|I know we had send you a Xmas message from Rio--------but here are a few more facts and pictures of the city. I would say the only way to go to Rio is by boat, the sail in is just amazing---good thing our cabin was on the Port side of the ship. It is very green and tropical and the beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon) look amazing. Then you look up and see Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado, Sugarloaf and the huge bridge crossing to Niterol, on the other side of Guanabara Bay.
After docking we took a bus up to Petropolis, about 1 1/2 hrs. north of Rio. The mountains are so beautiful and lush in this area, the roads are narrow and climb steeply. Petropolis is the city were Emperor Dom Pedro had his summer retreat----it is about 10-20 degrees cooler up here than in Rio. Much of the town was designed by a German architect in the mid 1800's and settled by wealthy Cariocas. Loved the vintage feel of the place and the Museum Imperial (former home of the royal family) and St. Peter's church were very interesting. We also enjoyed a Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue or beef, chicken, sausage, pork and other delicacies---I shall not name).
We mentioned before Rio is a city in disrepair, it is a shame, as once it must have been a truly remarkable place---it was called Cidade Maravilhose---Marvelous City. There is a saying there---that if God took seven days to create the world, two of them were spent on Rio de Janerio. Unfortunately with corrupt gov't, things have been let go for so long, I guess many are passed being restored. The streets up the hill where we stayed in the historic area, are like washboards, walking is a hazard, and all we did was climb hills, but the views were incredible.
Down in the central part of the city, we visited many churches including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Nacional Historical Museum, the Praca (former palace, now a modern art gallery), Belas Artes, Opera House, the Casa Barbarosa and our favorite place the Cafe Colombo, with it's Tiffany Glass ceilings, and marble floors and wonderful pastries.
We rode the Bonde (the last Tram in South America) so many times we lost count--going across the Arcos da Lapa (very scary) and up the steep streets of Santa Teresa was always exciting. If we stayed on past our B&B stop we would continue up to Largo dos Guimareas, where there were many little restaurants and art shops. One night we tried an Amazon place---all the spices used on the chicken, where grown in the Amazon--------it was wonderful.
One day we walked up to Chacara do Ceu (now a gallery with European and Asia art), and the Parque das Ruinas (former home of Laurinda Santos) a once beautiful mansion with a spectacular view of Rio and the bay. Then to the famous Ladeira do Selaron (the stairs link the area of Lapa with Santa Teresa)---all done in colored and mosaic tile by Chilean artist Selaron.
The hillsides are all covered with Favelas (we heard there were 900 of them around Rio). They are where most Cariocas live in slum cities, with poor-quality housing and little sanitation. Many are plagued by gangs which is unfortunate, because they are rich in cultural heritage--this is where the Samba, Carnaval and Brazilian soccer all began.
We took a trip up to Sugarloaf(Pao de Acucar) that sits just above Guanabara Bay. First you take a cable car to Morro da Urca and then a second one to the top of Sugarloaf---both have lovely parks surrounding them. Great place for a view of Christ the Redeemer.
The beaches have the best sand I have seen anywhere, but it is soft (you sink easily) and very hot for bare feet. Best to go in the morning, because by noon the beach is a blur of red umbrella's. Sidewalks are all the famous black and white mosaic designs. It was strange to spend Xmas day on a beach in 35 degrees. There is some great restaurants here and many expensive shops. But Rio is so much more than the beaches. Only remember to ask if the B&B has air-conditioning, because the Dona (SAUNA--as David called it) Maria room was NOT the highlight of our time there.