The Museum of the Future – Rio de Janeiro

Museum de Amanha, Rio de Janeiro best museum, melhor museu do Rio

A new and highly-praised museum called the Museum of Tomorrow (Museu de Amanhã) opened in Rio shortly before my arrival. As with any new thing in Rio, I heard horror stories about the expected waiting time to get in (4 hours. In the sun. No bathrooms. No seating, etc. etc..). So I tried to be smarter than the smart people and arrive there on a Thursday (Tuesday is a free-entry day, so I reasoned that probably this was reason for the lines). I was partially right, and the line was “only a 2-hours wait.” No way. The Museum of Tomorrow had to wait for tomorrow; I don’t do lines outside of state bureaucracy and supermarket in Brazil (can’t get food otherwise).

Today, a month later and once school summer vacation was over, I finally was able to get in with no line at all. Good things happen to people who wait. The building itself is a spectacular architectural structure. The exhibitions are really creative and inspiring us to think about how the world was created (a 360 dome theatre shows the evolution from the big bang), how different nature phenomena work (noteworthy is an installation of floating intertwined scarves that simulate the motion of oceans), the role of human interactions (fascinating photography exhibition from around the world) and how our consumption impacts the world we live in (pretty cool simulation games where one can see the footprint that his or her habits make on the world and how different personal choices can impact overall scarcity).

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Video: Motion of Oceans

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Finding Inspiration in Colorado

During my graduate studies on Russia, I learned of an interesting element in Russian folklore: the theme of man’s connection with the land, with nature. We came across it in the mystical children’s stories, in Chekov’s plays and in more modern pieces such as  Nikita Mikhalkov‘s films. I always appreciated this esthetic but found it hard to comprehend; why was it that with all the modernity and attractions of big cities, one would want to return back to his or her origins in the countryside?

As I grew older and accumulated more polluted air in my lungs, I started realizing the special allure of pure nature and simple things that make our lives more real and meaningful. Jericoacoara, a quiet beach town in the northeast of Brazil (of which I wrote some time ago here) was the first place that had a transformative effect on my mental state.  Even today, when I am asked to think of a special place that makes me calm, I imagine myself walking on top of the Sunset dune in Jeri with the sandy wind touching my skin and rippling through my clothes as if it’s trying to lift me up in the air and set me flying.

When I was debating with my boyfriend about our last vacation, we’ve almost settled on yet another sightseeing frenzy but then I remembered the calming effect of nature and how much we all need it in today’s crazy world. So we we decided on the mountains of Colorado instead.

Renting a very little car (as always, I was being cheap), turned out to be a good idea on one hand because it was excellent for all the turns on the mountain highways. On the other hand, merging or accelerating turned out to be a good exercise and in peddle pressing and praying as it huffed and puffed trying to get to a speed of 65 mph. Mitsubishi Mirage is not for the outdoors but great gas milage 😉

We first stopped to visit friends near Boulder and took a trip to Estes Park, which I previously saw in its winter glory. The next day we drove up high in the mountains to visit the breathtaking Brainard Lake, which was surrounded by snowy peaks even in the hot August time.

After Boulder, we headed to Aspen, which is what I would call a yuppie Switzerland (very beautiful but very expensive and full of wealthy people in fancy clothes and fancy cars). We stayed in nearby half-yuppie Snowmass Village and enjoyed several sunny and lazy days of eating, hiking, cycling and people-watching. The highlight of this part of the trip was visiting Maroon Bells, the view of which from the Maroon lake is the most photographed scene in Colorado (google this).  There were several trails around this park so we randomly picked the Maroon Creek trail which turned out to be very versatile (forest, river, open fields, rock formations, etc) hike, that we had all to ourselves. Hooray to random guessing!

On our way back to Austin, we stopped for one day in Denver, which was kind of a nothing city in the middle of all the beauty so to compensate ourselves for its nothingness, we went to visit the Red Rocks Amphitheaterwhich was full of people jogging and doing all sorts of sports that I would never do during a 90F / 30C scorching heat. We were not surprised at all to see this as throughout the trip we learned about all sorts of crazy things that Coloradans do in the name of fitness (think of riding mountain bikes at 45 degrees incline at 8k ft/2.4k meters and smiling while at it).

Snow sports over a frozen lake in Estes Park. We had an amazing time hiking with the snow falling down.
Frozen Lake in Estes Park
Estes Park, Summer in Colorado, Emerald Lake
Same place in Estes Park in the Summer

The Secret Stairways of San Francisco

Secret stairways are a big thing in the hilly San Francisco, so much that there are entire books and websites dedicated to mapping and telling the history of these places.

My first stairway was the Greenwich/Filbert Steps next to the Coit Tower. I wrote about them here. It’s an amazing secret walkway between extremely well-kept community gardens with gorgeous flowers, leafy trees and all sorts of vegetation. They are also known for a colony of green parrots who were brought in some years ago and have multiplied ever since. I was so lucky to see only one parrot. These guys are a pretty sneaky bunch! These stairs are quite difficult to find but you will manage too if you look hard enough behind Coit tower’s parking lot (and on Google Maps). There is a way to get to them from the Embarcadero side, but I think that going from higher to lower points offers the better views.

My next stairway was in Fort Mason. I was exploring the area and then saw a woman and a child coming down a stairway along the hill. I got really curious and climbed it. It took me to the top of a hill and inside a very quaint park. It was full of teenage boys and homeless men so I kind of had to make myself into a getouttathere. The view from the top was kind of worth the risk, anyways.

view from the top, fort mason, San francisco
View from the top of Fort Mason stairway

My third stairway was the Lyon Street Steps in the Pacific Heights neighborhoods. I was just wandering around and being impressed by all the beautiful mansions when I suddenly stumbled across this stairway from a fairy tale, perfectly manicured with a breathtaking view of the Palace of the Fine Arts. I later on found out that the beautiful mansions are actually located on a street nicknamed “Billionaires Row”, home to some very famous rich people like the Getty Family, Founder of Oracle, and Senator Dianne Feinstein. Rich Bastards. They got the best views.

The last stairways I discovered were Vulcan and Jupiter stairs in Castro district. I thought that Castro was all about the sex shops, nightclubs and bars but turned out that there are many quiet and very green sections of this neighborhood. The steps were not as impressive as the ones I saw before, but I had fun looking at all the beautifully designed houses around them.

If you’re looking for other tips on San Fran, you can read my other posts

6 Miles of Surprises or Where is Chewbacca?

I’m continuing the tradition of super long walks across San Francisco and have been discovering the bold and the beautiful things along the way.

I started my walk in SOMA,  navigating between homeless people and tourists  and right about Chinatown I stumbled upon two young women who were jumping around an intersection with “Honk if you want to save the baby seals” signs. On these signs they drew baby seals in different bright colors. All I could think about was with that with all the troubles in the world how did they end up choosing this one? and what was the logic behind determining that doing what they were doing was useful?  Oh, well. Not all brains are born equal.

Then I went off to find the famous Caffe Trieste, where apparently Francis Ford Coppola wrote the Godfather. I haven’t even seen the movie (shame on me) but I like to give myself destination to discover. The discovery was not so impressive but now I can say that I had been there.

I continued up the hill to Coit Tower, another destination on my todo list. The views on  way up were simply breathtaking. I was too cheap to pay the $7 fee to take the elevator up but did take pictures of the frescos inside, which reminded me a lot of Ayn Rand for some reason.

I got a super secret lead from a colleague about the Greenwich steps. This was a secret passage to the left of the tower, going through something that felt like a tropical jungle in the middle of the city. I saw numerous beautiful flowers, butterflies, humming birds and even a blue parrot. I guess it was not so secret because I bumped into many huffing and puffing tourists that were going UP the stairs. Suckers.

After descending to the pavement I headed over to the marina district and on the way ran into Darth Vader and Chewbacca (Star Wars is another movie I haven’t seen, by the way) who were having a huge fight with the silver statue man (you know, those guys that paint themselves and sit without moving?) Everyone was having a great time taking pictures of the fight. Until the cops started zooming in..

Star Wars at Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Mason, San Francisco walk, Maritime National Historic Park

After what seemed like a very long walk on the equivalent of New York’s horrible time square, San Francisco style, I escaped the dreadful crowds and cheesy tourists traps when I arrived at the Aquatic Park / Fort Mason.  Right about the time I stopped feeling my arms from the cold, I finally decided to head home. I then hopped into my new favorite mode of transportation and spent the $7 I saved at Coit to pay for my Uber ride.

First days in San Francisco

My first day of exploration of San Francisco was full of adventures. I picked up UberPool (shared ride service, $7 anywhere in San Francisco) for the first time ever and ended up riding it with a fashion professor from New York, who informed me that the upcoming trends to NOT look forward to are stylized pijama wear (i.e. wear your pijama to work) and gothic style (black from top down, metal, bondage). I shall be preparing my wardrobe for the next season..

We both went to visit an incredible exhibition called High Style at the Legion of Honor Museum by the Golden Gate. It featured costumes that inspired designers in the past 100 years or so. It was truly special and I even managed to save $25 by just showing my Bank of America card (totally unplanned pricing and even more unplanned savings).

After the exhibition I decided to roam around the bay, discovering one amazing view after another. I stopped for lunch at the Cliff House, which was a very nice place with gorgeous views of the ocean and finished my trip at the Golden Gate park, which was much more of a forest than a park. I think I am going to really like this city.

On the way back in my UberPool, I rode with a student from Monterrey, Mexico who told me that lately the government has been cracking down on drug cartels so instead of ganging on each other, they started to kidnap innocent people in order to make up for the lost revenues. #fail. The things you learn using shared cars..