By Kate Romero
I just got back from my first trip to Rio. I’m usually never at a loss for descriptive words, but my old standby, ‘amazeballs’ just doesn’t cut it when I try to think of how best describe how I felt about it. I mean, I like living in Brasilia. It’s peaceful and pretty. But Rio. It might be my new favorite city. I should disclose that I went there with my better half and we left the kids here in Brasilia, which was a genius, if calculated, move on my husband’s part. I’ve never left my kids before, because I’m a control freak and also a little bit crazy with a generous helping of overprotectiveness. I was actually kind of annoyed when my husband walked into the house with non-refundable plane tickets and said simply, “You can only bring two pairs of shoes.” Rude! However, I can be resourceful when the word “non-refundable” gets thrown around, so I worked out a childcare/emergency plan and away we went (and I showed him by totally bringing more than two pairs of shoes).
We stayed at perhaps the world’s greatest hotel, and not because it was on one end of Copacabana beach, just a stone’s throw from Ipanema. And also not because it was filled with travel samples of l’Occitane beauty products, which happen to be my favorite. And not because most of the employees spoke English and didn’t make fun of my cruddy Portuguese. And not even because it had a PILLOW BAR. For real. A pillow bar. I’ll let that sink in a minute while you imagine the world’s biggest pillow snob doing flips on the bed as I read the pillow bar menu: firm, extra-firm, soft, down, hypoallergenic, etc. The hotel had all these things and more, but the best part about the hotel was also kind of the worst part.
Hotel Sofitel is a French hotel, which apparently means French bread and pastries should accompany every single thing you order. Just want a caipirinha? Here, have a giant basket of bread. Breakfast of healthy fruit and egg whites? Don’t you think six baguettes and chocolate croissants would go great with that? Ordering tapas and champagne? You know what else you need? A huge bowl of mini French rolls and also some fruit buns. You guys, good bread is my kryptonite. Now, I’ve had friends who’ve gone away on romantic weekends and have come back pregnant. Well, I was no different, only the bun in my oven was quite literal. I decided to name my little bread baby Pãozinho. It was lucky we left when we did, or little Pãozinho would probably have ended up as twins. But I have no regrets. Rio is an inexplicably guilt-free environment.
The only thing that was a little weird about Hotel Sofitel was the picture window inside the bathroom that looked out into the hotel room. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do while taking a shower in the window after a long day of sightseeing. My husband was trying to watch an old Smiths/Morrissey marathon on TV in full view of the window, so I thought it would be fun to recreate the shower scene from Psycho. I went to a lot of trouble getting my agonizing scream just right, so you can imagine that I was pretty mad when I saw the flash from our camera. Rude! Maybe we’re too old for fancy showers with windows. Or maybe too immature. Either way, the exotic mysteries of the shower window were lost on us.
We hired a guide for our first day in Rio based on a recommendation from our CLO, Liz Hilliard. I admit that I was a little nervous upon our first email contact with him, because the first words he wrote were, “I am so excited we are meeting tomorrow!!!! Tomorrow get prepared to have a big hug!!!!” You guys, that’s a lot of exclamation points. And I wasn’t sure how my stoic husband would do with a five-exclamation-point hug.
Fortunately, Rafa Torres was fun, smart, and warm, and he really read our needs and interests (one of us likes architecture and one of us doesn’t enjoy crowds). At one point, when I was about to poke someone’s eye out for lack of caffeine, he quickly popped into a shop and brought me a cafezinho and some good Brazilian chocolate, thus insuring my undying loyalty for all eternity. Rafa spoke both English and sarcasm, two of my favorite languages. He took us to several out-of-the-way places in Rio and Niterói.
First stop was Monastery of São Bento in the old part of Rio’s downtown. Built in 1590 (which is before I was even born, and that’s like, five-exclamation-points old), the monastery is kind of plain on the outside, but inside is insane with baroque carvings and real gold.
Every inch of the place was decked out and I kind of felt like there should be a little old monk or something standing at the doorway.
Oh, look! Straight out of central casting:
Well, I’m at the end of my page and all you’ve learned about my trip to Rio was that I ate bread and saw an old church. Stay tuned for next week, where you’ll get to hear about some other things we did, like eating more bread and seeing some more old buildings!