If you can imagine one city completely unlike any other in the world, it would be Rio de Janeiro. It's not that every big city doesn't have it's unique characteristics... New York is famous for its shopping, Tokyo for its technology, and Paris for its romance. But Rio de Janeiro is unique in the fact that it is not just known for one thing, but for three.
Number One: The BIG CITY life
The moment we stepped out of the taxi, we knew we were not in Fortaleza anymore. The smog hovering in the air triggered most of our allergies almost instantaneously, and the noise of city- honking cars, squeaking brakes, people yelling (in Portuguese)- was enough to snap us out of our jet lagged daze and force us to be aware of our surroundings once again. The best way to explain a common day in Rio is that during the day the city feels rushed at every hour and the nightlife consists of nothing but excitement and liveliness. Rio is known to be a party city... with the biggest party being, of course, something called Carnival. Carnival is a four day long Brazilian festival with a world famous parade that consists of extravagant costumes and dancing. The parade begins in Rio de Janeiro. One day while we were in Rio we actually got to go to the arena where the parade starts and try on the costumes of carnival!
Another distinctive trait of Rio is the number of tourists you come across. It was a big shock to walk down the streets and run into someone who spoke English, but it happened more than once, and with languages from all over the globe. One huge event going on in Rio was a Hell's Angel World Tour. At one point in the day we saw more bikers coasting down the famous sidewalk of Copacabana than Brazilians. One night we made the mistake of writing a note to another room of students with random Portuguese words on it and signed it "love, Dr. Pace". After we slide the note under the door we realized later that night that it was the wrong door. Pretty sure the next day I saw a Hell's Angel come out of that same room.
Number Two: The Beaches
Rio de Janeiro has two of the most famous beaches in the world, both of which have songs written about them... Copacabana and Ipanema. Our hotel was only a block down from Copacabana, so we spend most our days walking down the busy streets until we run into the most famous sidewalk in Brazil.
Once we cross the Copacabana sidewalk and our feet sink into the warm sand the noisy city life grows fainter and fainter until we reach the coast. At that point, besides the tall buildings in the distance, it's hard to image we were ever in a city to begin with. The honking from the cars is completely muffled by the sound of the waves. Not quit as relaxing as you might be imagining, because the waves have so much force that from 20 feet away you can still feel the splashes of water from the crash of the wave. One pleasantly plump old man decided to be brave and try and body serve in Rio's intimidating waves. After about 3 or 4 waves crashed over him and drug him back to shore, he stood up feeling accomplished... yet had lost his speedo.
Number Three: The Mountains
This characteristic of Rio is what I think is the most distinct factor, and it is also my absolute favorite part of the famous city. There are two main mountains in Rio that you can climb up to, Corcovado and Pao de Acucar. Corcovado, or "Hunch back" in Portuguese, is where a giant Christ statue stands and looks down on all of Rio de Janeiro. The story the Brazilians tell of the Christ Statue is that since the people of Rio are considered the "partiers" of the country, the Christ statue looks down on Rio in search for someone working hard. When he finds that Brazilians he will put his hands together and applaud!
Here we are doing the YMCA! Jesus is, of course, our "Y"
The other mountain, Pao de Acucar, has no famous statues on it, yet it is by far my favorite mountain to look out to the city of Rio on. You have to ride a cable car to get to the peek of the mountain. This cable car fits at least 60 people, and it is terrifying to walk on to from the platform because it sways back and fourth with the wind! So you just have to jump on and hope you don't trip and fall through the crack between the cable car and the platform!
But the risk is worth it because once you are on the mountain you see the most breathtaking view of the city imaginable. And while we waited for the best moment on Pao de acucar, when the sun sets, we explored the mountain's rainforest! We walked down the path until we were stopped by a bunch of marmosets that swung down to our path. These little monkeys were so use to tourists would come right up to you and grab whatever was in your hand! I tricked these sneaky little creatures by pretending I had food in my hand, and when the marmoset grabbed it away from me he was disappointed to see that he had just grabbed a leaf. But soon after he stole a little boys popcorn so he was happy once again.
All together these three characteristics are what makes Rio a pretty remarkable city! And if the Hell's Angels thought this city was great enough to be apart of their world tour, then there is really no way around it..."os anjos abençoaram esta cidade"... which means "Angels have blessed this city!" ... kinda.