The Marvelous City I


Originally written on March 1, 2006


In October I ended my last email from Europe by saying that the next journey will take me to Copacabana. Little did I know that in less than 6 months my dream will come true.

The flight to Rio de Janeiro was very long – about 14hr on the route Toronto-Houston-Sao Paulo-Rio. As it´s been tradition, it would be surprising if the journey went well. The´travelling adventure´ reminded me of the vacation in Spain a couple of summers ago when my sister and I had to run through many European airports in order to make to our flights on time.

As I checked in at the international airport in Toronto, I was asked to go though the USA customs immediately although I had 3 hours prior to the departure. One of the first things I was asked by the American customs was to take my shoes off before going through the metal detector. This surprised me a bit. I just gave a look to the officer, took my shoes off, and wondered whether I walked into an airport terminal or a mosque! :sigh:

The flight to Houston was entertaining because the flight attendant was a larger size African-American lady with long red painted nails and as much as jewelry on her as possible. None of this would be too shocking until she smiled, and I saw her golden teeth. She was shiner than a Christmas tree!!!
I would have never imagine that the Continental airline would allow such blink-blink appearance of their employees. Since we were running 1/2 hr late to Houston, the blink-blink attendant advised me and passengers to Buenos
Aires to take a shuttle bus to our departing terminal. We had only 30 mins until the departure! As it turned out, we were ill advised because we were supposed to take a train instead of the shuttle bus. Thus, we had to run though the terminal as fast as possible in order to make it. I’ve never had a better cardio exercise than that night. 😛

My friend D.P. waited for me at the airport in Rio, and that´s where the adventure began.

Rio de Janeiro has been nothing else but enchanting and very surprising. The nature is splendid, and it´s wonderful to see how the city has been integrated into the rainforest that surrounds it.

The View of Rio de Janeiro from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Surprisingly I´ve taken this vacation very slowly and haven´t done much of sightseeing yet. The city centre is very nice with several colonial buildings and some remains of the Brazilian Empire. The most fascinating building has been Catedral Metropolitana built in art deco style.

Catedral Metropolitana, Rio de Janeiro

Today, however, was the most disappointing day because we went to Corcovado hill to visit the Christ Redeemer statue. The view from there was supposed to be breathtaking. The sky was clear blue without a single cloud and we thought it would be a perfect day to visit Corcovado. Little did we know, that by time we reached the hill top, the entire pinnacle was covered in clouds. Barely did I see the entire statue, and nothing at all when it comes to the view.

The Statue of Christ Redeemer at Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro

It was a holiday in Brazil until today, so a lot of people came to the city for the carnival. At the same time a lot of locals ran away from the havoc that Rio has turned into. So far the greatest thing has been the sunset over Ipanema beach which was breath-taking. Wait till you see the photos! 🙂

Ipanema Beach at Dusk, Rio de Janeiro

Tomorrow we are going to sail on a boat and visit several islands including Ilha Grande (The Great Island) which apparently has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Our apartment is just around the corner from the famous Copacabana beach and the Copacabana Palace. Copacabana was the first beach I went to, but it was a bit disappointing because there weren´t many good-looking people. lol…
Thus, we went to Ipanema which turned to be delicious!!! 🙂 lol… (JP.G. if you came with me, I would have hold you on a leash. lol…)

Sidewalk on the Copacabana Beach

Cariocas (people from Rio) are not ashamed to show off their bodies no matter in what shape or form they are. Mind you, there is more fitness centres in Rio than restaurants, or at least it looks so. Many Cariocas, at least those on the beach, have bodies to die for. Girls wear tiny bathing suits so called dental floss. (I´ll leave the rest to your imagination, but you´ve probably got the picture.) Guys on another hand wear sungas. It´s easy to spot a tourist though because he/she usually shows less skin than a Carioca. Thus, before hitting the beach, I bought two cute sungas. 🙂 One was from Blueman, which I always wanted to get.

The weather has been marvelous, and every day it´s around 35C. I haven´t had troubles adopting to the tropical climate, and actually find it a bit odd that there is winter somewhere where I came from. lol… It feels like I´ve stepped into a totally different world.

The city itself is very safe as long as one knows how to behave (eg. one shouldn´t carry a lot of money on oneself, or flash with an expensive camera all the time). I´ve been pleasantly surprised, and although I´m staying with the locals, I would come here again and stayed by myself. Even at night time, it´s safe to walk around because the streets are well lit, and there is lot of people out there.

I’m very lucky that there are people around me who are willing to spend their time in showing me around and making me understand what this city and the entire country is all about. It’s been entertaining for D.P.’s
friends to hear me speaking Portuguese. I guess it would have been funny to anyone to hear a person with an Eastern European accent saying Portuguese phrases with Portuguese dialect and not the Brazilian one.

The amount of exotic and yet weird fruit is overwhelming. Once when we were in a supermarket, I bought a piece of each unknown fruit. The shop assistant who served me was very confused because I had chosen some fruits that even
he nor D.P. knew the names of. …lol…

Tropical Fruits

I won´t write much about the Carnival in this email, but I can tell you that the city hasn’t slept. There is something for everyone – from the neighbourhood parties and crazy street carnival parades, to the nightclubs which over-charge their guests this time of the year, to the grandest show I have ever seen, the Samba Parade and competition. The parade was held on Sunday and Monday night. Each time the show began at 9pm and ended the next day around 8-9am. We are going to see the Parade of Champions on Saturday which will involve the top six samba schools. Today in the late afternoon, the winner was announced.

That would be all for now. I hope all of you are doing well, and if anyone needs a bit of sunshine and warm weather from the Marvelous City, let me know! I´ll try to send you some! 😉

Copacabana Beach in the Early Morning

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