Friday, January 18, 2008

Rio de Janeiro part 1

Friday in Sao Paulo consisted of Paulo Tiago and I going to Liberdade to buy lots of Japanese groceries then cooking them for a very loud group of Brasilians. All good though. I got on a bus at 1:30am headed to Rio de Janeiro. When I woke up, we were passing through graffiti covered tunnels.

It was 7:30am, and Eduardo came to meet me at Rodoviaria. I was exhausted, so we got to his house and I took a nap. At around 11am I got up, and we headed to the beach on the bus to meet his wife Iris and a friend of hers, Gabriel.

Copacabana. It's possibly the most famous beach in the world. What immediately struck me about this beach is how crowded it was, yet it felt totally relaxed, unrushed, and just had a good overall vibe. Amazing, considering how we really had very little personal space. The beaches in Rio are great, because there are constant food and drink vendors patrolling the beach, selling beer, matte, water, Arabic pastries, baked cheese, sandwiches, really whatever you name. We spent the afternoon on the beach, and walked to Arpoador, which means Harpooner, and has great views over the ocean. Rio de Janeiro has a spectacular setting, with mountains jutting out of the ocean, high rock cliffs all around, beaches lining the city's known as the cidade maravilhosa, the marvelous city, and it really is.

That night, we went home and took a nap, then headed to Pagode de Ceara, a whole neighborhood of rock and metal. A whole lot of Brasilians decked out in all black, gothic clothes...a totally different scene from the posh samba scene I'd seen so far. Another face of Brasil.

Sunday, I met Danilo at his house in Catete, where we went with his two Carioca friends Fabiola and Priscilla, along with an Argentinean who was staying at his house, Nikolas, to the beach in Ipanema. We wandered around Ipanema, then Nikolas and I went to a CS meeting for feijoada and samba at Teatro Odisseia in Lapa. A friendly group of Cariocas, my first attempt to dance samba, failing miserably but having fun, a wonderful samba band...ahh. Another face of Brasil.

Afterwards, we went to Guanabana Pizza in Lapa, something of a local institution, open 24 hours and always crowded. A great night out with lots of friendly faces from all over the world - I was quickly falling in love with Rio.

On Monday, I went with 4 Argentinean girls I met the night before, along with a Brasilian guy and 3 Chilean guys, to climb up to Cristo Redentor, Christ the Redeemer. This soapstone statue has long been the icon of Rio de Janeiro, overlooking the city with outstretched arms. We started our hike in Parque Lage and climbed up a trail in the Floresta da Tijuca, gorgeous green, with small monkeys (mikos) and great views. From the top, you see a panorama of the city, and it is simply stunning. The beaches, the mountains, the Maracana football stadium...breathtaking. Another face of Brasil.

Monday evening I went to Mangaratiba, where I was going to meet Alexandre. His friend Marcelo was waiting at home, and we instantly got along, having a lanche (snack in Brasil, kinda funny) and started watching Cidade de Deus. He told me he lived really near there, and we talked about me visiting there. Alexandre got home late so we were off to bed quite quickly.

I slept in on Tuesday, then we spent some time at the beach in Mangaratiba just in front of Alexandre's house, and just had a quiet relaxing day. On Wednesday, Alexandre and I took a day trip to Paraty. Which is a gorgeous old colonial city with beautiful water, extremely high quality arts and crafts and has this bohemian stepping-back-through-centuries atmosphere...I LOVED it.

Thursday morning I headed back to Rio, this time to Leblon. After a nap to recover, I met Julio, a Carioca, for coffee and beach in Ipanema. Really friendly guy. That evening, Humberto and Laura took me to Copacabana for awhile, then I went to meet Gisele in Largo de Machado. We headed to Lapa to meet some other CSers, and this is how I met Tahnee. She's an Australian girl living in Rocinha, the largest favela in the Americas. I went back to Leblon that night...when I got back at about 1:30am, Cahe was on his way out the door to a club, and though I was exhausted, I decided to join him. So we were in a semi-posh totally weird club (FosFoBox) in Copacabana til 4am, and it was yet again another face of Brasil.

Friday I slept, and slept, then Sao Mai and Nadja came to the house in Leblon. Sao Mai is half Swedish, half Vietnamese, and Nadja half German/Canadian. They are both wonderful people, and I instantly got along with them and was really glad to meet them. They came with me to the Sambodromo for a practice of Mocidade samba school, a parade of 3-4 THOUSAND people, hundreds of percussionists - amazing. It was a good number of CSers, about 25, from Argentina, Peru, Italy, England, Israel, us 3 girls, and lots of Brasilians...after, we headed for Lapa, which is jam-packed on Friday nights with caipirinha stands, lots of beer, and lots of anything else you want to consume. People stand around on the streets "fazendo soc" - literally making socialization, and it's really one of the coolest party vibes I've ever seen.

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