Day One - Getting there

My Dad takes a yearly trip as a birthday present to himself. Normally he seeks to get away from the world and, following his tradition, will not even announce his itinerary until after his return. He claims most years he himself doesn't know until he takes a random flight or two. This year he broke with tradition and not only announced his destination ahead of time but asked me if I could come along as well. He had in mind Brazil, a country I'd never been to but which had long been on my top ten list.

As an American, going to Brazil entails acquiring a visa through a consulate with weeks of anticipation. There's no just taking care of it at the airport and you're on your way so this part was a bit of a stress and nuisance as sending off your passport by mail should be to any traveler. Luckily, my passport came back a couple weeks later with a page-hogging and official-looking stamp and with that I was good to enter the fifth largest country in the world.

Met my Dad in Miami after the better part of a day flying in from Seattle by way of Houston and a few hours later off on another eight-plus hour flight. Being a night flight thirtysomethousand feet below I could first make out the lights of Cuba then Venezuela and lastly the immense horizon-to-horizon vastness of the Amazon jungle which was interrupted by the occasional cluster of little light islands that make up civilization outposts. By daybreak we'd made our descent into Sao Paolo's airport where we waited several more hours to catch the last leg of our trip into Rio.

It's worth mentioning that this brief flight, all of thirty-six minutes, would take place in a giant jumbo of nine seats per row the kind one might take from, say, New York to Dubai nonstop. It was hard to miss the irony that nowadays flights within the u.s. are nearly always in overcramped tincan 737s whose design principle seems to be but your utter mortification. "We know you have a choice and thank you for flying FuckYou Air and hope to see you again soon!" they all say on your way out as everyone grumbles. See? My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it and I'm on vacation damnit.

We make it to Rio thirtysix minutes after the above contemplation and thanks to a nearly empty flight there is little wait at customs. We stick around for a while at an unmanned tourist info booth before walking straight into a gauntlet of taxi office stands whose occupants energetically wave us down to come to *their* two-foot kiosk to sell us a trip from the airport into downtown Rio. Naturally, I choose the one with the prettiest assistant and perhaps for this reason I had the honor of paying 90 Reals which at the day's rate came to the not quite so reasonable sixty bucks and change. Next time mayhaps it would behoove me to pick the homeliest kiosk assistant.

Half an hour later we're in Copacabana which is much the same to this city what South Beach would be to Miami; in other words the hotspot for fun in the sun and party nightlife. For the primo location we get to pay for our first night about the going rate for a solidly upscale hotel room in any major Alerican city except we get all the convenience and ambience of a Motel 6 in New Jersey. But it doesn't matter much since by early afternoon we were both dog tired. Or at least I was anyway. We walked a bit around the beach and decided to have lunch at a stand frequented by locals a couple streets in rather than in an overpriced tourist trap. Dad had an acai berry smoothie and I a greasy ham and cheese pastry thing. From there I made a beeline to the room and was snoring long before sunset.

Day 2