Rio de Janeiro - highs and lows

Trip Start Jan 17, 2008
1
5
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Trip End Ongoing


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

First Impressions - Green & absolutely the most stunning city background I have ever seen
Last Impressions - Both highs and Lows but all in all, I loved it. Really loved it.

Highs!

Hang-gliding - bloody pertifying for someone who hates jumping off heights to hear "the most important thing to do is run, even when we´ve reached the end of the platform, just keep on running..." It was so worth it though - exhilirating and so calm when in the air looking out over the ocean and islands - I think the photos do the talking with the smile on my face!

Corcovado - the highest mountain in Rio translated as ´hunchback´ and the one on which the statue of Christ Redeemer stands. Voted as one of the new 7 wonders of the world and certainly impressive at 38m tall.  Disappointingly however after waiting so long to see it, when we got to the top we were completely surrounded by cloud!! it cleared in patches so we could see the statue but couldn´t really see the amazing views of Rio - never mind, I´ll have to come back another time...

Evening in Urca - eating a lovely meal in Urca restaurant on our first night in Rio under the Sugar loaf mountain, looking across the water and up to the Corcovado with a lightning storm in the background.  Very atmospheric, though Christ kept disappearing - Lisa guessed power cuts, whilst I favoured the less likely Dr Who ´Blink´ solution that the statue was actually getting nearer to to us. 

Dressing up in Carnival costumes at the Sambadrome, and going out to a huge Lapa nightclub to watch one of the Carnival blocos perform.  Crazy samba/conga dancing with all the Brazilians to a samba band in the middle of the floor, I dont think I have ever sweated more, but beamed throughout!

Sugar Loaf mountain - So named because it shape resembles a sugar bread that the Portuguese used to make.  Spectacular views over Rio, and obvious mischief pretending we were James Bond and Jaws in Moonraker.

last but not least, the Maracana - I know, I know, it´s football and as my family will know I´m not a great fan BUT this was one of the best experiences EVER! We went to see the semi final of the Rio Challenge cup between Flamengo and Vasco - supporting Flamengo, who happily won. I don´t know what Wembley is like, but walking up the stairs and seeing the 90,000 seater stadium in front of you with huge mountains in the background and the green pitch in bright sunshine before you was absolutely incredible. That and the contstant samba drums, the flares, the cheers, the hand gestures, the massive flags, the balloon popping, the throwing of beer in the air, etc. Pure gold, and a great high to leave Rio on. 

Drinking 15R$ caipirinhas at the Copacabana Palace hotel with all the rich old american jewish couples, and feeling exceedingly luxuriant.

Lows

Helen having her bag snatched... (but happily getting it back when the thief was stopped by a passing motorist with a gun and held him to the ground).  I was kind of expecting something to happen in Rio as you do hear the stories from other travellers and the locals tell you to be careful, so we were and it still happened but we´re all fine and perhaps just a little more careful about not taking anything valuable out with us. (please no-one worry!)

Lisa having tonsilitis for the second time in a month

Helen leaving us :( to go back to Germany

Special Places, People & Moments

Selaron Steps (Lapa)
A Chilean artist called Selaron living in Rio started to decorate the large staircase outside his home with tiles, and it has now become his life´s work now containing thousands of tiles from all over the world. Colourful - both the staircase and the artist himself, he´s there everyday and talks to the people who come to see his work. We´ve promised him a pirate tile from Bristol!

Bar do Mineiro & Santa Teresa
We chose to stay in an area called Santa Teresa, the bohemian artistic area where old hippies live in crumbling mansions on the side of a green hill, with old street trams grinding their way up at regular intervals.  Magical atmosphere especially at the Bar do Mineiro, traditionally where artists, musicians and activists came to meet (and of course, drink, as all good artists do) - we met some lovely old men; three cousins who had escaped from their wives for the evening and were up to mischief and another who made wild boar out of beermats and was ready with his plane to take us all to the Pantanal (despite obviously having been drinking for hours and dribbling into his beer).

Walking down the hill by Church of Nossa Senhora de Gloria do Outeiro and hearing an opera singer practising the Lakme Flower Duet out of her window

Meeting the lovely Jena on the bus who amazingly understood some of my mangled portuguese, and decided to become my personal shopper in Copacabana for the morning plus invited us for dinner with her family when we return to Rio. And who gave me back my faith in the kindness of people very quickly after the mugging incident.

..............

There were so many other fantastic moments which I haven´t got the time to put down, such as watching beach football on Copacabana beach and meeting lovely lovely people at our hostel (Rio Hostel, Sanata Teresa - highly recommended).

Heading West now to Curitiba and then on to Iguassu which I´m really looking forward to!

Lots of love, Fran x
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