Friday, June 11, 2010

BackTrackin', Brazil Edition - Samba, Soccer & Sun

The Cidade Marvilhosa (the Marvelous City) is a dream on a sunny, warm day. If New York City had world class beaches two blocks from the subway like this, I don't know what I would do with myself.

After a few days of rain and spending most of my time indoors, I was ready for Rio in all its natural beauty. Rio is a very large and spread out city, so that day I enlisted the help of a guide, Madson, to get me around. Plus, I was a little starved for conversation, so it was nice to be able to talk to someone about everyday life as a Carioca (a Rio resident).

Actually one of my favorite stories from Madson was about the Brazilian version of Election Day. Apparently, everyone gets the day off, and then goes to meet their friends and family to hang out after they vote. Plus to get certain government services, you've got to prove that you voted that year! Honestly, I kinda like that in an odd way. So many people in the US don't vote and take it for granted. We didn't get into it so much, but I wonder what Brazilians think of their required voting system.

Anyway....after many winding roads, a quick shuttle bus ride and an elevator, I finally made it to Rio's most recognizable landmark: Corcovado or Christ the Redeemer.

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I'm squinting, but I made it!

There were definitely some great views from Corcovado. It provided a great vantage point for seeing much of Rio, including Sugar Loaf Mountain (see below to your left).

After Corcovado I went off to see the Sambadromo (Sambadrome). Brazilian Samba isn't necessarily what you see on Dancing with the Stars. It's the music and dance form that is the heart and soul of Brazilian carnival that takes over Rio and Salvador to the north (and other cities) each February. The volunteer groups of musicians, dancers and parading singers called Samba Schools used to parade through the streets, but the costumes and groups got so big that they built a staging ground for them to parade, the Sambadrome. Each Samba School gets an hour to parade to strut their stuff for judges who crown the best Samba School each year.

Here I am practicing my samba skills in the Sambadrome. The security guards appreciated my feeble attempt and gave me some applause. Obrigada (thank you!)

Off to the side of the Sambradrome, there was a small museum and gift shop. The picture above is actually a picture of a picture of one of the porta-bandeira (one of the lead women in the front portion of a samba school's procession) of the Beija Flor samba school that won a few years ago. As I am sure you can imagine this is a pretty big honor. Plus, in addition to the big schools that parade through the Sambadrome, there are small, local samba schools that play music, sing and dance through the streets of Rio. This was just a taste of Rio's samba culture, and I wished I had time to experience more. I was so disappointed that I didn't get to see a samba school rehearsal, many of which are open to the public and are essentially Saturday night practices and parties rolled into one. I don't want to go there. I'll tell you why I didn't go in another post.

One of my final stops that day with Madson was to Maracana Stadium, which is the main soccer stadium in Rio that hosts international and local games and will serve as the main stadium for the 2016 Summer Olympics. O jogo bonito (the beautiful game) is a national obsession just in case you don't know. Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka have all played here. It's like a living Brazilian soccer shrine.

Pele's feet, Pele's feet!!

Here I am at field level.

One of my favorite parts of the Maracana visit was watching what this guy here could do with a soccer ball.

He's bouncing it off of his shoulder. Nice...

I even had a chance to see a real live Brazilian professional game a few days later. This was barely a playoff game and had the same energy as probably the Superbowl here in the U.S. I have to admit that I don't think we here in the US are superfans like the rest of the world. People were going wild and screaming at least an hour BEFORE the game.

Here I am before a game between Flamengo (from Rio) and Atletico Miniero (from the Minas Gerias province)

This picture doesn't show how HUGE all of the flags and banners are. Some banners covered large chunks of the crowd. Amazing!

This guy is prime example of an excited Carioca Flamengo fan.

The local Flamengo team got beat (and badly) by the visitors from Minas Gerais by a score of 3-0. It was so bad that people started leaving well before the end of the game. I kinda felt bad for the hometown crowd. Sports make me emotional, so I was glad to not feel disappointed. :)

Oh yeah, by the way, Rio has great beaches. DDDDUUUUUHHHHH!
Yeah, Ipanema Beach is gorgeous for lack of a better word.

You can get pretty much anything on the beach from massages, manicures and an entire lunch. You want it; you got it!
Many of the colored beach umbrellas are vendors. Every carioca has their favorite.

Here I am at a beach whose name I don't remember. Oh well. Less people here.

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to really enjoy the beach. WHAT?!! Yeah. I know epic fail on my part. It was my last day in Rio, I was getting picked up to go to the football match super early, and I just wasn't in the mood to spend time shopping for a skimpy Brazilian bathing suit. That sounds downright awful, doesn't it? I was just glad to take in the general beach splendor, people watch and to just be in awe. One day I'll return.

If anyone's been to Rio, what was your favorite part of your visit? Did you get to take in any futbol or samba?

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