Photo Of The Day: Urban Decay In Cuba

Oi from Rio de Janeiro, where I’m traveling and soaking up some serious holiday sun. Staying at a guest house in bohemian Santa Teresa, I got to talking to artists and curators from all over the world the other night about cities. We talked about cities going through urban renewal and creative renaissance, such as here in Rio, Berlin, Havana, and even Detroit. The meaning of the phrase “ruin porn” made sense across multiple languages and cultures, and how popular that type of photography is with travelers. Today’s Photo of the Day shows some urban “decay” in Cuba‘s Havana, but I wouldn’t call it a ruin. It’s a more hopeful image; we can imagine that it’s not a decaying building, but a house in transition. The fraying image of the Cuban woman and the colored buildings are proof that someone tried to make it beautiful.

Share your beautiful urban images in the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user irr.licht]

Waterfall Skyscraper To Power Rio And The 2016 Olympics

While the 2012 Olympic Games haven’t even finished yet, planning for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has already begun. And, one designer has dreams of taking solar power to new heights.

According to Digital Trends, Zurich-based RAFAA Architecture & Design wants to design an energy-generating waterfall skyscraper (shown above), that will not only power the Olympic Village, but also the city of Rio.

“It is less about an expressive, iconic architectural form; rather, it is a return to content and actual, real challenges for the imminent post-oil-era,” the firm says on their website. “This project represents a message of a society facing the future … Our project, standing in the tradition of ‘a building/city as a machine,’ shall provide energy both to the city of Rio de Janeiro and its citizens while using natural resources.”

Looking for some adventure with your ecotourism? The structure includes a bungee platform at level 90. Moreover, on special occasions water will be pumped over the sides to create an actual waterfall.

Cockpit Chronicles: Getting More Out Of Layovers

For some, life couldn’t be any more perfect than if they were paid to travel. I’ve run across three airline crew members who have discovered ways to keep their jobs fresh and exciting by embracing what is for them the biggest benefit that comes with working for an airline: travel.

You hear about the turbulence in the airline industry nearly every week – layoffs, pay cuts, pensions lost and airlines shutting down. The echo chamber at work is enough to drive an airline employee crazy after hearing how these events are affecting everyone. But a few pilots and flight attendants I’ve worked with have come to the conclusion that they’re unable to change the situation materially, and so they may as well find a way to enjoy the job.


I like to think I’m an adventurous traveler, although my definition of adventurous is to try to avoid eating at the same place in a given city more than once. I rarely succeed, but it’s a goal at least.

Years ago, a flight attendant asked me for advice about purchasing a digital SLR camera. She started a blog called 2 Stews that revolved around eating and writing about various restaurants in Europe and recreating some of the amazing dishes. I was surprised when she heeded my advice not to skimp on the camera and began to take some eye-popping pictures of the food and sights she came across.Today, she looks forward to trips, planning them well in advance to secure reservations for herself and some of her fellow crew members. For her, the job no longer revolves around the work she does going back and forth across the Atlantic, it’s more about the next topic or theme she plans for her blog. I’m similarly motivated when I come across a subject I want to talk about in “Cockpit Chronicles,” which lately hasn’t been often enough.

Here, Diane catches us up on her schedule, which ends in Rome, so naturally she shares the recipe for a dish she had previously there that had an unusual mix of ingredients:

Lately I feel like the Johnny Cash song, I’ve Been Everywhere. In the past few weeks I’ve been to Dallas, Rome, Budapest, Boston, New York, Minneapolis, Boise, Idaho and back again. I’m off to Rome today. I’m not complaining, mind you, but my affairs aren’t in order. The weeds are growing, the dust is collecting and my computer time has been zero. If only I had an iPad for my journeys….plus a few days off! Oh yeah, don’t forget a house cleaner on that list of wants.

I settled yesterday for an easy and tasty pasta dish to keep me going. I have been wanting to make the Pater Nostri pasta I bought in Rome using a recipe that was inspired by a dish I had at Trattoria Moderne last month. It had Italian sausage, pear and radicchio. The flavors rounded out each other with a little sweet from the pear, some savory sausage, salty cheese and a slightly bitter taste from the radicchio. The essences of life.

Diane has collected so much about Paris that she’s started a blog featuring that work called Merci Paris.


Aspiring to learn everything there was to know about his favorite city, Rudy has ventured nearly everywhere in Rio de Janeiro and logged enough helpful tips that he’s become the go-to guy for other pilots and flight attendants interested in Rio. He put together a guide that he shares in paper form with crew members, which caused me to try things I never would have otherwise – such as a frango from a farmers market, for example.
I committed the Portuguese word for chicken to my short-term memory and marched down to the weekly market near our hotel and ordered a frango with some sort of sugar cane drink.

I’m convinced that Rudy may know more about the city than some of the locals. I thought I knew Paris well, but I couldn’t write anything for the City of Light that would approach what he’s done for Rio. In order to get around a little easier, Rudy has a bike in Rio and is planning on picking up another one so he can bring someone else from the crew along with him on his adventures.

On the day he leaves Rio, Rudy will routinely carve up some fruit purchased at a farmers market, some of which isn’t available in the states, and put it on a plate before delivering it to the rooms of the two other pilots he’s flying with hours before meeting for pickup.

Above and beyond, I’d say!

Rudy’s delicious fruit from the market in Rio prepared and delivered to our rooms!


I‘ve flown with Catherine Caldwell for years, but I never realized what a true expert she was on getting the most out of her trips until reading her recently published book, “Jet Vignettes.” (Available on Amazon, the Kindle and as an iBook from iTunes.)

Catherine’s advice for dining in Paris resonated with me:

When I first started flying to Paris, I knew nothing of where to eat in the city. My crew members and I would walk to the Latin Quarter because initially no matter who we asked – friends, passengers, other flight attendants – all said the Latin Quarter. All said this area hits the quota mark for the highest concentration of “cute” Parisian restaurants. Each layover we went to the Latin Quarter, layover after layover, in search of the holy grail of true Parisian cuisine, the kind we heard and read about, the dinner that was the true pinnacle of dining in Paris. Each time, we passed the restaurants with flower boxes, checked curtains, old architecture, and beckoning waitstaff holding enticing menus. After five subpar meals of so-so food, expensive bills, sitting next to table after table of American tourists, it dawned on me, this was not the place to eat at all in Paris. That was 1996, and I have eaten in the Latin Quarter only once since, at a Greek restaurant that was actually pretty good (I picked up a card).

She then went on to talk about a few of her favorites in Paris as well as other places in Europe, and includes a section on pastis in Paris and shopping in local grocery stores while abroad. She includes a few telling anecdotes about her job, such as the requisite chapter on the Mile High Club and 9/11 as well as helpful chapters such as “Big Cities on a Flight Attendant Budget” and how to look like a local in various countries. Like Diane, Catherine regularly updates her blog after nearly every trip, it seems.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Jet Vignettes.” I even learned a few things about her job, and picked up some tips that I’ll put to use on international layovers.

In fact, all three of these extraordinary people have inspired me to get out and explore more while traveling, and subsequently to enjoy my job more. And that’s something every airline employee could use right now.

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a pilot based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

A local point of view of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Então, você é do Rio de Janeiro?” asked the tan, freckled girl next to me on my flight from Miami, Florida, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

I stared at her, unsure of what she’d said. “Inglés?”

“You speak English?” she asked, her eyes widening with excitement. “My mother is an English teacher. You have to meet her! What do you have planned for your time in Rio?”

I confided in her that I didn’t have much of anything planned. And this is how I got to experience Rio de Janeiro from a local point of view with my new best friend Clarissa leading the way.

What is so unique about the city of Rio de Janeiro is its beautiful beaches, cosmopolitan architecture, lush forests and unique mountains that can all be seen from any one vantage point. It’s also home to very friendly people, as Clarissa explained to me that the locals excitedly showing strangers around the city for no reason is “so Rio.”

I noticed the locals I met were very proud of Rio’s beauty, culture and heritage, and with good reason. While the other big Brazilian city of São Paulo is well known for its over-the-top work ethic and fast-paced style, Rio de Janeiro is more relaxed with a natural attractiveness.


Just because Rio is a beach town doesn’t mean there aren’t historical and educational sites.
For those coming to the city looking to learn about history, there are many options that even the residents consider worthwhile. Rio de Janeiro itself is historical, as it used to be the capital of Brazil until the government realized it wasn´t a good idea to have a capital that was so “exposed.” This is why they moved the capital to Brasília, an area located in the center of the country.My favorite historical site to visit was the Forte de Copacabana (pictured above), a military base located in the southern part of Rio de Janeiro. During the twentieth century, it was built to protect the coast and harbor from attack. Unfortunately, in 1922 rebel officers aimed the fort’s cannons at Rio de Janeiro during a revolt for social change. While the fort is no longer used for coastal defense, visitors can still go and check out the old cannons, architecture and a museum. There is also a charming outdoor restaurant called Confeitaria Colombo (pictured right) that serves a massive brunch with tea, coffee, chocolate, breads, cakes, cereals, yogurt and jams for 39 Reais (roughly US$21) for two people. Confeitaria Colombo has been around since 1894 and you can sit with a peaceful tree-lined avenue and the fort on your one side, and Copacabana Beach and the city skyline on your other. Surfers, kayakers and stand up paddle boarders provide entertainment during the meal.

Clarissa also told me about all of the old churches located in the city, the oldest one being Candelaria. It was the first church in Rio de Janeiro with its construction spanning from 1775 to the late nineteen century. The architecture is a baroque design and the structure itself is massive. While the building was home to many important historical events, such as massive protests and the devastating Candelaria Massacre on July 23, 1993, it is also a very sacred space. Whether you’re into history or not, I would recommend visiting the site and touring both the inside and outside, as it is a beautiful church that locals are very proud of. While telling me about the site, Clarissa also added that if you want to get married in Candelaria you should expect to pay an exorbitant amount of money.

I also enjoyed a visit led by my spontaneous local guide to the Teatro Municipal. It’s a theater located in the city center that was built in the early twentieth century. The building’s design was based on the Paris Opera, and the venue is a big part of the city’s art and cultural past in terms of foreign operas and symphonic orchestras. Today, the program of this grand theater has expanded and ballet and classical pieces are popular. If you don’t want to see a show, simply visit the theater to see the luxurious interior and grand design, or visit at night when it is all lit up.


While many tourists head straight to Ipanema near Vinicius de Morais – a street named after the composer of the 1950’s hit song “Girl From Ipanema” – there are many other beautiful beaches with unique personalities. Start at Copacabana Beach (pictured right), which features impressive city-like architecture, the historical Copacabana Fort, impressive works of colorful sand art and an array of water and land activities. This beach is low-key and attracts a diverse crowd.

If you’re in the mood for a more VIP experience, make your way to Ipanema or Leblon Beach. Both are in upscale, expensive neighborhoods and attract only the most beautiful people, with these trendy, sexy beaches being no different. There are also very classy restaurants and lounges in the area, but only go if you have money to spend. On Sundays in Ipanema there is an excellent market from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in General Osório Square.

Barra Beach, although a bit hard to get to due to its traffic-heavy location, is in a more commercial setting. What’s great about this beach is it’s in completely open sea and away from the favelas. It’s also known for having very clean water and big waves that attract international surfers. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, head a little farther to Reserve Beach, which is in a completely protected area and has a very relaxed, calm setting. This is one of the beaches most loved by locals.

Once you get into the more mountainous, forest-covered areas, you will feel like you’re in a different city. The rare stretch of beauty starts with Macumba Beach, which is not only secluded within nature, but also a popular camping area. Next is the beach known by many locals as “the most beautiful beach in Rio,” Prainha Beach. Prainha is excellent for surfing and has a very small-town feel. Nearby, you will find an enormous flat rock in the water where locals sunbathe and try to catch fish. Pass a large mountain on your right and you will come to another amazing spot, Grumari Beach. This area is so hidden and off-the-beaten path that Argentine football (soccer) player Lionel Messi goes there to hide out. And if you’re feeling a little frisky, the nude beach is only seconds away behind the nearby rocks.


As Rio de Janeiro is located in a very mountainous area, it’s no surprise that hiking is such a big part of local culture. While almost everyone has heard of Sugarloaf Mountain (pictured right), there is an array of worthwhile trails to discover. Pico Da Tijuca, located in an urban forest, is beautiful and easily accessible. It’s in a protected area and local fauna can be found like monkeys, snakes, frogs, birds and butterflies. Corcovado is another rare treat, as a trek to the top will bring you face-to-face with Jesus Christ himself – well, an enormous statue of him, anyway. The views from the top allow you to see the entire city at once.

The above-mentioned Sugarloaf is another great hike, and tourists and locals alike love the experience. Made of granite and quartz, the sugarloaf-resembling mass rises 1,299 feet above the Guanabara Bay with sweeping views of land, sea, forest and hills. Another unique formation is Pedra da Gavea, which resembles a sleeping giant. Here, trekkers can hike up a massive “nose” while wondering how such an odd shape could have been created by nature. There are also cryptic carvings and ancient inscriptions that make the site even more mysterious.
For an interesting mountain view, check out Two Brothers. While you can’t climb this unique natural formation, the two Siamese mountain twins make for a great photo, especially when viewed during a sunset from Ipanema Beach.


While you can find great food all over Rio de Janeiro, if you’re looking to dine where the locals do and eat typical Brazilian specialties, there are a few worthwhile places Clarissa introduced me to. For those wanting to sample famous Brazilian churrascaria, get dressed up and visit Churrascaria Porcao. Located near the airport in Flamengo, the traditional BBQ venue attracts high-class clientele and business people. Moreover, like most churrascarias you should expect to pay 80 Reais (roughly US$44) or more. While pricey, the meat, salad and seafood buffet is worth every penny, especially since there is a wall made of glass offering gorgeous views of the water. For something a little less traditional but just as classy and delicious, try Rio Brasa. Located in both Leblon and Barra, this trendy BBQ restaurant offers some of the best tasting meat in the country.

Another local dining trend in Rio de Janeiro is to go to a restaurant where you can enjoy imported beers, handcrafted brews and caipirinhas, and creative appetizers with an international and local fusion. One place to try this is Academia de Cachaça, which features outdoor seating and an array of specialty caipirinhas. I tried a peanut-infused one as well as one flavored with passion fruit and realized that, while I have sipped on cocktails in the United States that went by the same name, you’ve never really had a caipirinha until you’ve visited Brazil. They are extremely strong and flavorful, and just one will knock you right off your chair. For an appetizer, Carissa and I shared manioc balls baked with cheese and served on a bed of sweet chili sauce (pictured above). They reminded me of very delicious sweet and spicy tater tots. Devassa is another chain eatery with a similar concept, although a bit quirkier. The name literally means “horny,” and when ordering beers, patrons are asked questions like “would you like a horny blonde?” or “are you in the mood for a horny brunette?”


There are generally two areas that locals go to for nightlife: Lapa and Ipanema/Leblon. Both attract two different crowds. Lapa is where you should go if you’re looking for a casual but lively atmosphere where anything goes and everyone is accepted. All styles of music are played and it is truly a cultural experience. If you’re looking for something trendier with a more upscale crowd and sexy people, Ipanem and Leblon are where you’ll want to go. The venues are fancy, but you’ll be immersing yourself in a very classy and luxurious atmosphere. Before choosing your main spot for the night, pre-game at the ultra sexy Veloso in Leblon, which is where the most beautiful and hip people go. For something a bit more touristy but still enjoyed by locals, you can also head over to the Feira de Sao Cristovão. Here they bring the foods, music and dance from the northeast region of Brazil to Rio de Janeiro. While the party goes on every night from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., the weekends are where you’ll experience the most music and dance. Just be sure to take a taxi home and be careful, as the area surrounding the fair can sometimes be dangerous.

Tips for enjoying Rio de Janeiro’s beaches without looking like a tourist

If you daydream of sunbathing on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, you probably have visions of looking tall, tan, young and lovely. But more often than not, you probably just look like a tourist. Thankfully, we have some tips that’ll have you faking the local carioca look in no time, so you can worry more about catching rays than robbers.

Choose the right posto
Some of Brazil‘s most famous beaches — Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon — are located in Rio’s Zona Sul, and their sections are divided by lifeguard stands called postos. The area in front of Posto 6 in Copacabana is crowded and touristy, while Posto 8, recognizable by the large rainbow flag flying over it, hosts a predominantly gay crowd. Postos 9 and 10 have a younger, more bohemian feel. Choose the posto that’s right for you.

Dress appropriately
For the gals, that means itty-bitty string bikinis (appropriately called fio dental in Portuguese) – all women of all sizes wear them so you don’t have to worry about stares. Guys can get by with a pair of boardshorts or speedos. Havaianas are mandatory for everyone. And please, keep your clothes on — or hop in a taxi to Rio’s only official nude beach, Abricó.

%Gallery-150759%Rent a beach chair or bring a kanga (sarong)
A borrowed hotel towel will make you a target in no time. On the more popular strips, beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. Just sit on one, and someone will come to collect the charge, which should be no more than a few Reais. You can also lie out on a kanga (sarong) brought from home, or purchase one right on the beach. They also make great souvenirs.

Come with an appetite
Most cariocas don’t bring picnics or drink coolers to the beach. Instead, they take advantage of the hundreds of food vendors who make their way up and down the strip, hawking everything from cold beers to iced teas to sandwiches and empanadas. It’s a great chance to sample Rio’s famous street food.

Pay attention to the sunscreen meters
Rio’s most popular beaches post SPF recommendations based on the day’s weather for a variety of different skin tones. Pay heed: southern hemisphere sun is no joke, and nothing spells gringo like a red hot sunburn.

For more posts from Brazil, check out Gadling’s recent coverage of Rio Carnival 2012.