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Brazil, February 2003

February 4, 2006

Half-term, so only one week available. It seemed a long way to go for one week, as our colleagues kept telling us, but what the hell?
It was a long flight, with a brief stop at Sao Paulo for commuters.
Did you know that Rio de Janiero is mis-named? Its bay was discovered in January and it was assumed a river flowed into the bay. Hence the unimaginative name, Wrong. There is no river!
It was the week before Carnival. Nothing we could do about that and we probably wouldn’t have been able to book such a nice hotel as Le Meridian if it had been. Despite warnings about pickpockets etc, we walked the beach, the seafront (Iponema and Leblon sections) and some of the adjoining shopping streets and had no problems. We joined in behind one of the many marching drum bands, practising on the seafront and we picked up some real bargains in the shops.
On the way out of the hotel, one of the staff saw my video camera and suggested I might carry it in a bag so that it wasn’t so conspicuous. ‘How thoughtful’, I thought. Until he offered me a bag blatantly advertising the super-expensive jewellery store in the hotel!
The traffic can be a nightmare. Until recently the dual carriageways on and near the sea front were made one-way on both sides for the duration of the rush hour (opposite directions, of course, morning and evening) and on Sundays, morning and afternoon, the whole seafront becomes a pedestrian precinct.
We joined a coach trip to Sugar Loaf mountain. Huge cable cars and worth going, even though it was cold and misty at the top. The views from the half-way stop were really good. There was an American widow on the tour (picture all your stereotypes of rich Texan widows) who expected to find a statue of Christ at the top!
On our third and last full day in Rio we did see that statue on Corquovada close-up. A private hire car took us on a scenic route there and via the edge of an awful Favela on the way back.
This must be one of the most popular tourist shots in the world, as you can see.
Then we flew up the coast to Salvador to relax for the remaining three days, sunbathe, swim, cycle, eat and drink in all-inclusive luxury at ‘Breezes’ in Costa de Souipe. Actually we didn’t do as much swimming as we hoped as the pool was a bit noisy for us and the sea was very rough. While there I was introduced to the famous local drink, the caipirinha. Not quite toxic but don’t drink too many!!
While we were there a hand grenade was lobbed at some estabishment on Ipenema seafront. Returning via Rio airport, security seemed high though, on closer inspection of the patrolling armed soldiers, we wouldn’t have bet money on them winning in any serious disturbance.
And so, back home and to work.

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