- Category: Destinations
- Author: LaCure Villas
Moving to the Marvellous Beats of Rio
Nestled on the south shore of stunning Guanabara Bay, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is the sexiest city in the world. The beauty starts with its lovely form, poised among majestic mountains, lush rain forests, sugar-sand beaches and the azure sea. The city is overlooked by Sugarloaf mountain and the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The beauty and a passion for life are found within Rio residents, known as cariocas, who move through the streets to the beats of samba, bossa nova and the roars of crowds in the massive Marcana Stadium, the preeminent shrine in a soccer-mad country. And they are found in the famous beaches with bodies beautiful that do the legacy of “The Girl from Ipanema” proud.
Known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, or “Marvellous City,” Rio is one of the most-visited urban centres in the southern hemisphere, attracting 2.82 million tourists a year, catered to by increasingly opulent hotel resorts and luxury Brazil villas. Many visitors are drawn by the samba beat, spectacular costumes and undulating dancers of Carnival. The best place to witness the massive parade of samba schools is in Sambadromo. Tens of thousands of revellers witness the country’s top Samba schools battle it out for supremacy in Carnival time.
The Sambodromo was designed by world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, in 1984, and is currently being reconstructed, so that it will hold up to 90,000 people, starting next year. It will also host the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, marking the first time a South American city has held the Games.
Street Carnival Bands, called Blocos de Ruahave, have become a colorful part of Carnival. Hundreds of Blocos are formed by small or large groups of fun-seekers. Before the show, they gather in a square and then parade in sections of the city, often near the beach. Some Blocos never leave one street and have a designated place, such as a bar, to attract viewers. Block parades start in January and often last until the Sunday after Carnival.
To understand Rio you must immerse yourself in its dazzling variety of music rhythms, influenced by African, European and indigenous cultures. Outside Carnival time, Casas de Sambas (Houses of Samba) offer a heady mix of live music styles, including choro, pagode, samba commum, partido alto and samba cancao. Also popular in Rio nightclubs is bossa nova, derived from the samba, choro and carioca funk.
Rio is known for its beaches, with more than 80 kilometres of sandy glory, including famous names such as Ipanema and Copacabana. Different stretches of beach appeal to different tastes and sensibilities. There are ones dedicated to families, gays, hard bodies, sport lovers (volleyball, soccer, frescobal), hippies/artists/leftists, retirees and so on. Lifestyle doesn’t matter, so long as you have style and are full of life. On the fisherman’s community beach you can buy the fresh catch of day. Elsewhere you can try you luck surfing, sailing and doing other water sports.
As the former capital of Brazil and now its second largest city, Rio boasts a remarkable architectural heritage and some of the nation’s finest museums and world-class restaurants. Its Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, for example, houses more than 18,000 original paintings and sculptures, some of which date back to works brought over from Portugal by Dom Joao VI in 1808. Or the Museu Historico Nacional, found in the colonial arsenal, dating back to 1764, contains more than 250,000 relics relating to the history of Brazil, ranging from gilded imperial coaches and the throne of Dom Pedro II to huge paintings documenting the horrific combat in the war with Paraguay.
If staying inside a museum is too much, you can instead hang and people watch at an open-air café, hike through Tijuca’s rainforests, greet the sun in a dance hall, learn to cook local cuisine by one of the city’s best chefs . . . The number of ways that Rio can seduce you is endless.