Rocking in Rio de Janeiro

When we woke up this morning the Arcadia was just about to dock in the port of Rio de Janeiro, bustling vibrant city and former capital of Brazil.  We had stayed here once before, for three days, in 2001 so we were excited to be back.  With anticipation we went out onto the balcony to see if we could see any familiar sights, but a misty day and low cloud surrounding Corcovado peak prevented any glimpse of the famous Cristo Redentor, or statue of Christ the Redeemer.

This morning we were booked on a tour of the city and of the famous beaches of Rio.  After breakfast we disembarked the Arcadia and stood dockside, awaiting our tour guide and bus.  While the sky was overcast it was still very warm.  We boarded the bus and set off through the city towards the first of our beach stops.

Off on its own surrounded by mountains, São Conrado Beach offers some fine scenery and a (relative) sense of isolation. Its other main claim to fame is as a landing strip for all the hang gliders who leap from nearby peaks.

We alighted from the bus and made a beeline for a nearby kiosk selling fresh coconuts, from which they removed the tops and gave us a straw with which to drink the cool, refreshing coconut milk inside.  We wandered along the beach front, watching the hang gliders and enjoying the sea breeze in our faces.

Back on the bus we wended our way through the morning traffic, and continued up the picturesque coastline until we came to the world-famous beaches of Leblon and Ipanema, each fronted by expensive hotels, restaurants and designer shops.  Even if you’ve never been to Ipanema Beach you are bound to know that song made famous by the Brazilian singer/songwriter João Gilberto:

Young and fair and tall and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes
Goes “aah”.

Ipanema beach is where all the beautiful people hang out simply to be seen.  Girls with perfect tans and booty-licious figures shown off in ‘dental floss’ thong bikinis played beach volleyball with muscular youths in bandannas; there was even an outdoor gym with some guys flexing their pecs and doing some impromptu workouts.  Colourful kiosks along the beach sold soft drinks, beers and fruit juices.  Kicking off my flip-flops I walked barefoot in the powder soft white sand before getting back on the bus for our next stop, the famous Copacabana beach, where our hotel was based last time we were here.

The sun was tentatively trying to come out by now, so we enjoyed its warmth on our backs and we strolled along the beach front.  In the near distance we could see the well-known bulk of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) rising up, the cable car carrying its load of visitors to the top.  Our next stop was to this famous Rio landmark, and when we got there the queues were massive.  As we’d already been up to the top, in 2001, we decided against doing it this time.  Instead, we looked for an ATM, withdrew some Brazilian reaïs, and went in search of a cold Brahma or Antarctica beer.  🙂

Back on the bus our route took us once again into the city, where we passed the Botafoga football stadium as well as the big spectator stands from which the samba and carnivals are viewed in the street.

Arriving back at the Arcadia, we enjoyed some lunch out on deck.  The cloud was still low so there was still no sign of Christ the Redeemer.  We decided to go ashore again to do some exploring on our own (and enjoy a caipirinha or two, ha ha) but, before doing so, I changed into my Sunderland shirt.  Not only were we playing at home, but I like to fly the flag when overseas and particularly in Brazil where football isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life.

Walking around the streets we browsed the shops (still no interesting shoe shops!) then eventually found a bar, hidden away in a side street.  There were a few plastic tables and chairs on the pavement and the ubiquitous loud samba music emanating from huge speakers inside the bar.  We each ordered a caipirinha and sat down at one of the tables outside.

When the drinks came they contained generous measures of cachaça and were cold, thirst-quenching and delicious as ever.  I can never stop at just one caipirinha (!!) and was ready for another straight away.  Trevor said we’d go and find another bar, so we took a walk around until we saw a little market square with a few stalls and another lively bar.  In we went for another drink.  🙂

There was a stall nearby selling very colourful wigs and hairpieces, so I decided to buy one to wear as part of my ‘carnival’ costume at tonight’s deck party.  It was very bright consisting of hair in green, yellow and red with some gold threads woven in, cut in a sort of ‘Tina Turner’ style.  It was only a fiver so I bought it.  Trevor took a photo of me in my wig and Sunderland shirt with a massive caipirinha in my hand.  🙂

After one more caipirinha we went back to the ship as time was getting on.  We went up and had our dinner, and I still had my wig on as it saved having to wash and style my hair, which always takes ages.  The wig certainly drew a lot of comments in the dining room, which was fairly empty as quite a few people were still ashore as the Arcadia was not due to leave port until about 11.00pm tonight.

As a result of this, there was no cabaret on in the Palladium show lounge tonight.  We therefore went along to the Rising Sun pub for a couple of drinks before going back to our cabin, where I put on my colourful sarong and feathered earrings to accompany my freaky wig before making our way up to the Aquarius pool, which was already packed with revellers for the Carnival deck party.

The party was great; I always love the infectious beat of samba and bossa nova so I worked up a good thirst strutting my stuff, shaking my booty and shimmying my hips.  Quite a few people commented on my ‘outfit’ and asked to have their photos taken with me.  After all the caipirinhas and proseccos I was feeling no pain at all.  🙂

The rain that had been threatening all day with the low cloud over Rio suddenly left the heavens in an almighty downpour which had everyone on deck running for cover under the canopies.  Some people, however, carried on dancing until they were soaked through; at which point they threw themselves into the pool, fully clothed!  Well, they couldn’t have got any wetter anyway.

As the Arcadia slipped her moorings and gave a mighty blast of her foghorn, the clouds parted for the first time that day, and there he was –  the illuminated Christ the Redeemer gazing placidly down at us from his plinth atop Corcovado peak.  It was almost as if he was blessing Arcadia as she set to sea once more.  A fitting end to a great day.

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