Rio de Janeiro Journals

Rio: Brazil's Cultural Paradise

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A November 2000 trip to Rio de Janeiro by parramore

Botanical Gardens Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil More Photos
Quote: More than just Carnaval and Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro is a rich cultural paradise waiting to be discovered.

Rio: Brazil's Cultural Paradise

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Overview

Artistic City Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
I was thoroughly impressed by the rich cultural heritage represented not only in Rio's museums and architecture, but in the living, breathing repertory of music and food, and the interesting people I met. Enjoy yourself on the beach, but don't neglect other fascinating aspects of this historic city. 5 Musts: Confeitaria Colombo (Colombo Restaurant), Botanical Gardens, Municipal Theatre, Santa Teresa, and a samba school rehearsal.Quick Tips: Bring a Portuguese dictionary--outside of the hotels I found it rare to meet anyone (including shopkeepers and taxi drivers) who spoke any English. Despite what you hear about Rio being a dangerous city, crime against tourists is down, and if you take ...Read More

Hotel Sofitel: Rio Palace

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Hotel

Hotel Sofitel: Rio Palace Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
If you're going to go upscale, this hotel is a sure bet. You won't be in bad company--the Sofitel's Presidential Suite has hosted the likes of Paul McCartney and Frank Sinatra! One of about five 5 star hotels in Rio, Sofitel Rio Palace (part of a French chain of luxury hotels) is located just between the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. That's a great selling point to me--depending on what mood you're in you can walk left on the beach to experience the more raucous vibe of Copacabana or stroll right for the more chic atmosphere of Ipanema. The rates for Sofitel's elegantly decorated rooms run from around $250-$470. I was impressed by the soothing, spa-like color palette and u...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 18, 2000

Hotel Sofitel: Rio Palace
Avenida Atlantica, 4240
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(55) 21 525 1232

Caesar Park Ipanema

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Hotel

Caesar Park Ipanema Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
If I were the girl from Ipanema, this is where I'd hang out. A drop-dead gorgeous hotel, earning every point of it's 5 star rating. If you're thinking about where to have a luxurious and romantic honeymoon, keep this one in mind. Caesar Park has 221 rooms and suites with sea views, decorated in classic, Victorianesque style. In your closet you'll find a beach bag that will attract immediate and desirable attention as soon as you hit the sand. Hotel beach staff will appear, ready to scoot you into a lounge chair, make you a drink, and hand you tropical fruits to nibble on while you catch some rays. The exercise room is state-of-the art and is included in the price of your room. You can...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 18, 2000

Caesar Park Ipanema
AVE VIEIRA SOUTO 460
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
55-2125252525

Miramar Palace Hotel

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Hotel | "Mirimar Palace"

Miramar Palace Hotel Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
The Mirimar is an attractive 4-star hotel located right on Copacabana Beach. The modern rooms are exceptionally spacious and many have soul-reviving ocean views. I was pleased to find free internet access in several locations in the hotel as well as a hairdryer in the bathroom. A pool and exercise facility were in the works during my November visit. The hotel restaurant has very good buffets and a beautiful sea view. Breakfast, which is included in the room rate, includes continental cold items as well as hot American fare--very satisfying. Dinner features a cold and hot buffet. I was impressed by the staff here: the porters and doormen in the hotel were extremely helpful, tying up a p...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 20, 2000

Miramar Palace Hotel
AV ATLANTICA 3668 COPACABANA
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
55 21 25250303

Excelsior Copacabana Hotel

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Hotel | "Hotel Excelsior Copacabana"

Excelsior Copacabana Hotel Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
This is a modern, well-equipped hotel located on Copacabana Beach. Amenities include a swimming pool and exercise room for guests. The rates run from around $100 for a standard room to over $250 for a luxury suite. I had dinner at the Excelsior, where I enjoyed a cold buffet featuring salmon pastries, various salads, and delicious pork and sundried tomato medallions. The hot buffet consisted of beef medallions, codfish, whipped potatoes, croquettes and chicken. The appetizers were particularly interesting: cod fritters, a pastry of chickpea and beef tasting of anise, and germanic fare like salami, cheese, and quail eggs.

The hotel was modern and well-equipped.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 30, 2000

Excelsior Copacabana Hotel
AVENIDA ATLANTICA 1800
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
55 21 25456000

Estrela do Sul

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Restaurant

Quote:
This is one of Rio's better-known churrascarias, that is, restaurants specializing in churrasco (pronounced shoo-RAS-koo) or Brazilian Barbecue. Estrela do Sul is festive place to bring a group for a celebration and gorge on the traditional staple food of the South Brazilian cowboys. Just don't plan on going dancing later--you won't want to move! Expect to have numerous waiters circling around your table deftly slicing off strips of roasted meat from a skewer with enormous knives--a very impressive performance! The process is interactive. You have a pair of tongs with which you grab the end of the piece the waiter is slicing to assist the meat's journey to your plate. The range of mea...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 28, 2000

Estrela do Sul
Praia de Botafogo, 490
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
275-6280

Ipanema Beach

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Attraction

Ipanema Beach Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
Ipanema is a cleaner and more refined-feeling beach than Copacabana. I was charmed to see kids playing in organized soccer games on the sand, making sure that the next generation of Brazilian players carries on the great tradition. Walking along the beach watching Brazilian guys show off their muscles, or sitting at one of the many coconut kioks listening to the crashing waves is a great way to spend an afternoon. If you head off the beach and onto the main drag, you'll find lots of quaint cafes and upscale shopping centers.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 1, 2000

Ipanema Beach
Ipanema Beach
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Botanical Gardens

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Attraction

Botanical Gardens Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
To enter Rio's Botanical Garden is to experience the ancient beauty of a Lost World. Enormous trees draped with Spanish moss like ghostly brides loom over every conceivable type of tropical plant. Khubla Khan might have dreamt up the scene of rose gardens, banana plants with huge red and yellow pod-like flowers, thick clusters of bamboo, and delicate orchids washed with an artist's palette. As if on queue, couples sit kissing on benches or burying their noses in flowers as they stroll along. I was told by a friend that less pleasant inhabitants of the garden, the large spiders that build nets in the banana plants, are sometimes visible, but I didn't see any. To appreciate the wonder a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 20, 2000

Botanical Gardens
Rua Jardim Botanico, 1,008
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Copacabana Beach

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Attraction

Copacabana Beach Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
The vision of cariocas (Rio natives) sucking the milk out of coconuts for sale along the strand will get you in the mood to experience this world-famous strip of sand. Arriving from New York City, my friend Tom and I went for a walk along the beach first thing. The New York stride soon slowed down to a stroll, and then a sort of slow shuffle, as our bodies adjusted to the temperature and our spirits to the vibe. Man, it was HOT!! One thing we couldn't get over was the sight of middle age men brazenly showing off their speedo bathings suits, while their younger counterparts made attempts at a few push-ups on the beach before collapsing in exhaustion. People talk about the string bikinis, but in m...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 20, 2000

Copacabana Beach

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Santa Teresa

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Attraction

Santa Teresa Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
Beverly Hills meets Sausalito. A must. This picturesque neighborhood began as the site of a Carmelite convent (still here) in the 18th century. Today it is the home of some of Brazil's most vibrant artists (many of whom open their home studios to the public--see my 'Favoretto' entry) and romantic sights and sounds. Rio's elegance and colorful artistic side are expressed in Santa Teresa's lush flowers, winding streets and breath-taking views. A visit to Santa Teresa should include a stop at Parque das Ruinas (Ruins Park), located at Rua Murtinho Nobre, 169. A spectacular view of the city awaits you from what's left of the Murtinho Nobre mansion, once one of the most posh residences in ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 27, 2000

Santa Teresa
Ladeira de Santa Teresa
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20241-140
Not applicable

Confeitaria Colombo

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Attraction | "Confeitaria Colombo (Colombo Restaurant)"

Confeitaria Colombo Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
A gorgeous example of Art Noveau, Colombo is something you should see even if you don't have time to dine (I did not eat here, but have heard that the food is good). The lush feminine elegance of the style is apparent in the curves and delicate lines of every ornate lamp, polished Belgian mirror, and jacaranda wood chair. This is the ultimate spot for lunching ladies, a romantic meeting, or taking tea over a good book. The stained glass ceiling, with its vibrant Pre-Raphaelite greens and blues, is breathtaking. Many visitors to Rio who spend their time on the beach miss out on the wonderful historic buildings the city has to offer. Living in Deco-obsessed New York, I found the fantasy...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 27, 2000

Confeitaria Colombo
Rua Gonçalves Dias, 32
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20050-030
+55 21 22322300

Unidos da Tijuca Samba School Rehearsal

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Attraction

Unidos da Tijuca Samba School Rehearsal Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
To experience a spicy taste of what Carnaval feels like, you MUST see a samba school rehearsal. In the months leading up to February, samba schools like Tijuca get cooking to prepare for competition in the Carnaval Parades. Get yourself ready for hypotic drumbeats and spectacular dance routines. You may find yourself, as I did, stepping down off the curb and joining in! Don't worry if you have limited rhythm: everyone seems welcome. Samba schools came into being between the 30's and 50's. Steeped in history, they also generate a wonderful feeling of community and camraderie. To see a five-year old girl trying out dance steps for the first time as her grandmother and uncles cheer her on is to rea...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 28, 2000

Unidos da Tijuca Samba School Rehearsal
Various Community Centers
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Teatro Municipal

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Attraction | "Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre)"

Teatro Municipal Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
Decked out in Beaux-Arts splendor, the sumptuous Municipal Theater is Brazil's most important venue for classical music, ballet and opera; housing one of the largest stages in Latin America. The theater, opened in 1909, is a scaled-down replica of the magnificent Paris opera house. Taking their cultural queues from Paris, Rio officials chose July 14 for the opening ceremony in honor of the national day of France. The Municipal is a place drink in the lavish attention to interior space that marked the turn-of-the-century--French stained glass, decorative details in onyx and bronze. An astounding 1,500 tons of mostly imported marble graces the theater: notice the contrast between the delicate rose-hued ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 29, 2000

Teatro Municipal
Praça Floriano
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20031-050
+55 21 22974411

Casa França-Brasil

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Attraction | "Casa Franca-Brasil"

Quote:
This neoclassical building houses temporary exhibitions and events. When I was here in November, 2000, Casa Franca was hosting an extensive exhibit documenting the complex history of Afro-Brazilians. Displays began with artifacts related to the slave trade, from plans for cargo holds where slaves were kept in miserable conditions on their way to Brazil, to the grusome instruments used to torture them into submission once they were sold. The lives of early Afro-Brazilians who managed to transcend and escape the conditions they found in the New World were highlighted, including the fascinating story of Zumbi, an escaped slave who came to rule over a settlement of other slave refugees. The post-sla...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 29, 2000

Casa França-Brasil
Rua Visconde de Itaboraí, 78
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20010-060
+55 21 22535366

Candelaria Church

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Attraction

Candelaria Church Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
Very interesting, to say the least. Built between 1775 and 1811, Candlelaria is the largest church in the city, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin who lights the way to heaven with her candles (in case you have trouble finding your way). It's still a hip place to tie the knot, with its Neo-Classical, Italianate style. The sculptured bronze doors really give you the feeling that you are entering a sacred space when you walk through, especially since you've just stepped off a busy downtown street. I was intrigued by the ornate carvings on the stairs leading to the elevated pulpits--lush designs depicting fat cupids frolicking over roses. The oddness of the grisly scenes of suffering amid romantic...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 29, 2000

Candelaria Church
Praca Pio X (Downtown)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer Statue (O Cristo Redentor)

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Attraction | "Christ the Redeemer"

Christ the Redeemer Statue (O Cristo Redentor) Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
Undoubtedly part of what gives Rio her strange charm. In trying to decode the statue's mystique, I'm put in mind of the famous scene depicted on the Temple of Zeus in Olympia. Above a band of drunken, brawling centaurs, the figure of Apollo looms, coolly enforcing his calm rationality over wine-sodden pandemonium. High on Corcovado mountain, the Catholic Apollo gazes over the 'city without shame,' thanks to the efforts of the Catholic Church to assert itself amid political turmoil and aetheism in the 1920's. Walking around the streets of Rio, I found myself often caught by the beauty and mysteriousness of the Redeemer. Each glimpse invites a moment of contemplation on the healing powe...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 26, 2000

Christ the Redeemer Statue (O Cristo Redentor)
Corcovado Mountain
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

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Attraction | "Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Fine Arts)"

Quote:
Opened in 1908, the Fine Arts Museum was helping to celebrate the 500 year anniversary of the 'discovery' of Brazil by the Portuguese. Interesting items on display included a silver ark meant to carry incense used for religious ceremonies on ships and many other artifacts related to the spread of Catholicism in Brazil. I was struck once again by the graphic and gruesome imagery that once confronted Indian tribes unfamiliar with Catholic themes of suffering and redemption. An image of St. Lucia, protector of eyesight, carries a couple of eyeballs rolling around in a plate. The 'virtues' emphasized by the Catholic church to instill the proper attitude in their new Indian converts were chastity, o...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 4, 2000

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
Av. Rio Branco, 199
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 20040-008
+55 21 22409869

Museu do Índio

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Attraction | "Museo do Indio (Indian Museum)"

Museu do Índio Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
This museum features exhibitions exploring the history and culture of Brazil's major Indian groups (Tupi-Guarani, Ge, and Tapuias). When I visited, there was an installation centered around themes of birth, life, and death in Indian culture. I enjoyed the reproductions of typical Indian dwellings, from the more traditional Une of Xingu (pronounced Shingu) tribe with its hammocks radiating from the center, to structures that have expanded to include room for modern items like sewing machines and lines for drying tee-shirts and other Western-style clothing. The instruments and traditions associated with birth were also intriguing--including the rule in one tribe that a woman have three m...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 4, 2000

Museu do Índio
Rua das Palmeiras, 55
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 22270-070
+55 21 22868799

Shopping

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Attraction | "Ipanema Shopping"

Quote:
A serious shopping destination for folks looking for bargains on leather goods, upscale men and womens' clothing (not cheap, but less than you'd pay in the US), arts & crafts objects. There are a couple of malls on this strip, as well as bookstores and music shops.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 15, 2000

Shopping
Rua Visconde de Piraja
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Varig Airlines

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Story/Tip

Quote:
I found Varig, Brazil's major international and domestic carrier, to have exceptionally classy service (such a relief!), palatable food, and nice touches that show somebody believes that air travel doesn't have to be an ordeal--a rose in the bathroom! The experience was a pleasant surprise--much better than I thought it would be when I was greeted by a leather-jacketed individual outside the JFK terminal who demanded to see my ticket without showing me his airport identification (I don't think this had anything to do with Varig.)

Varig flies to 45 Brazilian cities. I went to Rio via Sao Paulo (Rio is a 50 minute jump from Sao Paulo).

Instituto Moreira Salles

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Story/Tip

Quote:
The Moreira Salles Instituto is a private, non-profit center for the preservation of Brazilian Photography. It houses several important 19th and 20th century photography exhibits. The first floor also houses a small, rotating exhibit of paintings by Brazilian artists. I was charmed by serveral examples of Brazilian Art Absurd. The gardens on the grounds are apparently magnificent--unfortunately it was raining the day I visited and so we didn't get to enjoy them. Serious students of photography will want to learn about the research and preservation facilities at the Instituto. The center is also active in literature, cinema, and the plastic arts. Located in the Gavea distric...Read More

caipirinhas

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Story/Tip

Quote:
When the hippest spot in New York for sushi is called Sushi Samba and they serve caipirinhas, you KNOW Brazil is hot. Cairpirinhas are the national cocktail of Brazil, made with sugarcane rum and lime juice, poured over ice. Very tasty and ridiculously strong. Try them.

An Artist's Studio: Favoretto

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Story/Tip

Rio's mystique Photo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Quote:
One of the most memorable things I did in Rio was to visit the home studio of an artist in Santa Teresa. Favoretto and his wife Ada live on beautiful Rua Murtinho, truly an inspiring place for an artist to work. The studio behind his home overlooks the city and from his window Sugar Loaf Mountain rises in the distance, inspiring him to paint the natural wonders of his city.

There are many talented artists living in Santa Teresa who open their studio to the public. Inquire at your hotel about setting up a visit.