Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Rio ramblings...

Greetings! I seem to have had very little time since I got back from Brazil. It's taken me a fair while to get myself together what with the other stuff going on in my life at present, that I mentioned before... But I know (well judging by the comments from a lot of you) that you're all dying to know what we got up to there. So here goes nada, senors and senoras.. .

One thing that's been difficult since getting back has been adjusting to the weather. To think that some days I've actually had to put on a coat and scarf to protect me from the cold, whereas only a couple of weeks previously I was basking in the glorious heat on a beach in only my swimming trunks! Would you credit it?! A return to Braaaazil is definitely on the cards, although not for some time, as it is quite expensive. Perhaps next year! And maybe for more than just a holiday next time round ... (watch this space...)

Anyway, I'm going to start off my holiday report by talking about Rio De Janeiro, appropriate of course as this was the first port of call on our Brazil trip. Woohooo! Kicking it all off, on the day of departure we were up at some ungodly hour in the morning but fortunately had a pre-booked taxi to whisk us to Heathrow. The flight to Lisbon took about 2 hours, then a quick change onto a bigger Jumbo to Rio, which was a somewhat lengthier flight...9 hours and 20 minutes! It's a bloody long time for a flight but it was made more than bearable by the attentive service from the cabin crew, generally good airline cuisine - lunch and dinner and lots of drinks including alcohol - and a good choice of in-flight movies in both English and Portuguese. We had these cute little pop-out cinema screens in the seats in front that we could use. I ended up watching
"Spiderman 3" (or "Homen Aranha" as it's called in Portuguese!) and thought it was pretty good, certainly more worthy than the recent critical slagging-off it received. Not a masterpiece but certainly watchable. The only thing that wasn't sufficiently explained was how and why the sinister black stuff got into Peter Parker's room. Oh hang on, just checked the synopsis and apparently it attached itself to his motorbike! But what was it and why was it evil?

Back to reality. And after some snoozing under a blanket and a nice comfy pillow, we landed in Rio! My first time there EVER! The pilot said that the ground temperature was 30 oC which was pretty incredible to hear. Admittedly when we got off the plane it was cloudy but undoubtedly hot. Once inside the terminal I then had an irritatingly long wait at passport control, joining the long queue for foreigners and non-nationals, where only one desk was open and the guy was spending what seemed like 5 minutes with each person. Ridiculous, tedious and badly organised. I know I'm being your typically complaining English tourist but it's things like this that really wind one up, especially when you've just got off a very long flight and all that you want to get the hell out of the airport as fast as possible. Yes I'm a self-proclaimed homosexual and Dr Who fan (the latter being something even more dubious to proclaim) but you can still let me into your country, can't you? Gustavo on the other hand, whizzed through the Brazilian passport control queue. Much easier when you're an actual citizen of the country eh?

Moans over, we were met in the Arrivals area by Anna, a friend of Gu's cousin who had very kindly agreed to act as a guide for us whilst in Rio and help us out etc. Such a relief to meet people who know their way round and can show you all the good bits. We jumped in a cab straight away to take us to the hotel in Copacabana where we were staying. Whilst Gu and Anna chatted I gazed out of the window at the sights. Rio is certainly a very "spread-out" city and unlike its rather ugly counterpart Sao Paulo, has lots of greenery, as well as huge, incredible-looking mountains which break up the urban sprawl and make the place look so beautiful. As well as being by the sea, which must make it a generally healthier place. Some of the roads are also pretty hectic (even by London standards) - drivers pull out without indicating and generally go at high speeds and this was all in evidence right away as we drove into the city. The taxi driver's breakneck progress through the traffic was...interesting! Eventually we got to our hotel, the Luxor Regente and checked in:

A perfect location, directly opposite Copacabana beach:

And a rather stylish and classy place it was too:

As befits us of course. Our room was comfortable and cosy.

And we had an amazing shower which literally pummelled your body every which way. Mmm mmm. The staff were courteous, helpful, friendly and polite. We met a very nice lady on the bar called Claudia who made us some gorgeous Caipirinhas over the next few days. Yum. The hotel breakfast was pretty good with a good choice of food, however my one gripe was the less than impressive evening meals which were overpriced and didn't offer much variety. Oh well. Everything else was pretty good so I really can't complain! And I almost forgot to mention the bar, swimming pool and sauna on the hotel roof - a real bonus, with an amazing view over Rio:

So we'd definitely chosen a classy pad to stay. Any of you thinking of going to Rio, I'd highly recommend the place! Anyway after we'd settled into our abode, Anna took us for a walk down on Copacabana beach. By that time it was dark, but it was still pretty breathtaking, with the waves crashing dramatically on the beach. The wonderful thing was the warmth - being able to walk in a t shirt and shorts even at night! The boulevard which runs alongside the sea is great too - very wide with plenty of room for people (you see lots of joggers even late at night) and paved with this amazing black and cream swirly-mosaic pattern (here's a daytime shot so you can see what it's like):

With a pair of posers to boot:

But isn't it a gorgeous boulevard? You can almost feel that sun and smell that sea air!

So. What did we get up to in the next few days and what sights did we see in fabulous Rio? To start with some relaxation was definitely necessary, so a couple of days were spent on nearby
Ipanema beach - massively overdoing it by soaking up the sun, swimming, drinking beer... all too much. The beach itself is gorgeous, a vast expanse of sand and a total mecca for gays (spot the straight person) as signalled by the presence of rainbow flags. There was an abundance of good looking, tanned and beautiful people down there (though perhaps not QUITE as many as I might have thought).

It has to be said that Brazilians can often make one feel a bit inferior in the body stakes and Ipanema is where all the muscle marys flock to show off. There's a particular style of swimming cossie that the guys like to sport:

Much briefer and more revealing than the type us English normally wear (and don't you just love the "alternative Coca Cola" ones in the left hand corner?! Somehow I doubt I could get away with wearing them down my local swimming pool...) Anyway wearing something relatively skimpy like this says so much about attitudes to showing off the body, not to mention the differences in culture. But then again like I said you've got to be in pretty good shape to get away with wearing something like that. There were remarkably few chubsters down on the praia. And there's nothing more tragic than a fat old queen with a protruding belly and thunder thighs wearing a tight thong. Anyway do you recognise this posterior and the fetching pair or red togs?

The belly isn't TOO fat and the thighs just a LITTLE large but never mind.

Another aspect of the beaches in Brazil is the large number of traders walking up and down the who will usually come your way and try and sell you things. Sometimes this can be welcome, sometimes intrusive and annoying. But it all adds to the colour and variety of the place! It's the guys trying to sell you handfuls of nuts who come and shove them in your face that are a pain - nuts in shells I might add - other kinds might be welcome. And this nutty fella was very obliging when it came to posing for us:

Not to mention pineapples for sale!

We bought some very nice and cheap beach towels from one seller. A caipirinha pot thing from another. Gustavo also decided to get a tattoo done:

Nice eh? I should add it was only henna. But what the hell eh? (And when we went to Guaruja later on I got one done too...more later). One of the days we were on the beach we saw an entire fleet of navy ships go past which was something to behold:

I wonder if The Village People were crewing them? In which case why didn't they and the sailors stop off at Ipanema instead of carrying on? We all could have had so much fun. One, two, three, "In the navy"....

Besides the relaxation I'm pleased to say that we did the requisite tourist thing whilst in Rio. As luck would have it, Anna's daughter worked for a tourist company and was able to book us tickets at the last minute for a Rio day trip! Hoorah!! So good to know people in the right places.

On the day of our trip we started off with a visit to the famous
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar) - actually comprising of two mountains which we went up. The method of travel being a cable car. Although I love spectacular views I am rather a scaredy cat when it comes to heights and I confess to being a wee bit nervous at the prospect of getting inside a swaying, see-through glass cable car. I think I've seen too many disaster movies (I'm sure there was one in the 70s when a group of skiers get stuck in one, in mid-air. Yikes). Anyway I WAS just being a scaredy cat as the ride was fine and totally amazing, here's the first stage of the journey:

Once atop Babilônia (the first part of the mountain I think - correct me if I'm wrong anyone!) we took a stroll round, with some great views:

We were also blessed by the fact that it was a clear, roasting hot day. The weather couldn't have been more perfect so adding to the gloriousness of the experience. Then we made the second ascent to the Urca (second mountain), even higher up and with even more amazing views:

The panorama across Rio was incredible. You really do get a sense of how vast and spread out the city is. My trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, several years back, had been pretty incredible in the vista stakes, but this really took the biscuit:

And a spot of shopping before the journey back:

Gu as Victoria B, anyone?

Eventually we descended back down to ground level and jumped onboard a coach which took us through some of the most memorable sights and sounds of Rio:

We also saw the famous sports stadium, Estadio do Maracana, but didn't actually get off the coach to walk around it. As a general non-sports fan I can't say I was particularly gutted. Later on I saw a good sand version of the stadium on the beach as well:

Then we stopped off at another stadium, where every year the famous Rio Carnival takes place. The stadium was of course empty (the Carnival takes place in February) but there was a fabulous shop which was also a kind of museum with lots of sample carnival costumes:

For 3 Real you could don one of the costumes and have your picture taken, which I couldn't resist doing:

Do you think I'd look good in a future carnival?

I should add that the "hat" was very tight on my head and was a killer!
The price of glamour eh.

After that it was on to the
Catedral Metropolitana do Rio de Janeiro (Cathedral of Rio) - modern and quite stark and futuristic-looking on the outside:

And spacious with stunning stained glass windows inside:

The ceiling is incredibly high and seems to be miles away. It's also very cool inside and a welcome respite from the heat!

Then we headed to a restaurant in Copacabana (actually just round the corner from the hotel) for an excellent buffet lunch. Brazilian food is something else and actually makes me ashamed to be British. For instance, the vast array of salads that were on offer and the ingredients - much more imaginative and interestingly prepared, not to say far tastier, than English food! See my list of Brazil facts for more information on Brazilian fare...

And in the afternoon, it was time to visit the legendary statue of Christ the Redeemer. What can I say, except, amazing!!! Actually there is rather more to say than just that. Firstly the statue is up much higher than you might think. We took an uphill coach journey to reach Corcovado mountain - where the statue resides - that seemed to take a long time, with very scenic (sometimes stomach turning) bits e.g. when you're on a very steep bit of a road, with a sharp turn and a long drop to the ground...you know what I mean don't you! Once we were close to the last part of the journey, we actually had to leave the coach and get inside a minibus for the final leg. But it's worth it when you get to the very top. There's a big paved, walkway area all around the statue which enables views over Rio and the Atlantic Ocean from many different perspectives:

The big expanse of water in the pic above is the famous Rio lagoon. And as for the statue itself...mammoth! You literally have to tilt back on your heels and crane your neck to see the statue. And guess what, my camera's batteries decided to conk out at this point and so I only got this "back shot", which was a shame:

I wanted to do my own "fling my arms out sideways in a Christ impersonation" type-photo, as everyone else was doing. However these shots nicked from Wikipedia should give you some idea of what it's like:

There's also a miniature crypt inside the statue that you obviously can't see in the photos but which is very dinky. Apparently some couples even have wedding ceremonies in there, a great setting to get spliced I say! And then it was time to make the long descent back down and trip home. We probably got home about 7.00 pm meaning that it had been a very long day (we had started out about 8.00 am) but it was worth it and a totally excellent tour of Rio!

What else. Well the lovely Anna had thoughtfully arranged us to go and see some authentic Brazilian opera! And so one evening we went, to the Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theatre) in the city:

A beautiful building with incredible interiors, so ornate and stunning and definitely worth seeing. This also seemed to be where the hoi polloi of Rio liked to congregate judging by some of the immaculately dressed clientele.

Unfortunately I found the opera itself rather less involving. Confession time! I am an opera virgin! I had never seen a proper opera in my entire life. I love theatre and I love (most) musicals. But opera just isn't really "my bag". One of the major problems for me was that the entire thing was sung in Italian and the "translations" were in Portuguese, meaning that I understood virtually nothing. I also don't think I particularly like the operatic style of singing. Pompous and OTT. Gustavo actually fell asleep! Oh well - at 10 Real (that's about £3) I can't exactly complain about being ripped off...And we rounded off that particular night by a visit to a samba bar with a great live band:

They were brilliant and got the whole bar up and dancing.

What else? We also visited the Jardim Botanico (Botanical Gardens) one afternoon which were lovely - akin to Kew Gardens if you're seeking an English comparison. Lots of tall palm trees, lush vegetation, plants and flowers:

A nice place to spend an afternoon if you're recovering from a hangover...

And yes we managed to do the Rio Gay scene too, a definite requirement. And the verdict? Different to the English scene but with some similarities. The bars we found (mainly in Ipanema) were quite non-descript and very quiet. In fact to be more precise, some of them were "gay-friendly" rather than gay per se and so had a bit of an odd atmosphere. No music or videoscreens, just people sitting around...talking! For goodness sakes. Shouldn't be allowed! We did however also visit the premier Rio nightclub, Le Boy, with Anna and her daughter, and had a pretty good time there. However they have the most ridiculous entry policy whereby men are charged 10 Real (mmm pretty good I was thinking!) and the women, 30 Real! Whaaaat??! And here was me thinking that sexual equality was relatively "happening" in Rio. However if it's any consolation for the women, there is a women's club right next to Le Boy called Le Girl which charges the reverse i.e. a reasonable price for the women and an extortionate one for the boys. Oh, that makes it okay then doesn't it? (!) That aside, once we got inside we were quite impressed with the place.

A huge venue with great sound and lighting. And go-go boys dancing on the bar, at one point only wearing towels! I confess at one stage in the evening when I'd had too much to drink I positioned myself under one of the guys and attempted to look under his towel - I can confirm he was definitely in the nude underneath but when he saw me peeking gave me the filthiest look ever! Don't laugh love, your face might crack. The clientele were mainly male, however later on apparently they "let in" lots of women (not quite sure how that happened) but it evened things out nicely. I remember us dancing with and Anastasia look-a-like and asking if it was really her. As for the music, I have to say I wasn't all that keen on it. Mainly House and Dance, but not of the particularly soulful or uplifting variety, more inclined towards Hard and Techno...however as Gustavo said, if you have enough drinks and get into the swing it doesn't matter quite so much. Made us think though that the Brazilian gay scene is in definite need of some decent pop and cheese as there seems to be a dearth of it there... See my following post on Brazil facts for more info on the gay scene!

And what about shopping? For me (and Gustavo) one of the great necessities on a holiday. The great thing about Brazil is that (certainly from an English point of view) everything is so damn cheap! To tell the truth we didn't get that much of a chance to shop, as sight-seeing and staying on the beach were kind of further up the list of priorities. However they do have a vast number of shops in Rio including...C & A! Yep, the store may have long since folded in the UK but it's still going strong in Brazil and we picked up some good stuff in the shop there! There was also a fabulous outdoor market on the seafront in Copacabana, with lots of stalls and people selling clothes, art and all manner of souvenirs. I picked up a fabulous painting of Rio done by a lady artist, which I can already see on the living room in our new flat. You know when you see something and it instantly catches your eye? This painting is of the favelas in Rio but in a stunning array of colours and is huge and beautiful. Can't wait to show you a photo when it's on our new wall.

And holiday reading?Another of my favourite aspects of holidaying but this time round I didn't get through as much as I could have done. I read "The Davinci Code" - yeah pulpy and predictable but actually quite addictive and enlightening. Disappointing ending though - is that all the Grail was really about?! And Louise Bagshawe's "Tuesday's Child"- very enjoyable if lightweight - I really liked some of her past novels like "Career Girls" and "The Movie".

Well, that just about wraps it up for my Rio report, hope you enjoyed it. Next I present you with some Brazil facts and coming soon, Guaruja...


  • At 1:25 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Interesting post. Nice to learn something of the country from someone English which offers a different perspective to that of someone who lives there.

    Impressive post too. I counted sixty photos! Must've taken quite a while to prepare and you've made a good job of it.

    I especially enjoyed seeing the cable car journey as I've always been keen on them since having a working model of one, as a child, in the back garden! Lucky you didn't bump into Jaws while you were on it!!

  • At 11:03 pm , Blogger The Sagittarian said...

    That cable car thing look down right scary! Mind you, I'm not a great one for heights at the best of times. And I got the giggles at your story about your "towel-peeking" activities, good on ya!! :-)

  • At 2:39 am , Blogger Deemer said...

    You will spoil your readers with posts such as this. We will come to expect it. Its so in depth and with so many pictures--i'm just starting to go through it!

  • At 1:16 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Tim - Yes I guess I do have a different approach! Thanks for the compliment, yes it did take a while to put together but I wanted to give a FULL report - we got up to a lot there and most of it was worth commenting on..

    Glad you liked the cable car bit too. I enjoyed it in the end in spite of my initial misgivings! Aaah yes, well fortunately it didn't go out of control and crash into a mountain...and there were no blonde-haired girls in pigtails that needed to come and rescue us either.

    Sagi - Like you I am not a fan of heights but just had to bite the bullet. Actually going up the Eiffel Tower is scarier in that respect.

    Sooo glad you liked the towel story, I am a naughty minx sometimes (especially when drunk!)

    Deemer - Bless you, thanks for your kind words. Know what you mean though about feeling obliged to write long posts! The thing with me though is that I get carried away when I write anyhow and tend to say a lot...I can't help it sometimes!

  • At 9:46 pm , Blogger matty said...


    Great post!!!!

    And, I LOVE the pictures! If I could just stay on the beach there I'd be in heaven!!!

    You both look fantastic!!

    And, I LOVE your carnivale outfit!!!!

    Hot in Rio!!!!

  • At 9:46 pm , Blogger matty said...

    ...and I would so love that cable car ride!!!

  • At 1:22 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Thanks lots Matty! Yes you would love Ipanema, you should go one day. As a San-Fran man I'm sure you'd appreciate the carnival and partying aspects! Not to mention the cable car (brave man).

  • At 4:28 pm , Blogger Caress said...

    Loved the post and the piccies - looks like you had a fierce fierce time. Never fancied Brazil as a holiday destination as I'm a city gal through and through but you may have swayed me!!!


  • At 1:13 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Hey Caress, good to hear from you...

    As a city gal I'm sure you would love Rio - it's got everything, including as I said, a gay scene...and a very gay beach! I can just see you eying up the hotties...get your Scottish butt over there!

    OC xx

  • At 2:54 pm , Blogger Richard said...

    Rio de Janeiro is a veritable playground that will offer you whatever it is you're looking for in a vacation. From its bustling beaches to the outrageous February festival, Rio de Janeiro is a city that knows how to entertain, day or night.Rio has always impressed people by it´s natural beauty and sights, and by the kindness and warmth of it´s people, the "cariocas" (people who are born in Rio), warmth that you can´t find anywhere else in the world. One of the wonderful Brazil property is here in Rio.
    Besides what you see on TV Rio, is still the best place in the world to live, and one of best destinations for tourism in the world, because no other city, has such beautiful beaches and natural sights, and also has the cultural options of a great metropole, such as nightclubs, theaters, cinemas, sports options and etc...


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