An early morning flight had us running into the São Paulo soccer team (the team we watched the previous night in Curitiba) on their way back home. After our short flight to Rio de Janeiro, we were welcomed by a breathtaking overview of the whole city including the soccer stadium, Olympic arenas, Christ the Redeemer statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, and other landmarks visible in the clear blue sky. While driving to Christ the Redeemer, our first stop in Rio, we circled the city center filled with historical memorials.
We took an electric train up the steep mountainside to one of the man made Seven Wonders of the World. The cable car had been used for decades by tourists but the path up the mountain has been around since 1557 when an Emperor of Brazil trekked the mountain to watch his riches come in and out of the bay. In 1884, the first train traveled up the mountain but the statue itself has been open since 1931.
The cable car brought us up through the thick Tijuca forest, one of the largest natural forests inside of a city. Along the way we were able to see some quick views of the city. Once the train car stopped, we climbed up stairs for the rest of the way to the top where we were astonished by the massive Christ the Redeemer statue and a gorgeous view of the city and bay area. The statue itself is thirteen stories tall, with a chapel as the base. Thursday was a holiday in Rio de Janeiro and the crowd of visitors proved it.
Ocean front property is the best way to describe our hotel. The only thing that separates our hotel from the beachfront is an avenue. In a city of 6.5 million, the beach was full of people celebrating their day off work. After a buffet for dinner celebrating one of the IBIP members’ birthday, we finally had our first chunk of free time to explore the city; and that is exactly what we did.