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Travel Review: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Adina Oditt

Sitting quite comfortably along the South Atlantic coast, Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil. It is a common mistake to think of Rio as Brazil‘s capital; however, that title goes to Brasilia. Nevertheless, Rio has successfully established its own reputation. For instance, whenever one thinks of this iridescent city, mental images explode of its stunning physical setting, with mountains tumbling down to sandy beaches, and its verdant rainforests, fronting the deep blue sea, just to name a few. Rio occupies one of the most spectacular settings of any metropolis in the world. On the commercial spectrum, Rio is building museums, reviving old neighborhoods and opening cafes with the World Cup coming in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. There is no doubt that this “cidade maravilhosa” (marvelous city), is anything short of exhilarating.

Airlines/Travel: Traveling to Rio is highly accessible from the United States. There are endless airlines that fly nonstop, such as Delta, American and Continental Airlines. Brazil’s national carrier is called TAM Airlines, but in Portuguese it is TAM Linhas Aeras. The airline’s main hub is in Sao Paulo, another fabulous city in Brazil.

Hotels/Lodging: Tourism is a major component of Rio’s commercial economy. Therefore, it is imperative to book well in advance, as there is a relative shortage of hotel rooms on the cheaper range during New Year’s, Carnaval, Easter, etc. Hotel accommodations in Rio are Brazil’s most expensive. You will find Rio’s fanciest and most popular hotels along the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but there are lots of small, cheap, clean hotels around Flamengo and Catete. The apart-hotels in Ipanema are a much more pleasant alternative, being both better appointed and in a nicer neighborhood with fewer tourists. Famous hotels include Copacaban Hotel, Sheraton Rio Hotel and the Hotel Marina Palace.

Sightseeing/Attractions: Rio de Janeiro is a huge city with endless activities and nightlife. Activities include nature treks, sports on sun-kissed beaches, cycling and hiking paths, and water sports in the gorgeous ocean. The coastal city of Rio offers many activities that are centered on the beach and in the sea, such as scuba diving, surfing, body boarding and kite surfing. The Copacabana neighborhood, which was just a small fishing village until the 1900s, flourished rapidly after the inauguration of the Copacabana Palace Hotel. In fact, the area is divided into two beaches: Leme Beach and the actual Copacabana Beach. The area is constantly brimming with tourists, as they hang around the attractive beach, kiosks, bars and restaurants. Still, the greatest reason for visiting Rio seems to be the Carnaval. This highly-advertised party lasts for almost two weeks, and it is well known for the escolas de samba (samba schools) that parade in Centro on a gigantic structure called Sambódromo (Sambadrome).  For the shopaholics, Rio is literally a dream destination. There are many shopping stores which sell all kinds of products ranging from the latest fashion accessories that are trendy but may be a little expensive compared to weekend markets, where you can buy cheap merchandise at a throw away price. Those who are visitors should definitely invest in Brazilian handicrafts, jewelry, leather and suede products as well as souvenirs.

Cuisine/Dining: Rio offers a paradise for fine dining. Almost every international cuisine is available, but the local dishes have reached culinary heights as well. Being close to the sea of course means an unsurpassed selection of fine sea food, including fresh lobster, shrimp, shellfish, and numerous fishes. For those who like spice, Rio also has plenty of dishes native to Bahia, Brazil’s capital of hot and spicy cooking. The diva of Rio’s dishes, though, is feijoada, a black beans and pork dish that comes with rice, kale, and manioc. Wherever you go in Rio, you will find an eatery that will certainly satisfy your taste buds!

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