Exploring Rio

Trip Start Nov 14, 2010
Trip End Nov 13, 2011

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, October 9, 2011

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, rob went to sort out his training and mum and I went to sit on Botafogo beach for a while. Botafogo beach is beautiful but the water isn't clean enough to swim in so there are rarely any sunbathers there. However, mum and I broke the trend and set up shop which we liked because it was nice a peaceful. There are plenty of people running up and down the beach in their speedos so you aren’t completely alone. When we got back from the beach we headed to Starbucks in the shopping mall for a coffee, which became our local! Then we decided to go for a walk along the front through Parque de Flamengo. The park was designed by Robero Burle Marx who was the man who designed the wavy black and white mosaic sidewalk on Copacabana. The park is mostly built on landfill using rubble from a demolished hill. From Botafogo the pathway curves round until you reach Flamengo beach and throughout the whole of the walk we took, we had the most perfect view of Sugarloaf. On the way back we had the most spectacular view of Christ the Redeemer with the sun setting behind it. It felt like we needed to pinch ourselves to remind ourselves that it was real and that we were truely in this iconic city. Rob cooked up a storm in the evening and cooked the traditional Brazilian dish of feijoada, black beans with rice. A very tasty meal!

Unfortunately the next day it wasn’t too bright out after the thunder and lightening we had received over night. Mum and decided to head to Starbucks again and got to catch up on everything which was great. Rob went training for the first time and trained in the pro MMA class for 2 hours so was worn out when he got back. That afternoon we decided to head to the neighbourhood of Catete. This area was developed in the 19th century when nouveau riche coffee barons built mansions here. Catete was the political centre of the country for 60 years until it moved to the purpose built city of Brasilia. Mum brought a great guide book for Rio which had neighbourhood walks in it so we decided to do this one. Instead of getting the metro there we walked through Flamengo park to Catete. Our first stop was the palace built in 1862 as a private residence of a coffee baron but later became the presidential office and home of 18 Presidents. It is now a museum. Unfortunately not a whole lot was written in English, but itis a beautiful building and the gardens are lovely too. One of the rooms has been kept exactly as the President Gelulio Vargas had it. He committed suicide here and they have on display his blood stained shirt and the gun that he used.

When we left the palace we continued walking down the main road lookign at teh 19th century facades to the buildings and then stopped in a cafe recommended, called sandwicherie. If it hadn’t been recommended we would never have stumbled across is as it is tucked away in a shopping centre. The menu is small as is the restaurant but the food was great. We all had quiche and got a huge salad with it. Ordering was quite amusing as we tried to use what litle Portuguese we have.

Following Rue do Catete we then tried to visit Oi Futuro, a building with a 100 year old facade but a modern building at the back. Unfortunately it wasn’t open so we got to see the outside and then headed to largo do Machado. This landscaped square is dominated by the Nossa senhora de Gloria church and is a popular place for locals to hang out. From there we walked to Parque Guinle, a real surprise to find in the centre of the city.The park, now open to the public, formed part of the gardens to a luxurious mansion whichw as once privately owned but is now occupied by the state governor. It is a really tranquil place and beautifully landscaped too. It was amazing to see Orchids growing on the trees.

Instead of getting the metro back, we decided to walk and on the way we saw Ronys Torres, a guy who fights in the UFC. We knew it was definitely him because he had his name tatooed on his leg!

Wednesday was a bit of a nightmare because it was a national holiday. Rob went training but it wasn’t open so we then decided to head to another area of the city called Lapa and Gloria to explore that neighbourhood. We got the metro to Cinelandia square which is a beautiful French style square. The municipal theatre dominates the square and is a very grand building. From here we walked past the building that used to be the federal supreme court and then past Ghandi park towards the Aquaduct. The aquaduct used to bring water from the Carioca river from Tijuca national park to the city. Now it is used for the streetcar that leads up to Santa Theresa. As we were walking under the aquaduct Rob was approached by a guy asking for his bottle of water. When Rob said no the man called him a whore! Not very nice at all. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed because of the holiday so it was quite empty. We were then approached by another man who shook mums hand and then asked for money. When we tried to walk away he started to follow us. At this point we decided that perhaps it was better to explore this neighbourhood on a normal working day when it would be busier, so we hopped on the metro back to Botafogo. Botafogo is a really nice area so we explored that are instead. There are some lovely buildings to look at and then we took a look around the shopping centre. Bloody national holidays are a pain!

The weather had really perked itself up the next day and so mum and I got to the beach in the morning. As we got down to the beach a band was walking down the road. Well I say a band, but mostly it was a few men banging on drums. Down on the beach a homeless man was singing along to the drums and at times would get very energetic about the whole thing. While we were down there a hooting started in the distance and didn’t stop the entire we were down there. This time we were not the only sunbathers down there. A Brazilian girl asked if she could join us because she was on her own. She told us that she had been studying English in Ireland for a year and had just flown in. She was spending a few days in Rio and then heading South to go back home. She asked if mum and I were friends and when mum said that she was my mother the girl was really shocked. She told mum that she wasn’t old enough and that we had to be sisters. Mum decided that she had made a new best friend!  

That afternoon mum and I headed to Ipanema to look around the hip and trendy shops. Ipanema is an upscale neighbourhoodand is supposedly home of the beautiful people. Not so much! We didn’t see any beautiful people.

In fact we had been expecting Rio to be full of beautiful people with amazing toned bodies but so far had been sorely disappointed. The only people that we had seen that were toned were the gay men at the gay pride festival! People are however very comfortable with their bodies here and don’t mind flaunting them no matter what they look like!

Along the main road in Ipanema there are loads of shopping malls and shops. We looked in a few and then came across Amsterdam Sauer, a gemstone museum and shop. While looking in the window, a man asked us if we wanted to see the museum and we thought, Why not? Neither of us realised how gemstone rich Brazil is. All different types are mined here and on display is the private collection of Mr Sauer. It is widely believed that at one time, many moons ago, Brazil and Africa were connected and both places are extremely gemstone rich. Once we had been guided around the museum they asked us if we wanted to go to the showroom so we headed up. It was a tad embarrassing because everything was really expensive, but we looked anyway and just tried to pretend that we were rich! They had some beautiful pieces of jewellery including a diamond ring that I later told Rob I had my eye on. He only has to save up $40,000. By the time we came out the weather had turned and it had started to rain so we walked a little further and then decided to head back home. That night when we were sitting eating dinner we heard an almighty racket from outside, later realising that it was from the people in the bar below watching football. They are absolutely football crazy over here and there are matches on almost every night!

The rain didn’t last long and on Friday morning the sun was out in force! Before we headed to the beach, mum and I walked to the Carmen Miranda museum just around the corner from us situated in Flamengo park. It’s a small, low key museum that exhibits a collection of the Brazil’s first international superstar’s clothes, head dresses and accessories. Born in 1909, she had a hectic life and died young in 1955 of a heart attack. She wore outrageous outfits and platform shoes which were also on display. After looking around we then headed to the beach and were absolutely roasted! We could only sit out in it for 40 minutes because the sun was so strong. Once Rob was back from training we all headed back to Lapa and Gloria to try again at exploring this neighbourhood. This time we were more successful. Getting off at Carioca metro station, we walked to San Sebastiao Cathedral first. It is a really ugly 70’s concrete conical sructure that was inspired by Mayan pyramids. Inside is huge with 4 massive stained glass windows and a 'floating’ cross (hung on wires so it looks like it is floating). From here we walked down Rua da Lavradio, built in 1771, which is one of the oldest residential streets in Rio and is full of antique and furniture shops. It had started to rain at this point so we had to walk quickly down this road and then headed under the ‘Arcos de Lapa’ aquaduct to find the restaurant Gohan. What a fantastic little restaurant. The portions were huge so we were completely stuffed at the end of the meal. A meal for 2 people would have easily fed all three of us and then some! The fresh fruit juices that they serve with the meals were also amazing. The food was well seasoned and packed with flavour.

By the time we left the restaurant the rain had stopped and it was only a short walk up the road to Escadaria do Selaron, the Selaron steps. In a narrow alley there are steps that lead from Lapa up to Santa Theresa. Chilean artist, Jorge Selaron, who lives in Santa Theresa began decorating the 215 steps in 1990 with tiles from over 200 different countries. They are incredible. A very unique piece of artwork. We spotted tiles a tile with a map of Ireland, a Prince Charles and Princess Diana tile and one of a red phone box! We were lucky too as there were not many people there that day so we managed to get some good photos.

Once we had walked a little way up the steps, we headed back down again and towards the Praca Paris, a French inspired garden in the neighbourhood of Gloria and then onto a lovely little church perched on a small hill with fantastic views across the bay. Even with the clouds the view was great but I can imagine that on a clear day the view would be even better. The church, Outerio da Gloria, looks out over the marina that will hold the water events for the 2016 Olympics. On our way to Catete metro stationw e passed the Hotel Gloria that has a fabulous facade, although the back of the building is very ugly! A much more successful trip than the last one!
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