HOW TO WASTE
A DAY IN RIO
We were on
the tail end of our three week adventure in South America. Only a couple
of days to go. Everything had gone beautifully, every day new sights,
every night new tastes. All was well with the world.
do what I want to do, for once?" whined my wife as I glanced through
the Rio de Janeiro guide book.
Uh, oh. That
could only mean one thing---culture. We had been to the beaches, we had
gone on the Jeep tour through the jungle---she had loved it all. But those
were my ideas.
to see that summer palace that the tour guide was talking about," she
realizing it was too hot for her to suggest a downtown museum. We both
agreed the palace was on an island, accessible only by boat. That’s what
we thought the Jeep tour guide said, but his English wasn’t the best. If
it included a boat, though, I could survive.
I spotted it
in the guide book almost immediately---the Isla Fiscal. King Pedro II had
fallen in love with the island in 1808 and……that was enough
reading---we were on our way.
grueling taxi ride through traffic and humid 90 degree heat, we arrived at
the Naval base near downtown Rio. After some searching, we found the
ticket booth for the tour.
tour to Isla Fiscal?" I asked.
broken," replied the nice Brazilian Navy man in the few English words
he had practiced. "Must go by shuttle bus."
strange---an island accessible by bus. Something didn’t seem right, but
I didn’t dare suggest to my wife that she forfeit her desire to see a
pulled up and we quickly took our seats. No air conditioning, and windows
that only opened about 16 inches. We were both sweating profusely, and my
wife doesn’t sweat.
when the 25 fourth-graders climbed on for their field trip, all of them
screaming in Portuguese as their teacher ignored them. I like kids, and so
does my wife---just not all at once.
pulled out and inched through the incessant Rio traffic. Some kid was in
the seat behind us, with a voice that would shatter teeth. He was in a
league above the rest of the screaming little buggers. With sweat pouring
down our faces, we both turned and gave him the international look
recognized by children around the world. It didn’t help.
thing that fueled us was the curiosity of how a bus could get to the King’s
summer island palace. When we saw the answer, it wasn’t comforting. It
was a causeway over the water, just wide enough to handle the bus, and no
guardrails. The kids were still yelling, oblivious that we could plunge to
a murky death with one inadvertent sneeze from the driver.
out the window openings. My wife would fit, and I would be left behind.
Damn cheeseburgers! I knew they’d kill me one way or another.
realized I’d have to stay and save the children, anyway. Except maybe
the kid in the seat behind me. He’d have to apologize first.
the incredible skill, and health, of our driver, we made the turn and the
island was in sight. Our first thought was that King Pedro II was an
idiot. One, why would he build a summer palace about 400 yards from shore,
and two, why would he build such a dumpy summer palace?
halfway through the unescapable one-hour tour, which was all in
Portuguese, we realized who the idiots were. Isla Fiscal was where King
Pedro II decided to build a government building for use by his Navy. He
liked ornate architecture, so it sort of looked like a palace. He never
spent one night on the island, and it was pretty clear why.
We learned much
later that Pedro’s summer palace was in a town called Petropolis, which
made sense. It was an hour away, up in the mountains, where it was much
cooler in the summer. Which made sense.
The sweat, the
screaming kids, the near-death experience, the most boring tour in the
world---it was all a big mistake.
Over dinner that
night, after we had recovered, I let my wife know it was all her fault.
Had it been my idea to see a summer palace, I would have read the guide
book more carefully.