The New York Times Sunday edition, February 17, 2013 led their Travel section with an article on Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where the World Cup (futbol/soccer) will be held next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
You may know of the city, but few have visited. I was there in 1969, and still declare that Rio is the best destination in the world, mainly because it is so alive – a bountiful culture, verdant nature, engaging populace – the Cariocas, physically stunning locales, all spiritually watched by the Christ of the Andes.
A bit about my visit, not that of a typical vacationer’s. Matter of fact, I was a member of ship’s company, the USS Yorktown – CVS10. Just imagine over 4,000 sailors eventually on liberty in Rio. Yup, it was very cool. We were easily absorbed into this thriving, throbbing community, with a large enough port to berth an aircraft carrier.
My memories still swim with colors, tastes and textures. The best beer in the world with their Brahma Chopp. Downtown, there were soldiers on every street corner, armed with assault rifles. I am not sure why, other than we do know that a typical election in South America is usually a military coup (this tidbit from a South American history professor of mine). In restaurants the fare was typically prime roasted beef, slabs served on platters with all the native accompaniments.
I spent some time being a typical sailor in port, which I will not describe. Rio was a remarkable liberty port. However, the history of that typical enlisted sailor did precede at least one activity. I was not allowed in the Copacabana Hotel in uniform, where I was to meet a family friend with Gillette do Brasil. I complained to the Manager, and he set me up with a table and chair on the porch which faced the beach. Me and that furniture were the only things on that lonely porch, but I still made the family connection. That was certainly odd, but I was accommodated! The people I met throughout my visit carried a flavor of Carnival – lively, friendly populace, a very diverse citizenry – influences of German, Portuguese, Spanish, native indian, and black cultures – an international landscape and energy.
We (a busload) visited Christ the Redeemer statue atop one of the highest peaks, Corcovada, overlooking Rio. Winding our way up the mountain, passing those dismal favelas (slum/shanty buildings) was instructional and memorable. By the time we reached the peak, the statue was shrouded in fog, half way down the icon, leaving a mystical memory of that outing.
Ipanema Beach was more lovely than Copacabana – a broader stretch of sand, waves breaking over a sandbar, vendors selling everything you could possibly consider, partially clad women. What a day at the beach!
Lastly, I had dinner one night with another family friend referral – this time an eminent heart surgeon. At the dinner table were all sorts of children and cousins, around my age, speaking all at once – English, Spanish, Portuguese, even some French. Their house on the hill overlooked the soccer stadium far below. There was a sharp division of haves and have nots then.
Rio is a must visit destination, and the upcoming events will shower the city with memories. Those Cariocas will make your trip worthwhile!
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