more than 13 million people squished between the mountains and the deep blue sea. Traffic is horrendous and the plethora of one-way streets makes it hard to figure out where you are and where you’re going. Take a taxi or, better yet, a guided tour of the city as we ended up doing.


             Him in the Clouds



                     Divine Souvenirs

First stop, of course, is Christ the Redeemer, a hundred foot tall art deco statue perched 700 meters above the city proper. Even after the bus drops you off it’s a breath-taking climb. On our cloudy visit Jesus more resembled the Holy Ghost. We could barely see his head.


               Hanging by a thread, Sugar Loaf Gondola


                 Copacabana from Sugar Loaf

It takes two cable car rides to go from the city to the top of Sugar Loaf where the views of the city and the Redeemer are said to be spectacular. Like George Harrison, we really wanted to see him but “my sweet lord” remained enshrouded. We compensated with 360° views of the city from the airport to Copacabana.


                      Lapa Arches, somehow escaping the spay can


                       In the 'hood, Lapa Neighborhood

Our tour price didn’t include lunch so we grabbed a surprisingly good hotdog on Sugar Loaf and wandered the neighborhood of Santa Teresa while the rest of our group chowed down. We were surprised that there is an actual aqueduct in the city. Lapa Arches must be a source of pride for Rio—it’s one of the few painted structures not to have been tagged with spray paint. As far as we can tell, graffiti isn’t just vandalism, it’s an architectural element as well as an art form. 


                    It may not look like a church from the outside, Metropolitan Cathedral


        Hands of St. Francis, Metropolitan Cathedral


                     Wall art as Satire, Lapa Neighborhood


                     Wasted talent? Santa Teresa

We couldn’t figure out what the massive beehive-like building we were seeing was. When we visited after lunch it turns out it’s the Metropolitan Cathedral, the most unlikely looking church we’ve ever seen. But with a giant Jesus looking down above, I guess it’s OK.


          Connie climbing Esclaria Selarón 


            Music at the top of the stairs


                        The late Jorge Selarón (Internet photo)

We could have skipped the stop at the soccer stadium and the “slow-down” for the half-mile long venue for Carnival. But the Selarón Stairs or Escalaria Selarón were worth the visit. Two visits, actually, because we stumbled upon it on our lunchtime Lapa walk without having a clue except for the crowd it attracted. It took Jorge Selarón, its creator, 20 years to cover the 125 meters of stairs with colorful tiles. He originally planned to use only blue, green and yellow—colors of Brazil’s flag—but most of the 2000 tiles are red, his favorite color.


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