RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, January 16, 2016 — By the time the world is “flying down to Rio” for the 2016 summer Olympics, baseball pennant races will be reaching their peak, the NFL preseason will be underway and the presidential election will be heading into the home stretch.
The “girl(s) from Ipanema” will be there, along with the gorgeous women from all the other beaches in the land of “three s’s”: sun, samba and sensuality.
As a destination, Rio de Janeiro, which means “River of January” in Portuguese, will be a tough act to follow when it comes to sheer natural beauty.
With its alluring Sugarloaf Mountain peering down at miles of sun-drenched beaches and seemingly embraced by the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain, Rio may be the most seductive site ever for the Olympics.
Settled in 1565 by the Portuguese, part of Rio was designated a World Heritage Cultural Landscape in 1912. “Rio de Janeiro Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea” could not be a more appropriate title.
Rio’s rhythms are infectious. It boasts a world famous Carnival, a riot of color, spectacle and sensuality set to the Latin rhythms of samba and bossa nova. Cariocas—as the inhabitants of Rio are called in Brazil—are known for their warmth and their love of sun, sand and music.
Rio is a city whose beaches beckon; life centers around the sea and sand. Bordered by a symbolic black, white and red mosaic promenade representing the mixture of black, white and Indian cultures, Rio’s beaches—Ipanema, Copacabana, Prainha, Barra da Tijuca and Leblon—are world-famous.
Even without the sports of summer, which will be winter in Rio, Brazil is one of the most visited countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and Rio is its most popular city. In addition to its spectacular natural beauty, Rio sports man-made attractions, including Maracana Stadium, one of the world’s largest soccer arenas. It’s an ideal combination for the global athletic competitions of the Olympic Games.
With an arm span of 92-feet, the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer is impossible to miss. Created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa between 1922 and 1931, Christ the Redeemer has been protecting Rio for nearly eight decades, in the process, earning itself the title of one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.”
Situated atop Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca (tee-ZHOO-ka) National Forest, the statue has become a symbol of Christianity to the world and a cultural icon of both the city of Rio de Janeiro and the country of Brazil. It is easily reached by taking the Corcovado Rack Railway.
Among the most popular natural wonders of Rio is Pão de Açúcar (pown-gee-a-SOO-car), or Sugarloaf Mountain, which is just one of several granite-quartz monoliths rising from the waters of Guanabara Bay. Overlooking Rio’s famous beaches, a panoramic cable car takes visitors between the peaks of Pão de Açúcar and Morro da Urca every 20 minutes.
“Sugarloaf” gets its name from the heyday of the sugar cane industry in Brazil in the 16th century. At that time, blocks of sugar were placed in cone-shaped molds for export to other parts of the world. Sugarloaf Mountain resembled those molds and the rest is history.
Rio wouldn’t be Rio without its famed, two-and-a-half mile stretch of crowded sand that nestles beneath luxurious high rise hotels and the natural splendor of its mountains. While bikinis consisting of little more than a few pieces of string add to the sensuality and ambiance that is Rio (in Rio, the ubiquitous thong bikinis are called fio dental, or “dental floss”), the city did not get its first nude beach until 2014. It’s a good bet that beach volleyball will be among the most popular events when the 2016 games get underway.
By August, the world-famous Carnival will be months in the past, but never fear, there’s a great, and far less crowded, alternative. Though Carnival itself is centuries old, Rio’s Schools of Samba have only been around for about 100 years.
Immigrants from the Brazilian state of Bahia brought the Samba to the slums of downtown Rio in the 1920s. In a district called “Little Africa,” they established numerous houses devoted to religious ceremonies and dance.
Though the name “Samba Schools” implies the instruction of dance, the schools are actually clubs where various neighborhoods practice for months in preparation for the Carnival parade. Rehearsals are open to the public for a small fee and there you can get the flavor and atmosphere of Carnival without the throngs of humanity.
Vegetarians beware, a trip to Brazil is not complete without visiting a traditional churrascaria. This is a meat lover’s paradise, a gaúcho tradition where rotisserie-style chicken, beef, lamb, pork and other meats are served in an endless parade of servings until everyone at the table calls it quits.
Don’t forget to wash it all down with Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha (kai-pi-REE-nya). This cocktail is made from cachaça (ka-SHA-sa)—a sugarcane-derived distilled spirit—with sugar and lime. It is similar to a Margarita, only about three times more lethal.
If the world doesn’t know about Rio yet, it soon will, for this is a place of eternal sun and, considering the absence of cloth in the swim suits, possibly the moon as well.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod