Two Americans and an Estonian walk into a bar...
The city cascades before me, rolling down the hills like water. Buildings built into the side of a mountain, seemingly teetering on the edge of falling down the slope into which they are built. Roofs and switchbacks below me, a mountain ridge to my left with a massive, forked tree providing shade to my right. A family of small monkeys — each no larger than a kitten — jumps from limb to limb, calling to one another in high-pitched chirps. The wind rustles through the trees framing my view; the breeze ensuring the weather remains pleasant despite the heat of the sun. Dogs bark below me, a wind chime rings behind. The sounds of the city echo in the valley below, making their way up the mountain yet softening as they travel. A clock tower rises from the center of the city, dominating the view from the hostel.
I have changed my home in Rio.
Villa Leonor is home to some of the friends I have made here in Rio. It looks like a small private house from the front — pale green framed in white — but it’s on the downhill side of the street. The ex-home is four stories tall but all built downward from the street, etched into the mountain. The highlight of the structure is the back deck, which is easily 20 feet deep and forty feet across. There are tables, chairs and couches littered throughout the expanse. None of them are particularly nice or comfortable, but it doesn’t really matter — the view makes up for all the hostel’s shortcomings.
David, Spud and Fletcher all live here, though Fletch travels to Havana tomorrow. David works for the hostel in exchange for free rent. I was meant to stay with Joey for nine days, but the ESPN base of operations is in Barra da Tijuca, which is a 90-minute bus ride each way to Rio. I definitely want to go down and visit him, but I can’t be that far outside the city and continue filming. So David got me a great deal on a bed in Villa Leonor, and I’ll be here until leaving for Manaus.
The hostel is a few blocks away from where I was staying before, so I was able to walk here with all my stuff. And, thank the Lord, the internet access here is reliable and fast (at least by Brazilian standards).
I checked in around 1:00pm and one of the staff told me about a party that night — it’s Mexican night with live music on the back deck… what could be better?
A professional chef from Mexico cooked the food for us; he’s visiting friends here in Rio and is staying at the hostel.
IT. WAS. DELICIOUS. It tasted like a gourmet taco shop in Dallas, except even better. The shredded beef and chicken were so tasty; the chef must have marinated the meat all day. For 20 reais, or about $9 USD, we got all you could eat tacos and a caipirinha — helluva deal. Plus, they have a small bar on the deck in which you can get three beers for 10 reais ($4 USD. Again, a helluva deal).
I sat around a table with one American here for the World Cup, an Estonian professional poker player, two Kiwis traveling throughout South America since April and a Swedish couple I met a couple nights ago. The conversation was lively and quickly turned to music given the live performance happening behind me. Everyone at the table listed our five favorite bands and started talking about the best shows we’ve every attended live. The live musician was quite good, the drinks were great and the company was even better. Laughs flowed freely as did the beer.
A team of us decided to make a night of it, so we walked to the crossroads for a couple beers. We met a group of Londoners and had a fun conversation about fútbol. After 15 or 20 minutes, they had to go meet a friend, so they bounced. We decided that since it’s Saturday night, it was time to head down to Lapa.
By this point it was just Tom, an American conversational in Portuguese, the professional poker player from Estonia and me. None of us knew the way down to Lapa from where we were, so we grabbed a cab down the hill. If I thought Lapa was cool the first time I went down there, I was woefully ignorant. Lapa is much, much bigger than I previously realized.
Walking the opposite direction from the arches, it’s a proper block party. Countless bars onto the street, live music everywhere you turn, lines out the front of posh clubs, people clogging the street drinks in hand — this was a party.
The three of us grabbed beers from one of the vendors on the street and began to walk around and explore. Within one block of walking, I heard the unmistakable sound of Led Zeppelin wafting from one of the live music venues. Sure enough, a Brazilian band was covering Rock and Roll, and the lead singer sounded more like Robert Plant than any other cover band I have ever heard. The English was near perfect and singer’s timber was as if Plant himself had come back from the seventies to serenade we three. They followed this with Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones, which was also excellent, but his Mick Jagger wasn’t quite as solid. They finished the set, and we headed on our way.
The rest of the night wasn’t that noteworthy… we walked around this giant party in the streets, exploring the entire area much more than I had the first time down here. We picked up beers here and there as we walked around. Around 1:00am we got hungry and sought out the area directly under the arches littered with food vendors. There was a hibachi grill making real Ramen and it looked too good to pass up — we did not make a mistake. The food was delicious, we finished eating then took a cab home.
My first night in the hostel was probably my most fun night here. The bed is absolute crap, the quarters are cramped but it doesn’t matter — the staff and guests are great and the view is sensational.
On a side note, I got two great interviews with the Midia NINJA on Friday and I think I’m only a couple interviews away from completing my filming. That’s going to be a great feeling when I can switch into full vacation mode, but until I get those last couple of interviews, I still have work to do. In the meantime, I’m just trying to enjoy Rio as much as I can. I’m about to go make lunch, so I will catch everyone on the flip side!