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The Silk Route - World Travels: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Brazil: Rio de Janeiro
November 2013

Christ the Redeemer Free Walking Tour Sugarloaf Sunset
Iguazu Falls

 

Rio must have one of the most beautiful locations in the world, blessed with immense stretches of gorgeous sandy beaches and backed by beautiful mountains.

Christ the Redeemer

copacabana beach rio de janeiro
Copacabana beach, Sugarloaf mountain, dusk, from our hotel room.
copacabana beach rio de janeiro
Sunrise over the bay from our hotel room.

copacabana beach rio de janeiro
copacabana beach rio de janeiro
Early morning, Copacabana Beach.

 

We flew to Rio de Janeiro from the amazing Iguazu Falls  - hugely impressive waterfalls straddling the Argentina Brazil border.

We had booked ourselves an ocean-front room in the Miramar Hotel on Copacabana beach and it had fabulous views all the way along the coast to Sugarloaf Mountain.

We had an excellent meal in the hotel before an early night after our long day.

copacabana beach rio de janeiro
miramar hotel rio de janeiro
Miramar Hotel

The following morning I woke early and watched a beautiful dawn over the sea. There were masses of frigate birds flying across the bay.

Christ the Redeemer rio de janeiro

After a very good breakfast we went for a walk along the beach before being picked up for a jeep tour to Corcovado Mountain, the site of the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer - and tourists!

The driving is fast and furious and the jeep was bumpy and exposed, though the driver had a netting roof to shield him from the sun. As the morning wore on it got hotter and hotter and I asked for the netting to be extended over the passenger area - it was much more comfortable!

Christ the Redeemer rio de janeiro

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View from the top of Corcovado

It happened to be a public holiday to mark the death of a slave leader who declared a small independent country which survived for twenty years before he was killed and the area was retaken by the Portuguese. Consequently there were quite a lot of people visiting the statue.

Christ the Redeemer rio de janeiro
sugarloaf rio de janeiro
Sugarloaf Mountain from Corcovado.

World-famous Christ the Redeemer is a beautiful Art Deco statue standing on top of the 700m mountain. It was extremely hot and everyone was clinging to the small amount of shade.

On such a clear day the views were fantastic.

We drove down the mountain through dense, lush forest to stop at Chinese View, a really stunning view over Rio encompassing both Corcovado and Sugarloaf.

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Chinese View
rio de janeiro
rio beaches
Beach volleyball, and a football version, are played all along the beaches.
rio de janeiro
banana flower
Banana flower.

 

We stopped at a small waterfall on the way back,set in the dense forest with lovely banana palms in flower and fruit.

We drove back along the sea front, the beaches a solid mass of umbrellas.

Back at the hotel we showered and decided to have lunch at one of the many open beach cafes. It wasn't great. They seem to specialise in crispy coated balls of various fillings. I had cod which was warm and not too bad but the cheese and fish concoction was cold - a fact which didn't trouble the waiter at all who shrugged when we told him. However, the cold beers hit the spot.

rio beaches

Some of the bodies on the beach were less than beautiful, large expanses of flesh held almost in place by tiny bikinis. We walked over to Ipanema - buying Havaianas on the way - where the people looked marginally more attractive but still wall-to-wall humanity in all its glory!

rio beaches
Fishing nets hanging up to dry at the extreme south end of Copacabana beach - evidence that at least some traditional occupations remain.

 

rio beaches
The statue is of Brazilian singer-songwriter Dorival Caymmi.
rio sunset

 

That evening we had sunset caipirinhas at the rooftop pool bar with its magnificent views over the sea and up to Sugarloaf.

We ate at Namague just around the corner. The restaurant had been recommended by our driver from the airport and it was a good choice - very good fish served with lovely sauces.

Free Walking Tour

rio sunrise
Sunrise over Copacabana Beach
rio sunrise

 

The following morning we rose before dawn and went out on to the beach to watch the sun rise over the sea - beautiful.

rio sunrise
rio sunrise

Later, after breakfast, we made our way by metro to Carioca Square to join a Free Walking Tour of the city.

The tour was excellent, the guide very knowledgeable on the history of Brazil and Rio, which she insisted should be pronounced "Hio"!

 

rio sunrise
Carioca Square, meeting point for the Free Walking Tour.
rio Confeitaria Colombo
Confeitaria Colombo
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Largo da Carioca 1608
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Largo da Carioca 1650
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Largo da Carioca 1824

When the Portuguese sailed into Guanabara Bay in the early sixteenth century they mistook it for a river - hence Rio de Janeiro! Our guide took us into a building just off Carioca Square (the locals are called Cariocas) and showed us some prints of how the area looked over the centuries.

In the 18th century mining stimulated an influx of European immigrants and the town expanded.

Great changes were seen in the early nineteenth century when, Portugal being threatened by Napoleon, the Prince Regent transferred his court to Rio. International trading activities increased and the town modernised throughout the century, becoming capital of Brazil in 1889.

rio Confeitaria Colombo
Confeitaria Colombo. Coxinha de galinha - a very popular Brazilian savoury: shredded chicken meat covered in dough and shaped to look like a chicken thigh.

rio de janeiro
rio de janeiro
The 18th century Imperial Palace on 15 November Square. Originally the seat of the governors and later the king. Now it is a cultural centre.
rio de janeiro
Palacio de Tiradentes, seat of the legislative assembly.

Our guide took us to Confeitaria Colombo, a magnificent "coffee shop" established in 1894. It's much more than a coffee shop though, on two floors the decorations dazzle and the sweet and savoury offerings look gorgeous.

rio Confeitaria Colombo
Confeitaria Colombo
rio de janero
This 18th century aqueduct now carries a tramway. The conical building is the cathedral, built in the 1970s.
rio de janero
Arco do Teles leading to Travessa do Comercio
rio de Janeiro
18th century Church  of our Lady of Lapa dos Mercadores - patron of peddlers. It has a very baroque interior. Inside the church is a statue of the saint which once stood on the bell tower - it was toppled by a shell during a rebellion but suffered little damage, an event regarded as miraculous.

rio de Janeiro

18th century Arco do Teles leads to Travessa do Comercio in a quaint area of the city, quiet and picturesque. Carmen Miranda, the Portuguese-Brazilian film star famed for her elaborate fruit head-dresses, lived on Travessa do Comercio.

rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
Escadaria Selarón

The tour ended on a high as we came to the Escadaria Selarón, a set of beautifully tiled steps. Selarón was a Chilean artist who lived here in the late twentieth century. In 1990 he began renovating a set of steps near his house with scavenged tiles. He became obsessed with his project and continued covering the 215 steps with tiles from all over the world - there are over 2000 on the steps and latterly many of these were donated.

rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
The man himself - Chilean artist Jorge Selarón.
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro
Brazilians were very excited to be hosting the world cup.

Sadly, Selarón was found dead on the steps in 2013.

rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron
Easter Island statue.
rio de Janeiro escalada selaron

Our guide had highly recommended a visit to the Municipal Theatre so after the tour we returned and booked two tickets for the 3 pm tour. Then we had ice-cold beers in the shade in Praca Floriano. It had been three and a half hours walking the streets at a fairly relaxed pace but it was a very hot day and we were all wilting after a couple of hours. Temperature in the shade at one point was 34°C!

rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
Municipal Theatre

 

rio de Janeiro municipal theatre


rio de Janeiro municipal theatre

The theatre we found disappointing - mostly it was just not to our taste. The exterior is impressive and the Assyrian-style restaurant is fantastic but it was too dark to see it well. Thereafter the building is very grand, very ornate, with much gilding and cherubs - Art Nouveau glass meets Corinthian columns in a mish-mash of styles. But many people think it's wonderful.

 

rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
Ornate interior of the theatre.
rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
Mosaic panels adorn the theatre foyer.
rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
The Assyrian-style restaurant in the Municipal Theatre.
rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
rio de Janeiro municipal theatre
rio de Janeiro municipal theatre

Sugarloaf Sunset

rio de Janeiro
Distinctive Sugarloaf Mountain stands at the north end of Copacabana Beach.

We took a taxi to the Sugarloaf cable cars - two to get to the top of Sugarloaf. There were no queues and we were taken straight up - the views of Rio, the islands and mountains, and Corcovado are stunning.

rio de Janeiro
Sugarloaf Mountain
rio de Janeiro
Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado.

Sugarloaf is almost 400m high, rising vertically from the ocean at the entrance to Guanabara Bay, though it isn't the only sugarloaf-shaped mountain along this part of the coast.

rio de Janeiro
The last sun of the day on Copacabana Beach.
rio de Janeiro
rio de Janeiro
rio de Janeiro
rio de Janeiro
Floodlit volleyball on Copacabana Beach.

It wasn't a great sunset so as soon as the sun disappeared we returned to the hotel and went up to the pool bar for caipirinhas and snacks. With the wonderful view over Copacabana Beach it was a perfect way to end the day and our stay in Brazil.

rio de Janeiro