Her name is Rio and she dances in the sand

Trip Start Mar 19, 2012
Trip End Jul 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Arena Copacabana Hotel Rio de Janeiro
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Lots and Lots

Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, May 13, 2012

Landed in Rio and thought by the smell it was India, thankfully it subsided very quickly. Got through customs and baggage in about 15 mins before heading to the hotel. The city is located within mountains and forests with the Christ statute towering over the whole city. I saw 4 football stadiums on the way, none were very big and all looked a little run down. My hotel was on the Copacabana and luckily my room was ready when I got there 9am. Went to sleep for a bit before I got my first proper view of the Copacabana beach when I went for a quick bite to eat. It's a long beach with sugar loaf mountain on one end and a small walkway on the other. In the afternoon went to a football match, Fluminense vs Botafogo. It was the first leg of the state final so was going to be an important game. The stadium was about an hour away and was set within a pair of mountains and was the most modern stadia I saw having being built in 2007. We sat in the Fluminense end and there were about 30,000 people in the ground. Started off by having a Fluminense drape going over our heads and balloons going around all over the place. Out of the players I knew Deco and Fred both playing for Fluminense. Botafogo scored after 5 mins with a volley inside the box into the corner but after that Fluminense created chance after chance and scored in the last minute of the half with a bicycle kick. Early in the second half Botafogo had a player sent off and Fluminense scoring 3 more goals with Deco running the play. The atmosphere was amazing with drums banging and flags waving throughout with hi fives and screaming every time a goal went in. People were standing on seats and aisle ways.  Just a bit better than the MLS. Once I got back I walked along the avenue that runs alongside the copa and had some dinner and coconut water. People were playing football, volleyball and having walks along the moonlit beach.

Next day first thing in the morning walked along the golden copa sand with the waves just covering my feet before relaxing at a seating spot. In the afternoon went to the Christ statue which is located on the Corcadova mountain. You have to take a tram to the top of the mountain before climbing about 100 steps to the statute. The statue is absolutely massive, with a chapel at the back of it. If you stand directly under it, with the clouds moving it feels like statue is too. The view of the city from the top is picturesque, with the city, beaches, sea, forests and mountains. In the evening went to the suburban street behind the hotel to have a look around and had some traditional Brazilian food of beans, rice and chicken. I was a caught a bit short on money as I didn't carry much cash around so had to go back to hotel to get some. The waiter was shocked I came back to pay the rest. Don’t worry son I got integrity and honesty by the bucket loads. After dinner I walked the whole Copa pavement sipping my coconut water.

On Tuesday my bay cruise got canceled due to rain overnight which was a blessing as I was shattered and went back to bed getting up about 3pm. This time walked down to Ipanema beach, which in some of the travel sites I visited said was better than Copa; Ipanema was a lot smaller but the sand a lot softer. I would say out of the two I preferred Copa. Being my first visit to Ipanema I thought it rude not to have some coconut water. In the evening went to a Samba show which started with a middle aged woman who could have been Neymar's mum doing some keepy uppies for about 25 mins. Fair play to her, she didn’t drop the ball once. Show was nice enough with loads of colours, costumes and samba.

Next day took a trip to the Tijuca forest which is located in the middle of the city via a jeep. Saw a small waterfall but no animals as we did a short hike along a trail. We visited a lookout point where there was a camera crew which turned out to be the BBC. The presenter was Andrew Marr and when I spoke to him he said they were doing a history show about Rio. At least we know where the license fee is going too. In the evening went to the night market on the copa to get some souvenirs before going to the top of the hotel to look over the copa by night.

Thursday took a trip to sugar loaf mountain to get another view of the city and the cable cars used to transport us were used in Moonraker. The view was great but preferred the one from the Christ statue. Once we got back I went on the hotel lounge too do some sunbathing. In the late afternoon went to Ipanema where I walked along the golden sand when I thought the time was right to bust out my David Hasselhoff impression and got about 10 meters before all the girls jumped on to me. Good times. Lay on the beach for a bit before heading for a big rock at the start of the beach to watch the sun slowly setting over two mountains which was absolutely stunning. Slowly made my way back along Ipa and Copa having some dinner on Copa with a musician playing some local Brazilian music. Got some popcorn from a local vendor before heading to the hotel deck.

The following day took a trip to a flavela (shanty town) passing through bits of the city I hadn't seen before. The flavela we went to was called Santa Marta; the guide telling us people do have guns but this is to ward of rival factions which control the various flavelas. He said the main problem is the corruption within the police and that is what is stopping the city moving forward. The money from the tour goes partly to the flavela and first thing I saw when I entered was an astro turf football pitch which is better than the one I play on back at home and each house had a Sky HD satellite. The housing standard was poor with cramped streets but thankfully they had a fresh water supply and a sewage system in place, as well as an opportunity for the kids to go to school. We walked about half way down where we found a statue of Michael Jackson; this is where he filmed his song "They don't care about us". They sell dvd's of the making of the video and all proceeds go to the flavela. We then went to one of the peoples house and first thing I saw was a young girl of 14/15 feeding her baby. Me and another couple of people from the UK felt really awkward and stood at the doorway whereas the others started taking pics straight away. I spoke to one of the boys who lived there about football.  The house was one of the nicer ones but 17 people lived in it. We made our way to the jeep before heading back to the hotel. Quick lunch before some proper beach time on Copa with the sun beating down and waves crashing about. In the evening again chilled on the beach front.

Saturday was beach day, relaxing on the Copa with my coconut water. Early in the week weather was about 20-25 Celsius and towards the end of the week went up to 30C, so not oppressively hot. Language was a bit of a problem, my Portuguese is a bit rusty and it got dark by 6pm as it was there autumn. However I absolutely loved it here was a great experience; several Doctor No moments, a very beautiful place that I would recommend to anyone. And yes Im addicted to coconut water.
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