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Published: December 22nd 2010
Friday was travel day. We had an hour flight to Rio. Unfortuntaley, we had to go back to the international airport, which meant a more expensive cab ride. This airport is tired looking, as it was built in the mid 80's. Airline competition is alive and well in Brazil. A number of discount airlines compete with the national airline TAM. We went with an airline called Webjet, which was partially owned by Ryan Air out of Ireland. A funny thing occurred before we took off. A young lady boarded the plane towards the end. After she had a bit of difficulty finding room for her oversized handbag, the stewardess put her in the cockpit for the remainder of the flight! She must of have been an employee or relative of one of the pilots -- I hope...
Rio looked beautfiul as we drove into Copacabana. It was sunny and warm, which wasn't our experience in Sao Paulo. I haven't seen prettier beaches in a major city than Copacabana and Ipanema. The combination of horseshoe beaches surrounded by small mountains makes for a beautiful setting. One bit of irony was that the favelas (slums) in town seem to have the best
real estate! All of them up in the hills overlooking the city and beaches... Go figure...
The next two days were spent lounging around the beaches. We did take a football game in on Sunday between Botofaga (local team) and Internacionales. I was surprised that the stadium wasn't anywhere full. I thought Braziians loved this sport... The fans that were there were still quite vociferous though. There was an area down near the field where fans could bring their HUGE flags and wave them. This was something I have never seen before. The home team eventually lost and we did get out of there before the end of the game so we could get a taxi without too much problem -- there was a train station next to the stadium, but no subway stadium...
Because of carjackings most vehicles have their side windows blackened out.
We have also found it difficult to get bottles of water larger than 310ml. This has added to our restaurant bills along with all of the extras like bread and anitpasto.
Monday was stil a beach day, but this one we did by bicycle. We rented bikes for three hours and cycled up and down Copacabana, Ipanema, and around Lago Rodriego de Freittas (local lake). It took us two-and-half hours to do the route. Copacabana may have the niciest beach, but Ipanema has the cleanest beach and the actual town is more active than Copacabana. In the afternoon, we went to to the botanical gardens, which was quite spectacular. It was the gardens for the royal family. Dad would have been in heaven with all of the orchids.
Tuesday was moving day as we moved from Copacabana to Santa Teresa, which is closer to downtown. Santa Teresa is up in the hills and had the only active street trolley left in Rio. We were so high up that there was nothing above us. There were even little monkeys that would come down from the mountains for a banana or two from the owner Jim. The whole area had a bohemian feel to it with quite the artist community and small little shops and restaurants. All this with cobble stone streets. After getting settled in, we took a look around town. The trolley cars looked ancient! The B&B we were staying at was sure different from the hotels we had stayed to date. With B&B's, it always feels like your staying at someone's home. The swimming pool at Um Meis Tres was even higher up than the home! Anything further up and one was rock climbing. The views from either were spectacular.
We started on our city tour the next day. The trolley ride was only $BR0.60 to downtown, which was much cheaper than the bus or metro, but also much slower. It was really for the tourists -- kind of like ours back home. We got about 3/4 of the tour done before Shauna ran out of steam. I still liked Sao Paulo's downtown better. As with Sao Paulo, Rio's downtown literrally shuts down for Saturday night and Sunday. That is why we left this part of our trip to the end. For dinner, we went to a restaurant that had some people just jamming... The music was great and the food wasn't too bad either. It was probably our best evening in Rio. The one thing I do regret is that we didn't take in more music while we were in Brazil. It isn't Cuba, but Samba is disctintively Brazilian.
Thursday was interesting because as we were finishing up our city tour from the day before when I started to notice the front pages of the Rio papers. There appeared to have been lots of violence in the city lately. Buses and cars being burnt and dozens of people killed. What happened next was even more interesting. We came up to a restaurant and noticed a large group of people gathered around the entrance. They were all watching TV, but this time not football but a combination police/marine excersise to clear the drug gangs out of a couple of favelas. What made this even more unique is that this was the first time in history that the government has actually sent the army into a favela! It was a unique day in Brazilian history. This was necessary because the government need to start cleaning up the city for the upcoming Olympics and World Cup. For dinner that night, we went to one of the restaurants that specialized in food from the Amazon. I tried prianha soup, but I must admit that it wasn't much different than any other soup. Unfortunatley, Shauna got a dish with nuts and it quickly ended her night. I walked her home and then I went down to Lapa to see the Rio night life. I was still a bit early, but it was raining off an on, which made it difficult to wander around. It was certainly a younger crowd here, but by the time I decided to find a bar to listen to some music, they seemed to have closed down the music portion.
We had a late flight home, so we took a final run for Covcovado to see Cristo Redentor. The weather was about as good as it has since we had been in Rio. While the train ride to the top was neat, there was nothing to see up there, as we could just see a silohette of the statue... Everything was clouded in. I sure wish they had webcam to check things out before. Interestingly enough we could hear machine gun fire in the distance though...
We spent the afternoon at a cooking school which was a lot of fun. The teacher was particularly colourful. She did a good job getting us to participate and it wasn't too long. A must see for Rio. We were able to shower up at our B&B's pool to get ready for our flight home. Rio's interenational airport wasn't all that impressive... The terminal we were at only had 12 gates! A new airport must be under construction... I hope...
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