The company my Dad works for has kindly given us a fabulous driver for two months. It's part of getting to know the city, Rio de Janeiro alone has a population of 6.23 million so it can be overwhelming at best to set off by yourself. Sergio is an absolute star and has taken it upon himself to be our tour guide and to give us the best experience that Rio can offer. So on Tuesday he gave us the grand tour of some of the best spots in Rio. He drives us around in a blacked out armoured car which is also bullet proof. I feel like a D List celebrity (but secretly love it).
The thing about Rio that makes it so stunning is the constant contrast of the buildings, the masses of people and the nature around it all. In summer (European winter) the sky and the sea and blue, the sun is warm and the breeze from the Atlantic keeps you from passing out in the heat. Everywhere you go you can see Christ the Redeemer looking down (he's lurking in some of my photos if you look closely) and the Sugarloaf Mountain peeks into most shots.
After taking us for a scenic drive along the water, Sergio made a pit stop in Centro - the downtown area of Rio. Here the skyscrapers reflect the sunshine back down at you and you feel like you're in New York. Generally the buildings are not works of art but if you look closer you'll find some treasures. Such as the Palácio Gustavo Capanema one of the finest examples of Brazilian 1930s modernist architecture. But scattered amongst all the modernism are the beautiful traditional Portuguese tiles 'azulejos' which make stunning wall murals.
The highlight of my day was finally seeing the Escadaria Selarón in the flesh. The steps are the work of Chilean born Jorge Selarón who in his heart always felt Brazilian. Selarón began renovating the stairs near his house in 1990 with tiles salvaged from construction sites but as time went on people started bringing him tiles from their home countries or places they had visited. Since then the stairs have become a major tourist attraction and featured in Brazil's 2016 Olympic bid.
The stairs total 250, measuring 125 metres long and are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. Selarón never considered the work to be complete and sadly he was found dead on the stairs in January 10 2013. His body was found with burn marks, the case has never been solved and whilst many say he was murdered others say he killed himself. Regardless the steps are a beautiful tribute to Brazil and really capture the spirit of this amazing country.
We concluded our long day by climbing higher and higher into the mountains to get a view of Rio. Only when you're up in the mountains can you appreciate the scale and beauty of this city and how close it is to both the water and the mountains. Sergio bride us to a view point called Mirante Dona Marta, from here you can take (extortionately expensive) helicopter rides around the city. This is how all the rich and famous people of Rio get around, it does look fun but we'll stick with Sergio for now.
Rio has really touched my heart, it's a fascinating place. You're never far from pure luxury housing and fancy shops but you only have to drive two minutes and you see a favela built into the hard granite cliff face. The people here are warm and resilient, you can buy anything here with a credit card and people will try and help you as much as they can. The nature here blows my mind every day when I wake up and see the blue sea. I can't get over how lucky I am to be here. The caricoas (the word which describes the locals of Rio de Janeiro) are lucky people to call this their home.
More pictures coming soon, every day is an adventure here!