Our boots and clothes are still soaked. We pack again, trying to keep a few things dry for Rio. Our white clothing goes on top, ready for quick access once we arrive in Rio for New Year’s Eve. Tonight may not make our top 25 list. We tend to like natural adventure and ancient civilization stuff, but for some, New Year’s in Rio is a major bucket list item.
The won’t let us check out late in Argentina, so we hang at the pool for a while. It’s a little chilly to swim, but Lily always gets in the pool. It’s so funny that she is afraid of fish because she is insanely comfortable in water – pools especially. I don’t think she has ever said she’s had enough swimming.
We could have been stuck in limbo
On our way out of Argentina, the driver asks for our Brazil entrance forms. We don’t have any entrance forms, but I gather we were supposed to get them on the way in two days ago. He speaks only Spanish, but is clearly trying to be helpful. I think we catch a break, because he takes our passports inside passport control by himself, and comes out having cleared our entry. I tip him nicely at the Brazil airport.
Our smelly wet hiking boots are haning off the back of our bags and we look like real backpackers. Our friend Brian gave us a wet boot tip: fill them with paper towels or newspaper and change it a few times. We won’t need them for a day. Tonight and tomorrow is all beach! We’re headed to Rio for the New Year’s celebration.
Rio is packed
We need to eat so I grab some cucumber sushi (not without a little fight at the register because I want to substitute cucumber maki for the fish ones. Why is that so hard?) And the taxi line is really long. There are guys out front that want to take us, but they are charging $100, which I’m sure is way above the normal rate. Our driver charges us $40, but does have to drop us off a ways away because all the streets are closed.
Copacabana streets are packed with people, people selling things like beer, water and flowers. There is chanting in Portuguese, and general merriment. Our hotel checks us in easily, which is a relief. I was worried.
Playing the cancer card
In early December I wrote a note to The Tulip Hotel asking about getting an extra bed for the room. They said there was no room for an extra bed or cot, and we would have to upgrade to a $1000/night triple. And no, the girls wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to sleep on the same bed. As for my original reservation, they couldn’t even credit me that because it had been made through a third party: hotel.com. With the 4 night minimum stay, they were telling me it would cost me around $5500 to be in Rio for the 4 nights I already had booked.
It was a rough day at work, and it really stressed me out that they would not accommodate an 11 year old girl. I write at least 20 back and forth emails, and they repeatedly said “no”. I even pulled the cancer and dead mom card (Trish would have approved.) Eventually, they gave in and said the girls would be ‘allowed’ to sleep in the same bed.
And so they will! It’s hard on them, but Rio will be worth it. They’ve slept in more difficult places for sure.
We change into our whites. Rio custom is to wear white to bring in the New Year with purity. You can accent with red (romance) or yellow (good luck) or green (health), but white is needed and black is really bad luck. The beach is warm and revelers are (some literally) dug in to the sand creating little box seats for the big firework display.
Somewhere on this big strip of sand is a stage with music, but we are content to walk to the edge of the beach, put our flowers in the water, dip our toes in and wait for the New Year’s passing. A guy hugs me and says “Feliz Novo Ano!” on the stroke of midnight.
As the fireworks go off, we grin at the spectacle. Lily bounces. After a few minutes we come closer together. I put my arms around them. We are all thinking the same thing, that we wish she were here, but also glad that 2012 is even farther away because the pain does get easier with time. A few tears form.
Afterward, we head inside with the throng. They say two million people come to Copacabana each year for New Year’s Eve – more than Time’s Square. It’s beginning to rival Carnival as a Rio event. Luckily our hotel is right on the beach, and we can just go up to our room and relax.
We’re not gonna do anything today. We had that down time in Iguazu, but there was no beach and sun. New Years Day we sleep in till 11, grab the hotel breakfast just as the are closing and head to the beach.
Brazilians have a lot of services right on the beach. You can buy a shower, a bathing suit, an umbrella, grilled shrimp and of course water and Cerveza. We have most of what we need already, but it’s a nice way to deal with beach life. You can just show up and be. Supposedly the locals are as likely to say “Have a nice beach” as “Have a nice day”.
The water is warm and the waves are modest, but fun. Lily as always wants to stay longer. But Emma and I are hungry. It’s 4pm and all the beach front restaurants are closing. I don’t know if that’s a New years Day thing or some kind of siesta. But we find a great Levant restaurant with decent hummus and felafel.
Our brains are sun-baked. After a long, late nap, we get up and go to a local pizza place for more food. I guess all that swimming made us hungry. It’s served Brazilian style where it’s one price and all you can eat. They bring different kinds along: garlic, margharita, pepper, white and a delicious chocolate one that make Emma beam.
Tomorrow we get up early. The crowds in Rio on New Years rivals Carnival and we’ll have to get an headstart to get a chance at any of the attractions.