‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (Marvellous City) is an accurate nickname for Rio de Janeiro, home to towering mountains, lush rainforest, sandy beaches and blue seas, as well as buzzing nightlife in its many lively neighbourhoods. I have had the fortune of living in the spectacular lakeside town of Queenstown, New Zealand, in the gorgeous harbour city of Sydney, Australia, and I am even fond of commuting to and from work back home in London, seeing Big Ben through the London Eye and glimpsing Tower Bridge beautifully lit up at night. Rio would be another city I would be grateful to call my home, but in just four and a half days I merely scratched the surface. I also came at a time when World Cup tourists created a different (yet still amazing) atmosphere, so Rio is firmly etched in my list of places I must visit again. I will take you through my journey of views from the tops of spectacular outlooks to lying face down on sandy beaches; identifying the highs of World Cup fever to the lows of harsh Rio hangovers!
The atmosphere of the World Cup in Brazil was unbelievable and I really want to convey this by telling an uplifting story that was told by the two English guys I met in Ouro Preto. This capped off an inspiring day of so-called solo travelling, where I escaped the madness of the World Cup in the big cities of Brazil.
I managed to squeeze in a day-trip (well, a few hours between the packed World Cup schedule) to visit the beautiful Colonial town of Ouro Preto. Nestled in the green mountains of Minas Gerais, my visit was blessed with beautiful sunshine and a spectacular sunset. The town is home to a great concentration of Colonial churches housing many works of a Brazilian sculptor, Aleijadinho. Amazingly, the sculptor worked with a hammer and chisel strapped to his arms, having lost the use of his hands and legs at the age of 30. I will write only a short narrative of my day (sigh of relief) and let my photos show you all that I saw as I wandered the cobbled streets, inspected the crafts market and admired the architecture.
Hardly one of Brazil’s top tourist destinations, the country’s 3rd largest city found itself on many itineraries this month for hosting 6 World Cup matches in its 58,000 seater stadium, Brazil’s 2nd largest. For me and my 5 English companions, this included England’s pointless game against Costa Rica, where England were already eliminated and Costa Rica had already progressed to the 2nd Round. But was it worth the 2-day trip? Was there enough to keep me entertained? And ultimately would I recommend anyone to visit Belo Horizonte outside of the World Cup festivities?
My first proper stay in Brazil was with my Brazilian friend, Wesley, who lives an hour’s drive outside the Megalopolis city of São Paulo. It truly is a giant with over 19 million inhabitants, making it the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. The 9 days were almost entirely taken over by watching World Cup games from 1 til 9, guzzling Brazilian beer and meeting Wesley’s family and friends, plus of course a few Paulistas (São Paulo ladies)! I will try to fill in some of the gaps in between with a few stories and reflect on my observations of Brazilian and World Cup life!
Tucked against the north-eastern tip of Argentina, and breaching the borders of Brazil and Paraguay, lie the legendary Iguazu Falls. Stretching 2.7km /1.67 miles (that’s double the width of Niagara Falls) across 275 individual waterfalls that are mostly around 64m (210ft) in height but as high as 82m (269ft), Iguazu is generally regarded as the most impressive in the world. For more facts and some particularly beautiful photos, check out this brilliant summary. The falls are accessible from Puerto Iguazú on the Argentinian side or from Brazil’s Foz do Iguaçu and most sources rightfully advise travellers to visit both sides. It is generally agreed that Argentina offers the close-up experience while Brazil provides more of a panoramic view, but you will have fantastic views from the Argentinian side and you’ll get close enough to get drenched under the Brazilian falls. Let me tell you more about my comparisons…