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Published: June 29th 2016
We are back in Rio for a day and a half after traveling almost 12 hours from the Pantanal. We are reminded of how beautiful is the setting for this city, with its magnificent beaches and the huge rock monoliths like Sugarloaf and the Corcovado surrounding. We are again staying at the Othon Hotel, which has a gorgeous view of Copacabana beach and a buffet breakfast. Highly recommended!
After a quick pizza supper and a good sleep we headed out with our guide for an early morning walk to Ipanema, the next beach south of Copacabana. Because it was Sunday, the street was reserved for pedestrians and bikers. When we rounded the point that separates the two beaches we could see that the surf on Ipanema was even greater than that on Copacabana - perhaps 10-foot waves - and many surfers were already taking advantage of them. In fact, I think there was some sort of surf competition or training going on, and there were some mad skills on display! This beach is even prettier and seems less commercialized than Copacabana, so I would choose it for a day of lounging in a beach chair, but of course, we have
no time to lounge! We had a refreshing drink of coconut water straight from the coconut, sold everywhere here, and then checked out the Olympic megastore back at Copacabana, a giant Quonset hut right on the beach next to the building that will house the press. Unfortunately, it was still under construction like much of the Olympic infrastructure, so we picked up some tee shirts at a little shop next to our hotel.
Then began our scheduled activities of the day, first a stop at the sambodromo, an elongated stadium that holds 80,000 people and is the site of the main event of Carnival where each of 12 samba schools has 80-90 minutes to perform and be judged on costumes, choreography, dancing, drumming, etc. Many of the samba schools are located in the favelas (poor neighborhoods), and the musicians and dancers spend the whole year preparing. To be the winning school is a great source of pride. If you can picture the scene in the animated movie Rio where there is a chase through a Carnival parade, that is set in the sambodromo. You can try on some of the costumes and headdresses which can weigh upwards of 20
pounds and imagine yourself doing complicated dance steps for 90 minutes while wearing them!
Next we visited the Selaron Stairs that lead up from Lapa to Santa Teresa. This neighborhood was poor and broken down with many drug dealers, and Jorge Selaron wanted to clean it up. He started by decorating these stairs with some bright colors and a few tiles,mans the idea caught on so that people started sending tiles from all over the world, and now it is a great work of art.
A weekend tradition in Brazil is to eat feijoada, a big meal built around a dish made from black beans and the less valuable meat cuts, made popular by the ex-slaves. Ours was at the Portella restaurant in Santa Teresa at the top of a steep hill. Danna encouraged us to get there via the local transportation, motorcycle taxi! Each of us had our own driver, of course, and we sat behind him and held on tight as he weaved around traffic through the winding cobbled streets. Exhilarating!
Thoroughly stuffed, we bused to the cable car to Sugarloaf mountain, a must for all Rio tourists. Besides the great overview of the whole
city, the most spectacular sight was Christ the Redeemer in the clouds of Corcovado!
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