February 15, 2013

Brazil do meu coração

Now that Carnival arrived, I can not stop thinking about going back to Brazil. When I had the opportunity to meet this amazing country I was working and It couldn't be better: its people, its landscapes, its culture, its language... So, in my first post I could not choose another destination to talk about.

The first time I visited Rio de Janeiro was a weekend in 2008: I was dying to know what they call it "a Cidade Maravilhosa". Would it meet my expectations? No doubt it would.

Rio is a city located in a unique setting, among a breathtaking landscape of mountains and sea, surrounded by favelas and in between, a huge lake, one of the most expensive places in the world to live.

Full of contrasts, stunning when you climb to the top of the city and watch with a bird's eye view what is hiding
the horizont.

It has many places to visit, day and night, so let's start with what we can do in the "carioca" city when the sun rise.

You wake up on a sunny day in your hotel room, and open the window, what do you see? Nothing more and nothing less than the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. Muscled Cariocas playing beach volleyball, women with tiny bikinis and sun tanned skin, coconut and cold beer
sellers... It's a show, so I said: "Let's go! there's no time to lose!"

I took an "abacaxi" juice, as they call pineapple and I was ready to start the day. We negotiated with a taxi to take us all morning to see the famous Corcovado and Sugar Loaf, through the favelas where millions of people live around the city.

We started the trip up to Sugar Loaf, one of the main tourist attractions in Brazil. The funicular was opened in 1912 and takes thousands of visitors every year. It makes two stops, and without a doubt, it's worth making the queue and pay ticket admission to go up. You can see a chain of mountain islands surrounding Rio and its beaches.
The Redeemer Christ, 30 meters high, located on the top of Corcovado Mountain, has one of the best views you could ever experience. Trying to move among the thousands of tourists is such a challenge! It's considered one of the seven wonders of the modern World, and there is no doubt of it, because it's not the sculpture itself that draws attention, but the mixture of colors and landscape seen from above.

Back to Ipanema, we passed through A Rosinha community. Impressive. It's one of the most populated favelas in Rio and consider "pacifist" until the "owners" show its violence a year ago. I have no words to describe what we experienced that day.

It's time to have lunch and the best option is sitting at "The Girl from Ipanema" to try the famous "picanha", a juicy cut of meat that is served with rice and vegetables. 
Then, there's nothing better than a walk along the edge of the beach of Copacabana, Ipanema direction, or vice versa, through a little local market, full of small stands with "Havaianas" flip flops, colorful beach dresses and breathtaking paintings of Rio.

When evening falls, there is nothing more rewarding than climbing one of the little mountains of Ipanema beach and relax enjoying the sunset, while tasting famous
chocolate fudge "churros". What a delight!

Are you planning a night full of fun and excitement? No doubt, I recommend an "escola de samba". Im not talking about dancing in front of a mirror with a teacher, but going into a place where you can enjoy watching "samba schools" that will participate in the famous Carnival, with non-stop
dancing at the Sambodromo and trying to create the best choreography. Live performance, dance, show... what else could you ask for?

Samba schools, usually represent a neighborhood or district. Its participants generally live in favelas. Personally, I went to meet Acadêmicos do Salgueiro, located in Andaraí. The academy was founded in 1953, has won 9 times at Rio Carnival Parade with its motto: "No better, no worse, just a different school."
Samba song deals with the theme and participants wear colorful costumes
I was so excited when I found out months later that Salgueiro school had won Rio Carnival Parade with its ​​song "Drum" and I had the honor of meeting the choreography live and direct.

When you walk into the room, a giant auditorium decorated with shool distinctive colors, white and red, you already feel the music. Order a caipirinha, look how well they dance and think you can not be getting out of the chair to try it. But five minutes later, rhythm fills your body and begins to imitate the movements of famous samba. Your dancings doesn't look like theirs at all, but it's so fun! After five hours of non-stop dancing on Carnival rhythm I can't feel my feet any more... It has been such a great day...