Today was our last full day in Rio before heading back to São Paulo for the last week of our holiday. We cannot believe where the time has gone, 3 weeks we have been here now but it feels like so much longer.
This morning, Ben and Jen met us at our hotel which is about ten mins walk from theirs, as we were going to do a stadium tour. As I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, I shall pass you over to Sam who knows tons and will make this blog a whole lot more interesting to read!
Hello again! So, We were visiting the fabled Maracana stadium this morning. I think Donna must have misheard me and thought I offered a trip to do the Macarena, because she agreed very keenly for some reason!
The Maracana is iconic... Biggest football attendance ever, about 199,500 cramming in for the last game of the 1950 World Cup, where Brazil went and lost the plot and lost embarrassingly to Uruguay. Biggest attendance at a stadium event, well, ever, when a quarter of a million people squeezed in for a Kiss concert. Post-renovation, it hosted the 2014 World Cup final, missing Brazil of course after they went and lost the plot in the semi-final and lost embarrassingly to Germany. And next year it will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympics, plus some football matches which may or may not involve Brazil losing the plot.
(Being a bit harsh on the five-times World Champions here I know)
We embarked on a one-hour tour which took in the press boxes, VIP area (Donna: "if I could go to football like this, I'd go all the time!"), changing rooms, pitch side and dugouts, and the press conference room. There was also a exhibition area with Pele's footprint and a chair sat on by the Queen, amongst other things. The stadium looked glorious in the sunshine, although its new single-tier bowl-like design makes it hard to imagine a 80,000 capacity of.
Right, back over to the chief narrator...
Once we had said goodbye to Ben and Jen as they were flying home in the evening, we got off the Metro at Rio's old town. Here, there was a huge mix of old and new buildings and we slowly made our way to Praca XV.
Originally called the Largo do Paco, Praca XV de Novembro is the historic heart of Rio, even if it was only named so after the declaration of the Republic on November 15th 1889. The House of the Viceroy became the Paco Imperial, and for a time the square was the centre of Brazil's political and commercial power. Today it is an eclectic mix of old and new streets and in the 1980s the palace was given a face lift which made the area popular again.
Here, we found a lovely restaurant to have lunch in, and we ordered a simple meal for two. Out came two massive sizzling steaks, a huge bowl of rice, a huge bowl of chips, mandioca and maybe some other things that I can't remember! It could have fed four people easily!
Once we had eaten, we slowly meandered over the road to the Tiradentes Palace which looked pretty impressive from the outside. We peeked inside and learnt that we could take a tour around the building and learn about its history and importance. Our guide was lovely and did her best to translate the important facts into English.
Still a working building, there were many important people bustling about, and a meeting was due to commence at 3pm in the great domed hall. Where, in amazement, Sam had spotted, through the camera lens the retired Brazilian footballer Bebeto, who had turned to politics after his footballing career.
To finish off an extremely busy day with lots of walking, we took a trip into one of biggest shopping centres about 15 minutes from our hotel.
My eureka moment and highlight of the day? No, not football or some thing political but the discovery of a Sephora shop in Brazil! Cue a huge spending spree and then the nice sales assistant told me they also had 4 branches in São Paulo....
We returned exhausted but happy to our hotel room.