I’m on my way home after a week in São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro on yet another work trip. The first time I came her I didn’t enjoy it a great deal – thick humid air, shabby hotels and it rained a lot. This trip couldn’t have been more different and Brazil has worked its charms on me. I love it.
The highlight was a day off in Rio on Sunday when I went to Ipanema Beach in the morning and climbed Sugar Loaf Mountain in the evening. The beach is the heart of city life in Rio and is throbbing with the stereotypes you expect – bikini girls of rollerblades, muscle men jogging, thongs, oiled up brown bodies, coconut sellers, surfers, silicone and the human form in all shapes and sizes, unashamedly displayed. It has a real party atmosphere, with entrepreneurs selling everything you might need and shouting out their goods to sunbathers. Ice creams, beers, jewellery; some even carry around little stoves to bake cheese snacks whilst punters wait. It’s hot, so I got a beach parasol, but managed to slice my thumb open on a serrated edge whilst sticking it in the sand. It bled a lot and cut my visit short whilst I went to find some super glue to stick the wound together rather than have to go to hospital.
Thumb in one piece, I had a wander around Ipanema and went to the pool on top of the hotel with views around the city and up to Christ the Redeemer. A group of colleagues mentioned they were going up to Sugar Loaf Mountain to watch the sunset, so I decided to join them (my policy is to say yes to everything now). Sugar Loaf is a big gherkin shaped rock sticking up out of the sea and with views back to Rio and it’s sweeping bays. The cable car had a bit of a queue but soon we were up to the first stage of the mountain before having to board another cable car to the top. It’s a surreal moment when you find ourself looking at one of the most famous views in the world unexpectedly and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. It was clear, breezy and beautiful. As the sun went down the clouds gathered and a thunderstorm bubbled to life on the horizon. The city lit up, first with street lights and then with bolts of lightning every ten seconds or so. One of the guys I was with managed to capture an amazing photo with his iPhone which I got him to send to me. I drank a few local beers (Bohemia) and felt very lucky to do the job I do.
The Brazilian people have blown me away with their warmth, humour and beauty. They are straight forward and love to have a good time – they must smile more on average than any other nation I’ve been to.
I went out to a churrascuria (traditional Brazilian all-you-can-eat BBQ restaurant where meat is sliced off the skewer and onto your plate) last night and had about ten different types of meat including chicken hearts and probably the nicest steak I’ve ever eaten, all washed down with caipirinhas. They are dangerously strong and I soon felt a bit tipsy, but very content. On the way back to the hotel I bumped into some of the girls that had organised the exhibition. They asked me if I wanted to go with them to Lapa to go samba dancing. In typical English reservedness I said no, but as soon as their taxi had driven off I felt a pang of regret. A very poor breach of my yes policy. How often does one samba in Rio? I’ll bring your mother next time and we can do it together.
What a great city. I’ve decided I have to learn Portuguese.