One of the great benefits to moving to Santiago was the opportunity to explore a different part of the world. Now that John is part of the “Latam” office he had a conference in Rio de Janeiro that happened to coincide with my birthday. My mom came to stay with the kids and John and I headed to Rio for 4 days.
Rio was amazing. I was expecting a very dirty city with lots of crime but instead found an amazing exotic place. We were fortunate to stay in a fabulous hotel, the Fasano Hotel was located right on Ipanema Beach. The spot was great. Each morning you could take a run along the beach and join the most eclectic array of people and watch as all the vendors set up for a busy day at the beach.
While in Rio we got the chance to go to a samba school where they work all year in anticipation of Carnival. We visited the famous Mangueira Samba School. Two of the dancers gave us lessons in the dance and then we got to decorate a headdress and watch a performance. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
I took a tour of downtown Rio. While the tour was interesting, I’d probably stick to the beach if I came to visit again. Some of the architecture was really stunning and it was fascinating to hear the history of how this city came to be. Unfortunately time has seen many great buildings fade and new “modern” architecture replace the old.
We did have some fabulous meals in Rio. One night we had dinner at Roberta Sudbrack. The chef (for whom the restaurant is named) was the former private chef of the Brazilian President. She has been named the best chef in Rio many times and her restaurant is included in the list of the top fifty restaurants in the world. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. The dessert was amazing (and I don’t even like dessert!). With such great meals, my one regret is not being able to find the hole-in-the-wall place with great beans and rice. Next time.
The highlight of the trip without a doubt was a trip to Christ the Redeemer. I was nervous that it might be one of those iconic tourist destinations that can be incredibly disappointing. It was the opposite. One of the amazing things they do is make every visitor (even if you are in a tour group) take a sponsored bus to the top where the statue is located. This prevents all the cheap souvenir salesman from overwhelming the place. Instead, it is this stoic, peaceful place at the top of the largest urban rainforest in the world. It was truly spectacular.
Before we left Rio, we spent the morning on the beach. There is an entire industry surrounding the beach in Rio. Vendors of all kinds, bathing suits, food, suntan oil, etc create this background noise and a constant hum to the experience.
Oh, and it is not a stereotype that Brazilian beaches are filled with scantally-clad people. If you were 99 or 19 you were wearing a string bikini and most suits didn’t appropriately over all the right spots. Even the men revealed as much as possible. It made me smile when I think of how older women in the states move on to a swim suit with a skirt 🙂 Brazilians must look at Americans and think we have serious issues.
I am anxious to go back to Rio. It is really a magical place. That said, in talking with people, they have done a ton very recently to clean up the city and decrease crime. The very poor areas of Rio, the favelas, can been seen from anywhere. According to Wikipedia, nearly 12 million people live in favelas in Brazil. With Brazil hosting the 2012 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, more work is being done by the government to improve these areas. I’m sure you could hear different perspectives on how successful the efforts have been, but the majority of residents told me things have improved dramatically. I found a very interesting article about this in National Geographic Magazine. A complicated issue for sure.