Welcome to Rio

Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End Apr 17, 2006

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Tuesday, April 11, 2006

After an hour getting through the security entrance and customs, we grabbed our bags, exchanged some dollars for Brazilian reals, and headed for Le Meridien Hotel on Copacabana Beach. We decided to take the local bus for the 1 hour drive through the city. Very busy and active. Lots of people going to and fro about their daily activities. After riding for about 30 minutes, we still didn't know exactly which stop we should take to get us closest to our hotel. But as fate would have it, we sat next to a friendly traveler who helped us out. Luisa is Italian and wants to move to Rio. She loves it here. She's in town for 3 months to look for a job so she can move here eventually. She kindly instructs us that the Brazilian people are very friendly and unassuming. And although we could easily blend in with our brown skin, we will be a sure target for robbers if we keep our gold jewelry on. "I would never wear that out in the streets," she says. "No one wears much jewelry here." Without hesitation, we quickly remove our gold necklaces, bracelets and rings. Anita's not about to take off the gold earrings I bought her in Jordan. But I convince her to do so once we get to the hotel. Luisa tells us that our stop is coming up, and as we depart the bus she bids us farewell.

We roll our luggage about 4 blocks to the hotel, and they kindly check us into a temporary room on the 32nd floor. It's not exactly what we want, but our friend Gabriel at the front desk assures us he can get us a beachfront view, with a king size bed and DSL connection. Cool. We'll just drop off our luggage, freshen up and head out to explore the city. We walk about 6 miles down Copacabana beach, then through the nearby neighborhoods and over to Ipanema Beach. We come across a nice little farmers market with vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and chicken. I could get into the fruits and veggies, but I have no idea how they can get away with having all that fish and chicken out in the open air without refrigeration. I guess the locals are used to it.

A little more walking and I'm able to locate the hotel I stayed at when I was here 4 years ago - the Ipanema Plaza Hotel. A stroll down the street to Galito's Restaurant where we enjoy a delicious lunch of roasted chicken, fries and salad. We stroll a little further and decide we've walked enough for the day. Time to take the bus back to the hotel. The bus driver is a maniac! He's driving the bus like it's a Mazeratti, whizzing in and out of traffic and down narrow streets. Ten minutes later, we're dropped off just one block from our hotel.

By now our new room is ready so we gather our things, change rooms and then relax. Actually, we took a 2-hour nap. Then shower and head down to the poolside restaurant for dinner. Take a stroll down the beach at night, only later to discover that walking Copacabana beach after 6 p.m. is not a good idea. Our friendly concierge, Ericka tells us all of the spots to avoid and directs us to all of the sights we must see. Now we're dead tired and ready to turn in for the night after a very long day.
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