Hello Rio de Janeiro 2009
This is how we get to Rio
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We arrived at Rio de Janeiro International Airport after a four-hour flight from Buenos Aires. The flight was on time and our bags were all there. A $45 cab ride took us to our hotel, the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort. The reason I booked this hotel was because it has its own private beach. There are hundreds of other hotels in Rio that offer ocean views but you would have to cross a wide avenue to get to the beach. Since this is Carnival season, the hotel has various carnival displays including statues with women with elaborate costume.
The Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort
Sheraton Rio Hotel lobby
The hotel is wedged between the Atlantic Ocean on one side and soaring granite mountains on the other side. Every room in the hotel has views of the ocean and mountains. 
View from our hotel room
View from our hotel room
View from our hotel room
View from our hotel room
This Sheraton resembles an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. The smooth sandy beach and the clean blue water are beautiful and since it's private, the beach area is never crowded.
Sheraton Rio beach area
Sand and water
Thursday, February 26, 2009

I had bought a full-day tour of Rio from the US and the tour bus picked us up early and drove us to various famous places in the City. We spent a lot of time at two of the must-see places: Cristo or Christ the Redeemer Statue on Corcovado Mountain and the Sugar Loaf Mountain.
       Stock picture of Cristo and Sugar Loaf
Tram to Corcovado Mountain
To reach Christ Statue, we took a tram that traversed on a steep grade and through a tropical rain forest.
                                      View from the tram
The back side of Cristo or Christ the Redeemer Statue
We were in awe by the statue of "Cristo" or Christ. His face is serene, arms outstretched as if to welcome and bless everyone.
To get this shot, I had to lay down on the floor
Copacabana sidewalk. Atlantica Avenue separates the hotel from the beach
Lee did the same for me
The French gave New York City Statue of Liberty and scuplted Cristo for Rio. On top of Corcovado Mountain, under the feet of Cristo and looking down at the City, Rio de Janeiro is breathtaking.
View from Corcovado Mountain
One last look at Cristo as the tram heading back down
Time for lunch. Our group stopped at Mio, an Italian Restaurant near Copacabana for lunch. We had an excellent meal of salad, steamed fish, and wine.
We then stopped at the Sao Sebastiao Metropolitan Cathedral. This cone-shape concrete structure can accommodate 20,000 worshippers at a time.
Metropolitan Cathedral
Soaring stained glasses inside
Our tour bus then took us to Pao de Acucar or Sugar Loaf. This granite mountain rises out of the water and resembles a mound of sugar. To get to the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain, you would need to take a cable car from the base station to the intermediate mountain station. From there, you would transfer to another cable car to reach the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Picture of Sugar Loaf
Cable car ride to Sugar Loaf Mountain
Throughout the tour, we had befriended a nice couple from London, Mike and Mavie Webster, who are touring South America. We agreed to stay in touch.
Lee and Mavie riding to the top of Sugar Loaf
On the top of Sugar Loaf are restaurants, souvenir shops, and areas for people to view the City below. You can walk around and have a 360-degree look at Rio.
View from Sugar Loaf. Crescent beach near top left corner is Copacabana
Lee on top of Sugar Loaf
I strongly recommend this full-day tour of Rio. I bought the trip in the US and it was $115 per person which includes entrance fees, tram and cable car tickets; and a nice lunch.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Today is our relaxed day. We had a breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant then headed to the beach right outside. The buffet has all kinds of different tropical fruits including kiwi, papaya and guava.
Breakfast at the Sheraton
  Lee at the seawall
At the pool area
The massage area
The hotel beach is very private
 I befriended a surfing couple
I walked to the other beach and watched local kids diving off the cliff
Lee stayed at the beach and I went to Copacabana to pick up our Carnival Champion Parade tickets Saturday night.

The official end of the 2009 Rio Carnival Season is Saturday night and samba schools that had won different categories during the Carnival get to parade in the Champion Parade. Tickets are very expensive. They range from $200 per person in the grandstand to $800 for a VIP box seat. But hey, how many chances you get to see the real Carnival?
The hotel provides guest free shuttle to Ipanema and Copacabana so I took one to Copacabana.
Sand sculpture in Copacabana
                           Copacabana beach packed with people as far as you can see
At night we went to a restaurant then shopped for souvenirs at a night market in Copacabana. The market, stretching several city blocks, opens from 7 PM to midnight every night except Sundays. Here you find all kinds of different trinkets, clothing items, and art works
Night shopping.
That's it for now. I look forward to the Carnival Champion Parade tomorrow night and hope to bring you a little flavor of this exotic event in this South American city when I post my next blog.
Love from Brazil

(Written March 2, 2009)

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