So we arrived in the fab, and very hot (30oC), city of Rio on Tuesday afternoon and checked into Ipanema Beach House which had been recommended to us (more expensive 42 reais/15 pounds). It´s a chilled, friendly hostel with a nice pool and a great location. The dorms have triple bunk beds and thankfully we didn´t get the top which is very high up and nearly touches the ceiling. For the rest of the day we checked out the area, Ipanema is a wealthier, classier part of Rio with lots of boutique shops (window shopping is torture!), nice cafes, parks and a gorgeous beach. There are different sections on the beach for beautful people (lots of bums on show), gay people, families so it´s great to walk along the prom and people watch. There are also lots of botecos (small, open-air bars) on the beach serving caipirinha´s, cachaca & chope (draft beer). It´s also great watching very fit guys playing futevolei - beach volleyball played with the feet! When we got back to the hostel bumped into our irish friend Jude who we met at Iguazu which was a lovely surprise so caught up with her over a few beers.
On Wednesday we walked round Lagoa Rodrigo de Freita, a very picturesque lake, to the Botanical Gardens which has a lots of waterfalls, a cactus area, amazon plants, really cute monkeys and a pond filled with turtles. We had a picnic (ham and cheese rolls from our free brekkie) and then walked for another hour or so to the famous 4.5km long Copacabana beach. The name Copacabana comes from a small Bolivian village on Lake Titicaca which we will be visiting in about 3 wks. The beach isn´t as nice as neighbouring Ipanema beach, it has a much seedier feel to it with all the high rise hotels (including the very posh, neoclassical Copacabana Hotel) and favela kids trying to steal off tourists, but it was really good to see it.
Yesterday it was a bit overcast so we got a local bus and metro into the centre to Cinelandia. Walking out of the metro station bought us to a vast public square (Praca Floriano), Rio´s political marketplace with the grand, old Camara (Town Hall) in one corner. The square is surrounded by three of the city´s most beautiful buildings, Biblioteca Nacional (National Library), Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (Fine Arts Museum), Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) built in the style of the Paris Opera. We then walked to the enormous cone shaped Catedral Metropolitana which looks ugly from the outside but has four amazing stained glass windows which stretch 60m to the ceiling. From there we rushed back to the hostel in time for the 2pm Favela tour were we visited Rocinha Favela. We got taken up to the top of the mountain on motorbikes, great fun if you hod on tight, then made our way down through the narrow streets of the favela. The houses at the top of the favela are nicer, there´s not as much rubbish and the alleyways are wider. Basically if you can find land you can build on it and people sell their roofs to build houses on top. There are lots of little shops, everyone gets free electricity (you should see the cables hanging down) and people get fre water from the nearby forest. Kids go to school for half a day and the money from the tour goes to a nursery to hel parents that work. It was definitely an eye opener and I learnt a lot about the community and the day to day life of it´s residents but I did hate being on a tour with a bunch of tourists (or gingos as they call us!). It hit home how dangerous the favela´s can be when we got to the bottom and passed a kid of about 16 wearing a Man United football shirt, carrying a massive gun! A different world! We finished the day off with a caipirinha on the beach and then went for a fab meal at Carretao, all you can eat meat, salad, sushi, veggies - cheap and delicious (10 pound each)!
Today we´re seeing the rest of the sights so I´ll let you know how that goes, bye for now xxxxx