Friday, December 24, 2010

5 and counting!

We finally made it! I am currently writing this post from my bed at the hostel in Rio de Janeiro! I'll come to my first impressions of the city in a moment, but I should recap the extensive travels we went through in order to make it here first.
We departed Ottawa on time and made it into Chicago a half hour before schedule. This meant, we had a full 8 hours before our next flight. So, with our carry on packs, we took the train into Chicago's downtown and did everything I had hoped to do and more! We first went to Millennium park to see "the bean", then walked up the Magnificent Mile all the way to the Hancock Tower where we went up to the observation deck and had a great view and short audio tour of the city. From there, we wandered to Gino's East to try their famous deep dish pizza. My verdict: it was good (lots of gooey cheese), but the crust was dry and had a similar texture to cornmeal. Personally, I think Matthew's pizza is way better! We were able to do all of this and still had oodles of time to take the hour long train ride back to the airport, go through security again to catch our next flight. Overall, a successful and fun layover trip in the windy city! (Which thankfully wasn't that windy or cold - which is especially good since we had minimal winter clothes on!)
After an uneventful flight to Miami (which I mostly slept through), we went out on a hunt for dinner. I have to say, Miami airport fails in the food department. We looked at the terminal map and decided to go to the opposite end of the terminal from where we landed because it was closer to our departure gate and the restaurants looked better to us. But when we finally arrived, all of the advertised restaurants we boarded up and labelled "coming soon", causing us to trek all the way back to our original location in the airport. I was not impressed. As our next flight to Buenos Aires was an over night flight, I decided it would be best if I was extra comfy. So, just before we started boarding, I changed into my pyjama bottoms, charged up my ipod and took a half a sleeping pill. Not 10 minutes after take off, I was sound a sleep and didn't wake up for a solid 6 hours. Half a pill, sleep music, an eye mask and a comfy pillow are really the keys to getting a good night sleep on a plane! The combo has worked well for me so many times!
We had another long layover when we arrived in Buenos Aires, which is good since it limited our stress of having to make a connecting flight. We had a longer than usual interaction with immigration because we weren't technically staying in Argentina and so shouldn't have to pay the $75USD they charge Canadians upon arrival. After explaining our situation to a couple of friendly agents, they stamps our forms and sent us on our way to check in for our flight to Rio. We grabbed lunch, read in uncomfortable chairs and basically chilled for 4 hours. When our plane was finally due to start boarding, there was hardly anyone at the gate. There were only 14 people on the entire flight! The plane was an A330 (a fairly large one) and so they decided to move every one up to business class! It was really great! I highly recommend flying TAM airways!
We arrived in Rio and almost immediately I began to sweat up a storm and my hair started to frizz. It's really humid here, even at 10pm. We went through customs and immigration without any issues, but while waiting for our luggage, I did see a few cases of "When plastic surgery goes bad". It's hard not to stare and wonder why. Anyhow, we then went out to find a cab to take us to our hostel. Had we not arrived at 8pm, we may have taken a cheaper bus alternative, but we thought, given the time and the amount of stuff we have to carry, it would be smarter to just cab it. Our cabbie negotiated a price with us before we left and it was the same price the hostel told me it would likely cost so I was satisfied. We got into the back and I discovered that my seatbelt was broken. Normally, I wouldn't be so concerned, but Brazilian drivers seem a little crazy. Our cabbie was going very fast and many people seem to change lanes quite erratically. I thought it was quite telling when our cab driver blew past a cop car going 20 km over the speed limit and he did nothing. From what I could see of the city itself though, even though it was dark, it looked very nice. Our hostel is in Impanema which is a nicer part of town and not far from one of the best beaches (or so I'm told - will find out for sure in the next day or so!) The cab driver was very helpful and got us to our proper hostel. The hostel itself is nice and the owner, a woman named Silvia, I believe is a bundle of energy. She was quite the hostess when we arrived and made us feel quite welcome. They had prepared a christmas dinner for the guests tonight so we got to enjoy a nice free (if not cold) meal. After our long day, it was much appreciated!
So that is an update on this trip. I would also like to point out that this now is officially the 5th continent that I have been on! Only 2 more to go! But, those are for another time. I think I'll stick to enjoying this one first!

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