A day in Rio


if you've been following this humble offering of mine, you knew this was coming. having just been in the city on everybody's lips, here is a bite-sized, one-day itinerary in rio de janeiro.

there's only so much you can do in a day - the city is big. and i mean big. if you're planning to visit the corcovado and its enormous statue of christ the redeemer, make sure you're loaded. with reais and with time. if, like me, you're not, then you may want to head to that second though not less stunning protuberance closer to the city: the pão de açúcar, which you anglophones may know as the sugar loaf.

the rounded hills and mountains which dot the city are a major part of rio's beauty. pão de açúcar is smack in the middle of it, between the botafogo marina and copacabana. the ascent by cable car is a two-step affair; you take one to the lower morro da urca, then another one to the top of the loaf.

now, i've already told you i wasn't feeling particularly rich at the time, and the fare was hefty. the alternative, if your legs are functioning decently, is to climb the morro, and that i did. highly recommended: you'll get pretty good vistas of the city and the corcovado on the way up, plus - if you're lucky - a few saguis fooling around in the tropical foliage.

once on top, take your time to take it all in. it's breathtaking [or was that the climb?].

and that's your morning gone.

if you feel like a little history a little food a little shopping and a little crowd, you may then head to the city centre. it's an immense marketplace, bazaar-style. if you manage to find it, take a break at confeitaria colombo for a coffee and something sweet.

don't be surprised to see pastéis de nata rubbing shoulders with small quindins de camisola. the confeitaria was founded by two portuguese immigrants back in the 19th century. these days, its opulence rivals that of parisian or viennese cafés. 

the wealth of gilt, precious woods and mirrors will give you a hint of what you're about to find in the outer world. among the narrow old streets, churches galore. one of the largest, built around the time of brazilian independence, is that of candelária.

but - dare i say it? - the best is yet to come. the real gabinete português de leitura, or royal portuguese reading cabinet, is a neomanueline gem gifted by the old metropolis to a newly-independent brazil.

'reading cabinet?' you may ask, 'what the?'. and you ask well. this is a true-blue library, that's what it is. small in size but large in exhuberance and in biblio-riches. a truly surprising place, and ideal shelter from the sudden winter showers. so... stay.

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