Thursday – November 20, 2008 –
After falling asleep over Suriname last night, I woke up this morning over south central Brazil. I slept about five hours on my Delta flight before breakfast time. After a Brazilian breakfast, Jeff and I filled out our immigration cards and suddenly became very excited about our trip. My brother and I had booked much of the trip through a Florida-based agency, called Brazil Nuts, which specializes in Brazil vacations. Not long after completing our landing cards, we prepared to land around 9:15 a.m. at Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport.
After exiting the plane, we went through customs where the immigration officials checked our visas. Then we collected our luggage. Jeff and I bought some water at duty free and flagged down a taxi outside. After driving down a toll road to the city, our driver took us to our hotel, the Hotel Sol Ipanema (a Best Western) which was located off the world-famous Ipanema Beach. We checked into our nice room overlooking Ipanema beach, one of 37 beaches in Rio. We then went up to rooftop terrace to look around. They view was absolutely breathtaking. We could see the beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana, Leblon and even Corcovado! We then decided to take a nap.
This evening, we decided to visit the Cidade do Samba, or Samba City. We took a taxi to Rua Rivadavia Correa in the Gamboa district to visit the village that presents the Carnival experience year round. We passed a large crowd gather near the historic part of town listening to a politician speaking. I recognized the voice and his appearance. It was President Lula da Silva! He was in Rio making a speech on Dia Nacional da Consciência Negra. Black Conscious Day has been celebrated on November 20 since the 1960s to reflect upon the injustices of slavery and to celebrate the contributions that Afro-Brazilians have made to Brazilian society.
At Cidade do Samba, we saw Thursday’s Espetáculo Forças da Natureza, which recreated the magic of the Sambódromo. The show started around 8 pm and lasted until 11 pm. It cost $75 but included free buffet. The singers and band were really good and many of the Brazilians in the audience sang and danced along to the music. They even had a mini-parade with floats from the year’s earlier Carnival parade. I don’t know how I got talked into it, but I had a wacky headdress placed on my head while we were all dancing in the parade. At the end, they had fireworks and even more music.
After taking the taxi back to the Ipanema, we slept well! It was a fantastic first day in Rio de Janeiro.