Tag Archives: pacification

Rio’s Top 5 Neighborhoods

There is not other way of putting it, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s best cities. It’s equal parts first world and third world, part European, part Latin, and part African. It flows to the beat of Samba and Funky, and enjoys hands down the greatest setting of any city in the world. It is far from perfect, the crime rate is high, the poor are mistreated by the military and police, and the economic disparities are some of the most extreme on the planet, but it is those exact tensions and contrasts that make Rio endlessly fascinating.  At the end of the day, Cariocas (a resident of Rio) seem to put these differences aside in favor of white sand beaches, the warm Atlantic water and the vibrant nightlife.

#5 Urca

The upper middle class neighborhood of Urca is an unexpected delight. It has beautiful treelined streets with local neighborhood restaurants and bars (make sure to check out Bar Urca where you can sit on the sea wall overlooking of Rio and the Christ the Redeemer statue). But what makes this neighborhood great is its setting. It is situated on the end of a narrow peninsula between the iconic Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain and the bay.

Things to see:
  • Pista Cláudio Coutinho
  • Praia Vermelha
  • Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain
Praia Vermelha and Pão de Açúcar, Urca.

#4 Copacabana

This is the most typical of neighborhoods on this list, but it must be mentioned. This is what Rio de Janeiro is famous for; if you’ve seen this city in a movie or on a postcard, it was probably from Copacabana. Here lies one of the greatest stretches of urban beach anywhere in the world. One minute you are underground, packed like a sardine at rush hour on a crowded subway car, and the next minute you are riding waves in clear, warm water with white sands, palm trees and blue skies. An added bonus is that the people are beautiful, the juices are plentiful and otherworldly and the setting is spectacular. This is why people come to Rio, and I can understand why.

Copacabana Beach.

#3 Centro

For a city of 12.5 million, the downtown of Rio may seem disappointing at first (the skyline could be compared to a mid sized American city such as Cincinnati or Denver), but what it lacks in soulless skyscrapers, it makes up for with history and old world charm. This is the historical heart of Rio de Janeiro, and some might argue all of Brazil, but this isn’t like the tacky tourist joints of the North End in Boston, or Midtown Manhattan where teeshirt shops outnumber locals, these streets are rough, with homeless men smoking crack, people shuffling through garbage and the walls are covered in graffiti. But pause for a second and you will find over 400 years of Portuguese and Brazilian history all around you.

Things to see:
    • Mosteiro de São Bento
    • Centro Cultural Banco Do Brasil
    • Travessa do Comércio
Igreja de São Francisco de Paula, Centro.

#2 Lapa

If there is a crazier party strip in Latin America I’d like to see it. Lapa is where Cariocas of all walks of life come to party and be merry. The sounds of Samba flood into the street, strangers meet and begin dancing, people sip caipirinhas while chewing on grilled meat from migrants from Brazil’s Northeast, transsexuals sell themselves on street corners in skimpy dresses, and in the shadows crack dealers sell their goods. It’s a crazy mix that must be experienced, preferably with a sweet caipirinha in your hand.

Street Vendor, Lapa.

#1 Santa Teresa

This bohemian hood of narrow, 100 year old cobble stone streets is Rio’s crowned jewel. This is a neighborhood of poets, writers, artists, and those who inhabit crumbling, turn of the century mansions. This neighborhood would certainly take the cake as one of the worlds great neighborhoods. Make sure to check out Largo do Guimarães and Largo das Neves, two old squares with bohemian bars (Bar do Gomez) and restaurants (Bar do Mineiro). Our personal favorite is Largo das Letras, a wonderful place where music dances through a library like setting and caipirinhas flow freely.

Bar do Gomez, Santa Teresa.

Stay tuned for our neighborhood review of Sao Paulo.

The Dark Side of the World Cup (Pictures)

After many crowded days of watching World Cup games at the FIFA Fan Fest on Copacabana, I wanted to see what other Brazilians thought of the World Cup.

Back in June of 2013, Brazil came to a standstill as the largest protests in decades swept the country, with citizens expressing anger at the increasing cost of living and the governments decision to spend billions on FIFA stadiums while ignoring the basic needs of lower and middle class citizens. While these protests are largely over, there still exists a small minority who continue to express themselves, yet while the number of protesters are getting smaller, the response from the military police is becoming increasingly more violent. 

While I have only been here for 3 weeks, it seems that most Brazilians are quite content with the fact that the World Cup is here, in fact they seem so swept up with their daily lives that the World Cup is just an afterthought. That being said, the frustration of these protesters speaks volumes about the massive internal problems Brazil faces as a country. The violent military and police crackdown I saw on this night is no way of dealing with these problems, it is only sweeping it under the rug for another day. 


Climbing Dois Irmãos (Pictures)

Photos from our hike up Dois Irmãos, a tall urban peak overlooking the posh neighborhood of Ipanama and Rocinha, the largest slum in Latin America.

Photos taken by Walker Dawson with a Canon 5D mark ii.

Paradox Lost

We hiked Dois Irmãos yesterday.  It is one thing to dream of heaven. It is another to walk above the clouds and live in it. It is an experience that will awaken an incredible sensation in your soul.  When you stand at the edge of a precipice that seems to hover above the earth. When you are suspended in flight, and below you the world is glowing with the artificial orange light cast by tall steel street lights numbering in the thousands. Dogs bark to one another across the favela. They share secrets, and  you are secretly listen in on every little story that is told. The sheer number of sounds shrinks your being into a small blue dot on a large black sheet.

Rocinha, the largest slum in South America.

Two hundred thousand souls survive in the streets below me. Two hundred thousand mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts, and uncles. The list goes on with every generation, and this was a neighborhood as old as Rio itself.

I sat upon the edge of the world and was swallowed into it’s gaping maw. My mind was a pebble rolling down the mountain; there was nothing I could do to stop the momentum of my curiosity about the world below me. What lives in such a place? What culture grows in a crammed community, that never slept, and never ceased to make noise, for no reason other than for the sake of sound.

Lagoa and Ipanema.

When we passed the summit, the glorious, and legendary beach of Ipanema stretched before us The majestic lake of Lagoa was basking in her glory, spoiled with attention from hotel towers who surrounded her form; peddling a view of her for a ridiculous sum to the only the wealthiest patrons of society. The silence was deafening.

There is beauty in Ipanema, but there is no music. Money does not  sing in Ipanema, not like the people who dance in Rocinha do. There is Samba creeping  through the trees from the largest favela in Latin America into your body. The sounds reach in and grab you from your place on the mountain and thrust you into a whole new world. They shatter your perspective on life by showing you something you never thought existed.

Contemplating Leblon.

Lost in our moment of grand exposure to a new world, we forgot to keep track of time. The sun had set, and the sky was pitch black, and the air was thick. With no moon in sight, we began hiking through the trees; enveloped by jungle, and a thick shroud of darkness. We had lost sight of the trail, but had found our place in a paradox lost.