‚Äú Rio de Janeiro ("River of January") is the name of both a state and a city in southeastern Brazil. The city was the capital of Brazil (1763¬Ė1960) and of the Portuguese Empire (1808¬Ė1821). Commonly known as just Rio, the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa - "The Marvelous City". It is famous for its spectacular natural setting, its Carnival celebrations, samba and other music, hotel-lined tourist beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon and pavements decorated with black and cream swirl pattern mosaics. Some of the most famous local landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Jesus, known as Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain; Sugarloaf mountain (P√£o de A√ß√ļcar) with its cable car; the Samb√≥dromo, a giant permanent parade stand used during Carnival; and Maracan√£ stadium, the world's largest. Rio also boasts the world's largest forest inside an urban area, called Floresta da Tijuca, or 'Tijuca Forest'. ‚Äě
I`ve spent the 8 days in Rio, in fact this was just before carnaval (that is how its spelt) and another 2 days during carnaval and I can tell you this ...I enjoyed Rio more when it was not carnaval. Its got allot of characteristic for a city, unlike say Sao Paulo -
Tourististy things: The two biggest attractions are obviously Christ the Redeemer (O redentor) , this was the best attraction I visited, and Sugar Loaf mountain. Both sum up Rio grand and overbearing, both are instantly recognisable and both have special routes that the guide books make it sound harder to get to then they actually are. For this review I would like to give a detailed account of Christ the Redemeer statue:
This was the more packed of the two, but have patience at the top and you can get the obligagtory picture easily enough. The best way to get there is by going to Largo De Machargo by metro and then just walking a mile up Laranjeras up the small hill to the entrance, so you dont need to get a bus, of course you can get the bus if you like from Largo De Machelargo Square, a number of them go to where the statue is situated , the area is called Cocavola....here you`ll be 'set upon' by the van people, agents who wait outside the cog railway to sell you tickets to use their minivan service instead of the railway....it is only marginally cheaper and the railway has so much more character ....so by pass them and head straight to the ticket office of te railway...the later you leave this the later your train will be, as it takes about 30 mins each way so theres only 1 every half hour, the cost is about 50 real each, (about ¬£20) - this also pays for the national park fee which makes up about half of the cost.
The guide books say that you can walk the trial into the national park and up to the statue which is tosh, really, those of you that read my reviews know im a climber. I took one look at the gradient, the distance - 9-10 k`s and the 32 C heat and knew that I would make it up to the staute in about 3 hours and then collapse....you`ll still have to pay the national park fee (which the guide books say you shouldnt have to as a hiker as it is illegal and so you`ll only save about ¬£10 anyway), and you`ll probably spend this on sun tan lotion and water on the way up as its soo hot.....you can do it in the rain, but thats not much fun. So take the cog railway, at the top you`ll get to smirk at the poor souls that did attempt to walk it, treated to great views of Rio and of the statue itself, whose base now holds a small chapel, (many people come here to pray).
There is also a very interesting timeline which tells you of the inauguration of the statue, amazing that it tooks around 20 years to get finished as the church and politics got in the way- but you can read wikipedia for the history. There are not any restaurants at the bottom of the cog railway save for a place 100 meters to the right, near the flyover, other then that you`ll have to buy food up at the top of the attraction, which as you can imagine is a little expensive. There is also the obligatory gift shop where you can by t-shirts and little Christ the Redeemer statues for your living room...again a little on the pricay side. You can expect queues to get up of around 30 mins, but strangely everyone seems to stay up for a while, so unless you take an early or really late return trip you can expect a very windy queue around the complex of around 45 minutes to get down.
I spent 7 days in Rio at the beginning of 2010. It has always been one of those places on my "to do" list and so inevitably it was my jumping off point for my holiday to South America.
****Generally, what's the city like?****
The most immediate thing that struck me about Rio is the very evident divide between the rich and the poor. I kind of experienced the same thing in South Africa, but somehow in Rio the contrast is even more marked because the rich are so incredibly rich - and the poor so incredibly poor. There really doesn't seem to be many people that sit in the middle in the "working class" category and that really was quite a culture shock to me. The other thing is that the rich live right next to the poor. There doesn't seem to be rich areas or poor areas, they all seem to be clustered together in the same neighbourhoods so, for example, you have the exclusive Sheraton hotel (one of the most expensive hotels in Rio) situated within 50 feet of one a prominent favela (slum).
Although Rio remains a vibrant and electric city, many areas are looking a little tired and I imagine that the oppulence and elegance isn't what it once was. For example, around the Copacabana beach front area, many of the buidlings are looking a little shabby and the area looks a little touristy. However, as you wander the streets this becomes somewhat irrelevant because as you'll quickly discover, what makes Rio "Rio" is its people and the wonderful eclectic mix of people that means you can make "people watching" an art. Rio is a sociable city...a party city...a show-off city...and Copacabana really was the best place to sit and watch the locals do what they do! Honestly, I sat and people watched for hours and was not only entertained, but also captivated, intrigued and in awe of these beautiful people.
Ipanema seems to have become the old Copacabana and is now the more elite area. If you wander away from the beach front (drag yourself away!) the streets are more elegant and somehow feel more "Brazilian". During the day these streets are somewhat sleepy (everyone's on the beach!) but come nightfall and this becomes a vibrant area where locals and tourists seem to mingle and co-exist quite happily.
Barra da Tijuca is an exclusive area that is very green and covered by forest. The areas around the forest are largely residential and its worth coming here to visit the forest but also so gawp at some of the houses that dot the wide boulevards.
Barras is a little bit of a soulless place to me and seems to be overwhelmingly for shopping en-masse. Unless you particularly want to pick up some items I really wouldn't bother with this area as it could be a shopping district in any city in the world.
***What's the weather like?***
We got to Rio on the 2nd January and for the whole 7 days we had perfect weather. During the day the skies were blue and sunny and according to the prominent thermometers dotted around the city, the temperatures seemed to reach about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We didn't find it to be particularly humid, especially around the coastal areas which seemed to be honoured with a light breeze most of the time which kept things comfortable.
At night the temperatures remained warm although not uncomfortably so. Once the sun went down there was a marked drop in temperature, but it was still perfectly okay to be walking around with a sleeveless top on - but have a cardigan in your bag because sometimes it can feel a little chilly towards midnight.
We'd heard a lot about the rainstorms in Rio - and we did see a couple where literally the clouds rolled in and the heavens opened - and it seemed like God was throwing buckets down onto us. It was really quite impressive! Oh, and honestly don't bother with an umbrella because it won't help! These rains happened only a few times when we were there and lasted no more than thirty minutes....and then the clouds rolled away again and the sun returned.
Be warned though that by all accounts we were very lucky with the weather as apparently a few days before we arrived (New Year) the rain had been relentless for a few days.
The tops of the mountains and hills around Rio can be shrouded in cloud fairly frequently, so when you see the mountains clear, that's the time to head on up to the Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf! Be warned though that everyone will have the same idea!
***The must-do list***
- CORCOVADO & CHRIST THE REDEEMER:
Everyone who comes to Brazil would have heard of the Christ the Redeemer statue! I have to admit that as we were driving from the airport to the city I was looking out for it - and when I saw if high up on Corcovado (the mountain it sits on) I was a little disappointed at who small it looked. It was night and it was all lighted up and looked quite beautiful - but none the less quite small and not the imposing figure I thought it would be!
The next morning we had booked a trip with Greyline (don't bother - more about that later!) to visit Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer. It was a perfect blue sky day and by the time we got to the Corcovado station to get the train up the mountain, it was very clear that we weren't going to get a ticket. The queues were round the block and the local guide estimated that it would take about 7 hours to get to the front of the queue. So we gave up and went to do something else. SO - be warned. Even get there very first thing in the morning (like 8am) or late in the afternoon (around 4pm), especially on a nice day.
The next morning we got to the queue about 8.15am and although there was already a queue forming, we managed to get tickets within 30 minutes. We had to get a train up Corcovado which is fairly steep and took about 25 minutes. I have to say that there wasn't a whole lot to look at on the way up, but it was very green and not unpleasant.
At the top of Corcovado we got out and then had to take a lift up to the Christ the Redeemer. As we stepped out of the lift, there it was - and it WAS impressive! The statue itself is 100ft in height and stands with his arms outstretched welcoming you to his city. I was mesmorized by the sheer scale of this statue and joined the crowds of tourists trying to get the perfect photographic shot which isn't easy, especially with the throngs of people getting in your way!
To be honest, once you've seen the statue and taken a picture there isn't much else to keep you up there. There is a cafe where you can buy a drink and a snack, and there is a very small chapel in the base of the statue which is uninspiring. Its worth taking a little while to have a look at the views of Rio that you can get from being 2230 feet above the city. You can see Sugar Loaf and the Maracana Stadium, and in the distance there is Copacabana and Ipanema.
- SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN (Pao de Acucar):
Again, everyone that comes to Brazil has heard of Sugar Loaf which is basically an unusual shaped mountain which is viewable from Copacabana and accessible to provide wonderful views over Rio. Again, to reach the summit it can be a bit of a pain because on a very clear day (and you need a clear day!) everyone has the same idea and so queues can be long. However, we got there about 3pm and by then the queues seemed to be a little shorter and it only took us about 20 minutes to get our tickets.
It order to get to the summit you have to take a cable way which is done in two stages. You can get out at each stage and have a walk around - although we just headed up to the summit as this is what we came to do after all. The cable way has a pod which fits a lot of people in at once but there is windows all the way around and so wherever you are you should get decent views (although the windows are a little smeary!).
At the top you get out and you become very aware that this area has been modified in order to cope with the massive number of tourists that visit every day. The viewing areas are paved and there is information telling you about the views that are spread out before you. The views really are very beautiful as spread out before you are Copacabana and Guanabara Bay and of course the Christ the Redeemer statue bang in front of you in the distance.
We sat up here for quite a while as its such a lovely place to sit. There is a wooded shady walk area where you can wander should you feel the need to get out of the sun.
On the way down, you can get a really good photo shot of Sugar Loaf as you're descending in the cable car so have your camera ready.
- THE BEACHES
Rio is renowned for its beaches and with good reason. I don't think its necessarily that these beaches are the most picturesque in the world (although they are impressive pieces of coastline) but more that the Brazilians make beach life an art form!
The famous Copacabana beach is, undoubtedly, overcrowded, over exploited and unfortunately even a little tacky. The hotels and buidings that form the beach front do not look anything special (with the exception of Copacabana Palace) and it is not sleek, sexy or elegant in the way that it may have been in the past. But in the same was that I love Blackpool because of its tack, Copacabana beach is wonderful in its own right. If you're not expecting to come here to see a pristine and exotic beach area then you won't be too disappointed.
Ipanema is joined on to Copacabana although it is probably more elegant and certainly less tacky. It is very crowded and at peak times you could say it was jammed packed particularly the closer you get to the ocean front.
Copacanana and Ipanema beaches are busy areas and seem to be packed with people from 7am until 7pm day in and day out. If you want a quiet moment to yourself then the beach is not the place to be because you will be so close to your neighbour that you'll feel by the end of the day that they're close personal friends! Considering the number of people that are on these beaches at any one time I was amazed at how clean it actually was, but it is not pristine and unfortunately if you go for a paddle you will find litter strewn around the shore (although not too much).
However, what makes Copacabana and Ipanema beach areas so wonderful is in its diversity in the people that use it. Literally you will find every type of person imaginable on the beach and they will all be doing there own thing. There are volleyball courts lining the top part of the beach and sitting watching the body beautifuls (OH MY GOD THEY REALLY ARE BEAUtifUL!) playing volleyball so amazingly well is very entertaining. There are also musicians, magicians, dancers, artists etc. dotted around all seemingly self contained and doing these things simply because its what they like to do. We sat and watched some sand-sculpturers creating a replica of various Rio landmarks - and they were truly brilliant. And I have to say I have never in my life seen such a collection of beautiful people gracing the beach with figures that most of us would die for and looking immaculate and like they're ready to step out onto the cover of Vogue.
The beaches are unofficially divided into different areas which are identifiable by the Lifeguard station number - although everyone still intermingles and you're certainly welcome in any area of the beach no matter which "group" you best fit into. Posto 9 for example is for the cool, beautiful, hippies and intellectuals....the Bohemians if you will. Posto 8 is specifically the LGBT area and Posto 7 is for the surfer dudes. But in reality you can go to any part of the beach no matter who you are or what you want to do and believe me, no matter what you do, no one will bat an eyelid!
- THE TIJUCA FOREST:
This is the largest green area in Rio and it is a perfectly nice place to come and stay a few hours. We went on a jeep tour which meant we could be taken to all of the nicest areas, get out and have a little walk around and then hop back in. What was really noticeable was how cool it was in the forest compared to the centre of Rio, aided by the number of trees and shady areas and the altitude. Its very quiet here and there isn't anything going on, but there are some nice areas to wander around, and its particularly worth visiting the Cascatinha Waterfall and the Mayrink Chapel, the latter of which contains some wonderful artwork.
If you do visit the forest, its probably worth stopping off at the Botanical Garden which is another calm and peaceful oasis in an otherwise busy and non-stop city. I took a book and just literally chilled out, relishing in the fact that I was away from people even if for a short time!
- THE LAPA RIO SCENARIUM:
We spent a night here and I was taken in by it because we had such a great night and really enjoyed myself. The Lapa Rio Scenarium is essentially a bar in the trendy Lapa area and although its probably become over run by tourists I didn't care! I was a tourist and I was going to enjoy myself!
The Lapa looks like a fabulous antiques emporium...but its a bar which has delicious cocktails (try the caipirhina) and live music of a really high standard. Its set out over 3 levels and each level makes you feel like you should explore and see what else you can find. On the night we were there, on one of my explorations, I happened into another room where there were a group of locals practising their percussion for the upcoming carnival - and anyone was welcome to take part. I didn't have a drum so used the table and....well, I was a natural (or so I thought!).
- THE METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL:
This cathedral is the most unusual cathedral I have ever seen - and I have to say I was blown away! From the outside it looks like an Aztec concrete structure, but when you enter, the light, the colours, the acoustics are truly memorable. We visited when there was a concert in progress and I would highly recommend this so that you can truly appreciate this massive and original cathedral in all its glory.
***My decision not to visit the favela's***
There are tours which allow you to visit the favela's should you so wish. Me and my partner discussed whether this would be something we'd like to do but decided against it - not really because of any moral or ethical reasons, but more because we had visited township slums in South Africa and so we felt like we'd experienced poverty at its most extreme and so we weren't sure what this experience would offer us.
We had also been advised by several locals that the favelas are not safe and are still largely run by drug cartells who dictate daily life in the area. I do think its important to see all sides of a city but I have to say that while standing in the Tijuca looking down over a favela and hearing 6 gunshots in the very short time we were stood there did not install much confidence that the risk was worth it. Part of me does regret not visiting the favelas, but just travelling around Rio will get you close enough to the favelas to have a good enough idea of what to expect inside.
***An organised tour or independently?***
Well, we went independently but had booked some tours through reputable companies - and I have to say I can say with a few exceptions, don't use the tour operators!
We booked Greyline for a few things and after our first experience, we cancelled all of our future trips with them. We booked the Corcavado tour with them - and it was a shambles! We were picked up at 7.30am but we then spent the next 2.5 hours travelling around to various hotels in Rio picking other passengers up. We assumed that they would have pre-booked tickets (or at least someone waiting in line to get tickets) for the Corcavado train - but alas no! By the time we got there the queue was round the block and our guide informed us that we would not be able to get up the mountain until very much later that afternoon (about 7 hours). We asked for our money back which, although he gave us details of how to do this), Greyline declined to reimburse us.
We had booked the Sugar Loaf tour with City Discovery and we quickly discovered that actually we didn't need a tour to enjoy this. Going in a tour was much more expensive and also probably hindered our progress as our guide insisted we stay in a group. In the end we broke away from him and did our own thing which was much more enjoyable.
The jeep tour we booked through City Discovery was quite good - although this was a small group activity (only 6 maximum) and so it felt much more individualised and less like we were being herded like sheep and going through the motions.
Rio is easy enough to navigate without a guide, particularly if you speak a little Spanish or Portuguese - although even without this we seemed to manage to make ourselves understood. Taxis are not expensive (make sure you get a price beforehand) and there is so much information on the internet which will give you information on how to enjoy all what Rio has to offer. The only exception I would say is that if you are going to a favela (we didn't but we met many people that did) it would be suicidal to go there without a local and respected guide.
***Is it safe?***
This is a difficult question for me to answer because I have my own experience and then I've also listened to the experiences of other travellers I met whilst I was there. From my own experience, I never encountered any problems whatsoever. Having said that, I was staying in the area of Ipanema which has been largely reviewed as one of the safer areas of Rio for tourists. However, we did travel out of Ipanema a lot and even during these times we didn't encounter anything that could be construed as dangerous. We were careful to not wander around at night and took taxis, but then we would probably do this in any large city because that does seem to be when the more unsolubrious characters come out. We didn't carry anything on us (other than my camera which was insured) which was worth anything and made sure that we only had a very small bit of cash on us should we be mugged.
However, while we were there we did speak to many travelers who had been mugged while in Rio, a few of who talked about knives being used to threaten during the mugging. However, it does seem that these muggings seemed to take place either if they were wandering around alone at night or if they were in areas like bus and train stations. They all pointed out though that all of the mugger was interested in was stealing their money or valuables and so as long as you hand this over without any complaint then you shouldn't really be exposed to the threat of real physical harm.
There was also a small bomb that went off in a restaurant near our hotel when we were in Rio (government protesters) but no one was hurt and from what the locals said that the aim of this type of event was cause disruption rather than to cause the loss of human life. No one was injured and within an hour of it happening, life had returned to normal!
At night Rio does seem to have a different atmostphere and there is an edge to it that I found exciting but some people could find threatening and overwhelming. However, this edge seems to be confined to the streets and as soon as you move indoors Rio turns back into a welcoming, vibrant and electric city.
Its inevitable that in a city that has such poverty and overcrowding that crime is going to be a fact of life. Try to remember that most people in Rio are good, decent people who welcome tourists to their city. I think as long as you take precautions then this doesn't have to be something that you become obsessed with while in Rio - and if the worst happens, let them have whatever it is they wanted and protect yourselves. Objects can be replaced but your life can't. Here are a few tips that might help to keep you safe:
1. Take a cab at night. It really isn't worth wandering around and taking this risk after dark.
2. Stay off the beach after dark.
3. Do not carry expensive items around with you as it will attract the muggers.
4. If you go to a place which is off the tourist circuit then consider taking a local guide. Under no circumstances should you wander into a favela without a local guide.
5. Make sure you have adequate health insurance.
6. Always carry a small amount of cash with you to hand over to a mugger and keep them satisfied. Most Rio muggers think that all westerners are very rich and if you say you have no money they won't believe you!
7. Watch your belongings in busy public areas like bus stations.
8. Learn at least a little bit of spanish / portuguese before you go which will enable you to get help should you need it.
9. Stay vigilant - and if you're not sure, listen to those instincts.
Overall, Rio was not a disappointment and did live up to my expectations, although on the surface at least, it was not as dangerous as I had been led to believe (maybe we were just lucky). For me, what sets Rio apart from other cities is its vibrancy and the fact that it never stops! I actually don't know when the Brazillians find time to sleep because they seem to party 24/7 and do so without effort. The people are warm and friendly and welcoming and want people to come and enjoy their city. Its a city of contrasts.....deeply religious yet sin is around every corner; incredibly rich yet also incredibly poor; incredibly busy and vibrant, yet relaxed and chilled at the same time; Intense sunshine and tremendous rains. I'm not cool enough, or trendy enough or energetic enough to live her - but to visit its a fabulous city!
First things first, Zmugzy's review is excellent, thorough and accurate. Rio is an almost mystical place that really needs to be experienced. No amount of preparation can set you up for how impressive it truly is. It is also a good example of an exotic destination where you can see wealth and absolute poverty hand in hand. Ironically the precariously balanced slums on the steep hillsides have the kind of view that only big money would normally buy.
When it comes to getting around it is usually suggested you go on escorted tours or with an experienced guide. This is a matter of personal choice but to be honest we as a family just wondered about and used local taxis. The people are really friendly and if you are discreet with your valuables there is no reason why you should be unduly worried. It is a case of the usual travellers precautions, I'd be more worried on a busy med plaza personally.
Language barriers may present a problem for some as Portugeuse is the most widely spoken. Fortunately Spanish is also widely spoken which redues limitations significantly. Many of the more contemporary shopping areas have staff who are multi-linguists.
My favourite place is the awesome Corcovado Mountain topped by the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue which is frankly stunning. It is joined by cable cars to Sugarloaf Mountain which offer lovely views of the bay and the airport which is practically on the edge of the ocean. Copacabana beach is what it is, a beach. Kick a ball around on it just to say you have done it!
Speaking of football, a good place to visit is the Maracana stadium, it's a ledgenday stadium and has also hosted some big name music acts too. The botanical gardens are worth a visit too and at 340 acres they provide a substantial area to explore. Take note that this area can be considerably cooler and as such a mid afternoon visit would be ideal.
It would be possible to go on for pages and pages about the food and local culture but as said it is best to get there and experience it. Take what you can from it while you are there. I travelled north up the coast and had a fab time. Particularly enjoyed browsing the local handicrafts and the Capoeira demonstrations.
To summarise it is fair to say that Brazil is probably one of the best holiday destinations in the world. And that is a big statement to make.
A city as large and vibrant as Rio de Janeiro has plenty of attractions to see and things to do.
In this review I am focusing on a little gem we found practically by accident: The Carmen Miranda Museum.
If you don't know who Carmen Miranda was, here's a little bio:
She was born in 1909 in V√°rzea da Ovelha, northeast Portugal. Her family emigrated to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when she was 10 months old.
She began a singing career and by 1930 was one of Brazil's biggest stars, also appearing in films.
In 1939 she went to the United States with her band, and her career was encouraged by the American government, who thought her popularity would help their Good Neighbor policy (intended to strengthen links with Europe and South America).
Carmen became a Broadway and Hollywood star, appearing in 14 films which included Down Argentine Way (1940), That Night In Rio (1940), Weekend In Havana (1941), The Gang's all Here (1943), Copacabana (1947), and A Date With Judy (1948), among many others.
Her co-stars included Groucho Marx, Don Ameche, Alice Faye, Betty Grable and Elizabeth Taylor.
In 1945 Carmen Miranda became de highest-paid woman in the United States and earned more than most men, including the President.
In 1951, she again was the highest paid female entertainer in the U.S.
Her last film was Scared Stiff (1953), with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
She died on August 5, 1955, from a heart attack, at the age of 46.
The museum is situated in a park on Avenida Rui Barbosa, in the Flamengo neighbourhood. By "park" I mean a small stretch of land surrounded by serious traffic. Some 4 lanes of it.
We had found out about it in an illustrated map that showed the location of the different cultural attractions in the city.
We had never heard or read anything about it during the research we did in preparation for our trip, and we decided to check it out.
We weren't alone in our ignorance, as our taxi driver had never heard of it either and said he knew the area quite well and had never noticed any museums in that park. "It's on the map, so it must be there".
To our bafflement, when we arrived at the site and looked around, we couldn't see it either!
So we asked some maintenance workers who were in the park if they knew anything about a Carmen Miranda Museum that was supposed to be there, and they pointed to a small, round, concrete structure that looked like some kind of storage building.
We approached it totally bemused.
Sure enough, as we entered the building we were greeted by a display of near life-size photos and artefacts of the artist, confirming that we were in the right place.
Looking at it from the outside, one would never have guessed that it was dedicated to the life and work of one of the most colourful, flamboyant figures in the history of entertainment.
~~ Inside on display is the collection of Carmen Miranda's original costumes, which she wore in the films that she starred in.
~~ Also on display are the high platform shoes she often wore when performing, to compensate for her short height.
~~ And what is probably the most recognisable part of the Carmen Miranda's iconography: the huge fruitilicious turbans she wore as part of her costumes.
Each item is accompanied by a still of the scenes in which Carmen wore it.
As mentioned above, the building is circular, so as we enter, whether we turn left or right, all there is to do is keep walking and eventually we will end up exactly where we started.
There is also an audiovisual section, where you can watch the biography, documentaries and films of the artist, just ask the receptionists and they will put it on for you.
As we were tired from sightseeing all around the city, we took the oportunity to rest and sat there to watch a documentary featuring footage of her work and interviews with many of the Hollywood stars who were her friends and colleagues.
There is also a small selection of gifts you can purchase, like carrier bags, hats, etc...
While we were there, a reporter approached us to interview us about our visit to the museum, and what we had thought of it.
We left wondering why such a non-descript place had been chosen for a tribute to one of the most iconic artists in Brazilian culture, and, in her time, one of the most successful in Hollywood.
Finding this museum was such an unexpected treat.
It is quite small, and really won't take much time to see.
It will obviously appeal to fans of Carmen Miranda, but if you have an interest in the golden age of Hollywood cinema, or even just cinema in general, you might enjoy it.
CARMEN MIRANDA MUSEUM
Avenida Rui Barbosa (across the street from no 560, Flamengo)
Entrance: 3 Reals (about ¬£1)
Saturday & Sunday: 1pm-5pm
Closed on Mondays.
Many people say that Rio's golden age occurred between the early 1920s and the late 1950s. During the period it became a romantic, exotic destination for Hollywood stars and international high society, which would fly down to Rio so as to frolic in the city's posh casinos and nightclubs. During that time, there was a hotel building boom along the beaches that saw the rise of the Sheraton and Rio Palace. One hotel is famous for the fact that Orson Wells once through a grand piano off the roof. The city was the political capital of Brazil until 1960, when the capital was moved to Bras√≠lia.
As the glitz was glistening, however, the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio were growing and becoming overcrowded with immigrants from poverty-stricken areas of the northeast and the interior. Because of corrupt local politicians, this issue was never addressed and the number of urban poor in the city began to swell. The vast inequalities in wealth led to an increase in crime and violence and the city as a whole began to lose its gloss. There have been improvements in recent years but poverty and violence remain a reality for many of Rio's inhabitants and visitors.
Rio is the second largest city in Brazil. Its 8 million inhabitants occupy an area of 485 square miles. A local of Rio is known as a "carioca", a historical term that referred to "white man's house" and was used to describe a Portuguese trading station. Despite the slums and extreme inequalities of wealth that have developed over the years Rio de Janeiro retains an essence of sheer physical splendour; a city blessed with beautiful beaches and striking coastal landscapes.
There are three main city districts: Centre, South, and North (which includes the suburbs). The South is the most affluent and comprises the area between the hills and the sea from the Centre to the western limits of the city. The North and the suburbs spread from the Centre to the northern and eastern limits. Most tourist attractions and the main shopping centres are found in the Centre and the South.
The city centre is the financial and business district of Rio. Here you will find a number of historical buildings, some dating back to the colonial era. These form a stark contrast against packed skyscrapers. Downtown you will find the Municipal Theatre, the Modern Arts Museum and the National Arts Museum.
The summer months officially begin around November and end in March and temperatures can range up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). The tropical climate injects a certain unpredictability to the weather. Occasional, brief storms can be expected. The climate is more temperate in the spring and winters are damp, but temperatures rarely reach uncomfortably low levels.
Santa Teresa and Gl√≥ria are quiet districts set on a hillside. Santa Teresa is a traditional location where many local artists work in their studios. It was also once the hideaway where Ronnie Biggs, the train robber, hung out. It can be reached by car or via the Lapa tramway. Here you will find a few inexpensive restaurants and attractions like the Ruins Park, with one of the best views of the Bay, and the Ch√°cara do C√©u Museum. Gl√≥ria is an adjoining district and contains one of Rios most charming churches; Gl√≥ria do Outeiro, an 18th century baroque church.
Flamengo and Catete are areas with dense populations and are good places to find the cheapest (but clean and reasonably safe) hotels. In Catete you will find the Republic Museum. At the end of the Aterro do Flamengo, closer to the centre, are situated the National Monument to the Victims of the Second World War and the Santos Dumont Airport.
Laranjeiras and Cosme Velho are mostly residential areas with a lots of trees and green areas. These two districts are located between Flamengo, the Corcovado mountain and the Rebou√ßas tunnel. The Guanabara Palace, seat of the state government, is in Laranjeiras, while closer to the entrance of the tunnel, in Cosme Velho, are the colonial-style houses of the Largo do Botic√°rio and the railway station for the train that goes up Corcovado.
S√£o Conrado is situated between a mountain and a beautiful beach. It is a contrast of very expensive flats and houses and Rocinha, the largest slum in Rio. If you look up towards the Pedra da G√°vea mountain you might see hang-gliders taking off from it to land on the beach below.
Barra da Tijuca and Recreio dos Bandeirantes are districts with wide avenues and large condominiums. Barra is the home of the Chico Mendes Park. Chico Mendes was a famous rubber tapper turned environmentalist who campaigned for the preservation of the rain forests during the 1980s but who was murdered by corrupt politicians. The park is a protected area for wild animals such as caiman (a type of alligator) and birds. In Barras you will find the largest shopping centre in Rio, Barrashopping. There is also the Riocentro convention centre and the motor racing track, the Aut√≥dromo, located in the outskirts of Barra, close to the district of Jacarepagu√°.
Corcovado is the famous mountain on which the 100 foot statue of Christ with outstretched arms overlooks the city 2230 feet below. At night the 1,000 ton statue floats like a ghostly angel over the city. I first tried to go up to the top in a shared taxi but there had been recent mud slides and floods in the city and our path was blocked by a fallen tree trunk. If you do manage to reach the top and stand at the base of the statue you will witness breathtaking views. With the statue at your back you will see the Maracan√£ on the left, the largest football stadium in the World. Straight ahead on the opposite coast you will see Niter√≥i which is connected to Rio by a long winding bridge that snakes its way across the bay. Just to the right is the hump of Sugar Loaf mountain and further to the right in the foreground is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas with Copacabana and Ipanema beaches further out. To get to the top you can drive up most of the way or take a short train ride.
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Sugar Loaf mountain (P√£o de A√ßucar) previously mentioned, is another of Rio's famous landmarks. From here you can observe the beautiful panoramic view of Rio's mountain range and coastal areas. To reach the summit it is necessary to take a steep ride in a tram/train that pulls you to the top. The top commands a glorious view of the Guanabara Bay with the Botafogo beach to the North and Copacabana to the South, and a rugged landscape in-between. When I was there a few years back there was an old open-air cable car on display that was used in the '30s.
The Beach Areas
The most famous beach in the world? Copacabana never lived up to its name when I was there. It possesses a certain tackiness in my opinion. It no longer has the mystique and charm that it perhaps once possessed in the middle of the 20th Century. The waterfront hotels and high rise apartment blocks are hardly architecturally awe inspiring. The incoming tide on the left side of the beach was always polluted. The beach however is set a wonderfully rich setting with a backdrop of sharp rising hills. There are many restaurants along the beachfront where you can sit and sip a batida, a caipirinha or a vitamina whilst watching people or take a stroll on the famous black and white Burle Marx designed pavements. If you like being sun fried you can get to the beach early in summertime, as it may be hard to find space on the sand. Weekends are the most crowded and if you fancy a dip be aware that the sea currents are deceptively strong. There is plenty of nightlife around this area: clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels, such as the Copacabana Palace Hotel. At the end of Copacabana sits the Copacabana Fort, with a beautiful view and a nice museum. There is a glorious fireworks display on the beach at New Year and there is usually an international or national musical artist performing on an open air stage. There are usually a lot of tourists around at this time and the beach is virtually sealed off by the military police in order to prevent the hoodlums of the hills from getting in.
In my view Ipanema is still a better stretch of beach than Copacabana. It is possible to surf in some parts of the beach. You can also wander through the streets to discover chic boutiques, trendy restaurants and hip bars. It was here in one such famous bar that Vinicius de Moraes would sit each morning drinking coffee. Each day he noticed a beautiful girl walk by but she would never notice him admiring her from the bar. This experience inspired him to write the internationally famous song 'Girl from Ipanema'. On Sundays, there is a hippie market in the square General Os√≥rio where local handcrafts, clothes and souvenirs can be found.
The Devil and Arpoador beaches are some of the few areas where surfing is allowed outside of Barra da Tijuca. Arpoador is kind of in the corner between Ipanema and Copacabana. There is a rocky outcrop where I sat one evening as the sun was setting, contemplating the meaning of life when I was approached by two Mike Tyson look a likes. Without so much as an introduction they tried to disposes me of my possessions. I had about $2 in my pocket (as always). One of the robbers felt so sorry for me he gave me back the money.
Barra da Tijuca
The beaches in Barra are the cleanest in Rio, and have areas for surfing and scuba diving. This is a truly beautiful area of Rio. There are restaurants where you can sip coconut milk and admire views of the beach on one side and views of lakes on the other.
This is one of the most sophisticated and expensive districts in Rio, with large mansions, elegant flats, and a few late-night restaurants, bookshops and supermarkets.
The beach however, has a tendency to be over polluted.
Yes there is a lot of violence and murders in Rio but these are largely confined to the shanty towns and inland urban districts of Rio State. Most of the assaults that take place on the beaches occur around the carnival period when hard-up locals from the hillsides come down to hunt the "easy meat" (as they call the tourists). However I have often seen tourists walking around downtown Rio and on the beaches with their video cameras, flaunting their designer clothes and rattling their jewellery. In my opinion they almost deserve to be robbed... sometimes I felt like robbing them myself for their sheer arrogance. It's not pleasant to be assaulted and robbed, it has happened to me a few times, but this was within the space of a two week period over Christmas and Carnival. Before this I had already spent more than two years in Rio without any personal incident although I had heard about or witnessed many others getting fleeced.
Other places to visit
Lagoa holds one of the most beautiful views in Rio, with decent restaurants and bars, and a few nice food stalls. The lake shore is also a large public sports complex with a bicycle and jogging track, tennis and football courts and a skate and roller-skate bowl. There are also some private clubs and public parks where free open air shows and concerts are frequently staged.
The Botanical Garden was created by Dom Jo VI to cultivate the spices that were once imported to Portugal from the East Indies. Of all of Rio's green city parks, it is probably one of the nicest to take a break in and relax amongst the charming gardens, sculptures, ponds, fountains and tropical forest. The "imperial palm boulevards" contain more than 6,000 plant species from all over the world covering 338 acres.
Enter the cool Tijuca forest (Floresta da Tijuca) to escape from it all. Here there are Winding pathways that will lead you up hill to where you will be able to see some quite spectacular views through the tropical canopy that in parts overhangs the city a thousand feet below.
""Rio de Janeiro ("River of January") is the name of both a state and a city in southeastern Brazil. The city was the capital of Brazil (1763¬Ė1960) and of the Portuguese Empire (1808¬Ė1821). Commonly known as just Rio, the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa - "The Marvelous City". It is famous for its spectacular natural setting, its Carnival celebrations, samba and other music, hotel-lined tourist beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon and pavements decorated with black and cream swirl pattern mosaics. Some of the most famous local landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Jesus, known as Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain; Sugarloaf mountain (P√£o de A√ß√ļcar) with its cable car; the Samb√≥dromo, a giant permanent parade stand used during Carnival; and Maracan√£ stadium, the world's largest. Rio also boasts the world's largest forest inside an urban area, called Floresta da Tijuca, or 'Tijuca Forest'.""