Forte Do Leme – What a View!

Brazilian Flag

If you ever find yourself in Rio (actually it’s a big enough place where you could lose yourself quite easily) not that I expect anyone to randomly go, but anyone who might be thinking about going to the 2016 Summer Olympics, plan to do this:

Walk to the end of Copacabana Beech toward Leme.  Veer off to the left.  Go to the kiosk.  Buy a ticket to Sitio Historico do Forte Duque de Caxias for R$4 or about $1.80 U.S. and head up the hill. You have to enter a military base to access it, so don’t be alarmed to see an armed guard staring at you as you pass through. Just smile.

Rio is known for its hills called morros.  Leme is one of the larger beach side hills and is the site of an 18th century Fort built to protect the city.  It is the third largest hill in Rio next to Sugarloaf and Corcovado where Christ the Redeemer welcomes with outstretched arms.  Morro do Leme has a nice stone paved twisting trail that you can take to the top to visit the Fort and get a magnificent view of Rio.  As you enter the trail, look straight up at the rock face and you’ll find cactus growing. It reminded me of a Dali painting.  Wear your walking shoes because it’s a bit of hike, but a pleasant one, as if going through a rain forest, with an abundance of fauna and flora, colorful birds and tiny squirrel-like monkeys called micos. And what a glorious view!

The walk from the middle of Copacabana Beach to the top of the Hill and back is about 9 miles, 17,000 steps according to my pedometer, and is well worth your time and effort; highly recommended!





Dali Exhibit in Rio De Janeiro

Dali Exhibitioin_Rio (2014)

I like Salvador Dali, though not as much as I thought I did. Dali first came to my attention as a freshman in college after seeing a print of his dripping clock in the University bookstore. It hung on my dorm room and apartment walls for 4 years alongside a Chagall. The surrealists made sense to me then – I got it. But now that I’m older, surrealist works seem a bit cheesy to me.  The shock value doesn’t carry as much of a punch and feels dated – trapped in time, aging badly.  That’s not to say I think Dali is a fraud, even though he was very much all about Dali, like so many self-promoting “superstars” of today.  He was certainly an artist oozing with talent whose mind saw things in a very peculiar and interesting way.  I have seen some of his works that are part of collections at major U.S. museums, but never an exhibit of them until now.  

I had the good fortune and pleasure to see a free Dali exhibition in Rio De Janeiro of a wide range of Dali creations from illustrations and sketches for books like Alice In Wonderland, and Don Quixote to some of his best known works from all phases of his artistic career. After viewing the exhibition, I came away with a better appreciation and respect for his talents, but also the realization that I don’t much like surrealism anymore. 

I did take a limited number of photos, with some reluctance, I’ll admit, of the stuff in the exhibit that I liked. We were allowed to take photos without a flash, so my reservation wasn’t so much that I was doing something illegal.  My reservation was more that the camera might cheapen the experience, act as a substitute for my eyes, such that I would not appreciate or savor the rare moment with the original artwork.  These days, people blow by exhibits taking photos and selfies indiscriminately with ALL of the art, without even really seeing or feeling anything.  And while it may seem hypocritical for me to critique this practice and then take photos too, I believe my process was a little more respectful to me, to the other patrons and to the artwork itself.  First, I went through a section of the exhibit making mental notes of what I liked and then went back and took low-fi snapshots with my Samsung Galaxy.  Below are the ones I took.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.  



Venezuela, July 1990 Travelogue


Airport at Baraquisimeto, Venezuela

Back in the summer of 1990, I traveled to Venezuela with some friends whose close friends lived there. These friends lived in a remote, sleepy province Southwest of Caracas.  There wasn’t much to do there so we traveled quite a bit to various spots from Merida to Caracas.  It’s all a bit of blur for me now and I don’t have many surviving pictures to remind me of the adventure, but I did stumble across a travel journal I kept on the trip.  Some of my notes are unintelligible, and some, silly and immature, but what the heck, I thought I would post a few of my musings of nearly 25 years ago, lightly edited.

  • There is a town close to San Felipe called Moron.  I wonder if the locals are called Morons?
  • Altura maxima permitida 3.9m – I’m not sure if that means duck, or no worries. I should have learned the metric system.
  • The buses here look like customized bread trucks.
  • Everywhere I look, green, green, green, everything is green and they say it’s winter here.
  • Many tree trunks are painted white to protect against bugs.  Back home, I thought painting trunks was some kind of patriotic display.
  • The sun is more intense closer to the equator, make no mistake about it – we are closer to the equator.
  • For $50,000 U.S. dollars, a person could buy a mansion here.
  • The Texas Rangers are called the Texas Rancheros.  And Philadelphia is spelled phonetically – Filadelfia, the way it should be.
  • Hours after watching the World Cup championship match in which Alemania defeated Argentina 1-0, 4 of us were sitting around a table talking and out of the blue, one of Juan’s friends said. “You look like Klinsmann!”  (Jurgen Klinsmann, the West German footballer). I wasn’t sure if it was an insult or compliment.
  • The backs of all trucks read: Carga Larga.
  • Juan bought a sack of empanadas de pescado for 100 Bolivares, or about $2.00 U.S. Dollars.  Had there been more, I would have eaten more than 2.
  • Polar is the Venezuelan champagne of beers; Belmont Extra Suave, the Venezuelan Marlboro Light.
  • There sure are some nice arboles along these roads with curvas peligrosas.

Me, August 1990


Jurgen Klinsmann courtesy Wikimedia CCA Share Alike 3.0

U.S. Road Trip Reflections Part I

Ever driven coast to coast in the U.S.? I haven’t, but recently drove halfway across from Boston to NYC and then to Chicago for a spell and then through Canada to Niagara Falls and back to Boston.  All in all, about 3,000 miles – 4,828 Canadian where the speed limits and distances are posted in kilometers without as much as a warning to American drivers. Still trying to figure out how much I paid for a gallon of gas in Toronto. I love Canada. I do. But I don’t dig  Tim Horton’s, the Canadian version of Dunkin Donuts that does not compare favorably, a place my wife calls Tom Norton’s. Tiny coffee cups, weak ice coffee with dainty ice-cubes and small donuts that look and taste “store bought” as a traveling companion put it, with distinctly Canadian flavours like sour cream glazed and maple frosted. And the wait, I mean 15 minutes for a cup of coffee is just not acceptable. Tim Horton’s sounds more like a steakhouse.

Since we were a traveling party of five with a lot of luggage, we took two Honda Fits.  It’d have been a tight fit all of us to go in one and we’d have exceeded the payload of 850 pounds. Our Fits performed admirably, despite the tiny 1.5 liter engine that we had to gun to pass big trucks, but once up to speed, the Fit runs smoothly. We had some pretty miserable driving conditions with driving rain and lightening but never once felt unsafe in the Fit. It handled flawlessly. And we got excellent gas mileage of about 36 mpg in mixed driving and some heavy traffic in spots.

From Boston, we headed to NYC just to stop off at Zabar’s for gifts of coffee and black and white cookies. You can’t beat Zabar’s, unless you happen to be in Toronto where you can beat it if you go to St. Lawrence Market, which is “Zabar’s times 7”, as my oldest daughter put it.

It was getting late and we plowed through NYC and into PA where we stopped in some small town at a Motel 8 or something or other with a number in it. The continental breakfast was a little on the depressing side with stale Cherrios in a giant dispenser and wet English muffins that toasted soggy. The one Red Delicious apple was the loan fresh fruit, and I think all the patrons were afraid to take it, not wanting to be the one to take the last one, which I took to be an act of polite Midwestern restraint. I’d have taken it, but I do not like the Red Delicious. I do not.

We drove past Williamsport the site of the Little League World Series that was about to begin and Bloomsburg, where my friend DH went to school. We rolled past Allentown, the place Billy Joel made famous. I remember thinking a lot about chocolate and wondering whether the Hershey factory was open 24 7 like the local 7 Eleven. PA, the land of chocolate, Rolling Rock, Quakers and three of my FB friends.

Chile Travelogue Entry 1

Chile.  It’s nice here.  Hot – 85F, 29C.  Dry heat though.  Not as much smog as I had anticipated in Santiago. Summer in December.  Strange concept, but I could get used this.  I’m tired of snow and being wet and cold all the time.  If you’re not a skier, and I am not, (though I’ve water skied a few times) winter in the Northeast gets old fast.

Chile.  I have high expectations for this country.  All the Chileans I know from the States told me that I would be impressed by the beauty and modernity of the country.  And indeed I am impressed. European styled architecture, friendly people, with a clean and efficient Metro, my friends said I’d feel right at home and I do. They told me for shopping, there’s the Mall and a Pizza Hut and McDonald’s, in case I get tired of the local fare.  I can do without all this, and was a little taken aback to see all the fast food joints spoiling the landscape.  You have to drive a little ways out to see what the country is most known for (political history aside) – wine.  Ocean on one side, Andes on the other and vineyards in between.  There are literally hundreds of vineyards South of Santiago- from the huge Concha y Toro operation, to the valleys of Maipo, Curico and Maule all within a days drive of the capital.  Driving in Chile though is an adventure, so be warned.  More on driving later.

The Metro is clean and efficient as advertised.  Hecho in France.  Inside, the trains are crowded and can be suffocatingly hot – no AC, no fans, but the windows stay open, and generally provide adequate ventilation.

My wife has a big extended family in Chile.  I think they all greeted us at the airport.  Chileans kiss a lot. Trying to go with the flow, I gave and received about 50 kisses from family and friends I had never met, but they all seemed to know me.  A cousin of my wife said in Spanish “you looked a lot bigger in the picture.”  It didn’t seem like a compliment, but she kissed me just the same.  The kids all refer to me as Tio.

My wife’s brother drove us home in a roomy Chevy Luv, (pronounced – lewve).


On our first day out, we visited Cerro San Cristobal, Saint Christopher’s Hill in the Parque Metropolitano. We climbed the hill and about 500 steps to see the main attraction, the monument to the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepcion.  The immense statue is about 45 feet high and rests atop the hill which reveals a stunning panoramic view of Santiago.  Inside the base of the statue, protected by an iron gate, is Jesus on the cross.  My five year old daughter, clearly moved by Christ’s suffering said, “Jesus is bleeding, Jesus is bleeding, oh!”  We gave a donation through a slot at the side of the gate.  A sign near the monument in Spanish says “the Virgin Mary will show you the path to God.”

As my daughter looked out over the city, she said:  “I think I see Boston, Papi, look, Boston!”