Rio de Janeiro: Part 1

The flight into Rio was amazing! If you’ve seen any photos of the Olympic stadiums, Christ Redeemer or Sugar Loaf, they’re all just as beautiful as the pictures look. Although I do have to say, getting off the plane, the hot and humid air hits you like a brick wall.

We grabbed a uber right from the airport to our Airbnb where Tomaz, our host, met us with the keys. We had some seriously good luck with our Airbnb hosts because Tomaz was awesome. His place was a block away from Copacabana Beach. It was clean, had AC (which ended up being a LIFE SAVER), and all the essentials. Because we were renting during the New Years celebration, it was more expensive than usual but he seemed to give us a far price. Here’s the link to for his Airbnb page if you’re ever looking for a good guy to rent from in Rio!

After we dropped our bags, TO THE BEACH WE WENT! A little odd being on the beach a few days before the New Years celebration but we sure weren’t complaining! But we soon came to realize just how hot and sticky our stay in Rio was going to be. We actually had to go back to our place after a few hours because of exhaustion from the strong South American sun which we weren’t used to and desperately needing water and nap.

Before we left Buenos Aires, I talked with my physio, Mariana, who is from Rio to get the scoop. Needless to say she gave us a very long list including a ton of food or drinks she wanted us to try. Of course, I’m not going to refuse good food and drinks but personally, I had two goals for Rio: 1. Sip a caipirinha out of a coconut while laying on the beach (which was a little more difficult than I thought it would be) and 2. Buy myself a nice cheeky brazilian bikini :). Both were fulfilled as you will read about later.

After our nap, we decided sushi sounded good and luckily we saw a nice place right down the street. After getting up early to go to the bird park, traveling, and the laying in the sun in the afternoon, we were exhausted. We went to sleep pretty early that night because we were going to get up early again the next morning for more touristy things.

When you think of Rio, the two most touristy places you can go are the Christ Redeemer and taking the cable cars up Sugar Loaf Mountain. Both can be tricky and very dependant on weather/cloud coverage. Luckily, we woke up the next morning to a beautiful day. We walked almost all the way down Copacabana beach, passing Copacabana Palace on the way, to the stand where you buy tickets for the Christ Redeemer. The ticket booth even had live footage of the image of statue to show you the weather conditions. We were told that sometimes you can get to the top of the mountain and see absolutely nothing because clouds will be passing or the weather will be bad. We were luck and had crystal blue skies 🙂

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Copacabana Palace

We bought tickets for a shuttle bus up and back down the mountain so we didn’t have to worry about taxi’s or the train. I had read reviews on taking the train up and although people say it’s part of the experience, we weren’t interested (the shuttles also had AC…). On the way up we saw a few people hiking or attempting to bike up the trail but oh boy did that seem hard! It’s a mountain people, think major inclines! Sometimes, even looking through the dash in the shuttle you couldn’t see the road in front of us because of how much of a slope the vehicle was on.

After sitting in some traffic (sometimes it’s only one lane to go up and down the mountain so the shuttles have to play a game of chicken) , getting dropped off and walking up quite a few stairs, we reached the statue and were greeted by hundreds of other people all trying to get the same photo (the ‘Jesus pose’). The funny part was, on the ground you would find soft mats all over the place so when whoever was taking the picture for you would lay on the ground, at least it wasn’t solid cement they were laying on. Clearly a true tourist attraction but still a must none the less.

After taking our pictures and observing the beautiful views of almost all of the beaches of Rio, we headed back down in the shuttle. Since it was such a beautiful day, we immediately ordered an Uber to take us to Sugar Loaf Mountain or Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese. Well it just so happened to be the most popular time to buy tickets so we stood inline and waited for close to 2 hours…again, part of being a tourist.

To reach the top of the mountain, 65 passengers can fit in each cable car but there are two separate cable cars you must take to reach the very top. The first ascends to the shorter peak Morro da Urca which is 722 ft above the harbor. The second ascends to Pão de Açúcar which is 1,299 ft. Even though we wanted for quite a long time to get in a cable car, in total, the ascent only takes three minutes from start to finish to reach the top of Pão de Açúcar.

We wanted to do the highest/second peak first and work our way back down so went all the way up. The view is unbelievable. You can to see the Christ Redeemer looking over all of Rio (when the clouds allow it), the gorgeous beaches and islands, and the iconic view of the different mountainside favelas and neighborhoods of Rio. There were a few trails you could take to see a 360° view and monkeys if you were luckly…we were not. No monkeys for us but beautiful pictures!

The second peak held more of the places to eat, souvenirs and a helicopter pad for those who wanted to take a 5 min helicopter ride. For breakfast, we had only eaten some bread we found at a place near the ticket booth so at this point we were starving. Even though the food was so over priced, we ended up buying a few snacks to hold us over until we got down the mountain. I got cheese bread or pao de queijo which is always delicious and Cody got a chocolate covered churro…we were not going for nutritious here. 

Heading back down in the cable car, we were literally caught in the clouds! An enormous cloud was passing through the mountain. Our timing for both monuments was perfect! 

After coming down from the mountain, we were walking distance from a bar I had seen on the Food Network. I’m a sucker for food/travel shows so I tend to watch a lot of Anthony Bourdain, Chef’s Table, or Andrew Zimmern. Anyways, Bar Urca was on one of those episodes as a great locals bar with a gorgeous view sitting on the sea wall. After a 25 min walk, we found that it was indeed packed with locals. We were lucky enough to get a table in the inside/upstairs section which is very hard to do. We enjoyed a couple of drinks, some empanadas and a little rest time for our legs. Satisfied and a little tipsy from the caipirinhas, we walked along the sea wall with the locals and caught an uber to go back to Copacabana.

After a little shopping around the beach, dinner was the next thing on our minds. Since we were in the mood for A LOT of food, there was a churrista in Ipanema that sounded delicious. We walked there and were not disappointed. Delicious, delicious, delicious. Since we were staying right in front of a pacified favela, we had to be careful of where we walked but as a group, we were ok. Since tomorrow was going to be a long night, we ended up heading home after dinner very satisfied.

The New Years celebrations in Rio deserve a whole post to itself so I’ll stop here. Our New Years shenanigans next!
xo,
B

Cirque du Soleil Workshop: The Final Week

Ahh I can’t believe I forgot to post this!

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WEEK 4! The final week of the workshop, I can’t believe it’s been a month already!

Monday:

Cody left early in the morning to catch his 12 hour bus home.

This week’s schedule was a little different from the previous weeks because there was a kid’s camp happening in the mornings so our schedule started an hour later, cut a half and hour out of our lunch but then finished at the same time at the end of the day.

So instead of starting warm up at 9am we started at 10am but today I had a meeting with a guy I’ve been talking to about #SodaCirque (!!!) at 9:45am. So great getting to meet all of these people in person who I’ve spoken with on the phone! I found out a lot more information about the show and a more definite schedule although nothing in definite with Cirque until it’s actually happening I’ve come to learn.

When practice started I was actually able to do real skills this week! I started out doing the skill I was working on before I got split open by the bar. No one else had worked on this skill so for the big presentation at the end of the week, I would be the only one doing it.

During our lunch hour, in the studio next door, they were setting up the stage for the show in South America! So cool!! They had to make sure all the pieces were there and everything worked before they sent it down.

After lunch, during the afternoon session, I tried a different skill but ended up going back to the morning session skill because I liked it better 🙂

After a trip to the nicer grocery store with a few other crew members we had dinner and reconvened downstairs for a little Cards Against Humanity with some new friends we met at HQ who were staying the residence now too. That game gets people comfortable with each other pretty quickly! Two of the guys were actually on touring shows already and were just here for rehab or training a new act.

Tuesday 

Regular sessions for the day, continued to work on different skills while making them consistant at the same time. We started to nail down more of a routine and an order for the presentation that was coming which we found out there were going to be quite a few important people coming to watch…no pressure.

After the afternoon session, I rented a bike and went to the pharmacy down the street and grabbed a few thank you cards just to show my appreciation to everyone there who I was able to meet and work with. I really had a great time and I wanted to make sure they knew that! And of course, along with the French thank you cards (that I had to translate first before I bought them to make sure they did actually say thank you and not something else…) I found some more candy bars I hadn’t tried yet, I can’t resist trying sweets 🙂

My favorite out of this bunch is the Crunchie bar, it’s sponge toffee that has a weird texture but is one of those candies that can get stuck in you teeth and you get to pick out for the next hour. I like those, it keep me occupied. I know what you’re thinking, no I did not eat all of these candy bars at once! I actually brought most of them home so my family could try them too.

Wednesday 

Wednesday, I had another meeting with Patrick at 9:45am to ask a few more questions forgot to ask the first time. I am getting a better idea of the show the more I get to talk with people about it, it gets me more and more excited!!

Morning session, lunch and afternoon session were the same, making more of the routine adding in costumes if we wanted to. At the end of the afternoon session we meet the VP of Cirque who actually has actually announced the past 7 Olympics for Canada, he had just gotten back from Rio!

We also got to go see another C:Lab happening for #Soda! Can you tell I’m excited!! I went back to the physio room to see the trainers to get some strengthening moves I could do when I got home to keep my ankle and knee strength up before going to SA.

I went home and had told Olivia and Steph that we should go up to the Portuguese place up the street because it was that good! We all go chicken that hit the spot right away but at 6:45pm I had my last massage. When I looked at my watch it was 6:38…I had to literally sprint home on a full stomach to make it! I made it there just in time.

With my belly full and muscles relaxed I went back to my room and slept like a baby.

Thursday 

Today was the day of the final presentation!!

We started practice at the same time but our coach let us out an hour before our scheduled lunch time so we could have extra time to get ready. The boutique store which never seemed to be open was finally open! So I went to go check that out and ended up buying a few things of course.

After lunch we put our costumes on and got ready as people started to show up. The man in charge of this project expected 25ish people to come…there were 90-100 people who came!! It was awesome! He introduced the project to everyone while we climbed up on the apparatus. When he was done, the music started and we started our routine. If someone didn’t make their combination or skill, we created an interesting system to hoist the person back up so they could try again if they wanted to. Everyone either made their combo the first or second time and the presentation was an amazing success! Even though I had only been back swinging on the apparatus for a week, I made my skill the first time! The power of positive thinking and visualization at work 🙂 (thanks dad).

After the presentation I went to the physio room to see JP on how to “manipulate my scar” so the scar tissue doesn’t continue to build up to the point where the skin gets stiff, it’s not pleasant to rub a new scar and it’s a little painful.

Before the happy hour they had prepared for us, Steph, Olivia and I went exploring in the rest of HQ. When you’re wandering around a place known for its creativity, you’re bound to find some odd things:

We went right up to the happy hour Marie had set up for us as a good-bye/great job! Sangria and apps galore. We were able to talk with the coaches and some of the head people who came to watch the presentation and get some insight into where this apparatus is heading and what they are thinking the next steps will be. It’s pretty cool to be able to talk with some of the important people making the executive decisions about the shows.

We ended up leaving HQ and heading back to the residence with pitchers of unfinished sangria in our arms 🙂 All we had tomorrow was a meeting to wrap up the month so we were going to make the best of the night!

Friday

Checked into my flight at 10am, I had another meeting with the costume department at 10:30am to get more measurements taken so they can have something to work with before going down to SA. This time I got to meet Michael Laprise and Chantal Tremblay who are MAJOR PLAYERS in Cirque. They created the show Kurios which is now touring the US! And they are the artistic directors for my show!!!

Our final wrap up meeting started at 1pm and the whole team + coaches and riggers were there to give final thoughts on month and what we thought the next steps should be. It was an awesome meeting, so many good ideas being thrown out there with a lot of constructive feedback.

In lines with concluding everything, we each had a meeting with the physio to make sure we were leaving in the same condition we came in as…stitch free! Aside from some rips, pretty good finger burns, and a gash that didn’t want to stay closed without stitches, I was doing just fine!

Doing a little more exploring, I was able to go up to the very top of HQ to “the grid” and see what the technicians see:

Since this was our very last night in town we wanted to do something all as a team. A few members had been to an archery tag place earlier in the month and said it was a ton of fun. Our new friends joined us for our 6:30pm reservation time. I was expecting a laser tag kind of set up but it was actually just an open area inside a building with a few blow up things to hide behind. The concept was a lot like laser tag, if someone hit you, you were out. It ended up being really fun! We played against a team of random people and of course, being the compeitive athletes and acrobats, we won!

We went back to the residence and joined our Russian friends out by the BBQ and played games and laughed until we were exhausted.

Conclusion of the month: I would not have changed a thing! I loved every single second of this month and I could not be more grateful to have gotten the opportunity! The people, the apparatus and the workshop became my friends, a challenge conquered and an absolutely wonderful experience! I wish everyone the best of luck and I will miss everyone! Hopefully I will be fortunate enough to be up there again in the future but for now, I’ve got my sights set on South America 🙂


Saturday

Saturday came early, I had to turn my ID in (which I wish I wouldn’t have but you live and you learn) and left the residence at 6:30am to give myself enough time to go through customs. Montreal has an interesting system where you go through customs in the Montreal airport rather than when you get into the US. The flight took off at 10am and I was headed home! What a great experience! 🙂

Xx, Bets

Weekend #3 Adventures

Saturday: 

Cody Arrived in the Morning!

As soon as he arrived, I planned a whole list of things I wanted to show him! We rented bikes from HQ and rode all the way to our first stop which was St. Vieatur’s Bagels, of course, becasue its delicious! We each got a single bagel, some cream cheese, went outside to sit on a bench and enjoy our breakfast.

The original St. Vieatur’s shop is actually very close to Mt. Royal. Even though we drove up the other weekend, I wanted to go again and find a different view. So we rode all the way up Mt. Royal (the mountain Montreal is named after, I can’t remember if I said that before) and found another amazing view:

The ride up was tough but the ride down was a breeze, we coasted all the way down to our lunch spot which was Schwartz! The famous smoked meat sandwich place. Montreal is known for three things: poutine, bagels and smoked meat and I was going to check all three off my list. The line to get into the actual restaurant was so long but right next door there was a take-away section. We waited in line at the take-away section for a good 10-ish mins before getting up to order, it was a busy place. We both ordered the standard/traditional smoked meat sandwich with a side of smoked meat poutine 🙂 We got our fill of smoked meat. Needless to say, it was yummy.

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Schwartz was on Rue St. Laurent which is the street you can take all the way down to Old Port, so we hopped on our bikes and tried to avoid people as best we could going down the sidewalks. Old Port is pretty hilly so we found a bike rack and started walking around where we found a nice fountain the take a nap by.

We walked through Old Port, went back to the maple shop and had a sample of the iced maple syrup. They put a maple syrup concentrate on a bed of ice, stick a popsicle in it and roll it right up! It’s a cold maple-y treat! Way too sweet to have a big one though, that’s why we only got samples.

I still hadn’t been inside the Basilica so we walked by again but there was still an incredibly long line out front so we never ended up going in but we did see a bride and groom drive by out front!

At that point we were getting tired and knew we had to ride our bikes all the back to HQ so I thought going through the Gay Village on our way back up to the residence would be a good idea so Cody could see it…well we get out 3/4 of the way down the street and my tire popped…I had been on the metro before and I didn’t see anyone with a bike so I didn’t know if they were allowed, no taxi or über was going to put a bike in their car, so what did we do? We walked. All. The. Way. Home. 5 Miles…Sorry Cody. BUT the silver lining was that we were going to an all-you-can-eat sushi place for dinner! So the exercise was a good thing 🙂

The sushi place was actually down by Schwartz so we definitely weren’t walking or biking there. We grabbed and über, demolished A TON of delicious sushi from a huge menu to pick from, some beer and some sake and called it a night!

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Sunday: 

It was supposed to rain on Sunday at around 1pm and I knew I wanted to go to the Jean-Talon Market for breakfast so we rented bikes again (not the same bike with the popped tire) and rode to the market.

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The very first stop I wanted to make was to get some of that corn that looked so delicious last time! And it was absolutely worth coming back for, fresh sweet corn with some butter and salt, ummhmm good.

We also wanted real breakfast so there was a crepe place right in the market that looked fantastic last time I was there as well. We both order one and they were pretty big, but again, delicious.

We arrived back at the residence just in the nick of time before it started raining. It was a movie kind of day, not to mention we were kind of exhausted from yesterday’s schedule. So we relaxed the rest of the day until dinner.

There was a Portuguese place right up the street that was supposed to be phenomenal. It is called O Cantinho and it was probably the best place I ate the entire trip! Bread, butter and olives to start, some wine and delicious Portuguese food. Cody and I ended up splitting the two dished that came with almost everything. The menu was in Portuguese and French, no english, so we asked the server what was good to order. He suggested, if we were looking to try a little of everything (and let’s face it, we always are) these would be the best combos. One was a sample meat dish and the other was a sample seafood dish, both served with fries and a salad. The pictures don’t do it justice, so so so good! And of course there was an absolutely beautiful sunset as we were finishing dinner and walking home.

Great weekend! I had checked everything off my bucket list and I still had a week to go!

Next will be my final week in Montreal! I can’t believe it was almost a month at that point, the time flew by!

Xx, Betsy