My husband and I will be traveling internationally until mid May 2019. During that time our internet access will be limited and SLOW. I’ll try to post periodically, but new posts will probably be few and far between.
However, I will try to catch up by publishing back-dated posts after we get home in late May. I hope you’ll check for new posts periodically but won’t give up if you don’t see anything new for a while.
One and a half days, really. We docked yesterday morning, spent the night in port, and left a bit after 1:00 this afternoon. And one and a half days was nowhere near enough time to do this vibrant city justice.
Yesterday we took a walking tour of the highlights of this city, home to “nearly seven million” people, according to our guide. Originally settled by the Portuguese, Rio was the second capital of Brazil, from 1763 until 1960, when the capital was moved inland to Brasilia. The city overlooks Guanabara Bay, which offers 45 miles of beaches. It’s not unusual to see modern skyscrapers adjacent to historical buildings.
The central square contains city hall, the Bibliotheca Nacional (national library), the fine arts museum, and the French-influenced Municipal Theatre.
(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)
The plaza displays geometric mosaic designs created from tiles originally brought as ballast in ships from Portugal.
Today we ascended Sugarloaf Mountain, a conic mountain that resembles the way sugar was stored in colonial times. The trip up the mountain requires two different cable cars.
The top offers beautiful views of Guanabara Bay as well as Copacabana Beach, three miles of sand along the Atlantic side of the peninsula.
A hungry iguana joined us at the top of Sugarloaf:
On our way back to the ship we drove by the beach but weren’t able to get any decent pictures. The beach was amazingly crowded, with umbrellas and chairs about 10 deep along the water. The temperature was about 97 F, so there were paths from the beach up to the sidewalk along the street sprayed with water so beachgoers wouldn’t burn their feet. The sidewalks along the beach feature mosaics similar to those in the central plaza.
We didn’t get to visit one of Rio’s most iconic sites, the statue Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Guanabara Bay from atop Corcovado Mountain. When we first arrived in Rio, we stood on our verandah and could just see the statue far in the distance.
We had hoped to get a better view on our second-day trip up Sugarloaf Mountain, but the top of Corcovado was shrouded with fog:
After we reached the bottom of Sugarloaf, the fog had lifted enough for us to catch another fleeting glimpse.
Now we have two sea days to rest up for our next adventure.
Often referred to as just Búzios, this town started out as a smuggling, slave-trading, and whaling outpost. In the mid–19th century, with the decline of whaling and the slave trade, the town changed its focus to agriculture and fishing. Descendants of natives and slaves gradually turned the town, located not far from Rio de Janiero, into an ocean getaway.
The town gained international notoriety in 1964 when French actress Brigitte Bardot visited while trying to elude the paparazzi of Rio. Búzios is now known as a tranquil resort of 23 beaches without the crowds of more popular Rio.
(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)
Its colorful main street, known as Rua das Pedras, contains shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Among the artwork throughout is this statue Três Pescadores, Three Fishermen, by Christina Motta.
Before returning to the ship, we enjoyed a couple of the local drinks made with muddled limes, sugar, and a local rum-like liquor made from sugar cane.
After several days at sea, today we made land at Salvador Da Bahia, Brazil. (Bahia is a state.) This city was founded in 1549 as the first capital of Brazil and remained the capital until 1763. The city was originally established on a high escarpment overlooking the Bay of All Saints, the largest bay in Brazil. The lower part of the city was built up later. The upper and lower parts of the city are connected by the levador Lacerda, first built as a cargo elevator in 1873.
(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)
At the top of the elevator we got a good view of the Bay of All Saints.
Our tour focused on the Upper Town, the colonial area that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site 1985. The area continues to undergo restoration and preservation. Many of the buildings now sport pastel facades reminiscent of their colonial origin.
Salvador was the first slave port in the Americas, and it is estimated that over the years about five million Africans were brought over to work in the sugarcane fields and in the diamond and gold mines. As a result, Salvador has developed a religion and a culture that combines elements of native indigenous people, African slaves, and Portuguese traditions. The colorful local incorporates many African images.
Today the city contains more than 300 churches, but it also annually celebrates a religious festival in which many people, some dressed in African-inspired costumes, march four miles in procession to one of the churches. We visited on the day before the festival, so we got to see some of the costumes without having to experience the huge festival crowd.
The city still felt crowded to a lot of us. When someone asked our guide if the crowd was normal for Salvador, he said that the city was more crowded than usual for two reasons: (1) three cruise ships were in port that day, with a total of about 9,000 tourists; and (2) many people from outlying areas had traveled to the city for the annual festival.
The chief resources of Bahia are fruits, vegetables, cocoa, beef (there are more cows than people in Brazil), and oil.
Our guide emphasized that Salvador is a city that loves music. He told us that their Carnival lasts a full week—five official days plus two extra days. We saw a lot of evidence of the love of music in the number of bands and dancers we saw. One form of local dance is an amalgamation of dance and an African defensive form of what we would now call martial arts.
After a day at sea yesterday, this morning we arrived at St. George’s, capital of the island nation of Grenada. Early in its history Grenada was occupied for a while by the French but was later taken over by the British. The nation gained its independence from Britain in 1974.
Grenada comprises about 121 square miles and has a population of about 120,000. About 65% of the population is of African descent. The main sources of the nation’s revenue are, in this order, tourism, agriculture, and fishing.
Bus tours are nice because we don’t have to walk everywhere, but they lessen photo opportunities. I only got a few shots worth posting. (Click on a photo to see a larger version.)
In 2004 Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada hard. Here’s a church that was damaged beyond repair:
The island used to grow a lot of sugar cane, but because people no longer want to work in the sugar cane fields, that industry has died out. Now Grenada produces a lot of rum from imported molasses. Our tour groups were treated to a complimentary beverage, and the most popular choice was the rum punch. Let me tell you, they take their rum punch VERY seriously, with emphasis on the rum.
At the resort where we stopped for drinks, we also saw this traveler’s palm:
I’d never seen this kind of palm before.
Here’s a view of the port taken from our verandah just before the ship left Grenada:
Today’s interesting fact:
It’s illegal in Grenada to wear camouflage clothing or carry camo accessories. Local authorities have a zero-tolerance policy on this issue.
We arrived in Miami and boarded our ship on Wednesday, January 3. The ship departed from Miami at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday. After spending Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at sea, today we docked at San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Originally settled by the Spanish, the area is heavily Catholic. It was named San Juan in honor of St. John the Baptist. Today, January 6, in the Christian calendar is Epiphany, the day when the birth of Christ was revealed to the three kings. In San Juan, the day is a holiday known as Three Kings Day. Our guide said, “Here in Puerto Rico, we celebrate Christmas longer than just about anyone else in the world.” He said that their celebration would end in a couple of weeks. Sure enough, later we were in a store and heard “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” playing.
On our two-hour walking tour of Old San Juan we visited a fort that’s a San Juan National Historic Site maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
(Click on any image to see a larger version.)
This historic site flies three flags: the Burgundy cross (symbol of the Spanish empire when San Juan was settled, the flag of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. flag.
Many of the streets in Old San Juan are paved with blue stones that served as ballast in the Spanish galleons that brought goods and settlers to the region.
We all had to grab our hats to keep from losing them in the strong wind. When someone commented on the wind, our guide said, “Yes, it’s windy. These are the trade winds that powered ships across the Atlantic.”
Not far from our ship lay a replica of the Santa Maria, the largest of Columbus’s three ships.
Christopher Columbus holds a place of honor in Old San Juan’s center:
The beautiful Viking Sun docked in Old San Juan (please ignore the Carnival logo in the background):
At my previous job, I was fortunate enough to travel to international book fairs and visit bookstores. When I travel now for fun, the impulse sticks: find the best local bookstores, and buy at least one book. The list below is based partly on countries I’ve found myself in over the last few years and partly on my destination wish list. Join me in 2019 as I try to discover more foreign authors and beloved books, and hopefully get the opportunity to pack a few bags for some on-site explorations.