A Travellerspoint blog

At the Copa, Copacabana

And other places

sunny 35 °C
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Sam

On the summer solstice I joined the sun worshippers - normally found on Copacabana beach - to see the sun rise over Rio. I couldn't convince Caroline to join me, but I took some decent photos to show her. And you.

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In the late morning we took the bus to Leblon, which is the continuation of Ipanema Beach. It has some cool cafes, and a spot on the hill with a great view. We took a couple of egg tarts up there.

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Leblon Beach

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It was ridiculously hot so we sat under the air conditioning at home for a while before heading out to the Copacabana. The world's most famous beach (possibly? what are the other contenders?) lived up to expectations. OK, it was pretty similar to Ipanema, but the mountains behind were nice. And the water is blissfully refreshing.

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One of the many groups playing keepy-ups, either with a volleyball or soccer ball

We had a traditional Brazilian dinner - a kind of bean stew, with corned beef and onions and a cabbage mix. I haven't really sold it well, but it was quite tasty.

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Today we headed north to the famous Maracanã Stadium. Only 78,000 will fit in today, but nearly 200,000 spectators crammed in - standing room only, of course - to see the 1950 World Cup final (Uruguay defeated Brazil 2-1 in an almighty upset that shocked the nation). It's not as big as I expected, but it's still pretty important. It held the final of the 2014 World Cup, and will hold the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics.

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In the VIP seats

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On the way back home, we went up to Cantagalo, a favela just above Ipanema. Apparently it's basically crime-free, and it has lovely sea views. It's also labyrinthine - a veritable maze of winding narrow footpaths - and we were a bit concerned that we'd get hopelessly lost, so we didn't stay long. It was long enough to notice a few key differences from the posh suburb below: the population is mostly black, there's far less space, and the houses are far less permanent. Maybe next time we'll join a favela tour.

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Back to Copacabana in the afternoon, and we had a look around the fort. It still seems to be an active military site, with lots of tourists milling around as well. The museum was a bit disappointing, but there were more great views, looking back on the beach.

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Tragically, these poor soldiers had all their facial features destroyed and now have to work in an underground bunker

And finally over to the Sugarloaf mountain, the second of the two huge peaks (after Christ the Redeemer's). We hiked up halfway, sweating through the jungle but enjoying the shade. You can't hike all the way without professional climbing equipment, or we might have.

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We believed we could buy cable car tickets from the halfway point, but unfortunately that wasn't the case, and we had to hike back down to get up to the very top. We had enough time to take in the scenery though.

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Eventually we made it up to the very top, about an hour before sunset. A few people had already set up chairs right at the fence to make sure they had the best spot. We didn't stay for the full hour, but again, had enough time to take it all in.

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The marina at Botafogo Bay

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Copacabana

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Christ the Redeemer at the top right of the last photo

Rio is absolutely stunning, fairly easy to get around, and simultaneously buzzing with energy and extremely laid back. We felt completely safe, despite what the guidebooks tend to say, and found most people very friendly. Not sure we've sweated so much for a while, though. One of my favourite cities I've ever been to, and it would suit my sisters down to a tee. Come here Ro and Mat!

Posted by samoline 14:46 Archived in Brazil Comments (3)

When my baby smiles at me

We go to Rio... De Janeiro

sunny 36 °C
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Sam

We took Dad's advice (see his comment on the last entry), and disposed of it, as we had a couple of more days of culture in Rio. We did spend a fair bit of time at the beach in the evenings though.

It was incredibly hot yesterday, so we did our best to stay indoors. Our first stop was the Municipal Theatre, a grand old building which was beautifully and painstakingly restored about five years ago.

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We took a tour inside and saw the incredibly opulent furnishings, including bannisters made of onyx, and six different types of marble scattered around.

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Inside the theatre

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The entrance hall

Just across the road is the Museum of Fine Art. The art was fine, but the air conditioning was not, and we were dripping with sweat by the time we left. Not sure that the delicate paintings will last very long.

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Then over to the conical Metropolitan Cathedral, which looks a bit nuclear shelter-y from the outside. On the inside though, it has floor-to-ceiling stained glass, and is a mightily impressive space.

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The city's old aqueducts

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We followed that up with a walk through the colourful district of Santa Teresa, with the pretty Escadaria Selaron. This is a bright staircase with tiles from all over the world, started by a Chilean artist as a 'dedication to the Brazilian people'.

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For those of you in Sri Lanka

We kept walking up the hill to a small park with brilliant views over the city, set in the ruins of an old manor house. And just next door was a newer manor house, which we had a look at too.

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Then we dragged our sweaty and exhausted bodies back to Ipanema.

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This morning we started at the 'Hippie Fair' just near our place. It had hundreds of cute stalls, a few of which sold 'acarajes', which are croquette-like buns with a multi-layered shrimp sauce.

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Then to the new Museu de Arte do Rio, which was so new that the permanent exhibition didn't seem to be ready. But there was a good selection of photos from an Austrian-born Jewish photographer, who moved to Brazil to escape the Nazis and worked through the 50s, 60s and 70s documenting life in Rio.

The view from the top of the building was good, too.

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The 'Museum of Tomorrow' from the roof of the art museum

Then over to one last church, which is still part of a working monastery. It is completely covered in gold.

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And then finally over to the very informative National History Museum, which taught us a lot about Brazil's colonial and slave-owning history. The slave trade was extensive, and for a fairly long period of time more than 60% of the world's slaves were sent here.

There were a few more cute things too, like this replica pharmacy.

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Then to the beach for a swim and a coconut. Caroline had a caipirinha, Brazil's national cocktail made from a sugar cane spirit. It was a bit stronger than she bargained for.

Posted by samoline 16:11 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

The girl (and boy) in Ipanema

In rollocking Rio de Janiero

sunny 34 °C
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Sam

The trip from Tiradentes wasn't that exciting, but I'm mentioning it so that I can put this photo in. A surprising number of people in the small town seem to actually use horses to cart around their goods.

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We were in Rio by the late afternoon, and made it to our Airbnb in Ipanema. Rio is more expensive than the rest of Brazil, and it's very hot and humid. It's got a reputation for being very unsafe. And the geography makes it a bit hard to get around, because you have a massive lake in the middle of the city, and incredibly steep mountains all around. But we soon found out why it gets under your skin.

Before long we were down at the beach, gawking at the ridiculous mountain scenery and the lack of 'coverage' provided by Brazilian swimwear - for men and women. It's such a beautiful place, though, and extremely lively. Definitely lives up to the hype.

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We went up to a hill that separates Ipanema from Copacabana, and once again marvelled at the view.

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Looking towards Ipanema and Leblon

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Looking north up to Copacabana (which is kind of hidden around the corner)

And not too far away there's the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, watched over by Christ the Redeemer (who is kind of visible at the very top of the mountain in this photo. If you squint a bit, maybe).

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The next day we went into the city centre, and braved the heat to see a few museums, churches and colonial buildings, as if we hadn't seen enough.

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A tree inside the Banco do Brasil Cultural Centre. No explanation needed. OK, it was to advertise an exhibition about a kids' TV show.

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The Casa Frances-Brasil

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The Imperial Palace, now a museum

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The Palacio Tiradentes

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The churches unfortunately lacked air conditioning, or we probably would have stayed in them for longer

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Getting some baked goods from the Confeitaria Colombo

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Rio is bringing back trams in time for the Olympics, and they're manufactured by Alstom, who makes the newer Melbourne trams. These are the equivalent of the 'bumblebee' trams on route 96

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Today we ticked off a big highlight - Christ the Redeemer and the summit of the Corcovado, which rises 710m above the Atlantic Ocean. It's a bit of a hike to get up there, as you might expect, but it's made easier by a train through the jungle. And the views at the top are pretty, pretty good.

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Copacabana on the left, Ipanema on the right

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♫Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!♫

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You do have to share the summit with 8345823459 other people, but I suppose that's probably to be expected

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More views

We dragged ourselves away, and after the train took us down, we went to the Museu Internacional de Arte Naif, the 'Naïve art' museum. Apparently, it's a genre/movement of more simplistic paintings, worthy of its own museum. We really liked it, much more so than the pretentious modern art galleries we've seen. Here are some examples:

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Rio

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'A Few Work, Many Have Fun!' - literally the title of this piece. Kind of sums up the mood of the city

We have another four full days here, so be prepared for a couple more entries.

Posted by samoline 16:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Another colonial delight

This time in the tiny town of Tiradentes

sunny 32 °C
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It's a three-hour drive from Ouro Preto to Tiradentes. That's if you go door-to-door. Unfortunately, to catch public transport it takes nearly nine - if you get decent connections - and we had to change buses at Belo Horizonte and São João del Rei before we got there.

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Our last view of Ouro Preto as the sun rose over a hill

Luckily there was still enough time in the day to have a bit of a look around. Tiradentes is, it appears, a smaller and flatter version of Ouro Preto. Perhaps less spectacular, but much easier to walk around. And it's surrounded by a dramatic mountain ridge.

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We dropped into the Sant'Ana Museum, which is housed in the town's beautifully restored old jail. Today it's home to a huge collection of wooden Saint Anne statues (Anne is Mary's mother, and is a kind of a big deal in South America).

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We had dinner in a restaurant near the old square, which is extremely tastefully decorated by fairy lights at night.

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Today we saw the rest of the sights, few though they are. We dropped by a fountain from 1749, and went for a walk through a lush rainforest just on the edge of town, seeing beautiful blue butterflies and plenty of mosquitoes.

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Then a few churches, which again all looked a bit similar, but one was covered in gold. And they're all on hills, giving good views of the town.

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In and out of Igreja Matriz de Santo Antônio

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Nossa Senhora do Rosario

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São Francisco de Paula

Before we leave the charming state of Minas Gerais for the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro, here are a few words of wisdom found on one of our icypole sticks.
"Dinheiro não compra felicidade. Mas compra sorvete, que e quase a mesma coisa."
Or "Money can't buy happiness. But it can buy ice cream, which is almost the same."

Posted by samoline 15:55 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Striking gold in Ouro Preto

One of Minas Gerais' charming colonial towns

semi-overcast 29 °C
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Sam

The short trip out of Belo Horizonte didn't go completely to plan, but we arrived in Ouro Preto and walked down a few very steep hills to our Airbnb. It was overcast, but the narrow, winding cobblestone streets and crumbling old buildings still looked grand.

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Founded in the late 17th century, Ouro Preto ('Black Gold') was the focal point of Brazil's mid-18th century gold rush, and the money was mostly used to build churches, from what we could see. It's still a mining town, in part - the very next town, Mariana, has been devastated by the recent dam breach. Thankfully there's no signs of that here.

We went out for a traditional 'Mineiras' dinner (from the state of Minas Gerais), including a black bean stew, followed by guava jelly with cheese. Nicer than it sounds!

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The next day we went up hill and down dale, from church to church, museum to museum, and praça to praça.

Here are a few highlights:

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The mining school of the university, which houses a museum full of precious stones

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Looking down on the Praça Tiradentes

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From the top of two of the many hills

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A few of the more picturesque street scenes

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Some of the churches (which all start to look the same after a while)

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The 'Teatro Municipal', which claims to be the oldest theatre in the Americas still used today. The theatre we went to in Montevideo claimed the same thing... but this is actually 86 years older, so it's probably right

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Looking over the valley

There were a few interesting museums, one detailing the uprising against Portuguese rule that happened here in the late 18th century - but the English translations were so poor it was impossible to understand what actually happened - and another that had a huge collection of 'oratories', which are apparently small wooden boxes with religious scenes.

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Caroline's feeling a bit under the weather though, so we had a quiet dinner at home.

Possibly the most beautiful town we've been to so far, but also the most punishing on the legs!

Posted by samoline 13:33 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

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