The beaches, Santa Teresa, and Maracana
Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog› entry 4 of 5 › view all entries
September 23rd, 2007 – by: trhoades
What was a nice surprise was Flamengo beach, facing the harbor rather than the ocean. It's shape is a half moon, reminding me vaguely of San Sebastian in Spain. The beach also has Parque Flamengo between it and the road. So there are tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer pitches, and all sorts of activities surrounding the beach.
The next place I saw was Sugarloaf. It's named as such because it looks literally like a loaf of bread coming out of the water. I took a gondola ride up the mountain and enjoyed the 360 degree views from the top. Even more than on Corcovado, Sugerloaf gives you a full picture of how Rio is laid out. Far in the distance you can see the Redeemer looking straight at you, with much of the city in between.
I walked toward the city center from Sugarloaf happening on an outdoor market in Gloria. Markets usually give you a good idea of how real people shop, and I was pleased to find a very mixed crowd buying fresh meats and produce. Rio is a more integrated city than I thought it would be. I think I had an idea of it being a place of haves and have nots, which it is. But I didn't expect to see people from all walks of life mingling in the same places in the city. So it was a nice surprise.
The market made me work up quite an appetite, so I had lunch at a local restaurant in Gloria. The waitress spoke no English and didn't understand my feeble attempts to turn Spanish into Portuguese. But she was the most helpful person I met in the restaurant.
From there I walked up the hill into the old neighborhood called Santa Teresa. This part of town has become quite a tourist attraction and several artists and boutiques have moved in. It also has a cable car (Bund) similar to those in San Francisco. It occurred to me that I have yet ridden a cable car in San Francisco, but I found myself needing it in Santa Teresa. This neighborhood was where my Lonely Planet guidebook and I parted ways. The book went out of its way to warn me about not going there alone, as thieves would literally appear out of nowhere to rob me.
The reason I was in a hurry was that I had an extremely important appointment to get to. This, of course, was a soccer game at the world famous Maracana stadium.
The match on tap for that evening was Botafogo vs. Fluminense, two rival teams from Rio. Derbies can get crazy almost anywhere in the world, but I was particularly cautious about this one in Rio. In my Spanish/Portuguese hybrid language (that I was beginning to get good at) I asked a few locals what tickets to buy. They told me "arribancada" which I think loosely translates to "up above". Again, this was completely the opposite instructions of Lonely Planet but I took the locals' advice.
At my seats, I found a mixed, family crowd of supporters from both teams. With Botafogo fans outnumbering Fluminense, I felt safe putting on my 'Fogo jersey. I even learned their team song, whose lyrics they flashed on the scoreboard. I found the uniforms far more attractive than Fluminense's so I officially named myself a Botafogo fan. The team promptly rewarded me by losing 2 - nil. Thanks 'Fogo. The Fluminense fans taunted us with the Botafogo song, sung to different (and I assume obscene) lyrics. If anyone has the words to that one, please pass them along.
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