Trip Start Aug 08, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2009

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, May 25, 2008

Our journey from Ilha Grande to Rio was pretty cool, first of all a 15 minute speed boat to the mainland and then a 2 hour drive in a Volkswagen camper-van.  When we got to our hostel there was just about enough time to get something to eat and then to do a reccie to a find a pub for tomorrows game.....

Wednesday 21st May 2008 - Champions League Final Day
Oh yes I was very excited bordering on anxious at the prospect of Manchester Uniteds 3rd ever European Cup/Champions League final.  The build up to the game was good though. Got up, had breakfast and then sat on Ipanema beach for 3 hours.  Ipanema beach is fantastic, partly for the aesthetics, beautiful sands with huge mountains at either end of the beaches, but mainly for the women.  Damn my lack of Portuguese language skills as these are officially the hottest women in the world* (apart from British girls of course).  And the thing I love about these Brazilian beaches is that no matter what size, shape, colour, age or level of attractiveness you are, everyone hits the beaches in a celebration of all things sun.

After the beach it was time for a quick lunch before making our way to the traditional Brazilian bar we had chosen to watch the match at; 'Shenanigans'.  There was a good atmosphere in there and the pub was rammed, not just with tourists but locals too all keen to see who'd win.  For the next 2 and a half hours I was completely focused and extremely anxious in extra time, and nearly had nose bleeds during the penalty shoot out, but it went our way and I celebrated wildly at the victory with the other Manchester fans in the pub.

There wasn't too much time to celebrate though as I was of to the Maracana to watch another game, the Copa Libertadores quarter final between Fluminese and Sao Paulo.  The Maracana is a legendary stadium and just seeing that on its own was great for me, but to be lucky enough to see such a big game was even better.  The atmosphere matched the occasion and was electric just like the games I'd seen in Argentina.  The game was good too with Fluminese getting a first half goal to level the tie all square at 1-1 on aggregate.  In the second half Sao Paulo piled on the pressure and eventually scored, meaning that Fluminese needed to 2 to win and qualify for the next round.  They responded quickly with one goal, but for all their pressure they couldn't break down the Paulista defence.  Then in the final few minutes they nicked a winner, Fluminese went through and the crowd went mental.  We didn't get back until after 1am but what a great day the 21st May was.

The following day consisted mainly of beach, wandering around Ipanema, beach, organising the following day and beach.  On the Friday we did a big sightseeing tour so we could get in as much as possible in a day as we were only in Rio for 5 days.  It started with a trip to the Tujica Forrest and then a hike up a mountain called Pedra Bonita.  Our tour guide, whose voice and accent was a dead ringer for Al Pacino, had his work cut out as one of the girls fainted about 30 metres into the hike and had to be carried back to the start.  Three others from our group had already declined the hike because of health/age reasons.  After 1250m we reached the summit where there were great views of Rios beaches and forrests and a big rock with a gorillas face in it.  On the way back down from the hike a French guy I was walking beside decided about 10 metres in that he couldn't carry on and just sat down.  After seeing the other girl faint earlier I was a bit worried and ended up legging it down the rest of the trail to find his brother.  His  brother kicked his ass and he came down the rest of the trail.

Next stop was the Corcovado mountain, but on the way our tour guide pointed out a few of the favellas and gave us some insight into them.  The favellas for me just seem to be big council estates and just like back home you get good ones and bad ones with the bad ones getting all the press because of how dangerous they are.  Our tour guide said you could quite easily walk around some of them as the inhabitants weren't really interested in tourists, it was just the police they didn't like.  Anyway back to Corcovado which is more famously known for the statue of Christ The Redeemer on the top of it.  The statue was major huge and it was great to see as this again was one of those iconic sights that tells you you're in Rio.  The views of central Rio and Sugar Loaf Mountain from there were amazing too. 

We then headed towards the Santa Theresa district passing by the Sambodromo which is the huge but strange stadium where the Rio Carnival starts.  It just looks like one big street with massive stands at either side of it.  In Santa Theresa itself, there are a set of steps that have been artistically set upon by a Chilean artist called Selaron.  The steps and the surrounding walls are made up of wall tiles from around the world, either tiles he's picked up himself or tiles that have been sent to him.  There are all sorts of tiles here including one of Lady Diana (she gets everywhere doesn't she) and videos and album artwork has been shot here for artists such as Snoop Dog and U2.  Really cool steps and worth sending him a tile if you've got an interesting one spare (and no that doesn't mean one thats fallen of the bathroom wall).  The other good thing is that he is actually there on the steps most days and you can buy some of his original work directly from him at a reasonable price.

In the evening we went out around Lapa which is one of the main party districts and the place is pretty mental.  Unusual to see was that there were vendors on the streets selling alcohol and most of the people were buying from them and drinking on the street.  Because of this the bars were reasonably priced too or else they'd get priced out.  I liked the street drinking thing, it had a nice vibe about it, not so sure it would work in England though.  My last and final day in Rio consisted of more beach and generally chilling out before the next days mammoth journey to Peru.  I loved Rio, it's got a great vibe and is right up there in the coolest of cities ever.  It's also very beautiful with beaches, mountains and forests all in close proximity.  Another city to add to my 'I'll Be Back' list.

* Official Anton Stat.  For the purposes of definition the term 'The World' consists of all countries Anton has visited.
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