Our search for a place to stay took us initially to Ipanema. Together with neighboring Copacabana it is mostly known for its powder sand beaches. We discovered a beautiful quarter, which resembled much of Paris modern living areas but also for the chic style of the people. Besides that, only the narrow and steep streets of Lapa have the air of Montmartre because the comparison ends here. Transport occurred by very fast, old and shaky buses, allowing us to see enough of this 8 million big city, home of the the cariocas
. Finally we preferred the bay of Botafogo due to its proximity to the centre but also for its more affordable rates. From this outpost situated right in the middle of 2 of Rio's most photographed sites – the Corcovado
(the statue of Jesus Christ) and the Pao de Acucar
(the Sugar Loaf) – we set off to prove the myth surrounding Rio: that of a beautiful and lively city, and also that of a city full of contrasts
. At the end our opinions could not be more different. For me Rio incorporated everything: a great landscape (beautiful beaches stretching on the Atlantic coast divided by huge rocks, islands, a rainforest, etc.), a modern and pulsating business district, people doing sport everywhere (gyms in the middle of the street, right next to the beaches), a lot of good taste in urban planning (Max Burle’s Flamengo park, etc.), not mentioning the nightlife from Lapa or Ipanema. Of course there is a "but" because of the huge distance in living standards. Rio has indeed many hills but no one sets foot there as they are full of ghettos (aka favelas
). Nor is Rio the cleanest city. But in my opinion the negative aspects aren’t enough to deny its loads of character and the city should definitely be given the crown among Brazilian cities. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I admit that my opinion about Rio might have been biased by the fact that it was in Rio where I ate the best cow cheese in the western hemisphere. Also worth being mentioned is that poor GT had to spend 2 days in bed (not b/c of Rio!!), not being able to fully get a taste of Rio.
Similar to Yin & Yang were our impressions on Rio and on Sao Paulo, our next destination. With almost half of the wealth in the entire country being produced in the state with the same name, Sao Paulo is the financial heart of Brazil
. For me it is only a city with a skyline (and not even a great one). Avenida Paulista
, its central boulevard is being compared to the 5th Avenue in Manhattan and the city itself obviously with no other than New York. Sure, it has some good museums (MAM, Pinacoteca, and MASP – in the order we visited them), a subway system, 10 lanes highways, but is this enough to match Rio’s character? For GT, the paulistas
(citizens of Sao Paulo) dress chic and act European. Back to the city, I personally find the Centro Historico
with its 1930ies skyscrapers much better than the Avenida Paulista
. The catch is that the latter is so crowded with junkies, no wonder that every guide book recommends to avoid it. I rest my case and pass the pen to Ms. Yang for her impression on the 2 rival cities (and YES, their citizens also hate each other).
After our adventure in the Atlantic we said good-bye to Bahia and its great beaches, and set off to Rio de Janeiro (14 hours bus ride!).