Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rio de Janiero - Day 1

I just returned from 9 days in Rio with Luiz and his cousin Margarete -- it was a wonderful time and now I am in love with a new city and it is my second favorite city in the world (1st being San Francisco). It was a beautiful city with lots of beaches. Of course it has it's troubles as you hear of lots of poverty and crime but they are addressing these issues as they prepare for the world to come for a visit with the World Cup and the Olympics.

Flying into Rio I was excited as we landed at the airport in downtown, just off the bay. It was a beautiful afternoon and the city was bright and bustling. As we waited for the taxi, I thought to myself, I wonder what this city will be like. My friends from Brazil had warned me of the dangers of Rio and all the crime. Make sure you don't carry a wallet and no watches. Guard your camera and watch what you are doing. As we stepped out though, in line for our taxi, it looked like any other city I had been in. Quite clean and full of people speaking, gesturing, and moving around. What is it going to be like?

 We headed off to the apartment we rented in Copacabana- just blocks from the famous beach. As we drove weaving through the traffic, I rode along (in the front seat as tourist are supposed to) and views of the Christ at the top of the mountain on my right- how beautiful and majestic. Sugar Loaf on my left - I am sure the view is magnificent at the top. The Gaunabara Bay under sugarloaf with beaches along the water. Through Flamengo and into the Tunel Velho (Old Tunnel) under the mountain to emerge in Copa - Copacabana .... (OK may botafogo neighborhood first) and immediately the Barry Manalow song began flowing through my brain. (unknown to me that this song would continue to chime in my thoughts throughout our 9 day stay in Rio)
We arrived at our apartment, get the key and received instructions for all the necessaries about the it. A quaint but small efficiency apartment with three single beds - a small kitchen complete with stove and fridge. A window overlooking a courtyard (OK not much of a courtyard - more buildings and roofs of buildings but hey I can romance this a bit if I want). The window would provide the cool breeze in the evening and unwanted noise from the neighborhood. But we plan only to sleep here and spend most of our time traveling around.

OK - what to do -- unpacked our clothes and lets head to the beach of course. Only a 3 block walk and we were at Copacabana and a couple more blocks and at the infamous Copacabana Palace Hotel -- (the most renowned hotel in Rio - maybe even Latin America?) Opened in 1923 it has been the host to countless balls - weddings, carnival celebrations and more. After the capital moved to Brasilia the hotel declined and was slated to be demolished in 1985. Fortunately those plans were scrapped and the hotel was refurbished and hosted celebrities such as Modanna, Micheal Jackson, Walt Disney, and Elton Jone just to name a few. The history of this hotel is truly amazing and a must see if you visit Copacabana.
We continued our walk down the sidewalk along the beach and Atlantica Avenue. I am intrigued as I see men with orange jump suites picking up garbage and keeping the streets clean at this late hour of the evening. There is a sign along the beach that tells just how much garbage is collected daily and annually in Rio on behalf of it citizens. There is a sense of education and commitment to make changes in Rio apparent this first evening. As we continue walking along I notice the side walks are all made of rocks in a mosaic pattern. This pattern was begun in 1906 with rocks brought from Portugal and in the pattern of waives. This is a distinct look of Copacabana and seen all along the beach. Every so many feet there is a kiosk to sell chopp (beer on tap), snacks, or other beverages. As we walk I see the first signs of United State's influence as one of the kiosks is a McDonalds' selling ice cream treats. (it is the only place to buy ice cream on Copacabana that we find - no wonder the people there are in shape)

Speaking of being in shape- there is a ton of people out enjoying the afternoon and exercising. Like any beach community where you are half naked most of the time - it is important to be in good shape to show what you got! Running - walking - bicycling - all activities along the sidewalk. (yes not too many roller bladers - hmm) On the beach there is volleyball, soccer, swimming, and just relaxing going on. Oh wait -- what is that? Looks like volleyball but they are using their hands, feet, heads, and chest. No hands -- this crazy sport "Footvolley" is becoming popular on the beaches of Brazil. It is played just like volleyball but you cannot use your hands. As a lover of volleyball, I found it very interesting to watch - not sure why it was created, except for people who love soccer and volleyball maybe - and by the end of the 9 days I found validation for the sport. OK -- one more observation of things to keep in shape. Over there in the palm trees? What are they doing? They have a moving strap tied between two trees and they are balancing on this strap. Jumping up and down and twisting around. Very creative way to get some exercise and stay in shape. Definitely not for those who do not have a good sense of balance.

OK - back to our walk -- the waves are pounding along the beach and what a wonderful sense of God's presents. It is a lovely night and we decide to eat along the beach. We come across a nice restaurant with a cool breeze and take a rest. It is a good traditional meal of meat - rice and beans. We sit for a while and talk to our waiter who is from a favela, but I will talk about those later. What a pleasant evening and I am looking forward to our visit her and exploration of Rio De Janeiro...

(Read Rio de Janiero Day 2) 

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