Cubicle Warrior Guide to Savannah, Georgia

Here’s the next chapter of my Notebook project. It’s campy, I know, but I’m trying to establish a habit of writing about more current events as they happen. Not to worry, more entertaining and useful meditative pieces on the way.

Until then, here’s my recap on Savannah.

We spent this past weekend in beautiful, history Savannah, Georgia. The occasion was Jen’s birthday weekend but I don’t know what took us so long to go. For years we have been hearing about what a great place this is – especially during St Patty’s day. Turns out it’s pretty awesome all year round.

Our time was short so we decided early on to put as much as possible into the trip. That meant contorting some of the logistics, making several lists, and checking them all twice. Wee went with the flow and had a great time on our Bourdain-esque eating drinking, nonstop partying tour of the place. We got some great advice from Howie (a friend of Frugal Travel Guy – my source for frequent flier info), Samantha Brown’s travel channel episode (Jen’s trip!), VisitSavannah.com and Yelp.

Logistics

After the Rio fiasco we splurged on a nice hotel. Lovingly restored Revolutionary war period beds-and-breakfasts abounded but we wanted a sure thing. A reservation in centrally located Hyatt did the trick. Nice place! Of course I later found that booking through their website instead of Orbitz would have helped me out considerably in my quest for free travel. We heard good things about Hilton DeSoto, the Westin on Hutchinson Island, and the Four Points Historic District.

Our drive was just under 4 hours from Charlotte – not bad on a Friday evening. Birthday girl got to choose the tunes but I was so looking forward to getting out of town it didn’t even bother me that much!

Rain was called for but the weather Gods appeased making the rain coats, jackets and sweaters we brought wholly unnecessary.

Video

Until I can post my iPhone photos, here’s a shot. I didn’t care for the song but it gives you a great visual of an incredible pretty city.

Cubicle Warrior Guide to Savannah

You know you’re going to a great city when every time you mention your trip people tell you another 8 places to go. As a result, we opted for Tapas-style food/drink crawl. Here are my favorites.

Food & Drink

Churchill’s – How can you go wrong with a pub named for the century’s most brilliant statesman? Great bar, great drinks great food. Service was a little slow but the diversity of ages on the outdoor, open air rooftop terrace made up for it. I spent my entire Shazam iPhone app allowance trying to identify good music I hadn’t heard before!

Moon River Brewing company – Bad service, great food. The waiter actually prevented us from ordering one of the appetizers stating that 95% of the people trying it hate it. Well, this being the first Saturday of May, they offered the obligatory Mint Julep’s for a $1 a piece. And yes, you get exactly what you pay for with a $1 drink. stick to their beer!

Old Pink House – Phenomenally tasty food for an upscale dinner. Next time I go, I’m coming hungry!

Leopold’s Ice cream – Really, damn good ice cream. Especially nice on a warm day when you’ve been exploring and are starting to sweat alcohol.

Tubby’s – Sure it is loud, busy, and has crappy food. It still serves drinks and overlooks the river and the stage from an elevated position. Great for watching clog dancers! (see below)

Chart House – Seriously. Good. Seafood. I don’t know what else to say. I loved this place.

Goosefeathers – Tasty breakfast. A sit-in experience flush with the warm and inviting smells from their bakery. Coffee leaves a little to be desired but the food more than makes up for it.

J Christopher’s – This was the best breakfast I think I’ve ever had. We had a little wait but the crab cake benedict absolutely made it worth it.

Irish Bar on Bay street – For some reason the name escapes me (.. wonder why!) I really enjoyed this place and the live music. Irish drinking songs are a top way to finish out a long day!

Stuff to do

I was happy just walking and eating around but having a few set activities really helped set the scene.

Savannah Dan’s walking tour – The guy is a huge ex-cop who knows history and delivers it with amusing anecdotes complete with southern manners. Best part of the trip was joking back and forth with him. If you want a sense of Savannah, this is the dude to go to.

Tybee Island – There was no way we could get that close to the mighty Atlantic and NOT visit it! Water was warm enough to swim… should have brought a bathing suit! Next time!

The best part

The best part of Savannah is that we didn’t even scratch the surface of things on our list. We easily have enough to return to and do for several more trips. That’s the mark of a great place.

Have you been to Savannah? What do you like to do?

Rio de Janeiro: A Counterfeit Paradise

To recap; beautiful people, stunning landscape, near-constant threat of unavoidable violence, sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Interested? Keep reading my (literally) feverish notes typed while I was still in the moment.

My notes from a Rio de Janero Honeymoon have changed a bit since I first wrote this article. For one, I have been back in the states now a month since returning and my perspective has mellowed a bit. The bronchitis my new wife and I contracted has finally gone away, though the medical plan co-payments still show irregularities. My pending legal action against my hotel and of course Orbitz is, well, still pending but you can be sure I’ll tell you about that later. With the distance of a few weeks – and tons of vacation photos – I can better appreciate the beauty. Not having watched a live mugging since getting back in the states must have done that.

Impressions from the Rio Airport

I write this from the GIG Rio de Janero International airport. My, that sounds like an august name. I’m sure that it conjures a exotic portal to tropical goodness. In reality, it’s anything but. If GIG is an international airport, than Charlotte Douglas is a galactic starport. But I forget myself. I turned this computer on to write about my Brazillian honeymoon. I need a distraction from the crazy, screaming hot mess that I find myself in. And, as you can surely tell, our pneumonia [editor’s note: it turned out to be bronchitis] hasn’t brightened my mood one bit. Let me tell you the story of a counterfeit paradise known as Honeymoon in Rio.

Our trip started early in the day on Monday, February 8th. We woke up in the Yucatan paradise known as Aventura Spa Palace, ate breakfast and departed. Jen had been sick for a few days at this point but was her usual cheery self and refused to cancel the trip. Just get me some meds she said and she’d be good to go. Of course that was during our flight from Cancun to Charlotte after some stewardess friends plied us with free airplane bottles and snacky foods pilfered from first class (which we had gratis for the trip south but not north). Their way of saying ‘Happy Honeymoon!’

As I mentioned before, the wedding week was great. The flight back was very nice. We picked up some cold meds for Jen and returned to the airport for our flight. The 10pm departure was hour 17 of travel for us.

After an hour delay cuased by our 767 “not accepting fuel”, our flight was boarded and we were off. USAir must have dumped the oldest crafts in their fleet and complemented them with the surliest stewardesses they could for this trip. Entirely opposite either of our arrival return voyage from Cancun. An old 767 outfitted with lights that would not turn off, a single widescreen for all of economy to share playing such classics as Wolverine and Amelia. Bright choice on Amelia; a 10 hour flight over waters unknown prefaced with a lost aircraft story. Didn’t, couldn’t know at the time that the plane and its crew would forshadow the entirety of the trip.

Take off the Wedding Rings

Our fellow passengers were the most enjoyable part of the experience. On first glance I thought they’d keep me awake all night with their nonsense. However, the bulk of the plane went to sleep early and it was a peaceful trip. We even learned valuable information like not to wear earrings, wedding bands, engagement rings, or any kind of jewelry worth more than a few dollars. The guide book served to corroborate the returning Cairioca’s warnings and we complied. My new bride gracefully agreed to stow away her rings though she was not too happy about it.

Welcome to Rio!

10 hours on the plane passed with little difficulty. The plane was buzzing as soon as we were roused for breakfast. The meal, like the plane, left much to be desired. I busied myself by looking out the window at the spectacular vista of morning in Brazil. Warm light illuminated a diverse topgraphy. Gentle hills started as bumps in the earth and gradually expanded to full wrinkles of sheer mountains jutting into an azure sea. We were soon welcomed to Rio by the heat and an excited plane.

Taxi Over

We took one from the frist stand, agreed on a price 70 reals – a good price. We were treated to our first hour long tour of the city as we drove to our hotel on Copacabana. We learned of the Favelas– Rio’s slums – their hundreds of thousands (that’s >100,000 in many favelas) of denizens, and the drug gangs that control them. Red Command (Comando Vermelho), Pure Third Command (Terceiro Comando Puro ),  Amigos dos Amigos – Friends of Friends are the 3 he told us about. We later went on a tour of a Amigos de Amigos held favela. More on that in a separate article. The movie City of God – which I have yet to see – supposedly shows the early beginnings of Red Command. It’s now on my to-watch list.That first day was 40 degrees Celsius. 40C = 104F. 104 Farenheit with humidity is incredibly, mind-blowingly hot.Our hotel, the Rio Othon Palace seemed nice from the outset. Hansomly attired bellmen, taxis and porters at the ready, an agreeable concierge provided us early check-in but stated that the room itself wouldn’t be available until the afternoon. We signed in, checked our bags, and tried to walk around outside in the heat. Despite being 100 yards from the beach we didn’t dare go in the water. The intensity of the sun and the waves of heat coming off of the sand saw to that. When you are that hot it is hard to be hungry but we found a shaded outdoor Italian restaurant and ordered a pizza and a few drinks to idle the time away.

Eventually our room was ready. I could go into a tirade here but I will save that for a future article on Why You Should Never Book on Orbitz.In short we paid for a 4 star room and were given a 1 star. I have personally constructed wilderness shelters out of flea and tick infested shrubbery that were more hygenic than this disgusting excuse for a room. Jen cried. We complained. No dice.

Our experience with the hotel eventually ended up being a model of which we experienced all of Rio; By all appearances it ts beautiful on the outside but corrupt and empty once you scratch beneath the surface. A counterfeit paradise.

Good Things About Rio

  • Early AM beaches
  • Stunning Scenery (the beaches! the mountains! the freaking rain forrest inside a city!)
  • Sugar Loaf!
  • Christo Redentor
  • Infectious samba / Carnaval atmosphere.
  • Coconut water from real coconuts
  • Fitness fanatics everywhere – make you feel lazy. Everybody’s always moving.
  • Favela tour (more on this later)
  • Random parades with live music
  • Pretending to be a resident of Copacabana Hotel for a few hours

Bad Things About Rio

  • Muggings
  • !@#$ty hotel conditions
  • Constant begging
  • Group tours necessity
  • “Ladies of the night.”
  • Absolute inabilty to walk or explore anywhere on your own.
  • Having to take taxis to ridiculously expensive restaurants so you can eat without getting shived.

Honeymooning in Rio was like vacationing in a real-world Grand Turismo. Rio was one of the most dangerous place I’ve ever been. That includes Israel, Palestine, NYC, and West Virginia’s Mountaineer stadium wearing VT colors. It was also the most beautiful. (Again including Israel, Palestine, NYC, and West Virginia …) All in all, I am glad we went. I think I’m going to petition for a mulligan on this trip and call a re-do on the honeymoon though.

Playa del Carmen & Cozumel

Playa del Carmen and Cozumel Side Trip. We had an extra day before many guests would arrive to start our wedding week and decided to go exploring. An early AM breakfast and we were out the door on a taxi to Playacar palace – another in the Palace resort chain. Our concierge had given us the tip that the ferry to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen would fill up and we should try to get a ticket as early as possible. That meant a 5am wake up call on our wedding vacation!

Playa del Carmen

It was nice to see another Palace resorts – second breakfast at an all inclusive was even better! Got to love those bracelets of power! Playacar palace is tastefully decorated and most people were asleep by the time we got there. Playa del Carmen on the other hand seemed very tourist-y -even in the morning hours before anyone woke up. Nothing was open and we didn’t loiter. Just took some photos, did some entertaining people watching and moved on.

Ferry to Cozumel

The ferry to Cozumel was a quick affair. Buy your tickets, wait in line, get on the boat. 30-60 minutes later and you’re there. I love being out on any body of water and this trip was no exception. Motoring along through the Gulf of Mexico we could see cruise ships docked. Those things are massive! I think together the two of them were bigger than the island itself! I’ve never been on a cruise ship so I’m not sure if it would be any fun or not. I do assume that they have plenty to do if it rains though.

The weather didn’t improve but it wasn’t yet raining so we decided to walk the mile or so to Cozumel Palace (yet another of the Palace resorts). Getting off the ferry the hawkers surround you. Take a taxi! Sign up for scuba! Take this tour! Rent this Jeep. They come at you from all sides. We just pushed on.

Cozumel Palace

Our concierge told us we could snorkel from the back of Cozumel Palace. We thought about upping the ante and taking scuba lessons. Sadly, it was off-and-on raining with huge wind gusts and not-so-warm out so no scuba for us! We debated a few other options but put off by the commercialism we saw on our December 2008 Mexico trip, we decided against it. A few rum & cokes, snacks, and board games later the sun had come out enough for us to warm up playing ping pong. Snorkeling came soon after…. deep, warm, clear water with some fish. Nice but not spectacular. The day completed with lunch and with frequent trips to the swim up bar, of course. A pretty nice day.

Soon it was time for our walk back to the ferry. We checked out a few stores where the keepers and their minions followed us up and down every aisle. They must have trouble with American thieves we thought. Nothing was particularly good or interesting and so we bought a few sodas and off we went back to the mainland.

I think Cozumel and Play del Carmen would be a lot of fun on a warm, sunny day. As it was, we didn’t get that experience. Good time, just not spectacular. I was able to add a push pin to my Google Adventure Map and now we know what Cozumel has to offer.

Notes from the Wedding

The wedding was absolutely spectacular. Everything we could have hoped for and more. After all, how often is it that you get to transform a 5 star resort into a freshman dorm reunion? The wedding itself has already been rehashed to no end and everyone who we would share photos with should have already got them via Facebook. (If not, let me know.) I don’t know that I’m entirely comfortable posting those pics here on this space but I’ll post a few. Since people have been wondering how it went, here’s a recap.

Grown Up Spring Break

We left before sunrise Sunday after a blizzard paralyzed Charlotte and much of the rest of the East Coast Friday night and Saturday morning. The schedule was intentionally set so we could spend as much time with our friends and family as possible. (Don’t you hate those weddings where you only see the bride and groom for 5 minutes in a welcoming line?) Jen and I arrived nearly week before the ceremony in order to try to spend as much time partying and adventuring with our friends as possible. It really worked out! It was like grown up spring break!

The week started out rainy but still found a lot to do – namely a side trip to Cozumel and Playa del Carmen!

Reality of Wedding Planning

I know I’ve written before that sometimes you don’t get exactly what you expect in an all-inclusive resort. That is certainly true at Aventura. You get different answers on different days from different people. While the overall experience is excellent its the little perks, extras, and bonuses that you were counting on that are subject to interpretation. Your mileage may vary.

The wedding planning was entirely different because…

  • Very little to worry about – all inclusive really came through.
  • Gorgeous resort – we were happy we convinced 45 guests to come.
  • Room: huge bed, jacuzzi in the room, bottle of v!no, full bar and stocked fridge – for everyone, not just the wedding couple!
  • Affordable – we received a ton of credits due to how many nights our collective group booked. That went towards other wedding items.
  • Tons of activities.
    Couples played tennis, group water volleyball, water aerobics, video games, or just lounged and drank. There were side trips to Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, ceynotes, Tulum, and more. Some people even got to go ziplining in the jungle! Others made use of the work out facilities and / or the spas. Snorkeling, ping pong, and card games.
  • Wedding prep – you get to sample every dessert!
  • Awesome wedding coordinator!! The whole process was so easy and affordable! Highly recommend it!!

Random Entertaining Events

Every wedding has its stories, and these are only a part but they paint the picture:

Jen and I only knew what day it was by who is there. (aka – Leo & Amber are here so it must be Tuesday!)

Power failure! We lost power to the resort (and a large part of Mexico, it seems) the day before the wedding. Turns out the state had planned this outage well in advance. Good thing the generators turned on! Water purifiers made the cut on ‘essential systems’ but blenders did not. Only ‘on the rocks’ margaritas for 24 hours! Glad our wedding wasn’t that day!

Jen’s parents sat through the timeshare info session. We wanted no part of losing the pool time but they were able to trade in their timeshares for 4 X’s the time, less costs, and other benefits. Go parents-in-laws!

Karaoke! So many disparate parts of the group sang solo and some of the girls created a kick line while a gentleman sang “New York, NY.”

Rain on Friday? Not a problem! What would a return to Spring Break be without drinking card games. With free beer. In a lobby of a 5 star resort. With an audience.

Hitting the club on Friday night after the rehearsal dinner by way of party bus. Yes, we took a free intra hotel diesel bus to shuttle ourselves 1/12th of a mile. But it was great. When we ascended the stairs to the 2nd floor to find the club, we encountered a donkey. One girl screamed. Others took pictures in full bandito gear. Thus was born the legend of Senor Mustachio!

The Wedding Day

Of course we were here for a reason. Beyond the above mentioned parties, that is.

We started our wedding morning with a Spa treatment. That was good. I think I’m normally pretty calm but very early that morning I snapped awake. Returning to sleep was impossible. So was the thought of eating anything. A full spa complete with free hour massage goes a long way in soothing wedding nerves.

After that it was back to hard work of drinking, volleyball, and toying with the emotions of the staff:

Staff: “Sirs, would you like to come join us in the other pool for water aerobics?”
Ted: ‘What time does that start?” (I knew the time it started and the time it was now.)
Staff: “At 1pm.” (It was already 1:15pm)
Ted: “No can do. I have to be at a wedding at 1.”
Staff: “Sir, that is not possible! You’ll be late!!”
Ted: “Not at all. They can’t possibly start without me. I’m the groom.”
Staff: “Sir! You must go!!”
Ted: “You’re right. I am thirsty! Who else wants to swim up to the bar?”

Ceremony:

The ceremony started with the entire entourage at a private gazebo on the northern most part of the property. Guests were seated and nuclear family relatives walked down the aisle before Jen arrived. I stood at the altar waiting while a 7 man Mariachi band played. We had elected to have a few slight alterations to a ceremony that fit our style. The first was a family-orientation by the processional and we asked our siblings and their significant others to stand by us at the altar eschewing the normal best man / maid of honor, bridesmaids and groomsmen things.

“And the Horse You Rode in On”

A horse drawn carriage arrived dropping Jen off and her father off. He walked her to me and gave her away. The civil ceremony in lieu of a religious one fit our personalities (and my beliefs) and we stood facing our guests. I never understood why you wouldn’t face your guests.

The mariachis played, we were married, and fireworks shot off in the background. How many wedding do you know that had fireworks? Exactly. The entire party left and formed a circle that we were introduced to complete with champagne toasts and, at the insistence of our mariachi friends, my impression of a Mexican hat dance. (In the video I look like a wounded chicken.)

After-Pre–Party
Before we took the traditional wedding photos we tried to take photos with everyone. I can’t imagine why you would invite people to a wedding and then not be in pictures with them. It’s a group celebration, right? Well, put the group in the photos! And we did. Once that was over everyone went over to our post ceremony / pre-reception cocktail hour (yeah, we like to party!) while Jen and I took a few more photos just the two of us alone by a Mexican sunset by the cerulean seas of the Caribbean.

Golf carts took us from the cocktail party to the reception. Did I say wedding reception? It was actually a roast. Of me. Luckily the DJs surprised me with a gift – a CD burned with everyone’s best tidings, well-wishes, and orchestrated Ted-slams. I’ll treasure it forever.

The End

The next day we had a group breakfast but people had already started going home and the realization that we would soon return to a life filled not with volleyball, poolside drinks, and snorkeling. The Snowpocalyspe in the US made this something to take seriously. We filled our day with lounging, thanking those who had come and preparing to watch the Superbowl sans commercials on a 2 story projection screen in the lobby. Note: all inclusive drinks and 5 star food is the way all football affairs should be organized.

We killed the night by taking our remaining friends, the leftovers of the wedding cake, and complementary bottles of champagne and wine to our favorite lobby and reminisced. We would travel to Rio the next day for a honeymoon. But that’s a story for another time. This was one fantastic wedding. Thanks to all whom made it possible!

Peaceful Dragon

Everyone has their coping strategies for cubicle life. I like to travel and chase goals. I also enjoy pursuing various physical challenges to keep me sane. The last 2 years it was the 5.25 mile Cross Bay Swim. Previously it was bodybuilding, flag football, kickball, soccer, kayaking, hiking, or any number of other things. This year I decided to return to studying Martial Arts.
China wuhan mountains tai chi

Previous Study

One of my first memories is of a karate class. When I was very young my parents brought me to a karate class I believe taught by my godfather. Mostly, I remember playing with other kids on a mat in a gymnasium and having a great time.

Failure to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

I’m not certain if my parents ever took another class but later on they enrolled my brother and I in karate in a hole-in-the-wall North Babylon studio that had mirrors on the wall and pictures of students in full 80s greasy curled hair. Despite a love of 80’s-riffic fighting movies with training montages (Karate Kid, Rocky, etc) and the dot matrix print outs of workouts and belt-testing requirements they sent us home with, we never practiced. Our instructors covered and re-covered the same material so often I’m sure they thought we were “special.” No matter how much we learned, we earned a few belts for attendance. I think the most use our uniforms received were as stand-in Halloween costumes. After maybe a year either my parents got tired of paying for this glorified day care or the instructors got tired of taking their money and our lessons ended. I think that was when I started my education.

Self Study

There’s something about having knowledge (or more accurately, access to knowledge) taken away from you to make you want to learn something. At least that was how it was for me. The end of those (lack of) lessons led to me getting every book in the library on karate, kung fu, and related disciplines. I even think I bought a few from the elementary school book sale. I’d arrange my GI Joes in the stances, forms, and strikes I saw in those pages and practice them as best I could. Those 80’s movies came in handy as I did my best to imitate Daniel LaRusso, the Best of the Best fighters, and the likes of American Ninja. This probably went on for longer that I would care to admit. At least until I was able to take formal lessons.

A Good School

Serious study came when I entered to win free lessons at a nearby school – Fred Vilari’s karate. Surprise! I won. (It’s a marketing technique, everybody won!) I was in about 8th grade and I really took to it. I loved going. Many birthdays, Christmas’s and other gift-giving occasions led to me taking private lessons, learning weapons, getting more books, etc. Some friends joined and soon I was going with them, competing with (and against) them, and having a good time. We all marched lock-step in belt advancement. That irritated me. I really thought I was putting in a lot more effort (and was a lot more effective) than several of my peers.Eventually my peers petered off one by one. We had other concerns. Soccer, cross country, track, girls, boy scouts, church, etc all got in the way. I am not sure when I stopped my longest run of instruction but it was after a few years. I would re-join time and time again through out and even into college. I would do tournaments, try out other schools, practice with other friends but never for more than a couple of months.

Recently I looked up the school – a lot of those friends that I made inside the studio are now masters in their own right. They stayed with it. They became instructors and now they own their own shops. That made me kind of wonder ‘what might have been.’ I guess if you get old enough a lot of things make you do that.

Why Return Now?

The last few years have seen me in a cast of some kind or other. Mostly on my feet. Broken foot bones, collapsed arch, torn rotator cuff, dislocated toe, torn cartilage, surgery… the list goes on. Someone recently asked me why I thought that was. The easy answer would be Flag Football – after all that’s what I was doing when I had all of those injuries. The real reason I believe is that I let myself go.

As freshman ectomorph I stopped doing any kind of cardio in college all in an attempt to put as much muscle as possible on a very thin frame. After competing in a natural bodybuilding show to close out my college career I played after work sports for about a year before falling off that wagon. Lifting (and dieting) would go in spurts from that time but I have fallen short of my goal of discovering a way to keep in good shape for an extended period of time. After (relatively) mastering a subject (competing in a bodybuilding show, swimming 5.25 miles, etc) I think I get bored in further pursuing it. Martial Arts is something that I don’t think can be mastered. Plus, the stretching, movement, balance, coordination and mind-body balance all appeal to me as skills I sorely need work on. Doing martial arts will be fun for me in a way that lifting and swimming have ceased to be!

More than Physical

There are a number of other things that I like about this particular studio. For one, it is an unbroken line from THE Shaolin monastery to this school so it certainly has the romance and prestige of history going for it. Secondly it is as much a cultural institution as anything else. They have travelled to China before to that Shaolin monastery. (can you imagine this group as a tour guide???) They do travel to other places, celebrate holidays I don’t know of. They teach languages I don’t know and they hold study sessions on philosophies I grew up studying.

When I was looking for a martial arts schools I had thought I had wanted to find a new way to exercise. What I have realized is that I was looking for many things. A way to work out was just one of them. A way to heal up and continue physical therapy is another. Cultural pursuits a third. The list goes on.

Of course, after you make a decision to follow one course of action one tends to find corroborating data to back it up. The Peaceful Dragon may not end up being what I’m making it out to be. But like that old Chinese proverb, ‘a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.’ My journey starts tonight.

Rio Plans

February is almost here and we’re headed to Rio de Janero! Arriving one week ahead of one of the world’s craziest parties – Carnaval – this will be a honeymoon to remember!

Brazil Currency is called the Real and roughly $1 US == 1.75 Brazillian Reals. Conversely, 1 BR == 60 cents.

Rio de Janero Itinerary

I surveyed a bunch of on-line itineraries and this rough sketch of plans is influenced by the Rio Carnival, Frommers, and Hostel World. These were helpful as they provided a good outline of events. For example, I learned that we will miss most of the racous and reknown Carnaval parades as they start the night we fly out to return home. However, we may be able to see practices.

While those sites were great for a rough itinary outline, I will get better and more complete data by reading my Lonely Planet guide on my 8 hour flight to Rio. And since nothing ever replaces ground inteligence, we’ll see what the hotel can arrange for us in the forms of helicopter rides, hang gliding, samba lessons, parade practice, etc.

Day 0 – Travel (Monday 2/8/2010)

Travel

This will be the busiest travel day I have ever had. Married less than 48 hours earlier, we will leave from our Mayan wedding adventure early in the morning to catch a 90 minue bus ride to our flight out of Cancun airport. A 3 hour flight from Cancun takes us back to Charlotte where we will have to clear US customs. From there we will re-check in for our 8 hour + flight from Charlotte to Rio de Janero just a few short hours later!

3 airports, 5 timezones, 3 countries, 2 flights, countless opportunities for fun!

My expectations for this day are merely to survive! Make our connections, find a cab, get to our hotel, don’t get abducted. Reasonable enough, right?

Day 1 – Copacabana Beach (Tuesday 2/9/2010)

Copacabana Beach

Rio is reknown for its beaches. Time to get up and go relax – recovering from the wedding and our insane travel itinerary. This should let our bodies get acclimatized to the South American summer and Rio’s timezone. Nightlife up and down Altantico avenue sounds inviting but I’m not making any promises. I just want to soak in the ambiance.

Day 2 – Christ the Redeemer Statue (Wednesday 2/10/2010)

Christ the Redeemer

This is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and Rio’s most famous landmark.

Situated on top of Corcovado – ‘The Hunchback’ mountain – this statue overlooks the city. I’ve been seeing panoramic shots of this statue lording
over Rio for years. Now it’s time to scale the mountain and see it for ourselves.

A cogwheel train will take you up the 710 metres to the statue of Christ. The 20-minute ride gives you just enough time to prepare yourself mentally for what is waiting at the top. In the meantime, enjoy the lush scenery and take in some of that fresh mountain air of the Tijuca Forest. But keep your eyes open: every so often you can catch glimpses of Rio way below. Finally at the top of several flights of steps you are beneath the almost 40-metre
tall statue of Christ with the whole of Rio at your feet. The spectacle is truly incredible. The return journey can be combined with a visit to the
beaches at Barra da Tijuca. Mirante Dona Martha Cocktail / Helicopter flight This is another place that offers a fantastic view of Rio, located
alongside the Corcovado. Beach and beachy nightlife the rest of the day!

Day 3 – Sugar Loaf Mountain (Thursday 2/11/2010)

Sugar Loaf.

We’ll hit the beach again early morning. Later that day, we’ll hike another iconic image of Rio mid-morning. Lunch on top.

Sugar Loaf, in the Urca district, is ten minutes from Copacabana. The cable car trip is in two stages: The first goes to Urca Hill, 220 meters high, and then a short walk to the other side leads you to the second station for the next part of the ride, up to the top of Sugar Loaf itself. The top of
Sugar Loaf, 396 meters high, has been landscaped and includes several pathways and a bar. It can be visited in less than two hours. To extend
this into a half-day tour, combine visiting Sugar Loaf with a tour of the centre of Rio. In the centre you can see many beautiful historic buildings
amongst the bustle of an active business centre.

Beach and beachy nightlife the rest of the day!

Day 4 Favela Tour (Friday 2/12/2010)

Favela.

Rio is indeed called the Marvelous City. But for many, it’s not all that great. We’re going to learn more about the flip side of the beautiful people and the bright lights of the city on Marcelo Armstrong’s Favela Tour.

“In June 2002, the former President of Riotur, Jose Eduardo Guinle tried to censure FAVELA TOUR information. As operators of a very special
tour, it´s our main responsability to inform correctly and be realistic.”

Starting Time
9:00 a.m. / 2:00 p.m. Hotel pick-up in air conditioned mini van. Introduction comments about the context of favelas in Rio city and Brazilian society.

9:30 a.m. / 2:30 p.m. Arriving in Rocinha, welcoming, explanation about the architecture, public services, carnival, etc. Going to a local terrace, pause for pictures of a breathtaking view over Rio, talks about the security, local infrastructure and other aspects of favelas. Driving down through the “Estrada da Gávea”, a former F1 race track. Stop at the Rocinha Handcraft Center. Visiting the commercial area.

10:30 a.m. / 3:30 p.m. Arriving in Vila Canoas, visiting the “Para Ti” community school. This social project is financed by the tour. Besides regular classes, the school teaches local kids initial computer skills and the art of making handcrafts that can also be purchased by the visitor. Walk through the community. Optional stop for a drink in a local “buteco”. Stop at the local square. Informations about the “Favela Bairro” urbanization project.

11:30 a.m./ 4:30 p.m. Return to the hotel through all the south zone beaches. Final talks.

I’m not quite certain if we’ll do the tour in the morning or in the afternoon. I’m not sure if we’ll be feeling very much like touring after the tour. It does feel important, even for a bit, to look under the covers of Rios and gain a little more understanding of what happens beyond the glitz and glamor.

Later that day we may go hike in Tijuca – the inside-the-city rain forrest. (How many cities do you know of that have a rain forrest?) Or we may go hang gliding! Or…

In the morning we may take the old streetcar across the Arcos da Lapa to the quirky hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa. See the Museu Chácara do Céu. Enjoy the view at the Ruin Park, or have lunch in an outdoor café. In the afternoon, go hang gliding. Soar above the beach, feeling the wind,
admiring the mountains and the waves below. Or if that’s a bit too much, take a hike in the rainforest in Tijuca National Park, or stroll amid the
stately palm trees in the Jardim Botânico. In the evening, stroll the walkway round the edge of the Lagoa. Have a snack, a beer, or dinner at one
of the many kiosks. Find a kiosk with a band and enjoy the music and the prime people-watching.

Day 5 Carnaval Starts Today!!! (Saturday 2/13/2010)

Carnaval.

2PM – Banda de Ipanema Parade on Ipanema Beach.

Banda de Ipanema, a Rio de Janeiro cultural heritage, is one of the city’s most famous blocos (street carnivals). Attracting over 25,000 spectators
and starting around 5:00pm, the Banda de Ipanema is where you will see parades and street bands playing all over. People of all ages, outrageous
costumes and raucous behavior are all welcome.

Day 6 (Sunday 2/14/2010)

This day will be interesting. We have to check out of the hotel in the morning but our flight doesn’t leave until 10:55pm!!! Not sure if they’ll
let us extend our stay with it being Carnival….

Day 7 (Monday 2/15/2010)

Land in CLT @ 6am.
Sleep!

Any suggestions on where else we should go, what else we should do?

Maya Riviera Wedding – February 2010

2009 was awesome. It will live on forever in our hearts. But it’s time to let it pass. We will never recapture the glory that was there. Appreciate it for what it was, and let’s move on. We’re moving on to our wedding in Mexico. And I’m incredibly excited for this one.

The wedding will be at the Adventura Spa Palace Hotel. We chose Adventura because my parents have been several times and it made such an impression on us. Don’t confuse Adventura in the Mayan Riviera with the spring break legends you’ve heard of Cancun. You can read my recounting our first day in Cancun here. Contrast that with my first impressions of Adventura here.

The hotel is great, but there is only so long you can sit and do nothing in perfect weather as people wait on you hand and foot. We chose this hotel for it’s ease of access, sheer comfort, and for all of the available entertainment options.

Here’s a list of outside adventures you can do that come free with your hotel stay:

Some Available Activities

Chitzen Itza

Adventura offers a formulaic guided bus tour of Chitzen Itza. Matt, Christina, Jen and I decided to try this one on our own (read about that, here.)

If you aren’t up for renting your own jeep and driving into the heart of Mexican darkness with nothing but your inoperable iPhone, then take this tour. It is the iconic symbol of the Yucatan and worth seeing at least once. Watch out for the Topes along the way!

Wet n Wild

The 4 of us did this one. It’s a water park where they serve drinks. I will definitely be doing this again if for no other reason to enjoy the lazy river while Matt & Christina win the dance competition.

Tulum

Adventura offers a tour to Tulum. It’s an archaeological park on top with a pretty awesome beach below. No matter if you like Mayan ruins, or clean, clear ocean without lifeguards, go here. Tulum has both.

You can read about our trip to Tulum here.

Coba

We visited Coba as part of our own jeep tour but Palace offers a bus tour to Coba as well. This is the amazingly tall pyramid. For a time as she stood on the top, Jen was actually the highest point in Mexico. It is entirely unsupervised fun. You can rent bikes and go through partially excavated remains of a pretty important nexus city. Want to walk around ball courts where people were summarily executed, come here? By the way, look out for the gators in the swamp. They’re known to eat children. My favorite part of last year’s trip. I’d do it again.

Zip Line

Didn’t do the zipline tour last time. Will this time around. Looks fun. Plus, you can fill your backpack with all the drinks you can carry from your room.

Ek Balam / Valladoid

Have not done the Ek Balam trip yet. But you know I’m a sucker for ancient buildings. The Valldoid trip might be entertaining as well.

Other Tours

There are other tours. They cost money. I was really disappointed with the snorkeling tour. The snorkeling was free. The hemisphere’s largest living organism, the coral reef looks to be about dead. It was a tourist trap to get you to pay to hang glide, ride horses, atvs, etc. It felt slimy and after a few hours of waiting for a cab, we went back to the awesomeness of the hotel. Luckily, that tour operator’s website is long dead.

Other Palace Hotels

You get free admission & everything else when you visit other Palace resorts.

Xpu-Ha

I had a great time at Xpu Ha. It’s a jungle theme and they have monkeys, gators, deer, etc along side their grass huts. This is where I snorkeled in the estuary (first time since boy scout camp) and saw some pretty big fish. Lots of fun.

There are also other places within a cab ride of fun stuff to do. Matt tried to search for the true Mexico-the one with authentic food and no tourist. We were told to head north through Merida and on over to Tabasco country. Sounds like a great road trip to me, but not likely something I will be doing this trip. If you go, pick me up a hammock.

One other thing I would strongly consider would be cave diving in those ceynotes. Did you know those ceynotes are the remnants of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs? Thanks to Discovery channel for that one. Either way, what could possibly go wrong cave diving in limestone caverns in Mexico a few days before your wedding?

Things to do at the hotel other than sit in the sun and drink all day

  • Eat – tons of 5 star restaurants.
  • Kareoke
  • Gym – preferably before the tequila.
  • Rock Climb
  • Scuba Certified (costs, but you can do it)
  • Tennis
  • Multiple hot tubs the size of pools
  • Watch the super bowl!

That’s it! We look forward to hanging out with the people who are coming. We’ll miss everyone who isn’t.

Any questions? Suggestions? Leave them in the box below!