Rio de Janeiro: Rio of nature

I’m Brazilian. So, first of all, sorry for my poor English…

It’s almost impossible not thinking nature when thinking Rio de Janeiro. The city that has one of the largest urban parks in the world, the Tijuca National Park, is rich in beautiful green places to walk on by – and even better: most of them with free admission. Points that have been critical on the past, as Paineiras and Vista Chinesa, are improving security thanks to the presence of the Military Police and the City Guard. On Vista Chinesa, with its gazebo in oriental style, the view is spectacular. You can contemplate the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

The Lage Park has a mansion occupied by the School of Visual Arts, built around a pool that has hosted videoclips of artists like Snoopy Dog and Black Eyed Peas. Lage Park also has many trails, including the one to the Corcovado Hill, which can be covered in about two and a half hours. There are many trails in the Tijuca Forest too, a piece of the Tijuca National Park that can be accessed at Alto da Boa Vista neighborhood. The Tijuca Forest is the result of reforestation promoted during the empire age, when it became clear that the deforestation caused by coffee farms was affecting the water supply of Rio de Janeiro. The work begun by Major Archer and was continued with Baron D’Escragnolle, responsible for transforming the area into a beautiful public park. Nowadays, the Baron’s former residence is the restaurant Os Esquilos (The Chipmunks).

On Sundays, the highways of the Flamengo Park are closed to vehicles, with plenty of space for running, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading or just walking between the gardens designed by the famous landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Taking the way to Urca neighborhood you will find Cláudio Coutinho Trail, besides the Urca Hill. For 1.25 kilometer you have the rock on one hand and the sea on another. Silence reigns, broken only by birdsongs and the hiss of the monkeys, such as it is in the 800 meters trail leading to the top of Leme Hill, where is settled the Vigia Fort, from 1776. In the west zone of Rio, the Barra Woods has lined boulevards and a variety of fauna that makes the place a unique space for observing birds, butterflies, sloths, capybaras and the caimans found in the lakes.

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Getting there:

Barra Woods – (55 21) 3151-3428 – Avenida das Américas, 6.000, Barra da Tijuca. Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.

Tijuca National Park – (55 21) 2492-2252 / 2492-2253; www.parquedatijuca.com.br – To Tijuca Forest the access is by Praça Afonso Viseu, Alto da Boa Vista. Daily, 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Free.

Vigia Fort and Leme Hill – (55 21) 3233-5076 – Praça Almirante Júlio de Noronha, Leme. Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 4 reais (2 dollars) adults. Free for children up to ten years old.

Lage Park – (55 21) 3257-1800; www.eavparquelage.rj.gov.br – Rua Jardim Botânico, 414, Jardim Botânico. Daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.

Cláudio Coutinho Trail. In Praia Vermelha (Red Beach), Urca. Daily, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free.

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Rio de Janeiro: Rio by night

I’m Brazilian. So, first of all, sorry for my poor English…

The night begins with daylight in Rio de Janeiro. For those who live in the city, the after beach invariably calls for a stop for one or two beers. A good option is the Bar Urca. Or rather, the short wall in front of the Bar Urca, most disputed that the chairs of the restaurant founded in 1939. Ask at the counter for a shrimp pastel or for codfish balls, a bottle of beer, glasses and get ready to feel the breeze on the border between the sea and the mainland.

From the union of two of the greatest pleasures of residents in Rio – chatting and bars – was born the term “bar philosophy.” Scene for any kind of discussion, as political and soccer, Cobal do Humaitá turns into a huge bar after sunset. Simple, with plastic tables, it is always full of beautiful people. The same relaxed spirit of Cobal predominates in the so-called Baixo Gávea, around the Praça Santos Dumont, in Gávea neighborhood. There you can buy a beer and drink it standing on the sidewalks. As a genuine carioca does.

In Lapa, the movement goes from Monday to Monday. One of the newest bars is Enchendo Linguiça, opened last June. To accompany the beer Cidade Imperial, ask for the sausages made in the house. Try the croc sausage, pork or chicken, which comes wrapped in potato chips. It’s like popcorn, you cannot stop eating it after the first one. The samba houses are also located in Lapa. The best of samba, choro, bossa nova and Popular Brazilian Music you find in Carioca da Gema. In Rio Scenarium, outside the decoration with antique pieces which is an attraction itself, the program includes presentations of samba schools musicians. On Fridays and Saturdays, the stretch of Avenida Mem de Sá between Arcos da Lapa and Praça João Pessoa closes to traffic from 10 p.m. on. While wandering around, contemplate the aqueduct built in 1744 by slaves and Indians to distribute the waters of the Carioca River. In Roman style, the Arcos da Lapa has 42 double arches and is the greatest symbol of bohemian Rio.

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Getting there:

Bar Urca – (55 21) 2295-8744; www.barurca.com.br – Rua Cândido Gaffrée, 205, Urca. Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Baixo Gávea – Restaurants, bars and sidewalks around the Praça Santos Dumont, in Gávea neighborhood. Thursday nights, from 9 p.m. on, are the best.

Carioca da Gema – (55 21) 2221-0043; www.barcariocadagema.com.br – Avenida Mem de Sá, 79, Lapa. Monday to Friday, from 7 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 9 p.m. 21 reais (10.50 dollars) Sunday to Wednesday, 23 reais (11.50 dollars) on Thursdays and 25 reais (12.50 dollars) on Fridays and Saturdays nights.

Cobal do Humaitá – Rua Voluntários da Pátria, 448, Humaitá. The best nights go from Thursday to Sunday. Espírito do Chopp, Galeto Mania, Pizza Park and the japanese restaurant Manekineko are among the hottest points.

Enchendo Linguiça – (55 21) 2508-6332; www.enchendolinguica.com.br – Avenida Mem de Sá, 132, Lapa. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight. Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m.

Rio Scenarium – (55 21) 3147-9005; www.rioscenarium.com.br – Rua do Lavradio, 20, Lapa. Tuesday to Sunday from 7 p.m. 20 reais (10 dollars) Tuesday to Thursday, 30 reais (15 dollars) on Fridays and 35 reais (17.50 dollars) on Saturday nights.

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