Posted by: travelrat | March 23, 2017

Ride up Sugarloaf Mountain.

Redeemer from Sugarloaf

Rio de Janeiro: 28th January, 2017.

The first question we asked on waking up in our hotel was ‘Can you see Jesus?’ Which sounds like a question from the Jehovah’s Witnesses on your doorstep, but what it really means is ‘Is the cloud so low that you can’t see the Christ the Redeemer statue. Not that it’s a great problem if you can’t; on two occasions we couldn’t, but it brightened up considerably later.

Now, purely by coincidence, the two threads I am running at the moment deal with cable car rides. Today’s trip was a cable-car ride up the Sugarloaf Mountain; one of several in Rio de Janeiro, and a great favourite with locals as well as tourists. It’s totally different, though, to the Banff Gondola, which I posted about a couple of days ago. Like the Kuranda Skyrail (https://travelrat.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/kuranda-skyrail-video/ ) the Banff Gondola cars only seat four. Here, about forty people are squeezed into the car … standing room only, of course!

Sugarloaf Mountain

So, I had to cut out a lot of video footage of the backs of heads and selfie sticks on the way up; I fared better on the way down, because I got a place near the window,

A city with mountains within its bounds comes as no surprise when we were told it’s the only city in the world with a rain forest inside its limits.

The cable-car ride is a two-stage one, which lifts you up to give you a superb birds-eye view of the city. And, it’s one the birds …vultures and frigate birds … enjoy too.

Rio from Sugarloaf Mountain

This, you may remember, was the ride that featured in Moonraker  but not as James Bond would have known it. There wasn’t a big guy on the roof trying to bite through the cable, for one thing, and anyway, they replaced the cars for the Olympics last year. But, at the halfway station, they have preserved one of the ‘James Bond’ cars, as well as one of the original cars from 1910.

The James Bond car

Like ‘Christ the Redeemer’ it can get pretty crowded, but the waiting time is fairly minimal, and the view is really worth the ride.

Posted by: travelrat | March 21, 2017

The Banff Gondola

Gondola 1

Banff: 18th May, 2016

At Banff, we left the train. The ‘original’ Banff is a fishing port to the north of Aberdeen … and a greater contrast between two places of the same name is difficult to imagine. But, there’s a tiny  bit of Scotland here, and a slightly larger slice of Switzerland, dumped in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

Apart from the name, the main Scottish connection is the Banff Springs Hotel, built in the late 19th Century to accommodate passengers on the new railway, in a style they called ‘Scottish Baronial’. But, of course. we weren’t staying there!

We had a whole day to spend before the coach to Calgary, and the flight home. And, what better way to pass it than the gondola up Sulphur Mountain?

The ride on the gondola almost up to the mountain top was included in the package … but we couldn’t find any paper work for it among our stuff. Full marks, however, to the staff at the Caribou Lodge Hotel, who offered to try and call London in order to sort it out. But, what we decided to do was to go on the ride anyway, and try and get a refund when we got home. Full marks, too, to Jetline Cruise, who apologised and paid up right away.

Gondola 3

So, we bought a ticket, which, since they operate to time slots, advised what time we should join the line, to ensure the minimum of queuing before we boarded the car. No flies on these folks; you’re now free to browse the souvenir shop, instead of standing in line all the time!

The gondola will take you nearly 7500 feet to the Top Station … which, at the time of our visit, was a bit of a ‘work in progress’ … from where you can walk along a boardwalk along the summit ridge to the very summit of the mountain.

They advertise that you will ‘soar above the clouds’, but there was no cloud on this day. Just a panoramic view of the surrounding Rockies, and the valley below.

Gondola 2

Posted by: travelrat | March 19, 2017

Travel Theme: Four

It is sometimes said that things come/happen in threes. I’m not sure why this is, because stuff also happens in fours, and it’s a much more balanced number. It’s said that a four-leaved clover is lucky; there are four suits in a pack of cards; there are four Gospels in the New Testament and there are four seasons.

But, for travel purposes, let’s consider the four points of the compass, and I look at the furthest I’ve been in each direction  ..  and, of course, show photographs.

Furthest North: Alta, Norway

Alta

Furthest South: Cape Horn

Cape Horn

Furthest East: Brisbane

Brisbane

Furthest West: Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay 1

But, closer to home … I’ll show the best ‘Four Picture’ I can find; a ‘four in hand’ of beautiful Canadian Belgian horses, photographed at the Great Dorset Steam Fair a couple of years ago.

GDSF. Canadian Belgians

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. More ‘Fours’ at https://wheresmybackpack.com/2017/03/17/travel-theme-four/

Posted by: travelrat | March 16, 2017

Drinking and Eating in Rio

Rio de Janeiro: 26th/27th January 2017

Our hotel was only three blocks away from the famous Copacabana Beach, so of course we had to check it out. Our stroll along the long promenade was a bit harder than it sounds, because of the heat. But there’s no need to go thirsty on this hike; there’s a bar or a juice stall every few yards, and a water-seller in just about every shady spot along the way. And, they’re kept supplied by men and boys on specially adapted bikes.

Suco Bar

Those juice bars, or suco bars, however, don’t just sell juice; they make it, before your eyes, by tossing your chosen fruit into a blender! A far cry indeed, for the ‘fruit drink from concentrate’ we’re used to at home.

For lunch, we had a walk down the road from the hotel to a nearby pizzeria, where we had lunch… just an egg and tomato roll and a beer. And, we did really well, considering the staff spoke very little English; surprising how far mime and a little basic Spanish will get you in Brazil … even though they don’t speak Spanish, but Portuguese.

The system did fall down slightly when we returned there for dinner; they just brought one serving of milanesa … think coteletta Milanese … aka Weiner Schnitzel.  … I think they supposed we would share. We finally made them understand we wanted one each…although the portions were so big that we could have shared. This is, indeed, the norm in Brazil; I suppose we should have taken the hint when we asked for beer at lunchtime. They just brought one big bottle, and two glasses.

Pizza Bar

The following day, we visited a suco bar for lunch; a hamburger, bacon and egg roll, with freshly squeezed orange juice. We’d been warned not to lunch too heavily, for tonight was the Brazilian barbecue which, we were promised, would be the mother of all beef-fests.

It was, actually, more in the nature of a carvery. A salad buffet to start, then the meat. The method of cooking derives from that of the Argentinian gauchos, who would cook their beef on skewers over a pit filled with charcoal.

The waiters brought the skewers to the table, and also brought a long knife, which looked more like a sword, with which he carved off what you required.

Course followed course, and I don’t think I could face beef again …for at least 24hours!

Brazilian BBQ

Posted by: travelrat | March 14, 2017

Travel Theme: Woman

DSC_0048

‘When God created Man, she was only testing’ (Anon)

This week’s ‘Travel Theme’ subject is ‘Woman’. A veritable minefield, especially for those of us of the male persuasion. While most folk would agree with my views on the matter, there are a certain proportion of those of both genders who would disagree. Those views have nothing to do with travel, anyway, so I’ll just celebrate womanhood with a slide show of ladies from all over the world that I’ve met along the way …

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

This week’s contribution to the ‘Travel Theme’. See more at https://wheresmybackpack.com/2017/03/11/travel-theme-woman/

Posted by: travelrat | March 12, 2017

Poutine

kr

We couldn’t leave Canada without trying the national dish. Or, at least, I couldn’t. We called into Mcdonalds, in Banff for a lunchtime burger, and I saw that there was poutine on offer. Since I’ve heard so much about it, I had to try some.

So, chips, served with cheese curd and gravy! It sounds revolting, but it really tastes quite nice. And, I heard later that Mcdonalds doesn’t serve the best poutine; for the good stuff, you’re best to go to an independent eaterie, preferably in eastern Canada. Or, better still, a food truck.

Another thing you can’t leave Canada without is maple syrup. My Scottish friends would disagree, but there’s nothing like it on your porridge on a cold morning. But, my mistake was waiting till I got to the airport to buy it. All there was there was rather twee little souvenir bottles, on sale at a rather inflated price. Whereas, for the same price. I could have gone into a supermarket, and bought a litre can.

Still, I’ll know next time!

kr

Posted by: travelrat | March 9, 2017

Travel Theme: Paths

Path 1

The Countryside Ranger was taking down some old signs, and replacing them with newer ones.

‘We don’t really like signs’ he told me ‘but, if they’re necessary, we’d prefer they said ‘Won’t you come this way?’ rather than ‘Don’t go that way!’.

Nothing says ‘Won’t you come this way’ more than a sign saying Public Footpath (or, in Wales Llwybr Cyhoeddus … which, contrary to rumour, isn’t Welsh for ‘Get Lost!’). Better still, one saying Public Footpath to Bumpydale or something.

There are one or two pictures featuring paths on my walls. Any artist or photographer can tell you they ‘lead the eye into the picture’. As an art instructor I once knew said ‘You can go down there!’. I often ‘go down there’ … and wonder ‘What’s beyond those trees? Or, around that corner?’

Le Grand Bornand

Of course, if I come across a tempting path in ‘real life’, I can go and find out, if I have time.

This state of affairs is, though, largely confined to England and Wales. Your wanderings can vary, from freedom to go pretty well where you like (allemansrat) in Scandinavian countries to the severely constrained ‘Don’t you dare put a foot off the path!’ elsewhere.

In Australia, we spent a lot of the time in National Parks walking on ‘boardwalks’. I never did work out whether they were to protect the environment from the trampling feel of the visitor, or keep people from stepping on the more toxic wildlife.

But, whether it’s an indiscernible path across an English field, or an Australian boardwalk … or, even just a short-cut between the houses to your local mini-mart, paths have something to say. Usually: ‘Come this way; there might be something interesting down here’. And, in the majority of cases, there is.

DSC_0133

My contribution to this week’s Travel Theme. More at https://wheresmybackpack.com/2017/03/05/travel-theme-paths/

Posted by: travelrat | March 7, 2017

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer, Rio

Rio de Janeiro: 27th January 2017

 Today’s tour was along the Promenade past Ipanema and Copacabana beaches before heading up Corcovado Mountain to see the gigantic Christ the Redeemer statue, which overlooks the city. You can see this from just about anywhere in Rio, but it has to be seen close up to be really appreciated.

It’s the work of several people, but one Heitor da Silva Costa is credited with the final design. It took nine years to build, being completed in 1931. It’s made from soapstone, which was imported from Sweden, and reinforced concrete. It stands 38 metres (125 feet) tall, and has been named as one of the Seven Man Made Wonders of the Modern World.

Corcovado Rack Railway

To get up close, you need to take a ride through the jungle … Rio claims to be the only city in the world with a jungle, and a National Park within its limits … on a rack and pinion railway, then take either an elevator or an escalator to the top of the mountain, where the gigantic statue stands. The railway, in fact, predates the statue, and was used to carry the materials for it up the mountain.

Only drawback was two cruise ships were in, so, almost literally, the world and his wife were there. And, would you believe, there’s free WiFi up there, so you can get those selfies online right away!

I did take my tablet, for I wanted to take a picture to put on Facebook, but the sun was so bright that I couldn’t see the screen, and all I got was a shot of Jesus’s feet. Thankfully, I had my ‘real’ camera with me and got some decent pictures; I just needed to wait till I get home before I posted them.

Rio from Corcovado

Posted by: travelrat | March 2, 2017

Rocky Mountaineer Day 2: Video

rocky-mountaineer-4

Kamloops/Banff: 17th May 2016

Here’s the promised video of the Kamloops-Banff leg on the ‘Rocky Mountaineer’. As we climb into the mountains, you’ll see the scenery getting wilder and more spectacular. And, what a welcome as we arrived in Banff! This is something you don’t often get on arrival at Waterloo!

rmc2

Music:

“River Valley Breakdown” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Posted by: travelrat | February 28, 2017

Rolling Down to Rio

copacabana-2

A bit of a logistic problem here. We’d be leaving from Heathrow Airport, and returning to Gatwick. So, it wouldn’t be very practicable to take the car to the airport; instead, we took the National Express coach to Heathrow, then the Hotel Hopper to the Travelodge, where we’d stay the night, before getting on our flight to Rio next morning. As I’ve said countless times before, Travelodge is really just a clean, secure place to lay your head… and in this case, to eat … satisfactory, but nothing to write home about. But then, I have previous experience of Travelodge, so I was expecting good things, but not necessarily great things.

Since we took the option of a direct flight to Rio, we arrived a day early and thus had the day to ourselves before the itinerary proper started.

Our hotel was only three blocks away from the famous Copacabana Beach, of course we had to check it out. Just took a stroll along the long promenade … which is a bit harder than it sounds, because of the heat. But there’s no need to go thirsty on this hike; there’s a bar or a juice stall every few yards, and a water-seller in just about every shady spot along the way. And, they’re kept supplied by men on specially adapted bikes.

copacabana-1

It was on New Year’s Day 1502 that a Portuguese ship, captained by one Gaspar de Lemos, sailed into Guanabera Bay. Thinking that this was the mouth of a river, they called it Rio de Janeiro, or ‘January River’, and, although there wasn’t actually a river here, the name stuck. Nowadays, it’s usually just shortened to ‘Rio’ … and, although there are many other places called ‘Rio Something or Other’ … it’s usually assumed that you are talking about Rio de Janeiro.

From our hotel room, we had a view of the famous ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue. We’ll be visiting that shortly … and standing in what’s probably the only place in Rio from which you can’t see it!

from-our-hotel-room

 

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