Thursday, June 1, 2017

We Visited Rio de Janeiro 25 to 28 Apr and 15 to 17 May

View of Rio from Sugar Loaf Mountain
After a very long and exhausting journey of 26 hours we landed in the magical city of Rio at 1430 in the afternoon of 25 Apr. We were extremely lucky to have visited Brazil in the months of April and May, the weather was perfect for sightseeing, lazing around on the beach and enjoying the open street cafes sipping chilled beer. The temperature varied from a high of 26 to a comfortable 16 deg C at night. There were a few light showers in the evenings to cool the city down. We checked in to IBIS Hotel in Nova America, an up market and modern locality.

Nova America
At the banana bar Nova America

From the hotel
Rio is a very old city developed around the Guanabara Bay. The Portuguese first encountered Guanabara Bay on 1 January 1502, hence “Rio de Janeiro” or "January River" (it does not exist). From 1565 to 1889 it remained under the rule of Portugal. In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal court transferred itself from Portugal to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the chosen seat of the court of Queen Maria I. Rio has the distinction of being the only European capital outside of Europe. During the Napoleonic period a large number of Portuguese, especially the noble men relocated to Rio. During the same period, a very large number of slaves were brought in from Africa to work in the sugar plantations and gold mines. Rio de Janeiro is home to the largest Portuguese population outside of Lisbon in Portugal. The Black community was formed by residents whose ancestors had been brought as slaves, mostly from Angola or Mozambique.

Today Rio is a mixture of White –  52 %, Pardo 37 % (tri-racial) and Black 12 %.At the time of European contact, some of the indigenous people were traditionally mostly semi- nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing and migrant agriculture. There are about 240 indigenous tribes living in Brazil today, totaling around 900,000 people, or 0.4% of Brazil’s population. The indigenous population rapidly declined during the Portuguese rule.

Guanabara Bay, from Sugar loaf Mountain. One has to take a cable car ride to reach the top

Another View

The city
When you sit in open cafes or travel on their metro you can see multi hued people, Rio truly represents a rainbow of different colours, races and culture. Unlike some countries it is very difficult to pin point a person and say he has Brazilian features. Rio is a mixed bag of different cultures, which in turn makes it vibrant and interesting.

At Lapa Botica da Garrafa bar

The city itself is very huge, extremely well laid out, clean and the roads are excellent. The people go about their business in a leisurely fashion, dressed in anything from shorts to formal wear. There is Latino music everywhere to be heard. Football fields are plenty and one can see children enjoying a game late into the night. Food is plentiful and very reasonable. Helpings are really huge. A litre of petrol cost 68 Rs and the radio taxis are very reasonable and safe. We used taxis very extensively as it worked out well for the four of us. Language is a big problem. Not everyone knows English and as a result we had to use Google translator (which worked out well for us)constantly to seek directions, order food etc.

With the  school girl who helped us navigate the metro
The people are very helpful and go out of their way to assist. Rio has a very efficient and well planned metro interconnecting various parts of the city. We used it a number of times. The police and the security staff are very smart, well dressed and make their presence felt. For the coffee fans, there is a variety of coffee to choose from, for their daily fix. There are a number of Cambios for exchange of currency. Carry USD and convert them to Real – R$ as and when required. 1 R$ = 20INR approximate.
We enjoyed visiting Lapa on the very first night. Instead of resting in the hotel we decided to hit the most happening place in Rio for night life - Lapa. It is known for its lively social scene and cultural events. The neighborhood comes alive in the evening with many road side cafes serving beer and local cuisine. The mood is eclectic and care free; no one to ask you how you’re dressed, what you are eating and so on.

The second day we headed out to the famous Copacabana beach and spent the whole day enjoying its beauty. The 5 km of white sandy beach is complimented by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean. In the backdrop are the thickly wooded mountains providing an intoxicating aura of romance and endless possibilities on the beach. People with a flair for mathematics will find enough shapes and sizes to whet their scientific minds. In the evening, various bands come alive on the beach with light displays. The entire beach is cleaned at 6PM from end to end. Running, beach volley ball and football are very popular. Incidentally we had lovely SKOL beer. They provide beer in a plastic outer container to keep it chilled for a longer period.

Pristine white sand

Immaculate and clean Promenade

Sand sea and the mountains

Sugar Loaf from the sea

The ladies in blue and white complementing the beauty of Atlantic

Amazing shades of blue

Samba music in the cafe

Photo op for Sushama
Beer in a container

With our English travel friends

As the sun set
Thereafter we went across to Rio Scenarium, which is not only popular in Lapa but also in Rio. It is so popular that one needs to book a table in advance. Listed by The Guardian, as among the 10 best nightclubs in the world, Rio Scenarium is the temple of samba music. The place also showcases old artifacts on its high walls. No wonder the girls went on the floor and joined others in gay abandon, dancing and frolicking. They had to be literally pulled out of the restaurant. Late into the night, we returned to the hotel happy and all giddy headed.

Antique clocks adorning the wall

With mannequins

She sang non stop for an hour

It cannot get any better

All are floored

No end to their dancing
The whole of the next day was spent visiting the famous tourist attractions of Rio and driving around the city. The statue of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ is breathtaking and so is Sugar Loaf Mountain. The view of Rio from these places is something to be cherished forever. We saw a notorious ‘Favela” from a distance. It means ‘slum’ in Portuguese. It is a low-income informal urban area in Brazil.
I have placed an unusually large number of photographs of Rio in this blog, as they convey the essence of this charming city.  

At Sugar Loaf Mountain

At Sugar loaf Mountain. This cable car was specially made for Bond Film "Moonraker" to depict a fight in the car with Jaws the metal eater.

A view from the mountain
With the other Viator travelers

An amazing opportunity

Christ the Redeemer in Rio, created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa,The statue is 30 metres (98 ft) tall, not including its 8-meter (26 ft) pedestal, and its arms stretch 28 metres (92 ft) wide.
rather than depict Christ with a cross, Da Silva Costa designed to resemble  a cross with his outstretched arms.

This crazy and colorful tiled stairway is the work of Chilean artist Jorge SeleronIn 1990, SelarĂ³n began renovating dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house.There are 215 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. SelarĂ³n was found dead January 10, 2013, on the famous Lapa steps. 

Mera Bharat Mahan

Brazilian street art,spread all over the city depicting all aspects of nature and life.In March 2009, the Brazilian government passed law 706/07 which decriminalizes street art. In Rio de Janeiro, the street art is ubiquitous. It exists in all corners of the city from the favela to upper class neighborhoods, from residential to institutional. It is bold in scale and aesthetics, and is anything but graffiti. 

Getting ready for Rio Carnival
On our way back in May we spent a fair amount of time in Nova America, just lazing around and watching people go by. Our best leisure activity was to sit in well appointed open air cafes sipping beer and munching  Brazilian delicacies. Try Bohemian or Brahma beer. The house draft beer is good too. There are a number of good wines for those who prefer it.

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