And other places
21.12.2015 - 22.12.2015 35 °C
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the VIP seats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The marina at Botafogo Bay
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!