Friday, 12 April 2013

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 2010

It's summertime in Rio on December so we experienced 35 degrees celcius (95 farenheit) temperatures during the day.  Quite a change from our Canadian winter.  Rio de Janeiro is a large city on the east coast of South America, making it a beach destination for many.  Their beaches are world famous - Ipanema (remember the song?) and Copacabana (I know Barry Manilow was singing about a bar but it got its name here!) - and there is a very active community here, not all of which is tourism.

Ipanema Beach

For miles along the street side of the beaches are wide pedestrian walkways, room for Brazilian sun worshippers and tourists alike.  If you intend to spend some time sunbathing in Rio there are some specific rules that must be followed so that you aren't immediately identified as a foreigner.  Now I know it's instantly a losing battle when you've spent several months with little sunshine and perhaps significant snowfall.  I know I'm almost glow-in-the-dark white and those tanning beds are frightening.  So, get out the sunscreen and keep this list close.

1.  Thong bikinis and speedos
     -ladies and gents, I know that most of us of a certain age would not be caught dead in these (I know I don't want to see it), however, you will stick out like a sore thumb in Rio if you wear your surfing shorts or your tankini and skirt.  Suits are sold all over the place in Rio and, unlike North America, they're dirt cheap.  So, if you want to hang out at the beach, you're going to have to suck it up (or in, as the case may be)!

2.  Sitting on the sand
     -now, there are different codes for men and women here and, finally, the ladies come out the winners - well, sort of.  There are no beach towels out there on the blazingly hot sand.  A commonly worn clothing item is acceptable for women to place between their tushy and the hot sand.  The colourful sarong or "kanga" is everywhere and very affordable.  Although many men also wear them, they are considered sissies if seen sitting on one on the beach.  So, what do the gentlemen do?  Well, either you withstand the heat of the bare sand on your scantilly clad behind or you'd better remember to bring your newspaper.  These appear to be the only acceptable methods other than standing.  Some men have been known to share just the corner of their female companion's kanga - but only 3%!

3.  Interaction on the beach
     -women are not to play frisbee or soccer on the beach, nor jog along the surf.  They are expected to lie about on kangas (either on their elbows or on their bellies) or sit in small groups with other women.  They are also not to be seen playing in the water with men.  Swimming is expected of the men but standing in the water about waist deep and giggling with her girlfriends is the ladies' way.

As this is a beach community, many hotels have areas set up near their location where guests can use beach chairs (for you ladies) and umbrellas.  I mean, really, is it worth suffering sunstroke to avoid being called a sissy or a gringo?

For those of you who insist on keeping your fitness routine while on holiday (come on), outdoor gyms can be found along the beaches.  But be ready to wear your tiny swimsuit and a loose tank top - that's what sitting on the stationary bikes.  So, probably you'll want to keep a towel nearby.  And NO Lululemon for you!

Let me just make it perfectly clear - these beach rules come from preparatory reading prior to our visit and observation while there.  Rest assured, I did not purchase a thong bikini (nor will I ever) or lay around like a blindingly white beached whale.  Not gonna happen.  My tankini and skirt did just fine at the pool on the roof of our hotel.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

Designed by Edgar Fonceca and built between 1964 and 1979, this stunning structure is dedicated to St. Sebastian, the city's patron saint.  The building is architecturally reminiscent of a Mayan temple - conical in shape with textured squares.

It's a surprisingly modern looking house of worship.  Its most significant element is the stained glass panel that rises from floor to ceiling along three of the walls.  The design of each includes vibrant colours and abstract images - and when the light hits them, they create a heavenly atmosphere.  There is a beautiful altar in the centre of the sanitary and hanging from the expansive ceiling above is an amazing wooden crucifix.  As our visit was at Christmas, there was also a striking nativity set to one side of the altar.  This was quite a delightful surprise.

courtesy of

courtesy of

Sugarloaf Mountain

This hill rises out of the water in the shape of a refined loaf sugar and is comprised of granite and quartz.  One must access it from a shorter mound beside it via a glass cable car.  

This is primarily a sightseeing stop - the view of Rio is truly magnificent.  On one side, the ribbon beaches seem to go on for miles.  On the other side, one looks down on a bustling bay dotted with numerous private sailboats and yachts.

But the wider view gives the visitor a clear picture of Rio's neighbourhoods rising from the water's edge up into green, verdant hills.  Strangely, the homes with the best views in the hills are primarily in the shanty towns - the favelas - and the wealthier area is down nearer Ipanema Beach in the district of Leblon.  There are exquisite views of the city from the favelas if you're brave enough to risk entering them.  Unfortunately, they are somewhat crime-ridden.  We were able to safely stop at one point with an organized tour.

this is on the way to Corcovado


On the other side of the city, in Tijuca Forest National Park, is where you'll find the identifying mark of Rio de Janeiro.  Christ the Redeemer statue can be seen on this hill from anywhere in the city.  The hill itself rises 710m (2329 ft.) in the air and this imposing structure stands 38m (125 ft.) on the top.  

Standing at its base, it is enormous and very difficult to get a photo of the full length of the statue.  But even at such a size, Christ's face is gentle and calm and his arms extend out to the side, welcoming all who visit.

It is impossible to understand the magnitude of this piece until you stand at its feet looking up.  It is mammoth and it is lovely.  For those in Canada and those who are familiar with Inuit art, you will be surprised to know that this wondrous creation is carved from soapstone.

this is how far away we had to get for the Home Alone shot

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