We started from the top. Christ the Redeemer or Cristo Redontor
The statue of Christo Redontor is on top of the Corvocado mountain. A funicular train, Trem Corvocado, took us through the Tijuca forest – an Atlantic rainforest to the top. As the train climbed through the forest, we got panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro. We realised its special characteristic – a well developed concrete city, with the oceanic coast on one end, and mountains on the other. It was hard to believe that the dense forest we were crossing was right in the middle of one of the most famous cities of the world!
Free walking tour of Rio de Janeiro
In our hostel at Rio de Janeiro, we learnt about the free walking tour through the cultural centre of the city. The tour started at Carioca square and took us through the tiny by lanes of downtown Rio de Janeiro, known as Centro.
The downtown of Rio is a charming area to walk around, lined with old colonial buildings which were residences and business houses of the people form Portugal when they first arrived here, cobbled streets and small cosy cafes.
Another handy way to make friends is to join any local activities – learning how to do the forro or make a wicked caipirinha! We would’ve loved to learn Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
First visit to a Pria in Brazil
Our first beach in Brazil was the non-touristy Barra da Tijuca. We got off the bus at Pria (Portuguese for beach) and were stunned by layers of endless white and blue that lay before us. Never before had we seen the water so blue or the sand so white. It was all too overwhelming.
With hardly any people around, we had almost the entire beach to ourselves. We went to the water and dipped our feet for the first time in the waters of the Atlantic ocean. It was a magical albeit cold moment. We spent many hours at the beach, just lying around and admiring the beauty before us.
There were some wave surfers trying to catch the wave. And of course, some youngsters practising their football skills.
Click to play the video.
Copacabana and Ipanema beaches
No visit to Rio is complete without actually setting foot on the legendary Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Because of the rains, it took us a few days to actually get to the beach.
Walking down a beach is a first-hand experience of a paradox, on one side you have the thriving beach action. But a couple of minutes away, crossing the road are offices and commercial establishments. On one hand are men dressed in shorts, women in their tiny bikinis, on the opposite are people dressed in a formal office attire. On one hand, people are exercising in the open air gyms (which are free for all along the entire stretch of the beach), playing games of football, volleyball or some ingenious games of foot-volley ball or fresco ball, on the other they are all running to their office or towards the nearest metro station. These beaches define the life here in Rio.
We experienced this when we were looking for a football club and couldn’t figure out which turn to take from our Google maps. We asked a cab driver for directions. He didn’t speak English, and our Portuguese hadn’t moved much ahead of Obrigada. But he got out of his cab, and without any hint of “come, let me take you there in the cab”, only pointing left and right, he gave us the exact directions to the football club. We could see it in his eyes, that he had taken it as his personal responsibility of making sure these 2 lost English speaking visitors to his beloved Rio de Janeiro reach correctly to their destination!
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You will enjoy these stories from our travels in Brazil:
“Which way to the airport express?” Blank stares, shrugs and then the response ” Aah, Inglés!” Lots of sign language, pointing directions, followed by a thumbs up, a smile and us replying ” Obrigada!” Invariably, there is a dismissive wave of the hand saying, ” Na Da!” Thus began our trip to Brazil.
How do you combine blue, green and white and make the most beautiful thing ever? Of course, by making the island of Ilha Grande! We decided to head to Ilha Grande for our next stop. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, it is part of the area called “Costa Verde” meaning the “Green coast”.