Larry wasn’t crazy about going to Brazil. Just getting the tourist visa was such a huge hassle and expense it added fodder to his resistance. However, it was part of the itinerary, so we were obligated to be prepared. In fact, we couldn’t get on the ship without our Brazil tourist visa. I figured since we were going, we might as well see the Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, in Rio de Janeiro.
Thanks to Mary Anne, on the Cruise Critic roll call group, we learned of a tour that sounded good. It included a city tour, lunch at a Brazilian BBQ, the trip to Corcovado (where Christ the Redeemer is located), and a visit to Cococabana Beach. So, we booked it.
Rio is one of those dual personality kind of cities. On one hand you hear about the excitement and debauchery of carnaval, which is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This annual celebration, in the Roman Catholic tradition, allows merry-making and red meat consumption before the more sober forty days of Lent which culminates with Holy Week and Easter. The tradition of carnaval parades was probably influenced by the French or German courts and the custom was brought by the Portuguese or Brazilian Imperial families who had Bourbon and Austrian ancestors. Up until the time of the marchinhas, the revelry was more of a high class and Caucasian-led event. This changed with the influence of the African-Brazilian drums and music.
Frankly, I’m glad we WEREN’T here during Carnaval. I know some people find it fascinating and entertaining. I fail to understand how people can parade around in public, nearly naked, behaving in an immoral manner, and consider it acceptable. We saw enough of that in Key West on Halloween. Consider me a prude, if you want. There are just some things you can’t “unsee.”
On the other hand, thousands of pious people make a sort of pilgrimage to Corcovado Mountain to show respect for and take selfies with the Christ the Redeemer Statue. That was much more to my liking.
Did you know that Rio de Janeiro means January river? I’d never thought of translating it before, so I was a bit surprised to learn that it was discovered on January 1, 1502, by Gaspar de Lemos, a Portuguese explorer. Reportedly, Amerigo Vespucci was on the same expedition.
What they’d really found, though, was the Bay of Guanabara, and mistook it for a river. Subsequent settlers discovered gold and diamonds, in addition to sugar, and the port became important for shipping.
After Napoleon invaded Portugal, the royal family and other nobles relocated to Rio. They even transferred the kingdom’s capital, making it the only European capital outside of Europe. Many local residents were evicted to make way for hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly. Rio has the largest Portuguese population outside Lisbon.
A large influx of Africa slaves arrived in the early eighteen-hundreds. By eighteen-forty, there were two-hundred-twenty-thousand slaves. Here, the samba was born of the black community with Angolan influence.
The South Zone is divided into several districts and is the wealthiest part of the city. Two of the zones, Leblon and São Conrado, have the most expensive real estate in all of South America. The daily rate at the five star hotels is second only to New York City. It is in this area the renowned Copacabana Beach is located. And of course, Ipanema, which was chosen as the number one beach in the world by CNN in 2012.
The North Zone contains many of the one-thousand favelas (slums) where ninety-five percent of the population are poor. Government initiatives are trying to improve conditions and bring them up to par with the rest of the city.
Sugarloaf Mountain (‘Pão de Açúcar’), (whose name describes the famous mountain rising out of the sea) stands sentinel marking the entrance to the bay. The summit can be reached via a two-stage cable car trip from Praia Vermelha, with the intermediate stop on Morro da Urca. The view it offers is second only to Corcovado mountain.
There are now more than twelve million people living in the metro area, six million of which live in the city. Portuguese is the official language. Spanish and English are also taught in high school.
Brazil is a country that seems to be at a crossroads. Effort is being made to improve transportation and housing. We’ve all read the stories about the corrupt government.
The edition we receive of the Times Digest had an article about the crumbling legacy of the Olympics that were hosted in Brazil this past summer. In preparation for hosting the games, the city promised plans to turn facilities used for the Olympics into public sporting areas and schools. Six months later it hasn’t happened. Though the mayor’s office says plans are in the works, there is no timetable. In fact, on January 1st, the mayor told city council members, “The nation is in crisis, Rio de Janeiro is in crisis—it’s time to be cautious.” Doesn’t sound too promising, does it?
We celebrated Valentine’s Day early with a special meal in the Canelleto. Rifki, the manager gave me a long stemmed red rose. Dinner was fantastic and we had fun taking photos with the staff.