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krisek Rio de Janeiro - A travel report by Krys
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Rio de Janeiro,  Brazil - flag Brazil
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krisek's travel reports

Dripping with sexuality. Utterly stunning! Rio.

  3 votes
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Rio de Janeiro of Brazil is synonymous with striking beauty, beach life, samba, carnival, tiny bikini, sexuality and body heat. And, sadly, with concerns about personal safety. It is one of the most beautiful and dramatically situated cities of the world.

Rio de Janeiro viewed from the Corcovado Hill.
Rio de Janeiro viewed from the Corcovado Hill.
At the Rio's main international airport, the GIG, I think I got 'robbed'. As instructed by guidebooks not to take metered taxis from outside the terminal, I prepaid one from the several booths in the arrival hall. And this was a mistake! Those booths immediately outside the baggage reclaim sliding doors were a rip-off. I got a 'good deal' from all, and paid BRL99, as some asked well over a BRL100! And yet, there was a yellow taxi booth inside the arrivals terminal, a few yards from the baggage reclaim sliding doors and immediately before the exit to the taxi ramp, which advertised BRL58 to Copacabana! I later confirmed the charge at the Tourist Info office at Copacabana Beach. Eh, I'm getting old, methinks. Anyway, the ride from the airport was quick. It took only about 25 minutes to reach Copacabana.

I walked the entire stretch of Copacabana and back, and sat down at one of many tiny beach bars/cafeterias for a draft beer. I had three small ones (0.4l), which reduced my budget for the day by BRL15. I have to say though, that their Brahma lager from tap was delicious and its head was as smooth as on a Guinness. Wonderful! I could easily imagine how marvelous this could taste on a hot sunny day at the beach.

On the second day in Rio weather was much better. In the morning there was plenty of sunshine and only a few scattered clouds. I acted on advice of a Carioca to start my day with a visit to the Corcovado Hill to visit the giant statue of Jesus Christ. For later in the day day, clouds normally form and block the views.

Then, the 'business district' was a mix of fabulous historical/colonial buildings to the modern and downright bizarre office buildings and a church, which definitely featured in architecture study books. Then, I took a bus (BRL2.50) to Lapa, Rio's bohemian district full of colourful art work, bars, cafes and clubs and walked back to the Centro to check the old colonial architecture.

The third day I spent in the Botanic Gardens. It rained.

Favourite spots:
The Cristo statue at the Corcovado Hill.
The Cristo statue at the Corcovado Hill.
My favourite spot in Rio was a beach bar at number 7 on the Ardaodor beach, a small stretch of beach squeezed between Copacabana and Ipanema. It offered a fantastic view of the entire Ipanema-Leblon beach with the mountains behind, a few dramatic islets, surfers riding humongous waves and the more cameral beach life. The bartender there made exceptionally good caipirinhas, although I did realise that he did mix the best of cachacas. Yet, there servings were generous and came at BRL6 only.

The other superb spot was, of course, the Corcovado Hill with the giant statue of Christ, which offered magnificent views of the city and its exceptionally dramatic location. Although the statue might be the sole purpose to go there, the views are simply stupendous. It is best to do the trip first thing in the morning, as clouds later trickle in blocking all the views.

What's really great:
One of the bondes in the Santa Teresa district.
One of the bondes in the Santa Teresa district.
Rio's attractions, except perhaps the Centro, boasting best examples of colonial architecture in the city, were located near by one another. With enough stamina it was possible to cover them all by foot. Taxis, however, were relatively cheap. A ride from central Ipanema to central Copacabana was BRL12, from Copacabana to the Corcovado train station was BRL25.

The city had a great relaxed atmosphere. Unless jogging, people moved at a very comfortable pace. The streets were clean and there were absolutely no signals confirming the scary stories how dangerous Rio was. Even the less visited spots around Santa Teresa, the upcoming colonial district or Lapa, the colourful Bohemian district seemed peaceful.

One more thing. The old open trams called bondes. They still kept running from the Centro to the hills towards Corcovado. And cost only BRL0.60. Delightful!

The Centro's Petrobras headquarters.
The Centro's Petrobras headquarters.
Rio is indeed a very large city, and although there were plenty of 'sights', few were spectacular enough to engrave in once memory and make an impact. Those, which I will remember the most will be the beaches - the Copacabana, the Ipanema, the Leblon and the Ardaodor. There were other great beaches in the city, but I did not visit them.

I did also like the Centro for its architecture ranging from beautiful colonial (the City Theatre was superb) to radical modernist (the new cathedral) to downright bizarre (the Petrobras headquarters). Some of them looked quite spectacular at night, but be careful - the Centro was not safe after working hours.

The Lapa district boasting old and avant-garde structures, painted in vivid colours also had a white viaduct (looking almost like a aqueduct) for the Rio's tram system.

The other two, most spectacular and iconic were the Cristo Redentor and the Sugar Loaf. Both easily accessible and in safe areas, but go there in the morning before clouds gather.

The rather dull room at the Debret Hotel at Copacabana.
The rather dull room at the Debret Hotel at Copacabana.
It was not terribly easy to find a good place to sleep in Rio. Particularly when staying at the Copacabana or Ipanema beaches was a priority. The city is not a cheap place in general, and accommodation near the beaches definitely comes at a price. One of the best options that had was the Hotel Debret at the westerly end of Copacabana for BRL396 for two nights (£146, $230, €170). Well, perhaps not the best, but at least one of the few that would not require one to share a room with ten other people and at the same time was not going to drain one's wallet completely.

I got a room with a small window overlooking an inner shaft at the tenth floor. It had two 1.5 beds and a good size shower room. The decor was not much, I have to say, but who in Rio would care that much. Hotel rooms in the city were only there for those few hours at night. Between the parties and chilling on the beach or in cafes. Personnel was rather slow and 'standoffish', but the hotel was clean and safe.

The Boteca da Garrafa.
The Boteca da Garrafa.
Boteco da Garrafa at Bolivar street in Copacabana was a lovely little bar serving decent caipirinhas. It was more like a pub than a club, but it had a massive terrace, where it was breezy, the personnel was young, very friendly and efficient. The place put on funky tunes and it was located near other going out places.

Another stop-by spot was the Gringo Cafe in Ipanema serving hot chocolate for BRL5.50 and caipirinhas for BRL4.00 (a very decent price to be fair). It was not much of a party place, but it was a decent spot to have a break from clubbing and partying in the nearby venues, of which there were many.

Perhaps the funkiest clubs and party venues in Rio were based in the Lapa district, famous for its quirkiness and Bohemian atmosphere. However, Lapa was not the safest of districts, so if you venture there, make sure you take a local, who knows the quickest escape routes, the way around and can talk to other locals, if they happen not to be friendly.

The view of Copacabana.
The view of Copacabana.
Who has not heard a out the Copacabana beach?! This is Rio's ultimate hanging out place. And all the other beaches around the city, as well, of course. But what I found incredibly useful at all the beaches were the cafes and drink bars. Some more sophisticated than others, but all placed on the sand right by the famous black and white wave mosaic pavement. And all served caipirinhas - most of which cost BRL6, three times less than at regular bars, pubs and clubs. I loved sitting there watching people at beach, surfers' amazing skills and the sun going down.

Now, if weather was not supporting a beach day, the Botanical Gardens at the foot of the Corcovado Hill and Cafe Da Eav at the former palace of the King and Queen of Brazil situated at Parque Lage, were the places to chill and drink hot chocolate (BRL4.50) or iced coffee (BRL5.80) and scoff a chocolate cake (BRL3.00), and watch avant-garde artists, who put up expositions there, at work. Credit cards accepted.

Colourful stairway in the Lapa district.
Colourful stairway in the Lapa district.
The Transa Bar & Restaurant at the corner of Bolivar street and Avenida Atlantica had roughly average pizzas for about BRL22 (large, 15"). The decor was rather basic, when compared with the view of the Copacabana Beach just across the oceanfront avenue, and the service was somewhat slow, although friendly. Credit cards accepted.

Felice Caffe in Ipanema, at R. Gomes Carneiro 30, serving excellent steaks and great range of generous salads was not a terribly cheap place, but very pleasant and service was friendly and efficient. A steak, a Carioca chicken salad, a fresh exotic fruit juice and two glasses of soft drink would come to BRL110, so almost as much as in London in a similar place. Credit cards accepted.

All you can eat eclectic buffet, Temperarte, on Posto 2, a side street near central point of the Copacabana beach had salads per kilo and other items like grilled meat for BRL23 on average. Lots of cheap and tasty food. Credit cards accepted.

Other recommendations:
A surfer the Ardaodor beach.
A surfer the Ardaodor beach.
This all thing about safety in Rio. I almost got paranoid due to the inflated stories about the dangers of Rio de Janeiro. Most of them are for scaremongering and sensation! I did get in touch with a Brazilian acquaintance to hook me up with a Carioca to steer me away from trouble while in the city. I felt safe with him, but I did observe the scene and how locals behaved. There was nothing alarming on the beaches of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana. Also at night! Neither did I notice anything strange in people's behaviour at the train station for the 'Christ's Hill'. Yet, my new friend did tell me to put my super sexy camera back in the bag in the Centro, Lapa and Santa Teresa districts. Other than that we walked freely and my guide did not show even a tiniest bit of a concern or nervousness at any time.

Now, the debit and credit card payments. It seemed that almost everywhere, including dirt cheap eateries, tourist attractions ticket offices, bars, clubs, one could simply swipe!

Published on Tuesday September 13th, 2011

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Tue, Sep 13 2011 - 01:33 PM rating by mistybleu

I really enjoyed this report (a good tip to visit the Christ the Redeemeer early in the day). Rio is one of my favourite cities and you have captured the atmosphere quite well. btw is it true that a hot chocolate costs less than a caipirinha?

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