Our First Day in the Cidade Maravilhosa

Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog

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When we woke up, the first thing we did was open the curtains to enjoy our view of Copacabana in the daylight. For our first day in the Rio, we were going to experience the city's marvelous views at Pao de Acucar and Corcovado and visit some other places in between. After getting ready, we headed down to the hotel's breakfast room. Brazilians don't mess around with breakfast, no matter how budget or posh the hotel is. There was a huge spread of fruits, cereals, breads, eggs, sausage and yogurt. After a hearty meal, we went down to meet our upbeat tour guide and hop on the bus.

The bus was pretty empty so we picked good seats and got comfortable as we drove to pick up more passengers from other hotels. But then we got to another location and they told us to get off and get on another bus that was almost full.
The gondola
Oh well. We met "Steven Spielberg" who was the photographer and videographer who (somewhat annoyingly) followed us with cameras the whole day. Our tour guide was really entertaining and told us historical facts about Rio as we drove along. I was officially a tourist again.

We soon arrived at the first stop, Pao de Acucar. We had to wait for our turn to ride the gondola to the first level. Rio is fantastic from above and quite different from anything else I've ever seen. There were steep green mountains with white skyscrapers in the valleys between, curved beaches, and Corcovado in the distance. We hung out for awhile there and then took the gondola up to the second level for more views. We checked out the gift shop at the top and our tour guide was excited to point out some "Baianas" to me because she knew I'd spent time in Bahia.
On the first level
It made me laugh because the Baiana figurines sold everywhere in Bahia are made of clay and handpainted with beautiful colors and they sometimes use spiral shaped wire for the hair. At that shop, they resembled Barbie dolls and had shiny dresses. It was definitely the Carmen Miranda version of Baianas.

Our next stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral. It was a huge pyramid shaped church. If I remember correctly what the guide said, they made the church so large to make you feel small in comparison to God. The inside was also impressive with four huge stained glass windows. I think the different colors of the windows had some significance.
The Cidade Maravilhosa
.. if they did, I can't remember. "Steven Speilberg" came in handy there because he was willing to lay on the ground to take some cool pictures for us.

We dropped people off before lunch and then the rest of us headed to a Churrascaria for lunch. You should always be hungry and prepared to eat when you go to a Churrascaria! At the table they had pao de queijo, these delicious little cheese balls you find everywhere in Brazil. First, we got some food at the salad and sushi bars. As we started to eat, they brought out arroz and batatas fritas (rice and fries). Then they started bringing out the meat. Our paper placemats had a picture of a cow that was numbered and labeled so you could visualize what they were bringing out each time.
If you look closely at the the tallest mountain in the center, at the the top is Christ the Redeemer!
We sat with a woman from Kazakhstan and chatted with her over lunch. She lived and worked in Angola and was in Brazil on a business trip. I eat red meat, but only occasionally so the Churrascaria was a bit overwhelming. The waiters looked at us funny if we didn't want to try everything.

After lunch it began to drizzle and we hoped it would stop as we were about to go up to Corcovado. We picked up some more passengers before heading over to the mountain. I think it was along this part of the drive that we passed by the Sambadromo and the Maracana futebol stadium where tons of fans were headed for a game. As we approached the Tijuca Forest, we forgot we were in the middle of a large city. It is really nice to see such a large piece of rainforest preserved in an urban city.
After awhile our bus had to stop because they don't allow large buses up to the stop. We had to wait for vans to take us up to the top. When we got to the Christo Redentor, it was surrounded by clouds, but still magnificent. It's definitely something you need to see in person to understand how big and amazing it looks. It was hard trying to get a good picture because the clouds kept rolling through. The statue did kind of look cool outlined in fog though. When we were done, we chatted with some girls from California who had joined our group. Their friend was getting married in Bahia to a guy from Salvador so they were making a trip of it and starting in Rio and working their way up. They asked me a bunch of questions about Salvador and cool things to do close by.

On the way back we drove through Ipanema and we stopped at the Hippie Fair.
The Metropolitan Cathedral
Our guide said we could be dropped off at the market or stay on the bus and go back to our hotels. We opted to check out the market. I love outdoor markets and I could've spent days at the Hippie Fair. It's only open on Sundays so make sure you pass through Rio on a Sunday if you're interested in going. There are a ton of cool handicrafts from all over the country and it has a little bit of everything the country is known for and more. I encouraged my mom to get a new purse. The one she had didn't go over her shoulder so I thought it was better to get something that couldn't be so easily stolen. Travelling with my mom who didn't speak the language gave me a chance to practice my minimal Portuguese. You really gett off to a much better start with bargaining if you can learn a few basic phrases. The Hippie Fair is really big so we spent a lot of time there until the stalls started to shut down.


For dinner we went to a restaurant that turned out to be a buffet... a bad recommendation from the concierge. I'm definitely not a buffet person and after our huge breakfast and lunch, the last thing we needed was a buffet! The free drink tickets the concierge gave us partly made up for it. After dinner, we went to get a phone card. The magazine stand vendor was really impressed when I said, "cartao telefonico international?" with what was presumably the right accent. In Salvador they didn't seemed too impressed with gringos' attempts to speak Portuguese. Possibly because less tourists go there. Or maybe it's because we lived in a non-touristy part of the city and before I spoke, they assumed I was from there. In Rio they seemed to be more appreciative of my attempts. I assumed many Cariocas (people from Rio) could speak English and that doesn't seem to be the case. We wandered through Copacabana a bit more until it started to rain and we went back to the hotel...
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The gondola
The gondola
On the first level
On the first level
The Cidade Maravilhosa
The Cidade Maravilhosa
If you look closely at the the tal…
If you look closely at the the ta…
The Metropolitan Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral
Wait... one more picture!
"Wait... one more picture!"
A favela on the way to Christo Red…
A favela on the way to Christo Re…
Im in there somewhere. I now know…
I'm in there somewhere. I now kno…
Welcoming you to Rio!
Welcoming you to Rio!
Rio de Janeiro Sights & Attractions review
This market is more commonly known as the Hippie Fair. It takes place on Sundays from 8am to 2pm in a big square in Ipanema. I believe the name "Hippi… read entire review