Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Day 1

                                                           Sugarloaf Mountain & Red Beach

January 19, 2012

Rio de Janeiro, the home of the famous Carnaval, the largest such celebration in the world, and the home of Sugarloaf Mountain, is a legendary city that is a must-visit if you are in Brazil.  We were not awake for the sail-in, but judging by the sail-away, it was spectacular, and worth being up for.  On the way in or out you pass all the famous landmarks:  Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado with the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and the Two Brothers Mountains, as well as a wonderful old fort.  The original name of the city was São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, named for the patron saint of a Portuguese ruler.  The city has a population of 6.25 million.

On Day 1 we had an American Express tour, which was both excellent and unusual.  The first place we went was a Samba School, Unidos da Tijuca, which had won the parade competition in 2010, and since the time of our visit has also won the 2012 competition.  The first Samba Schools were formed in the 1920s; the one we visited was founded in 1931.  The schools usually have two locations:  a samba hall which functions as a dance club for people of all ages, and the production unit, where the floats and costumes are produced.  We visited Tijuca’s production unit 33 days before the official competition and saw the partially constructed floats and costumes.  Since the competition has passed, it should be okay to post the photos we took.  For our special tour we were allowed to go into areas of the building where the public is generally not allowed.  We counted seven floats under construction.  Great attention was paid to detail, including covering boxes with fabric, applying strings of sequins to statues and hand painting statues.  The costume production area was amazing, too.  They make an individually fitted costume for each participant, which involves a lot of detail work, and they were expecting something like 4,000 participants this year.  There was still a lot of work to be done to get ready for the parade competition.  At the end of our tour we had a samba demonstration by two beautiful young ladies, who were amazing dancers, and a small percussion band (the traditional accompaniment to the samba).  The dancers drew many of us onto the floor to try out dancing, which was a lot of fun for those of us who participated.  We did not know what to expect from a samba school, but were very impressed by the time we finished our tour.  The school recycles everything they can from the floats and costumes, and the school has a special room where they keep all the buttons, sequins, ribbons, etc.

Wow!  Once you finish a tour of a samba school, what do you do for an encore?  Well, the first thing we did was to drive by the Sambádromo or parade ground, a stadium that is one block long with permanent viewing stands on both sides of the street (just a street, not what we usually think of as a stadium.  

The complete entry from each school, including all the floats and other participants must all be able to fit onto this block at the same time for the competition.

From the parade ground we drove through the city, experiencing their constant traffic jams, to the Cathedral of St. Sebastian, also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral.

We next headed over to Botofogo Bay and Red Beach, where we could photograph Sugar Loaf Mountain.  The mountain now has a cable car that goes to the top.  There was even a bathing suit vendor working the beach area.

The last part of the tour took us down to the area of the famous beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema (photo below), which may be very famous and popular, but they just looked like regular beaches full of beach chairs and umbrellas.  

We drove past the beaches, and through other areas of the city on our way back to the ship.  This was a really nice tour, made special by the visit to the samba school.

A post-script to this entry:  Unidos da Tijuca is again grand champion in this year’s Carnaval competition.  Here is a link to a slide show of photos from the competition:  Even better:  here is a link to an article about Unidos da Tijuca which includes some videos from the competition.  Scroll down to find the videos, and make sure you check out the photo gallery for its slide show.  The competition is even more incredible than seeing the construction of floats and costumes.   Enjoy!!

Plus there are more photos in the album.

                                                                  Ipanema Beach

© Susan L. Stone 2015