Tags Posts tagged with "Rio de Janeiro"

Rio de Janeiro

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Nickname: A Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City) | Population: 6.5 million cariocas/12 million in metro | Area: 486.5 sq mi | Airports: Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport – Galeao (GIG) and Santos-Dumont Airport (SDU) | Time Zone: -3h from UTC/-2h DST | Famous for: beaches, booties, samba, soccer, Cristo Redentor, crime

Rio de Janeiro is the official calling card of Brazil. No other city in Latin America has been photographed, sung about, or dreamed about more than the Marvelous City. With world-famous beaches, stunning landscapes, spectacular views, hip-swaying music, and scores of tall, tan young-and-lovelies, Rio is the one city that should be experienced at least once in every human being’s life. True, it’s got plenty of social problems and it may not end up being your favorite city in the world, but Rio’s palpable sensuality and peerless natural beauty make it a place that you will never forget.

On arrival: Use the free airport wifi to order a ride via Uber, or take a cab from one of the prepaid taxi offices closest to the terminal exit; insist that the driver uses GPS. The best and least-expensive way to get reais (Brazilian currency) is to withdraw money from the ATM; many Brazilian ATMs do not operate using the U.S. bank card network, but at least one or two will.

Best ‘hoods: Copacabana is the world’s most famous beach, still fun despite being well past its glory days. Ipanema and Leblon hold court as the city’s chic beaches. The beaches of Barra da Tijuca are calmer, but a bit far from the in-town action. Centrally-located Lapa is home to Rio’s iconic samba spots. Santa Teresa’s curvy, cobblestone streets evoke an artsy, bohemian vibe. Flamengo, Botafogo, and Urca offer affordable, interesting dining and lodging conveniently located between the beaches and Centro (Downtown), which is great for exploring during the day. These neighborhoods are part of the Zona Sul (South Zone), which is where most of Rio’s tourist-friendly attractions are located. Be street-smart everywhere.

Best beaches: Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon for swimming, sunbathing, and flirting; Arpoador for great sunset views; Barra da Tijuca for surfing; São Conrado for hang gliding; Prainha for peace and quiet.

Best sights: Christ the Redeemer Statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, Tijuca Forest, Santa Teresa, Selarón Steps, Municipal Theatre, Museum of Tomorrow, Museum of Modern Art, ferry to Niterói, Maracanã Stadium, tour of Rocinha, and the Sambadrome during Carnival.

Best eats: Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) at Porcão Rio’s, feijoada (the national dish) at Casa da Feijoada, por kilo (Brazilian buffet) at Kilograma or Couve Flor, comida mineira (rustic Brazilian food) at À Mineira, açaí na tigela (frozen açaí) at Bibi Sucos, pork sandwiches at Cervantes, pizza at Mamma Jamma, sushi at Azumi, burgers at Comuna, Brazilian vegan/veg at Vegetariano Social Clube.

Best dranks: Juices at Dona Vitamina or Frutaria Oscar Freire, beers at Espaço Carioquinha or Lapa Café, happy hour at Astor or in the Arcos dos Teles area, views and friends at Bar do Alto, Palaphita Kitch, or Bar Urca.

Best hypes: Any samba school rehearsal, Lapa at night for live Brazilian music and a wild party vibe, upscale partying at 00, LGBT club nights at The Week Rio, Copacabana for New Years (Reveillon) and during Carnival.

Best advice: Remember to be street-smart at all times; leave unnecessary valuables at home. Try to speak a little bit of Portuguese; you’ll make new friends that way. Service in restaurants and other establishments can be slow; try not to let that ruin your trip to one of the world’s most enjoyable cities. Use condoms. Have fun!

And for the ultimate luxury experience in Rio, book an Up in the Air Life adventure today!

Image credit: Christian Haugen via Flickr

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Have you ever dreamed of Rio de Janeiro? Do the rolling waves of the South Atlantic and the undulating hills of the Brazilian coast call to you? Answer the call—in style—with a luxury adventure to Brazil’s Marvelous City with Up in the Air Life luxury tour designers.

Carefully curated by on-the-ground experts and encompassing food, music, art, dance, history, and, yes, a party or three, Up in the Air Life’s Rio experience is one of unexpected wonders and tropical magic. And like the defining qualities of a diamond, this upscale excursion covers the Four Cs of a memorable, once-(or twice)-in-a-lifetime adventure into the heart and soul of Brazil.

Cuisine (and cocktails)
The various cultural components to Brazil can be best experienced through the country’s cuisine, and Up in the Air Life sets the table with an array of options for edibles that sates even the most ravenous appetite, especially if that appetite is for meat. Topping Up in the Air’s list is Rio’s talked-about steakhouse, CT Boucherie, which serves up hearty meats and sides with succulent flavor and high-class flair. Rubaiyat, with views of the racetrack at the fabled Jockey Club, cooks its meats and pours its wines with Mediterranean panache.

The less-haute, more-folksy options on the itinerary include Garota de Ipanema (Girl From Ipanema), an eatery named for the renowned paean to Rio’s supple young beach bunnies and the spot for delicious meats grilled at your table, Angu do Gomes, with its zesty classics influenced by the Afro-Brazilian fare of the country’s northeast, and at Praça dos Nordestinos for feijoada, a thick and, of course, meaty stew that is the national dish of Brazil. Of course, all of these places serve up frosty imported and domestic beers, as well as caipirinhas, the national cocktail, but the bar atop Sugarloaf Mountain has unsurpassed views, scrumptious beverages, and a thumping sound system.

Culture (and how!)
Obviously, food rates highly on the list of cultural attribute Brazil brings to the fore, but the country’s art, street style, music, dance, and joie de vivre are virtually unmatched. Up in the Air Life’s curated forays into Brazilian culture include excursions to the bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood with its cobblestone streets and colonial-era architecture, the Ipanema Hippie and Art Fair and its unsurpassed selection of one-of-a-kind souvenirs and authentic handicrafts, the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and striking Dois Irmaos massif, mansion-in-the-jungle Parque Lage (yes, where Snoop and Pharrell shot the “Beautiful” video), and, most interestingly, to the impactful, resilient community of Rocinha, one of Rio’s largest favelas.

Of course, music and dance reign supreme in the Marvelous City, as Rio is known, especially during the run-up to Carnival, and the Up in the Air Life sought out the best, most exciting events in town for ramp-shaking and samba-ing the night away. The central district of Lapa, tucked away under the whitewashed arches, buzzes with bars and botecos, where live musicians keep the dance floors hot while affable bartenders keep the libations flowing. Rio Scenarium is one of those oh-so-Rio nightspots where tourists and locals come together for a little flirting and foot-shuffling until the wee hours. But the real party is just getting started.

Carnival (well…pre-Carnival, actually)
During Up in the Air Life’s luxury Rio experience, the city is in the throes of Carnival season, and all the major parade organizations—called samba schools because the first one formed across the street from a teachers’ college—are wrapping up their final preparations for the big blow-out event the very next week. This means the Carnival spirit pervades every party and gathering, which may still be crowded, but without the crushing waves of revelers expected to descend on the city during Carnival itself. Up in the Air Life takes adventurers into the heart of the action, with pre-Carnival celebrations at the world-famous Sambadrome, where the samba schools perfect their dance moves in anticipation of the grand parade.

But it’s easy to join in on the fun, as escorted excursions to raucous pre-Carnival block parties, called blocos, and old school-style samba sets at various venues help revelers work off the calories from all those delectable dinners.

Comforts (aaaaaaah!)
And when the party’s finally over each night, Up in the Air Life sets you up in sparkling beachfront accommodations, such as the Sofitel Caesar Park or the iconic Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel. The epitome of tropical luxury, the Copacabana Palace has been hosting superstars for nearly 100 years; Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, the Rolling Stones, Princess Diana, Madonna, and Michael Jackson have all rested their heads, frolicked in the pools, and dined out at the Copa. And when not relaxing in the multi-level spa, or on beds as soft as clouds, guests swim or sun themselves along some of the world’s most celebrated beaches, alongside all the other tall, tan young lovelies Rio is so famous for.

Image credit: Charlie Phillips via Flickr

Are you ready to book your Carnival of luxury with Up in the Air Life? Do it…you know you want to. 😀

FLY BROTHER hanging out in Rio with Up in the Air Life!

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Getting blessed in 2012

It’s 2012, folk! While many of you spent New Years Eve in the frigid climes of Europe or North America, I was getting my hot-and-sweaty on in Rio de Janeiro. 😉 True, it rained most of the weekend, and the transport situation from my centrally-located apartment to the beach was less than ideal – a 5km walk uphill (and down, both ways) – but I made it to Copacabana in time for the countdown, the fireworks action, and even a little oceanfront afterparty with friends from São Paulo. Here’s a little taste:

At the same time, two very fly sistas – Nicole is the New Black and Oneika the Traveller – rang in the New Year with friends and family in Europe: Nicole in bright-and-sparkly Copenhagen and Oneika in on-and-poppin’ Berlin. Take a look!

How’d you spend New Years Eve?

Digital StillCamera

Three years ago, shortly after dusk on a crisp July evening, I left the gym and walked with a friend down a cavernous back-street in Copacabana, the gritty, dense, intense, world-famous beachfront neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.  At that time, my Portuguese skills were nonexistent, and I conversed with my friend in an uneasy Portuñol that was more functional Spanish with a passable Brazilian accent. Being the intrepid, street-wise flâneur that I am, I dressed in nondescript shorts, a white t-shirt, basic black sneakers, and took along a Discman: a) to have some music to listen to in the gym, and b) specifically to ward off anyone interested in making even the least bit of profit by robbing me…who the hell would want a Discman in the 21st century?

Well, some ten-year-old kid shows up asking me for who the hell knows what and I told him, in Spanish, that I didn’t really have anything to give him (I didn’t). He then grabbed my arm. I flipped: “no me toques, hijueputa” I said and jerked my hand back. Then he started shouting in Portuguese, I shouted back in Spanish, and then he hit me in the foot with a rock. I swear, if I had had on a belt, that woulda been his ass, but my friend dragged me away and the kid ran off. It wasn’t until I got back to the apartment that I thought about what would have happened had the kid pulled a gun: you could have cast me in Airplane!.

Never, in all my years of travel, had I been accosted in the street by anybody. I mean, I’m a 6’2, 210-pound black man…I’m the one who makes people nervous.  In fact, it was the lack of control that was most unsettling aspect of what happened.  And it didn’t matter that I understood all the socio-economic history behind why this kid was running the streets, probably high on glue, looking for hand-outs.  In that moment, I was just a “rich” foreigner, nothing more.  I’ve not felt 100% secure in Rio ever since.

I’ve been back to the city several times; twice, I’ve rung in the New Year on Copacabana.  And there are myriad things to like about the place: the attractiveness of the people, the stunning landscape, beaches with actual waves, the history and the music.  Still, I’ve always seen Rio as Miami/LA to São Paulo’s New York: plastically attractive, with no real depth; a city full of shameless social-climbers, hooligans, and a large percentage of strivers you never meet in person because they’re working themselves to the bone while the first two groups crowd the beaches (no shade on Miami or LA, y’all).  The coolest Cariocas I’ve ever met have been ones living outside of Rio, and I’m hard-pressed to think of any person I know there who I can count as a true friend (the friend who was with me when Lil Zé tried to get at me actually spends most of the year in his hometown of Porto Alegre).

Downtown Rio de Janeiro

But the last couple of times I’ve visited the city, I’ve ventured out of chic and/or titillating Zona Sul into regions I hadn’t charted before: Downtown, full of neo-classical architecture from Brazil’s Belle Epoque that’s slowly-and-surely being restored; the hilly boho enclave of Santa Teresa, with its feijoada dives and political graffiti; futuristic Niteroi, the burgeoning suburb across the bay full of Niemeyer architecture and the vibe of Rio before the crack epidemic.  Hanging over the “Marvelous City” is an atmosphere of tense anticipation, a mixture of hope and anxiety about hosting the 2016 Olympics in a city notoriously besieged by bad management and corruption, class and racial conflict (don’t let ’em tell you differently), and lawlessness (shooting down a police helicopter? Damn!).  There’s also the promise of an Olympic-sized renaissance, a reversal of the former capital’s fifty-year decline since losing that title to Brasília and a return to the world stage of one of Earth’s great urban playgrounds, anchored by a remarkable history as the hemisphere’s only imperial capital and an indefatigable culture of music and dance centuries in the making.

In spite of our shaky past and my status as a bona fide gringo paulista, I’m excited about witnessing Rio’s resurgence.  I hope, soon, that we’ll be completely reconciled and I can name her as one of my favorite cities; after all, Paris and I didn’t exactly get along at first, either.

Chillin’ at the feet of Jesus, overlooking Ipanema.

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Samba schools around Brazil are starting their practice sessions for next February’s Carnival shenanigans.  Still, during the off-season, many schools offer glimpses of skin and sequins for tourists and Sunday strollers.  Here’s (very rough) video of a tiny group from Rio’s Salgueiro Samba School, warming up the crowd with hips and syncopation on a dreary winter’s day in Copacabana.

This is the first of a new monthly series of eye candy at Fly Brother, imaginatively named VTP (short for Vintage Travel Posters). We’ll see how travel companies and bureaus have been enticing people off the couch since international leisure travel first became a bourgeois conceit. Our first destination: the marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro, where both terrestrial and corporal landscapes have been hot commodities since the 1920s.

Fly Brother welcomes your views. If this post hit the spot, please comment and/or click.

Yesterday was the end of my three-week long Christmas vacation in Brazil. There was sun, sweat, sand, sex, song, and samba in varied combinations on various days. My buddy, Roberto, and I conquered the mean streets of that tropical urban behemoth, São Paulo, before jetting over to raucous Rio to ring in the New Year with millions of Brazilians on the beach at Copacabana. I resurrected old friendships, established new ones, soaked up the music and dance of my cultural cousins, renewed, refreshed, recharged, and gave it up to God, the Cosmos, Iemanjá, whatever you want to call it. Next week, I’ll lay out the adventure with incriminating photos and juicy details in a three-part series guaranteed to titillate and inspire. Because that’s what I do here at Fly Brother…titillate and inspire. 😉

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Shaun Dunphy/Flickr

No, they don’t show the crime and poverty; you can watch City of God for that. Just look, listen, absorb. When I see the people waving at the end, I always get a lump in my throat and find myself smiling. That’s saudade.