Travel A to Z – R

As we creep on through the alphabet, I’m realising what a task I’ve set myself, writing six travel posts a week. But I’ve made it all the way to R, so I can’t stop now.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: I did not expect my time in Rio to be soundtracked by the sounds of 70s power ballads, but it was. Air Supply, the Carpenters, Chicago. I came expecting samba; I found myself surrounded by yacht rock.

With only a few days in Rio there was so much I wanted to see: Copacabana, Corcovado, Christo Redentor.

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Copacabana I visited by myself on my first day, and as I sat at one of the beach cafes looking out at the beach, watching the mobile bikini salesmen (yes, that’s a thing – you can even pay by credit card), I noticed that all the women wore bikinis. Not the foreigners but all the Brazilians. Young women, old women, narrow women, wide women, they were all there on the beach in their bikinis. It made me rethink my ideas of what body confidence is.

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Mobile bikini salesman

My first attempt to visit Christo Redentor was cancelled because the electricity was out and the train couldn’t run, but there were some hours of sitting in the queue waiting before they confirmed that, time enough to make friends with the Americans in the queue behind me, who invited me to join them going to Corcovado where we had lunch and drank caipirinhas (because stereotype tourists).

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Cable car to Corcovado through the low clouds

My second attempt at visiting Christo Redentor was more successful, kind of. Yes, the train was running, but we arrived to find the hilltop was covered in cloud and light rain meant it wasn’t a pleasant visit.

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Smiling through the rain

I also joined an organised visit to some of the ‘pacified’ favelas. I never know what to think about this kind of tourism – is it exploitative? or does it help people in the favelas to see that people from other countries are interested in them, that they aren’t invisible. Also these tours also usually provide some opportunity to buy products made by the local inhabitants – providing people with an income. Located as they are up in the hills above Rio, the favelas actually have great views. I was also interested in how these unofficial cities have constructed their own infrastructure.

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View across Rocinha

I left Rio somewhat unsatisfied. Not enough time to really get to know it, and from what I did see, it was not what I expected. Perhaps another, longer visit is needed to get to know it better.

Rovinj, Croatia: Rovinj is a city of artists. I don’t know if that’s the official tourism line, but that’s how I remember it. Certainly we came home loaded with art – three by Radovan Svilar whose style we particularly liked.

We stayed in a cheap hotel that was a bit more of a walk from the town centre than we would have liked. And we had to walk past the fancy new hotel to get to our slightly less upmarket hotel. We arrived on a Saturday in summer and joined the queue to check in along with citizens of Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, according to the number plates on the cars we saw in the car park. Although communism was long gone from Croatia at this time, there was an aura about the hotel that made it clear that it was built according to socialist principles. (Bizarrely, in later years we looked it up and found out that our cheap and basic hotel had been remade as a luxury boutique hotel.)

The steep streets of Rovinj old town are not recommended for those in heels, or smooth soled shoes of any kind. But they are recommended for walking around, enjoying the view, and becoming engrossed in the artwork.

A wished for travel destination: Rovaniemi, Finland

This little town in the far north of Finland is inside the Arctic Circle and it turns up from time to time on those lists of places to go to enjoy winter. It’s the capital city of Lapland so you may find Santa Claus at home there. But who wants to see the fat man when there are so many other activities to draw your attention? Ice skating, dog sledding, reindeer sleigh rides (“On Dasher, on Dancer…“) and the Northern lights. That is if you’re lucky.

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