| Cunard Queen Victoria 2017 World Cruise
Sectors from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand
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We had visited Rio de Janeiro on the QE2 on a voyage to the Falkland Islands, and then had taken the full day tour of the main sites - the Sugar Loaf mountain, Copacabana beach, the Corcovada mountain with the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and including our first and memorable local churrascaria BBQ lunch. Although excellent, we did not want to repeat the same excursion. An alternative day tour was possible, to the mountain town of Petropolis some 80 kms north of Rio, where the royal family went in the summer to escape the heat. This was a good choice because the weather in Rio during our visit in 2017 was very hot and humid.
The Queen Victoria berthed alongside the old transhipment warehouses, at the Passenger Terminal. The Corcovado mountain was clealy visible in the distance with the statue of Christ the Redeemer on top. It is about 7kms as the crow flies, but much further by road because it is in the National Parque of Tijuca and only approached by the cog railway or a very winding road. The Sugar Loaf is not visible but is about the same distance away on the edge of the ocean at the Urca Bay and reached by cable car. The port location looked different to our previous visit. For those not taking a tour there was a shuttle bus to the Hotel Rio Othon Palace in Copacabana, and an optional internal shuttle bus service from the gangway to the port exit. A new tram service from the port to the city was opened for the Olympic Games in 2016. In the early morning there were no souvenir stalls and the cafes and bars were closed.
The journey to Petropolis started in the town, passing the Sambodrome. This is a permanent building where the famous samba schools parade each February at Carnaval, instead of processing through the streets. Our guide explained that there are 12 samba schools, and the six best perform in the first session and the others the following day. There were many warehouses and parking areas where equipment and floats were stored. Carnaval is linked to Easter, which is in mid April in 2017, so preparations were still taking place. We then continued along the outskirts of Rio, passing large groups of basic housing contained behind mesh fencing and which were described as slums by our tour guide. An alternative name is Favela, and they are the main areas of poor housing, often very large communities and with a reputation for drug dealing and violence. The route to Petropolis went along the Bay of Guanabara and passed the new bridge which had no traffic - it was only for public transport to the airport. There were good views of the mountains of the Serra dos Orgaos. This national park covers 105 sq km between Petropolis and Teresopolis with the highest peak reaching 2,263 metres. Ahead was more countryside and then the climb into the mountains. The road is divided into two parts, each of mostly 2 lanes, but one-way only. The high road climbs up to Petropolis and the lower and faster road is used for the return journey. There were remains of old stately mansions at the side, often with street sellers of coconuts, bananas and local handicrafts.
Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960 when it was replaced by the new town of Brasilia. Petropolis was also built as a new town. Following his success in leading the movement for independence from Portugal in 1822, King Dom Pedro I purchased a farm and its land there because he liked the area and intended to build a summer residence to escape the heat of Rio de Janeiro. He was forced to abdicate in April 1831 in favour of his son, who became Dom Pedro II and was then only 5 years old. Dom Pedro II decreed that Petropolis would become the summer seat of his government and in 1843 construction of the Imperial Palace began. The consequence was a building boom for new government buildings, palaces and houses for the wealthy.
The first highlight was a visit to the house of Santos Dumont, which was approached from the Quitandinha direction so there was a glimpse of the cathedral at the end of the Rio Quintandinha. It is opposite the tempting Katz chocolate shop, and near to the famous floral clock and the present Catholic University of Petropolis building, formerly the Palace Hotel. There is a bust of Santos Dumont, dated 19.10.1951, by the floral clock.
Alberto Santos Dumont was an innovator, born in 1873, who had been sent by his father to Paris as a young man to be educated in the sciences, especially engineering. Of independent means he was able to design, build and fly his own flying machines and spend time in France competing for prizes for successful flights. Brazil is very proud of his achievments and there is a full-size model of the most famous of his flying machines, number 14 bis, proudly in a park nearby. He designed his engines, some aircraft were of a box shape, others a single wing, and there were wheeled undercarriages not skids. The idea was to take off using the engine, travel a controlled distance, and then land successfully. He also designed and flew hot air balloons. He designed and built his summer house "A Encantada" in Petropolis in 1918 in the style of a french alpine chalet with a steep roof, although we remarked it was also similar to the house of Grieg in Norway. It is a small house, barely able to cope with our tour bus, and on 3 floors. The step steps up to the ground floor are cut so the they are safer and force the steps to be taken by either the left or right foot depending on the shape. The ground floor was a combined lounge, dining room, and study with a small low table and chairs. The walls have many copies of documents and trophies, as well as the chest containing his heart. He died in 1932. Upstairs, also accessed by an outside staircase, is a small mezzanine room with a ship-style single bed and telephone. The bathroom has an indoor alcohol-heated shower, a divided bucket with holes raised high which produces a mix of hot and cold water - a first in Brazil. There is another steep outside staircase to the observatory, at the top level.
The most important building in Petropolis is the Imperial Palace which is within gardens designed by the frenchman Jean-Baptiste Binot. The Imperial Palace was built between 1845 and 1864 and was said to be used as a summer palace from 1848. Following a military revolt and the establishment of a Republic, Dom Pedro II and his family were sent in exile to Paris in November 1889. The building then became a College until 1943 when President Vargas created the Imperial Museum. The garden has two statues: one is for President Vargas dated 16 March 1941 and the other for Sodre. Entry to the beautiful pink building requires use of overshoes and any bags have to be deposited in lockers. Small purses are OK if hidden in pockets and there is definitely no use of cameras allowed. The rooms have security guards to make sure there are no problems. The little souvenir shop only accepted local currency or credit cards.
Fortunately our DK guide book had a good map of the building and listed the most important items. The ground floor displays royal exhibits and there is a large music room occupying the width of the palace with a harp, pianos and a beautiful and rare triangular spinet built by Mathias Bosten in 1788. There followed rooms devoted to Dom Pedro I and Dom Pedro II, including large portraits of them in full regalia. The Crown Jewels are displayed and include the Imperial Sceptre made in 1822 for the coronation of Dom Pedro I and the Imperial Crown of Dom Pedro II made for his coronation on 18 July 1841. There are also many extravagant necklaces, gifts to ladies from Dom Pedro I. The first floor is much smaller and contains the State room with a throne which came from the palace in Sao Cristovao, as well as the royal bedrooms. The Gabinete study features Brazil's first telephone, presented to Dom Pedro II in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell.
The next visit was to the cathedral of Sao Pedro de Alcantara. Building began in 1884, but was not completed until 1925. Dom Pedro II died in 1891 and his remains, and those of Princess Regent Dona Theresa Christina, their daughter Isabel, her husband Count d'Eu and other members of the royal family are interred in the Imperial Chapel. The interior is of Carrara marble with beautiful stained glass windows. The Palacio de Princesa Isabel is on the other side of the square facing the cathedral.
This completed the tour of Petropolis and it was time for a late lunch before returning to the Queen Victoria. The disadvantage of a coach tour is that buildings are passed at speed and there was just a glimpse of the Crystal Palace. The metal structure and glass were shipped from France and assembled. Five years later, in 1884, it was inaugurated and initially used as a greenhouse, later becoming an exhibition hall and then the imperial ballroom.
The venue chosen for lunch was about 6kms outside the town, on the road towards Rio de Janeiro. It had been pointed out as we passed the Quitandinha palace, one of the most photographed iconic buildings in Petropolis. It was designed as a Casino and built between 1941 and 1946. Gambling had been permitted in Brazil since 1930, but it was outlawed on May 30, 1946 and the casino closed after only two years.The artificial lake in front of the hotel, resembling the shape of Brazil, was built to provide a source of water in the event of a fire. The hotel eventually closed in 1962 and its rooms were sold as private residences in 1963. Our lunch was not in the Quitandinha Palace but in the Lago Sul churrascaria next door, on the edge of the lake.
We returned to find the weather in Rio de Janeiro was hot and humid, too difficult even for a short browse at the souvenir stalls outside the cruise terminal. It had been a good choice to go to Petropolis. It is then 1121.4 nautical miles to the next port, Montevideo in Uruguay.
I have added some additional material based on our first visit to Rio de Janeiro back in 2003. On that visit we arrived the previous evening and began a slow entry past the famous beaches, around the Sugar Loaf with Corcovado in the background, then past the airport to the port. This gave some marvelous views in the evening light and the sun was setting as we reached our berth. The approach and departures are well worth watch with a camera to hand. The next day we planned to do the most comprehensive of the introuctory tours which would take us to the must see attractions, namely visiting the Corcovado, have lunch at a typical churrascaria restaurant, visiting the Sugar Loaf and finally a bonus of looking inside the Cathedral. It is an ideal introduction on a first visit
The trip began with a drive through Rio, past the Sambadrome where the famous Carnaval is held. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1984, it contains 82,000 seats and tourist tickets cost from US$250 upwards (2003 prices) and the show starts at 2030 finishing at 0600 the next morning. Rio is hilly and so is riddled with many road tunnels, up to 2 miles long. We passed some Favelas, the slums on the hillsides as we started the climb to the Corcovado. Corcovado means the Hunchback and is the name of the mountain. Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is the statue. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 709 metres. The statue stands another 30 metres high. It was designed by Heitor da Silva Costa and finally completed in 1931 by the french sculptor Paul Landowski, thanks to some financial assistance by the Vatican. To reach the statue there was a 20 minute ride by rack and pinion mountain train through the forest. Then there is the choice of a short climb up steps past souvenir shops, or else the new lift and then the escalator. The views from the top were spectacular.
We got back to our coach and continued through tunnels and alongside the lagoon - the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. We continued by the edge of the Botanical gardens, and past the Jockey Club into the area of Tijuca. Lunch was served here at a typical churrascaria restaurants, Tourao. For a fixed price you collect a buffet starter and salad. BBQ meat is then served from skewers at the table. Finally there is a dessert and cheese buffet to follow. The restaurant was just one street back from the Barra da Tijuca beach which is 18km long. There were lots of nice houses and condominiums with gated entrances.
We went through a small tunnel and then were on the beachfront road. The famous beaches were all on the South Side of Rio. There was usually hang gliding from Pedra Bonita to Praia do Pepino, but it stopped since a recent accident when a double dive went into the hillside. Nestled into the hillside behind the Hotel Inter Continental is the Favela Rocinho, the famous slum area. Nearby is the Hotel Nacional, presently empty. It is an unusual round shape, and was designed by the Brasilia architect Oscar Niemeyer. We drove along the Sao Conrado beach, and past a Golf Club, reaching the famous beaches of Leblon, then Ipanema and finally Copacabana. Soon it was time to pass the Princesa Isabel monument, and then the first of the giant shopping malls, Rio Sul, We drove through the Parque do Flamengo, glimpsing the monument to those who fell in WW2, and the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, before reaching the cable car station to go up the Sugar Loaf.
The journey by cable car is in two parts. The first cable car is up to Morro da Urca, then there is a short walk to the second cable car which goes to the top of the Sugar Loaf. The views were good, but it was not very clear visibility. At the top we had to wait for half an hour to come back due to a sudden thunderstorm. In spite of the protestations of our tour guide, the cable car was firmly closed until the risk of lightning had passed. We were all safely inside the building, while the rain poured and the lightning flashed around us. Of the five coaches, only the first two managed to get up the cable car.
Depite the delay there was still time to get to our final destination which was the Metropolitan cathedral of St Sebastian, a huge concrete cone with 4 spectacular stained glass windows. There were delays in the construction work and the area was used as a car park in order to earn money to complete the work. Pope John Paul II said Mass here on 4 September 1997. Nearby is the aquaduct - Arcos da Carioca which was constructed in 1750 with 42 arches. It was along days and an expensive tour but ideal for our first visit taking us to the most important places and giving an introduction to the typical food of the area.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 5th March, 2017