Rio de Janeiro, 3-6 June, 2011


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Published: June 12th 2011
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We arrived in Rio and checked into the Apa Hotel which was 2 streets back from the beach. We caught a bus from the airport which took about 1 ½ hours to get to Copacabana Beach. This was recommended to us. Once on the bus we wondered how we would know when to get off!! Tom was befriended by a guy from the USA who was keen to talk, guide and help. He does business frequently in Rio and we learn later that his girlfriend is Brazilian as we ran into them again during our stay in Rio. He told us where to get off and I knew the street to look for so all worked well.
He also suggested that we take a bus trip to see the main features of the city, since we were only going to be in Rio for 2 full days.






Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laidback beach culture and its annual carnival (which we missed as it was in the 1st week of March). As Portuguese is the official national language, and thus the primary language taught in schools, we had to start learning new words, just when we were getting OK in basic Spanish. Apparently English and Spanish are part of the official high school curriculum. We have a little Portuguese phrase book that Adam gave us for last Christmas. He also gave us a phrase book for Spanish also – it looks well used as we have carried it everywhere with us for the past 2 ½ months and have used it daily. Now the Portuguese book is getting a belting!






Rio de Janeiro is apparently the most visited city in southern hemisphere. It is also known for its samba, Bossa Nova, balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon both of which close the road to cars along the beach on Sundays which was the day we were there.





The 1st night in Rio we booked our city tour through our Hotel and then went to find a restaurant for dinner. We headed for the beach and found a lovely restaurant that had outside dinning. It was a beautiful barmy night and so we enjoyed a local beer and a very tasty beef sirloin wrapped in bacon. Yum! We were sitting there saying “we are in Rio sitting at Copacabana Beach.!!!!! We soaked up that moment.





The next day (Saturday) we were picked up at about 9.00am the next morning for the bus trip and was met by a Brazilian guide who spoke very good English as well as Portuguese and Spanish. Everything he said during the day, he said 3 times in the 3 languages. He was a real performer and such a character. It was another lovely day in Rio but there was forecasted rain in the later afternoon. There was a young couple from Adelaide on the tour with us and all the rest of the people spoke Spanish or Portuguese. A Spanish-speaking fellow from Costa Rico also spoke English.





We 1st went through the CBD where all the important sights were pointed out.





We also saw the Sambodromo, a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival (there was a demonstration going on in the grandstand).
We drove past the Maracana Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums. Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will mark the first time a South American city hosts the event. Rio's Maracanã Stadium will also host the final match for 2014 FIFA World Cup (soccer) and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and football matches of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The Stadium is able to hold nearly 199,000 people, as it did the World Cup final of 1950. In modern times its capacity has been reduced to conform with modern safety regulations and the stadium has introduced seating for all fans. It has just completed some major renovation; it had a capacity for 95,000 fans but now can hold around 120,000 people.






In its preparation to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the port area of the city (a natural extension of the downtown area) is undergoing a tremendous amount of construction and renovation. It is expected to become a major tourist hub within the city by the addition of two Museums ( MAR - Rio's Museum of Art & the Tomorrow's Museum), the largest Aquarium in Latin America, shops, restaurants, residential renovation of century-old houses, as well as new passenger's Cruise terminals and piers. The project is named "Porto Maravilha" (Marvelous Port) and is transforming the Port Region from total abandon to the place to be in the city.







Centro is the historic centre of the city, as well as its financial centre. Sites of interest, some of which we saw during the tour and the others we saw when we went into the city by ourselves on Sunday (the next day) included the Paco Imperial, built during colonial times to serve as a residence for the Portuguese governors of Brazil; many historic churches, such as the Candelaria Church, the colonial Cathedral and the modern-style Rio de Janeiro Cathedral.





Leaving the CBD we then went up the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor'😉 atop Corcovado Mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. We took some great photos, some helped by the tour guide. It was windy up the mountain but a fantastic 360 degree view of the city.





We saw the harbour of Rio de Janeiro which comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear as the mouth of a river. Additionally, the harbour is surrounded by spectacular geographic features including Sugar Loaf Mountain at 395 m, the Corcovado Peak we were standing on was at 704 m, and the hills of Tijuca at 1,021 m. These features work together to collectively make the harbour part of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.





We then had one of those all-you-can-eat lunches (which we don’t do justice to) and had a chance to learn that the Adelaide couple; he was a Landscape Architect who had moved into Project Management with Adelaide Civil P/L and was missing his design role but getting better pay, and she was in her 3rd year doing her PhD in marine stuff for commercial purposes.





After lunch we were off to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) whose name describes the famous mountain rising out of the sea. We reached the summit via a two-stage cable-car trip from Praia Vermelha, with the intermediate stop on Morro da Urca. It offered views second only to Corcovado Mountain. There was a restaurant, cafe and souvenir shops at the top. It was windy and cold with a bit of rain and the view was a little hazy but the sun came out for a short time for photos.






We left Sugarloaf at about 5.00pm and the bus drove back to our hotel via the southern beaches. The South Zone of Rio de Janeiro (in Portuguese: "Zona Sul") is composed of several districts, amongst which are Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana and Leme, which compose Rio's famous Atlantic beach coastline. Other districts in the South Zone are Glória, Catete, Flamengo, Botafogo and Urca, which border Guanabara Bay and Santa Teresa and 6 other suburbs. It is the richest region of the city and the most famous overseas, and the neighborhood of Leblon in particular has the most expensive real estate in all of South America.





It was a good way to see the main sites of Rio when we only had the 2 days.








On the Sunday we walked down the closed esplanade street of Ipanema and Leblon which adjoined Copacabana Beach. There were plenty of cyclists and runners and walker out. It was another beautiful day. We then walked back along one street further away from the beach and came across some markets. There was also an outside art display. We then caught the efficient Metro into Centro (CBD) even though it was recommended not to go on Sundays because it was a bit deserted. As we only had 2 days in Rio we decided to go. We revisited some of the places we drove past in the bus the previous day. We also came across an orderly demonstration by the Fireman’s and other similar groups for better work conditions. There were plenty of police around, including their horses. We decided to move on and was walking down a street where all the police were standing around with their horses.







Not 150 metres away from them, this young teenager tried to grab the movie camera Tom had in his hand. He missed and then we saw a second guy pull a knife. He was 5 m away from us so I don’t think he meant business. By that time, Tom was making it pretty clear that no one was going to take anything from us and the 2 guys left. Four older guys (big fit looking 30 y.os.) came up to us and in Portuguese they were obviously asking us if the guys were worrying us. We told them they had pulled a knife on us. They then went over and dressed these teenagers down. I was wondering if they were off-duty police.







After that incident, all went well....and we put our cameras away when we weren’t using them. We walked around the Cinelandia square where there are several landmarks of the Belle Epoque of Rio, such as the Municipal Theatre and the National Library building. Among its several museums, we visited the Centro Cultural Do Banco Do Brazil. This had a collection of electronic and film-based art work from several artists, so it was a little different from the usual art display. The building was beautiful.






Other important historical attractions we saw in central Rio include its Passeio Publico, an 18th-century public garden, as well as the imposing arches of the Arcos da Lapa, a Roman-style aqueduct built around 1750. A bondinho (tram) leaves from a city center station, crosses the aqueduct (converted to a tram viaduct in 1896) and rambles through the hilly streets of the Santa Teresa neighborhood nearby.







The tram is the oldest operating electric tramway, now mainly used by tourists and less by daily commuters. The bondinho, has been preserved both as a piece of history and as a quick, fun, cheap way of getting to one of the most quirky parts of the city. The tram station is near Cinelândia and the Municipal Theatre. Trams leave every half an hour between 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM. A ticket is just BR$0.60 (US$0.35), one way or return. The Santa Teresa Tram (known locally as the "bonde") in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro commenced electric operation in 1891, replacing horse-drawn trams and expanding the horse-drawn route. At this time the gauge was altered to 1,100 mm, which remains the case today. The tram cars which are currently in operation are Brazilian-built, are of the cross-bench open sided design, and are fitted with trolley poles.






There was a big line up of people waiting to get on and we started to talk to 2 academics from central Brazil. Then all of a sudden they said did we want to stand up in the tram because they were calling for extra people who didn’t mind standing. We thought this was better than waiting so we hopped...and soon got a seat anyway. When another tram travelling in the opposite direction, passed us, we all yelled out to them in fun.






We jumped off when we saw restaurants, guessing that we had reached Santa Theresa, which we had. We found a place called Sobrenatural which had exposed brick and old hardwood ceilings. We had one of the local drinks which consisted of vodka, lime pieces and lime juice and sugar cane juice with ice. Very refreshing although strong!






I then wanted to visit one of the music and dance halls in Lapa, a very interesting suburb that is now known for its art and music. We walked for awhile and caught a bus but couldn’t find anything opened. We decided to go back to Santa Teresa for dinner before bussing it back to our hotel.





The next day, our departure day was absolutely beautiful. We went for a walk down the beach but had to go to the airport at 9.30am. Walking along the beach, watching everyone exercise and the stall owners setting up shop and the sun shining and the waves flowing, we knew 2 ½ days was not long enough to stay in Rio. It’s a great city...but still has a bit to go to prove to the world it is a safe city ready for major world events. Despite all that, we loved the city.



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