17 hour later, we landed in Rio on a Sunday to cloudy weather. Our first order of business was to get to our bed and breakfast on Copacabana Beach using a premium taxi for 130 Reais (1 USD = 3.85 Reais). After arriving we were instantly rewarded with this awesome view of the whole beach.
Our host Marta, who is also the owner of the bed and breakfast, immediately gave us hugs and sat us down wanting to know what our plans were here in Rio. She suggested that we go to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) right away as the weather is still pretty good, and next thing you know we hopped in an Uber Black, and less than 20 minutes later we were there. There were no lines whatsoever.
The process is to take two cable cars, first to Urca Mountain and then up to the summit at Sugarloaf. The views were just magnificent, where you can see on one side Botafogo, Urca and Copacabana, and the other you can see north towards Santos Dumont Airport and Niterói.
After this we decided to go towards Copacabana again, but asking the Uber to stop in the middle of Copacabana so we may walk back. It was Sunday, so half of the roads were open to pedestrian traffic. Families and tourists alike were out rollerblading, riding their bikes, running or just walking. It was quite a nice walk. At one point I think we forgot about this “safety issue” that we’ve been worried about, and kept walking all the way through Ipanema and to the end of Leblon Beach, with the Morro Dois Irmãos right in front of us.
By this time it was getting close to dinnertime and we were hungry, as we haven’t had a thing to eat since arriving Rio. We instantly headed to BB Lanches juice bar in Leblon for some fruit juices and pastéis (pastries). Since fruits are very abundant in Brazil, there were quite a few choices, and we were overwhelmed. We ended up with passion fruit and watermelon juices and beef pastries, and we were so stuffed that we couldn’t eat anymore.
After getting some rest back at the B&B, we headed to the famous Sambódromo to see the (free!) technical rehearsals (ensaios técnicos) for the upcoming Carnaval. This was something that was high on my list, but (again) I was quite worried about safety as the area around it wasn’t the most desirable; however, Marta paired us with another guest who was from Peru, which made things so much better. We took an Uber there and the Uber driver told us he would drop us on a different side of the Sambódromo as it was safer… and next thing you know we were in! It was already 9pm and the first of three rehearsals was already completed, so we waited almost an hour before the Grande Rio samba school began their rehearsals. Here is the complete video, with the chorus piece which I had memorized so I could join in on the fun.
PISA FORTE GRANDE RIO, É PURA EMOÇÃO
SANTOS CONQUISTOU MEU CORAÇÃO
DESEMBARQUEI NO PORTO DA FELICIDADE
QUANTA BELEZA PRA CURTIR NESSA CIDADE
We knew the main event that evening was Portela, but we also knew it would be difficult to leave after things end, as there was a huge supporter contingent there that evening, so we left. It was an awesome evening, and with great company. We survived our first day in Rio!