March 2, 2008

Rio de Janeiro and back home to B.A.

After our tour of Southern Brazil´s beach towns, it was time to visit the biggest beach town of all, Rio de Janeiro. My expectations for Rio were so low that it was easy for me to be pleasantly surprised.

The best part about Rio was that our good friend Maria flew down from New York and met us there. We miss all of our friends and family more than we can say, so it was such a treat to spend a few days with Maria. She even came bearing gifts--real New York City bagels! Jared and I ate those bagels with cream cheese and huge smiles.

Rio de Janeiro is quite possibly the most naturally beautiful city I´ve ever visited. Set in a bay and surrounded by sloping granite hills, Rio is much more than its famed beaches. Although those beaches are pretty nice too. While we didn´t run into any trouble in Rio, we didn´t have to look far to see Rio´s notorious favelas, or slums. On the hill below the Christ the Redeemer statue, only a small highway separated the favelas from guarded mansions.

All in all, we did Rio right. The three of us made the mandatory stops at Pao de Azucar (Sugarloaf mountain), Christ the Redeemer, and Ipanema beach. We snacked on coconut water straight from the coconuts and a sorbet made of a tangy fruit called acaĆ­. At a samba club in Lapa, we happened onto a concert by an amazing band called Loroza. Lapa was a sight in itself, with a party in the streets and stands selling every snack and cocktail imaginable.

Without a doubt, the highlight for all of us was the soccer game we went to at Maracana Stadium. We splurged on tickets for the Rio championship between Flamengo and Botafogo. Getting into the stadium was one of the scariest moments of our trip, as our petite guide raced to the entrance with our tickets. Fortunately we got in fine and found ourselves with ridiculously good seats--twenty rows behind the teams´ benches.

The game was the Rio city final, but you would have thought it was the World Cup Final. These fans were INSANE. Both sides flew flags, chanted taunts, and even set off firecrackers in the stadium. American sports fans are just a bunch of pansies compared to Brazilian futebol fanatics. We didn´t shoot this video, but it gives you a good idea of the energy at the game. In the end, Flamengo beat Botafogo, 2-1, to repeat as Rio champs.

I had heard many firsthand accounts of muggings in Rio, but we got lucky. The three of us never carried purses, backpacks, or even wallets. All of our jewelry, even my $7 earrings from Bolivia, stayed in our hotel. When we went to the beach and had to carry bags, we used plastic grocery bags. To minimize any potential losses, we only carried the smallest amount of cash necessary, and I hid credit cards in the secret stash of my Reef flip-flops. Our hotel, Hostel Copa Praia, was in a very safe part of Copacabana and we highly recommend it. Jared and I didn´t bring our cameras out much, so take a look at Maria´s photos of Rio.

After saying goodbye to Maria, it was time to board a 38-hour bus back to Buenos Aires. Flights were $360 each, and the bus was $120 each, so it was a no-brainer. Our seats were like Lazy-Boy recliners, so the ride wasn´t that bad, though I am not itching to do it again anytime soon. Thanks to those of you who contributed to Jared´s birthday gift. Your generous gift paid for our bus tickets to and from Brazil.

Both Jared and I were thrilled to be back in Buenos Aires. After more than four months on the road, B.A. is the closest thing to home. It was great to catch up with our friends and indulge in as much ice cream from Freddo as I possibly could. We retrieved our cold-weather gear and boarded a flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

If you´re reading this via email, take a look at all the improvements we´ve made to our site. Thanks to Tal for all your help!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i cant belive it..jules u look TAN!..haha. i am so jealous of you both right now. this desk job thing is really starting to wear on me (especially since its tax season, im living here:(). I go one a quick mental vacation when i read your posts. Rio de Janeiro looks so beautiful. actually all the places youve been look so pretty. but your pics (well ur friends pics) from Rio make me want to visit there one day and i never thought id wanna visit south america. i bet the soccer game was so fun! i went to one and italy and it was a blast. the fans are crazy! well keep on having fun. miss you tons!