As in any first visit, the typical first stop is usually the airport bathroom. I probably wouldn’t discuss this, but the bathroom at the Rio de Janiero airport (GIG) was one of the most beautiful and cleanest I’ve ever been in. Wood panelled walls, shiny clean floors and we may have been the first passengers to ever use this restroom. I will have to find out if this part of the airport was recently built.
Our contact at the irport, Marcello, happily told us what to eat and drink, keeping in line with every Brazalian I’ve ever met. He also cautiomed us to not form an opinion of Rio as we drove from the airport to the hotel as the northern part of the city was home to the poorest and most violent slums. Brazil anticipated this and built a large wall between the road and the slums. The road was marked by large armored vehicles with half a dozen military personnel carrying some of the largest weapoons I’ve ever seen.
Northern slums of Rio, also called favellas.
While the wall may have blocked views of some of the slums, it could not corral the smell. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure it was raw sewage. Jen and Iexchanged that glance: “what have we done.”
Then we hit the tunnels that run through the mountain that the Christ statute stands on top of. These tunnels are often clogged with traffic which makes for a prime target for thiefs on motor bikes to rob cars. Fortunately, none of the motor bikes that zipped mere inches from the side of the car ever stopped and demanded our possessions.
Through the tunnel and Rio begins looking like Miami. Tall buildings, parks dotting the roadway and traffic. What was odd though was that you wouldn’t know the Olympics were in town. I later found out that the sign supplier only delivered 15% of the ordered signage.
Once into Copacabana and Ipanema, there was no mistaking that the Olympics were in town. Crowds packed the sidewalks, many wearing their country’s flags as capes. The weather was miserable. Mid 60’s with wind and rain. Sitting in the beach volleyball arena, it felt more like a late October football game in the northeast than the Summer Olympics on Copacabana Beach. But, once immersed in the game, the excitement was palpable.
We made it
Everyone we have met have been super nice and helpful. Hopefully, today the weather will be a bit nicer to afford us some of the legendary views of Rio.