A Travellerspoint blog

The Reality of Rio

semi-overcast 30 °C

Rio de Janeiro was once the seat of the Portuguese Crown and capital of the entire Portuguese Empire. Queen Marie 1 moved her court here from Lisbon in 1815. Rio thus became a prominent world city of great palaces and elaborate mansions that was a favourite of the world's rich and famous in the 20s and 30s when prohibition and mobsters drove the Americans abroad to drink. Today, Rio de Janeiro is a place familiar to us all – a romantic city too dangerous for many tourists; an Olympic city with waters too toxic for swimmers; a seaside city with beaches piled in garbage; a footballing city with stadiums too violent for fans; a genteel bayside city of fancy highrises encircled by millions of the world's most colourful crime-ridden slums – the favelas...
Rio is an enigma. It is all of the above, and yet its soft sand beaches, spectacular vistas, and superb (though very pricey) shopping malls, draw visitors and businesses from around the globe. This is just a tiny section of Leblon Shopping Mall...
All of the world's ritziest brands are on the shelves here and the supermarket near our apartment has products from every part of the globe. We are eating the finest French cheeses, English preserves and Swiss chocolates. The tropical fruits from all over South America are mouthwateringly good as are the finest wines from Italy, France and Argentina. The supermarket even has a range of beers and wines for dogs...
The restaurants are equally eclectic, equally superb and equally expensive. We have said little about the meals in South America because, in general, it has been similar to the food we might get in Canada or Europe. Here in Rio we are surrounded by restaurants from every part of the planet – Arabian, Australian, Japanese, French and even English baked potatoes. And, of course, the ubiquitous Italians. Nowhere in the world is safe from pizza, pasta and gelato. And nowhere is safe from the Americans – especially McDonald's and Starbucks. But we didn't come to Rio for the food – we came for the sights. But the weather let us down. We have had clear skies and thirty plus temperatures for the past three weeks but the 38 degrees that greeted us on our arrival in Rio was simply over the top. Even the professional sunbathers on the beaches of Leblon and Ipanema were feeling the heat...
And then the skies clouded and thunderstorms rolled in. However, the dark skies and chilly 28 degree weather didn't stop the hardy sunworshippers on Copacabana beach...
But we are not beach people – we wanted the spectacular sights of Rio and our time was running out. By our fourth night in the city we had only one distant glimpse of Rio's most famous landmark, the lofty statue of Christ the Redeemer, and had barely spotted the Sugar Loaf Mountain through the persistent clouds...
Now, you are probably thinking that when we got up this morning - our last morning in Rio – the skies had cleared and we raced to get the first shuttle up the mountain to see Christ's statue before the clouds rolled back in and the crowds arrived... And you would be absolutely right...
How do we do it – we don't know. But just a few minutes after we took this picture this is all we saw...
Well - that's it for this trip around South America. Now we are going to visit friends in Cuba where the internet is unreliable. Adios for now – look out for our final thoughts on South America in a couple of weeks.

Posted by Hawkson 10:11 Archived in Brazil

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So glad your luck held. One of these days you must compile the list of moments like the one in Rio where you lucked out just when you needed to. Hope we get a least one post on Cuba, if only post return.

by Tom

Such a city of contrasts. May the sun shine on you in Cuba.

by sue Fitzwilson

Checked out favelas on the web. Closeups did not look inviting--policeman and soldiers with automatic firearms. Good you took only long distant photo.
R and R in Cuba sounds much better. Enjoy.

by R and B

Another dumping of snow, fed up with winter . Your blog has brought sunshine and warmth to my days.
Enjoy Cuba, I have such happy memories of this enchanting island. x

by Christine Lloyd

I love the photo of the favelas and would love to use it, with your permission for my next book of poems titled "over there where I cry mother I am lost". It looks and sounds dystopian but I understand the people who live there are very strong and active in their community. Inspiring and I wish them every success against the brutality of drug lords.

by Janet Vickers

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