December 22, 2009

Engaged Abroad - Samba, Soccer & Sun (Part 3)

After a few days of rain spending most of my time indoors, the rain finally stopped. Rio was calling me outside to see its natural beauty. Rio is a very large and spread out city, so that day I enlisted the help of a guide, Madson, to get me around. Plus, I was a little starved for conversation, so it was nice to be able to talk to someone about everyday life as a Carioca (a Rio resident).

After many winding roads, a quick shuttle bus ride and an elevator, I finally made it to Rio's most reconginizable landlarks: Corcovado or Christ the Redeemer.

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I'm squinting but I made it.

There were definitely some great views from Corcovado. It provided a great vantage points for seeing much of Rio, including Sugar Loaf Mountain (see below to your left).

After Corcovado I went off to see the Sambadromo (Sambadrome). Brazilian Samba isn't necessarily what you see on Dancing with the Stars. It's the music and dance form that is the heart and soul of Brazilian carnival that takes over Rio and Salvador to the north (and other cities) each February/March. The volunteer groups of musician, dancers and parading singers called Samba Schools used to parade through the streets, but the costumes and groups got so big that they built a staging ground for them to parade, the Sambadrome. Each Samba School gets an hour to parade to strut their stuff for judges who crown the best Samba School each year.

Here I am practicing my samba skills in the Sambadrome.

Off to the side of the Sambradrome, there was a small museum and gift shop. The picture above is actually a picture of a picture of one of the porta-bandeira (one of the lead women in the front portion of a samba school's procession) of the Beija Flor samba school that won a few years ago. As I am sure you can imagine this is a pretty big honor. Plus, in addition to the big schools that parade through the Sambadrome, there are small, local samba schools that play music, sing and dance through the streets of Rio. This was just a taste of Rio's samba culture, and I wished I had time to experience more.

One of my final stops that day was to Maracana Stadium, which is the main soccer stadium in Rio that hosts international and local games and will serve as the main stadium for the 2016 Summer Olympics. O jogo bonito (the beautiful game) is a national obsession just in case you don't know. Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka have all played here. It's like a living Brazilian soccer shrine.

Here I am at field level.

I even had a chance to see a real game a few days later. This was barely a playoff game and had the same energy as probably the Superbowl. People were going wild and screaming at least an hour BEFORE the game.

Here I am before a game between Flamengo (from Rio) and Atletico Miniero (from the Minas Gerias province)

Oh yeah, by the way, Rio has great beaches. You can pretty much get anything from food, a manicure, a massage and play soccer on the beach.

Yeah, Ipanema Beach is gorgeous.

All of the colored beach umbrellas are vendors.

Here I am at one of Rio's lesser known beaches.

Well, folks, those are the highlights of my time in Rio; however, I'm going to stop there.

UP NEXT: Wedding Recaps!!! That's right. After the holidays, I'll be recapping the wedding! Thanks for following my trip to Brazil.

A great holiday season to all!

December 9, 2009

Engaged Abroad -A Cidade Marvilhosa From the Inside (Part 2)

My first stop in Brazil was to the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, a place known for its caipirinhas, skimpy bathing suits, pulsing samba, and breathtaking landscape. I am sure you want me to tell you how cool it was to sip some great tropical juice while getting a massage on the beach, but that didn't really happen. Rio was having probably one of its dreariest Octobers on record, and the beach was totally off the menu for the first few days. October in Rio has the same type of weather as April in the Northeast U.S., so the first few days I was there I experienced quite a bit of rain and overcast skies. Rio is a city that needs to be appreciated for its natural beauty especially on a sunny day, but there's quite a bit to see if you need some shelter and don't mind leaving the Copacabana/Ipanema beach area that's so popular with tourists.

Before I begin my story, let me make a confession: My name is Mrs. Swan, and I am a guidebook junkie. Not only do I collect them, but they serve as my little travel companions that don't talk back and give you great information (when they're up to date that is). I do definitely vere off the beaten path when I can, but my guidebooks are my little security blankets.

Anyways, what's there to see in Rio on a rainy day and Copacabana Beach looks like this?

Churches! Lots of 'em....

Downtown Rio has got loads of beautiful churches and other sites all with fascinating history and its importance to Brazilian history.

Here is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelaria with its mix of Baroque and Renaissance architecture

The Noval Catedral Metropolitana built in 1976 and serves as Rio's primary cathedral. Many of Rio's major public worship services are held here.

The inside is stunning even with very little daylight

Here's the roof. I spent quite a few minutes just staring into the ceiling.

Here's Rio's former metro church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo de Antiga Se, which was used until 1980.

There are museums in Rio as well, but for my time there I primarily took in a lot of sites. For those in Rio with some desire for even more inside time, check out the Museu Historico Nacional for a taste of Brazilian history, and I suggest the Museu de Imagem e Som for shutterbugs and other photography buffs.

Next up: watch me dance some samba in public, possibly play o jogo bonito (the beautiful game) otherwise known as soccer, and I'll actually post some actual pictures with me in them!

P.S. Rio has a subway! Yes, I know that is not particularly fascinating, but since I am lover of rapid, underground public transportation I couldn't resist (can you tell that I'm a New Yorker?). Rio's metro system is clean, runs frequently and is a good, cheap option for traveling between Copacabana into downtown.

Yes, I am a big nerd and took a picture :)

Do you have a Plan B in case there is a icky weather during your honeymoon or any other trip you'll be taking soon?