Once simplistic way to conceive Brazil is to see Brasilia as the political capital, Sao Paulo as the financial capital, Rio as the cultural capital and Salvador as the ethnic capital. Unless, you have some political or financial business to take care of, you will essentially end up in Rio or Salvador where the fun is. Rio, by far the best known, is a traveler’s magnet. It is the leisure heartbeat of South America.
No one needs a guide to figure the latter out. As you head to the main centers of attraction, Copacabana and Ipanema, you wonder if, in this city, swimsuits have replaced business garments. Lapa and Leblon are replete with restaurants and nightclubs. The samba culture permeates life and generates every year the pre-Lenten carnaval, a revelry that used to last three days, that now lasts 10 days and persists after the ritual Ash Wednesday.
Rehearsals for the carnaval are an attraction, by their own merit. They start every weekend, almost right after the turn of the year. Every Sunday, the bloc parties are in full swing. Simultaneously, North Americans and Western Europeans, fleeing the harsh months of winter in their own land at below-zero temperature, enjoy the trans equatorial summer basking in sweltering heat.
When the Portuguese arrived in Guanabara Bay on January 1, 1502, they thought they were entering a river instead of a bay. Consequently, the area was called Rio (river) the Janeiro (January). The development of Rio has been almost uneventful. Indeed, the French occupied part of the territory, and founded a colony there, la France Antartique (Antarctic France). They were expelled in 1567.
Two centuries later, after the discovery of gold in nearby Minas Gerais, the colonial capital was moved from Salvador to Rio, in 1763. With all the money and the attention devoted to the political center, Rio took off and became the symbol of Brazil.
Moreover, Joao VI, king of Portugal, fled Lisboa, and established his court and government in Rio, in 1808. Rio, since then, has been the most important city of the Southern Hemisphere, ahead of the likes of Sidney and Cape Town.
Rio is known for its breathtaking beauty. This is easily noticed when you ascend to Corcovado Mountain or the Pao of Acucar (Sugar Loaf). Indeed, under your amazed eyes, extends one of the most scenically beautiful cities in the world.
Opportunities for sightseeing is almost limitless in Rio. The main sites have already been cited in this narration. Setting a comprehensive what-to-see or what-to-do list is an exercise in futility; it would take a month to achieve. The situation is all too similar at night: from the crepuscular sunset to the retro gay bar, there is too much to see, too much to do.
The Cidade Maravilhosa of the South, similar to the Big Apple of the North, is the City that Never Sleeps. Never!
(O. Robert Jeanlouie, Monday, March 11, 2019)
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