February 6 , 2024 /


I wondered why Rio de Janeiro?   The Portuguese arrived January 1, 1507 at Guanabara Bay and mistakenly thought it was the mouth of a river and named it in honor a saint.  St. Sebastian de Rio de Janeiro.   The cathedral in Rio is St. Sebastian and 70% of Brazil is Catholic.  Rio was the capital of Brazil for over 200 years and then Brasilia was built and inaugurated in April of 1960, located in the middle of the country, equidistant from various parts.


Rio is known worldwide for Carnival and we are here the week before it begins with preparations in high gear for this holiday celebration – we toured a warehouse where the floats are being built, costumes created and stored and all being made ready. As many as 2 million people show up for this gigantic parade where teams and themes compete for prizes awarded by a panel of judges.  It’s maybe second to football/soccer in terms of popularity and there are similarities between the two activities.


The three top attractions in Rio are the statue of Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain and possibly Copacabana Beach adjacent to Ipanema. Rio is divided into 4 different areas or zones each with a different emphasis and concentration of businesses, residences, government buildings and commercial shopping.   While the history and character of the city and Brazil as a country are interesting and diverse, like any country, it is the people and their culture that matter most to me.  So, let me introduce you to a few whom I met and enjoyed,


As we were boarding a plane an older gentleman in a tee shirt and jeans, carrying a Head tennis bag was standing in line ahead of us.  I looked at the bag and said, “Tennis?”  He said, in Portuguese, “Sim, eu jogo tênis.”   He spoke no English.  I speak no Portuguese.  A middle-aged couple standing ahead of the man heard us and as Providence would have it, they spoke both English and Portuguese and served as translators for the next 5-7 minutes.  As it turns out, this 76 year old gentleman is a well-known tennis player on the Senior circuit and is still actively playing.  I congratulated him, asked if I could take his picture and get his autograph. He was happy to fulfill my request and signed his nane and “Um abrazo” a hug.  i did not see him again in the plane nor when we exited.  A brief encounter and an illustration of  how we can connect and communicate with people who are diferent without needing to know all the details.   As Mary Oliver said, “Pay attention. Be astonished.  Tell about it.”









Riding on a train up to the top of the mountain where the statue of Christ is located we sat next to a young woman from Italy who was spending 6 months in Brazil. Virginie spoke Italian, English and Portuguese and I am not sure what else,  Our tour guide, Edson, who is a native of Rio also speaks English, italian and Portuguese and he joined us for the 20 minute ride up the mountain through a beautiful natural park, a jungle/rain forest of the first order.  Edson held his nose shut while speaking and said this i how people sound in the north.  Edson is a Carioca, native born in Rio de Janeiro, a lifelong football/soccer devotee as was his father before him.  He is well-versed in the history and in the changes over time in Rio, mentioned that while San Paulo is bigger, Rio is better.  San Paulo is twice as big as Rio but does not have Carnival or beaches.


This trip for us is different from many of our previous ones which  we planned ourselves and took alone or with another couple. Our preference has been to be on our own schedule except when we use public transport such as airplanes.   This trip, is called “The Essence of South America” planned by a tour company that issued a daily schedule of locations and activities and with a group of 21 other people from the U.S. the U.K. Canada and Australia.  Several people are traveling alone without a partner although in a group of 23 you are seldom alone except for free time, often in the afternoon or an evening or two.  In Rio it is summer, hot and humid and the only rain thus far was in the form of a few thunderstorms and lightning shows last night.  Today, February 6, we depart for a couple of days at Iguacu Falla, about a two hour flight from Rio.

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