Rio de Janeiro - No snow and plenty of sunshine!

Published: March 12th 2013
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The view from the rooftop terrace
7th March ’13 London to Rio de Janeiro

We were only slightly late taking off from Heathrow terminal 5 for our 11 ½ hour flight to Rio and considering the length of the flight it wasn’t too bad – I put this down to a nicotine patch and inflight movies! I have to mention one of these films – Cloud Atlas, it was superb and even though I couldn’t hear all of the dialogue clearly due to the naff headsets and the picture was tiny it was one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. On the downside British Airways have obviously decided to cut down on the amount of meals you get on such a long flight and to try and convince you that what you do get is gourmet (I guess this is supposed to make it ok) the meal was ok but then we only got a pizza snack later (so Howard got nowt) which seemed really stingy for such a long flight.

Anyway we arrived in Rio and got through immigration and customs relatively quickly and a lovely smiley lady gave us a city map and guide and told us
Hotel Bellevue da UrcaHotel Bellevue da UrcaHotel Bellevue da Urca

Our mountain view room
where to find an ATM and the bus into the city. After trying a couple of machines we found one that worked and even had an English option which was a godsend as Portuguese doesn’t bear any vague resemblance to English so guessing what buttons to press was a bit risky.

So I was a bit concerned about our route to our hotel as it was 11.30pm and the hotel website gave directions to get there which involved catching a certain bus to a shopping centre and then taking a taxi, would the shopping centre be deserted? Would it be in a favela? – the dodgy no go areas, would we end up walking along a deserted road in the dark? – the definite no no rule. Anyway Howard was confident and we found the bus easily but they have a strange system where to get to a seat you have to get through a very stiff turnstile while paying your fare. There weren’t many people on the bus which was a bit disconcerting but the driver wrote down where we wanted to get off and waved us on.

It took about 45 minutes to get to the shopping centre, which was more like petrol station and luckily we could see plenty of taxis, even so the driver was obviously concerned about us getting off there with just our backpacks and wanted to know what we were going to do next – which was kind of nice of him and when we said taxi he looked reassured so I decided it should be ok.

Getting a taxi was easy and the driver spoke a little English and welcomed us to Brazil and dropped us off at a door next to a restaurant. Luckily Howard had checked it out on google earth as there was no sign or hotel name anywhere just a door with a number 10 on it! At the same time to lads with backpacks got out of a taxi and their driver rang the hotel and after much mucking about someone came to let us in!!

We climbed up two flights of steep stairs and were shown to a lovely room with a huge window looking over the harbour – very nice. Then up two more flights of stairs to a rooftop terrace where we did the paperwork. By then it was 12.30

Statue of Christ the Redeemer on top of the pointy bit
local time and 3.30am our time so it was off to bed!

8th March ’13 Urca

After a night of tossing and turning we got up and climbed up to the rooftop for breakfast and got our first proper look at where we were staying. We are in a small area of Rio called Urca which is small and a real local residential area. So we are sitting having a great breakfast of lovely rolls, homemade jams and fresh fruit gazing out over the bay with the statue of Christ the Redeemer on the top of a mountain, the sun is shining and it is hot, wonderful!

We met the owner who welcomed us and then very apologetically told us we would have to change rooms as the guy who let us in last night had given us the wrong room – the more expensive one! Ah well……. So we moved to our proper room which was a lot smaller and had a mountain view instead of a sea one. The view was definitely a mountain one, it was literally the side of the mountain but we had a little balcony, air con and it was very clean so I was more than happy with that.

The owner was really friendly and spoke pretty good English and told us what buses to catch to get to the sights and where to eat and various helpful tips and also said this area was very safe to walk around in even at night so I was pleased about that.

We decided to have a walk around and suss the place out so we set off and discovered it is a very small area, with a couple of supermarkets, the restaurant next door (where we were told the locals eat), a bakery, a couple of expensive restaurants and one more which our guy recommend. The houses are built in between the sea wall and Urca mountain and it is gorgeous. We followed the sea wall and came across a tiny beach with a few people on it and carried on looking for a larger beach we had seen on the map, however the road suddenly ended at a military compound and there was no way we could see to get any further. So we wandered back watching the locals fishing from the wall and decided to get some lunch.

The local restaurant was full so we ended up in the bakery and everything was written in portugese, the staff were lovely, no one spoke English and they kept talking to us very slowly and clearly and expecting us to understand but the only portugese word we knew was for thank you so we said that a lot and felt like we were in an episode of Only Fools and Horses!! In the end we managed to get a sandwich and a hamburger but did it take some doing! Note to self, look up some more portugese words!!

By now it was scorching hot – it turns out its 36 degrees, so we went back to the hotel to cool down for a while and later in the afternoon we walked around to the other side of the headland to the cable car station for Sugar Loaf Mountain. However by now the top of the mountain was covered in misty fog and so there was no point in going up. Instead we carried on to the beach over this side of Urca which was really pretty and sat watching the world go by. As it got later more people arrived to fish in the sea, families strolled along the front eating popcorn from the little carts that sprang up out of nowhere, kids played in the playground and everyone seemed to bring their little dogs – all with bows in their hair out for a walk.

Despite being told the local restaurant wasn’t good for dinner (unless you’re a local) we decided to give it a try but once again it was packed so we ended walking back around the bay to the place that had been recommended. It looked lovely and we got a table overlooking the beach but when the menu came it was mega expensive, oh dear, we ended up picking the cheapest things we could find… so it was a pizza for me and spag bol for Howard – not exactly what I had envisioned for our first meal in Brazil!!


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