duminică, 26 august 2012

Ready for Rio - part 2

It took some time, but what the hell, the important thing is that I'm back and ready to continue the story about Rio :)
Now a little bit of history and facts to point some interesting things out, the translation of the name, Rio de Janeiro, means River of January, simply because the first discovery of the place made by the Europeans was on 1st January 1502, being under Portuguese domination  for more than 50 years, with the current nickname of Cidade Maravilhosa = the marvelous city. Besides that the spectacular city is the home of a world heritage site named "Rio de Janeiro. Carioca landscapes between the mountain and the sea" given by UNESCO on 1st Jul this year and owns the world's largest football stadium Maracana StadiumAnd of course let us not forget the most representative place to visit and the most popular picture online when typing Rio, Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado hill. But before talking about Jesus, I'm just gonna tell you that there aren't so many things to visit in Rio like maybe in other capitals or crazy touristic cities in the world, and if you've been to the top of one hill, you've been to all. What we saw in Rio was first of all Copacabana, which I imagined to be a damn expensive place where we would only be having a night walk or a tan, but guess what, it's not like that. It's a normal seaside neighborhood with lots of hotels and restaurants and small shops and big shops and street food and Mc Donalds and local residences and palm trees and a long highway and 2 hills at each end and naked people (meaning in bathing suits :P ) jogging and biking and walking their dogs looking extremely HOT :))) So we easily and on the spot booked 2 beds at El Misti hostel and spend our vacation in the most fancy area in Rio ;)

At one side of the long beach we discovered Leme hill, as I said seen one seen them all, so we went on the top where an old but well kept Brazilian fortress used to protect the city from invaders and shoot the hell our of them with huge tanks :D The view was amazing, the fortress not that much of a fuss :P
Another spot on the list was (as in every tropical city) the Botanical Garden, located somewhere at the bottom of a high hill, with long walk ways in the humid jungle, with foggy views, with the entire cactus family laying around showing off in front of the visitors, with cute monkeys in the trees eating the wild fruits and staring at the people passing by. The place is perfect for an afternoon walk and it had a small entry fee, as in you don't need to be rich to see the botanical yard of the city :))

And since we talked about the bottom of the hill, the top was the most beautiful place in Rio de Janeiro. And of course we are talking now about Corcovado Hill, it's mind-blowing views and the huge statue that watches over the city since more than 60 years :) To reach up there, we had to take a small cute red train from the bottom of the hill, where the line was 1,5 hours long, the ride costing 20 euros. Totally worth it! A few facts about Christ the Redeemer statue, it is considered the 7th wonder of the world (woooww), being 39,6 meters tall with a 9,5 meters pedestal, weight of about 635 tones, considered Rio's icon monument and a symbol of Brazilian Christianity. Personal impressions regardless of the facts? Considering that is was my biggest dream since little, the fact that I stood under that monument was an inspiration that dreams indeed do come true and should not be overlooked because of different situations that make life sometimes damn hard to live. I stared at the statue for about half an hour, and another 20 minutes at the views over the city, and after that I was ready to go home and nothing else mattered :X
After the soul healing half day trip, the perfect place to relax and put your thoughts back together was an evening walk on Flamengo beach, a combination of parks with lots of sporty people, and a long beautiful beach, where the chilly ocean and breeze ended up a perfect day.
And telling you the story as me and my beloved friend lived, I wish you dear reader and wild traveler a lovely vacation, lots of inspiration and don't forget...dreams always come true :)

joi, 2 august 2012

Ready for Rio - part 1

For those who maybe don't know, the craziest part when you work for an airline are the air prices, which end up with a discount of even 90% for staff, with the condition that you have to pay full airport taxes. Well, this was not our case, cause our ticket was free, so we only payed about 50 euro Brazilian airport taxes. Now the even craziest part in this is that you are on a standby, and the oldest you are in the company the highest priority you have, so if there are any seats available in the flight you get in, if the flight is fully booked, you wait in line for the next one :) This was our case cause the flight to our destination was booked and we were waiting at the staff check-in counter along with other few employees, with our names listed on a big board and a yellow light showing that we were on standby. We stared at that board for about 10 minutes continuously, the normal check-in for the flight was already closed and we were still yellow. Again when the board refreshed, my friend was green, confirmed for the flight. That is when my breath stopped and I only heard "Oh my God, I hope you get confirmed as well". The next page of the board had my name on it, with a green light next to it. I got my seat confirmed...destination...Rio de Janeiro.
Did I tell you that I wanted to see this place since I was little, as in it was my biggest dream to see the statue of Christ on the top of the hill? I didn't? Well, now you know :)
We had a long flight, about 14 hours, no stops, with the longest day in my life, cause the time difference between UAE and Brazil is about 7 hours; therefore we started our journey at about 07.00 local time in Dubai and we reached Rio at about 14.00 local time Brazil.
Weather in Rio: aprox. 27 degrees, season: winter, atmosphere: perfect for us to visit :))
Yes, in Brazil it was winter, at least this part of the country, but the weather was just great, a little bit of sun, a little bit of clouds, thank god no rain in this vacation, the ocean really cold, and anyhow waves were to huge to take a bath, but you can surely do other stuff than just laying at the beach all day. We ended up in Copacabana homeless, we did not book any room, just went from a hostel to another until we found 2 beds available, and that happened quite fast I must say, cause by evening we were ready to explore the surroundings.
Copacabana is a long beautiful beach and neighborhood, one of the safe areas in Rio, full of tourists, luxury apartments, budget accommodation, cheap and expensive shops and restaurant, perfect for any traveler. So yeah, we booked 2 beds in El Misti hostel and started our vacation.
The first impression: happy people. So many young and old aged people walking, jogging, biking, playing volleyball on the beach and boulevard in Copacabana. Second impression: expensive. Comparing to other destinations and even with Dubai, the prices in Rio are damn high for the conditions offered. The city is not really developed, even though some areas are getting improved, many people are poor, favellas in every neighborhood. Overall impression: beautiful. An amazing combination of Atlantic ocean with high hills which I like to call mountains :))

A few facts about the city in general: almost all of the buildings everywhere in the city are protected by tall metal fences, even in the touristic areas, all the buildings were jailed :D; people are walking their cute little (sometimes huge) dogs everywhere, we saw more than 20 breeds of dogs in just 5 days; people actually use public phone, which I thought were completely replaced nowadays by mobiles phone, but not in Rio; there are quite a few poor people coming from favelas (click on the word to understand the meaning if needed :) in the touristic side of the city, whom are quite friendly and not at all dangerous as everyone warned before getting there; if you stick to day walks (even night walk but in large group) and populated areas in the city you might leave Rio alive :)), we did not face any dangerous people or places, we in fact had a great vacation with no incidents.
Bottom line is that we enjoyed our time there a lot, and about the places we've visited in Rio, well, stay tuned, soon to be told, the story of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Hill...