What’s black and white and red all over? Coco Verde!
[Audio suggestion if you use Pandora: Open new tab-Go to Pandora.com-Create a New Station-type in Adriana Calcanhotto and enjoy some warm Brazilian vocals. But come back here to escape to a hot beach!]
It’s early morning and you have walked for miles along the beach. Your sandals are caked with sand and the sand is grinding under your feet. You can feel the heat building. The sun is warm on your back. You are already sweaty. People who are running and cycling in the other direction have to squint because of the intense sun in their eyes.
That dawn sun shines brightly on black and white stones on the walkway. The stones were hand-placed in an artistic pattern that repeats continuously for more than two miles. The warm sand, the blue sky, and the green palms contrast strongly with the vivid red of the tables and chairs.
You have a decision to make. Do you stop and get a snack or coffee before you head out across the sand, or is your breakfast still holding? There are many vendor huts like this one along the beach. Each hut is named. The yellow pennant on this hut says ‘Coco Verde’ or green coconut in Portuguese. The daily delivery of coconuts is stockpiled for afternoon drinks. OK, a green coconut isn’t black and white and red all over, but this hut and the walkway are.
A few volleyball and football players are making their way onto the beach. The crowds will arrive later, in the heat of the afternoon. There are still expanses of sand open for you to set up your spot for the day. The bustle of the traffic is loud along the oceanfront boulevard, but the sounds of scooters, buses, and trucks fade if you move across the sand toward the gentle surf. There you will hear only the soft hiss of the waves, gulls calling overhead, and the constant shouts from the games nearby.
Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro is coming to life. You are there in time to see the deeply tanned regulars claim their territory.
This photograph was taken in July, in the heart of Brazil’s winter. Expected high temperature on that day was around 27°C (80°F). As I write this on December 22, snow and freezing temperatures are causing holiday travel havoc across northern Europe. Much of North America is shivering. Today in Rio de Janeiro the predicted high temperature is 37°C (99°F).
I hope that this Copacabana photo has brought you some warmth wherever you are. If you are listening to Brazilian music maybe the feeling will last. Happy holidays!
Pão de Açucar and Praia Vermelha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It is now the heart of summer in the northern hemisphere and the heart of winter in the southern. But winter can feel like summer.
If you have harsh winters you may long for winters that look like the beach in this photo.
The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are normally sunny and warm throughout the year. Although as I write this they are having a cold snap.
This photograph was taken in the month of July so this is as ‘wintry’ as you would expect Rio to be. Typical winter daily high temperatures are around 75 degrees F (24 C).
This is a view over Praia Vermelha to Pão de Açucar, commonly known as Sugarloaf, although that may not be an accurate translation of the original name. Praia Vermelha or Red Beach was a quiet, uncrowded place when we were there. Sugarloaf is one of several massive granitic peaks that surround Rio.
There is a cable car that goes to the summit of Sugarloaf. It is barely visible in this photo as it arrives at the terminal. It is a two part cable car. The first part ends at Urca Mountain where there are some information displays, tourist facilities, and vendors. The second part spans over forest and exposed rock to reach Sugarloaf.
The cable car began operation in 1912. I find it an interesting coincidence that 1912 was also when a train began operating through a four mile tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch (in the Swiss Alps) to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe. There must have a flurry of engineering dreams at the beginning of the 20th century. Tourism and sight-seeing drove some amazaing projects. Shortly after the construction began on the train to Jungfraujoch in 1898, a cable car was planned for the Aiguille du Midi (near Mont Blanc) in 1905. But the construction of that lift was not completed until 1927.
It was a warm evening when we rode the cable car on Sugarloaf. We stopped at Urca Mountain and enjoyed the view over Rio. It was our first day in Rio and we were exhausted from travel and hungry. We had flown overnight with a surreal early morning stop in São Paulo. As we walked around Urca Mountain we came across an empanada vendor. To be honest we weren’t sure if we could trust these small pastries that may have been sitting out all day under the heat lamps. But it turned out that the flaky crust filled with cheese and chicken was so good we ordered another. Maybe it was our condition, but they sure hit the spot.
This photo was taken nearby in the middle of the day. There were several fisherman working in the bay out of small boats. On some days the air is not this clear and visibility is reduced. Praia Vermelha is a little out of the main tourist crush. And the restaurant overlooking the beach is a great place for lunch. Food is purchased buffet style and sold by weight.
We enjoyed Rio, especially walking along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches on Sunday morning when the road is closed to cars. We also had a great dinner at a samba club downtown and were impressed with the energy of the dancers. Our friend in Rio took good care of us and the people were friendly, although you do have to be careful especially at night, like most big cities.
If you enjoy soft warm sand and gentle waves, Rio is a great bet.
Dreaming about travel. Savoring travel. Remembering travel.
Decent and kind people who you don’t share a common language with. Unexpected challenges. A smile. Patience. A comfortable seat at the window on a long train ride deep into the Alps. Curiosity with rewards. Quiet narrow country roads. Wind rustling the leaves of trees along a river whose name you can’t pronounce. Sheep bells in the Pyrénées. A muddy river in spring flood flowing out of a Mexican jungle. Birds with impossible colors.
Menus, mysterious and stressful. The enjoyment of getting what you thought were ordering and discovering that it is so much better than you dared imagine. How do they make it taste so good? Not sure exactly what was in that, but wow. A walk along the beach after sunset in the safety of rural Brittany.
Villages with two names. Road signs. Changing trains, reading the departure board, making the next train with only seven minutes between arrival and departure, trains that are on time, deciphering conductor announcements. Returning the rental car without damage, whew. Base jumpers landing in wildflowers at the base of the canyon wall. Hundreds of football and volleyball games mixed in with the Sunday crowds stretching for miles on Copacabana Beach. Soft white sand, gentle waves, warm humid air. The music of Portuguese or French or … conversations.
Glaciers, waterfalls, stone houses, slate roofs, startling soaring cathedrals, ancient art, life-like sculptures, bigger than life, lines for tickets, listening to animated but unknown languages on the Eiffel Tower observation deck. Watching out for pick pockets and keeping a hand on your luggage in the train station. Trying to tell the taxi driver the location of your hotel. Favelas and community refuse burning piles. Riding the bus to the beach. Riding the tram to the Mediterranean. Riding the bus from the airport, bleary-eyed, tired, disoriented, not understanding the conversations around you.
The Metro stations. Long walks across Paris. TGV. Beach vendors trying to sell horrible looking fish on a stick. Authentic fajitas in a beach restaurant. Traveling by cable car and electric train in the Bernese Oberland. Walking up the hill from the train station through the village to your hotel. Learning about Austria and The Netherlands from the hotel staff. Trying to figure out the street map in Nantes. Failing. Trying the hard cider of Brittany, but not the ‘moules et frits’. Sorry.
Looking down through three floors from a balcony watching samba dancers on a crowded floor. Watching (in person) the televised sheep-shearing contest during the celebration of the return of the sheep from the high mountain pastures in Luz-Saint-Saveur. Seeing the streets lined with piles of plastic wine cups the next morning. The marching group with giant bells on their backs. The brass band marching through town and into a living room and playing inside a tiny stone house. Running for cover from a downpour in Rennes and finding shelter in a brasserie with other storm refugees. Seeing the evil but intact German blockhouses built on the rocky shoreline of Brittany.
Arriving at the Swiss border at Geneva on the train from Chamonix and finding out we had to get off and find our way to another station across town. The end of the line. Looking in vain for art in Geneva, but stumbling onto a choir performance inside the cathedral. Discovering that those white kitchen garbage bags that we packed fit perfectly over our rolling luggage while waiting in the rain for the ferry across Lac Léman. The banners and flags in Bern during the Euro 2008 football competition. The fiddle player and guitarist standing in the bank doorway below our hotel window waiting for customers to emerge with refreshed funding. Their three songs never got tiresome. The organ grinder and his cat who played there in the mornings. Far Breton breakfast treat and espresso. And all that new music and those weird movies.
Trying for a record-breaking long café lunch in Paris but only making it to 52 minutes. Must learn to savor more. An awkward semi-French/semi-English conversation with the family who owned the Gite that we rented at the beach in Brittany. We and they understood each other enough to know that we liked each other and had a lot in common. They had a loving family with two daughters and had a sense of humor. They were kind to us and tried to help us feel at home. We did.
History, geography, literature, art, and humanity are all enriched with travel. They are given context and life. Days are filled with planning and anticipation, then adventure and new experience, then memories and a new outlook and broader view of the world where you are-because of the world that you saw, the people, and the culture that made sense to the families you met. Their culture may be different but they built it because of their history and resources. It works for them.
The challenges of travel encourage growth and reflection. I know that is not an original thought. But it sums up how I am feeling today. I have reduced my travel and use a bicycle for local transportation. But when I do travel I intend to learn as much as I can. I look forward to the next trip with excitement. Although, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to wear the propeller beany cap.
Is it warm where you are? Do you have sand on your feet?
Do you have time for a leisurely stroll down the beach? Can you hear the samba and the waves washing over the bright sand?
Can you sit for a few minutes and watch the football and volleyball matches on the beach?
In the northern hemisphere it is supposed to be spring. As I look up through the redwood forest canopy the sky is filled with heavy rain. There is enough light to see the water accumulating on the redwood branches and sprays (the name for small branches of redwood needles). Big heavy cold drops are splashing on the ground below the branches. It is good to have a normal rainfall year. I should be thankful, and I am. But it will be good to have some clear days soon. We haven’t seen much sun for months. I guess I needed a photo of a sunny place. Maybe you do too.
This photo shows a beach vendor on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The vendors are strung along the broad walkway along the beach. Each vendor’s hut is named, e.g., Côco Verde.
It was a warm morning before a hot day in Rio. This vendor is advertising several fish dishes, fried potatoes, and drinks. The caipirinha is referred to as the national drink of Brazil. It is made by crushing limes, sugar and ice, and adding cachaça (fermented sugarcane). Batata frita are fried potatoes and corvina is a type of fish.
The prices are in R$, the Brazilian currency called the ‘Real’. The exchange rate when this photograph was taken in 2006 was: 1 Brazilian Real = 0.46002 US Dollar.
The bright blue sky and this warm colorful scene are a welcome change from our “spring” weather. I hope you enjoyed this beach escape!
Cristo Redentor, Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You have probably seen many images of Cristo Redentor. It is a central part of the image of Rio de Janeiro. It sits atop one of the many peaks that surround the city. The mountain is called Corcovado.
Corcovado is a massive granite monolith overlooking Rio de Janeiro. You can drive to the summit, or take a taxi van as we did. There is almost no parking on the narrow peak, so you when your car works its way through the line to the turn around, you are dropped off to take the last stairs to the top.
There are a few souvenir vendors and a fantastic view. We were there on a sunny day, so the site was crowded. The Cristo Redentor statue is very impressive, but when you stand next to it, it doesn’t seem quite as big as I expected it to.
There are stairs and terraces on several sides. Each provides a different view of the statue and of the city below. This photo is a perspective that I had not seen before.
A practice field in the heart of football country.
Copacabana is a 4 km (2.5 mile) long beach. In the early morning it is used for exercise before work and school. During the day and until well past dark it is used for football and volleyball as well as relaxation and sunbathing.
There is a six lane street along the beach, Avenida Atlântica. It has a broad meridian and wide walkways on each side. The walkways are paved with hand-placed stones. (Search for ‘Copacabana Rocks’ in the search box within this blog to see a photo of the pattern.) So with the traffic lanes, meridian, and walkways it is a very wide avenue.
Each morning at a set time the police lead a reversal of traffic direction on one side of the street so that all six lanes of traffic travel in the same direction. This is to help the inbound commute. In the evening this is reversed for the outbound commute. This is an efficient way to deal with traffic congestion.
But, on Sunday, they are even smarter. All six lanes are closed to vehicles. The Avenida Atlântica becomes a massive neighborhood block party. On a warm sunny day, people stroll slowly with their families. There is live music and food vendors. People take time to talk or sit in the shade on the curb and watch people go by. There are bikers, runners, and skaters also.
And still it gets better. The entire length of the avenue along Copacabana is filled with people. But if you continue around a rocky point at the west end of Copacabana you emerge onto an equally famous beach: Ipanema. The Avenida Vieira Souto is also closed to vehicles. This adds another 3.7 km (2.3 miles). The vendors and music vary in the different neighborhoods. You can spend all day walking on these closed avenues from one end of the beaches to the other and back. The avenues are bustling the entire way, and on sunny days, the beaches are packed also.
The Carioca of Rio de Janeiro love to be on their beaches. The photo above is from the west end of Copacabana looking east. Everywhere you look as you walk the beach there are soccer balls and volleyballs flying. Photo: 1/750 s at f/5.6
On a warm, sunny day like this I don’t think that these guys cared too much about how many fish they caught. In Rio de Janeiro it seems like people have plenty of time to enjoy the ocean and the beaches.
On the busy beaches, like Copacabana and Ipanema, there are football and volleyball games strewn as far as the eye can see. They start early and continue under the lights after dark.
This is Praia Vermelha, or Red Beach. It is on a quiet bay with a commanding view of the famous mountain called Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf.
This group of fishermen looked like they spent a lot of their days on this bay. I hope they had better fishing results on other days than what we saw. They couldn’t feed their families or make a living on the few fish they caught while we were there.
But they were jovial. Even though it was a ‘bad’ day of fishing results it seemed like they would rather do this than real work. This was just a quick snapshot out of a restaurant window. Photo: 1/750 s at f/5.6.
You can visit my online galleries to view more of my portfolio. Click the Photography link above.
The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are not all crowded.
This small beach had only a few people in the middle of the day. This boat was left temporarily by a local fisherman.
Several fishermen worked from this beach. They didn’t seem to bring in many fish, but they were entertainment for the tourists. I suspect that was part of what motivated them. They looked like they were very aware of the exhibition they were putting on for the people looking out the windows of a beachside café.
This is not Copacabana or Ipanema. But it is nearby. The water is the same. But there were no crowds. This is Praia Vermelha, or Red Beach. It is north around Ponta do Leme from Copacabana. It is on a quiet bay with a commanding view of Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf.
There are many exposed, rounded granitic peaks surrounding Rio. Sugarloaf is popular and is served by a two stage cable car. The cable car station is near Praia Vermelha, so maybe at other times this beach is crowded.
At dawn before a field trip I walked along Copacabana and mixed in with all the runners, bikers, and skaters of Rio de Janeiro. The beach was just coming to life. It would be another hot, sunny day and later the beach would be filled with football and volleyball players-people who appeared to spend every day on the beach.
The broad walkway along Copacabana Beach is paved with hand-placed stones. The black and white stones form this pattern for the entire length of the beach which is about 2.5 miles long. There must be millions of stones. The size of the stones and the pattern are consistent. Around the point another handmade walkway begins with a different pattern of black and white stones and stretches for over 2 miles along Ipanema Beach.
It was a cool morning but the bright reflection off of these stones reminded everyone of the heat to come. The people exercising before work had to deal with the sounds and smells of the scooters, buses, trucks, and cars along Avenue Atlantica next to this walkway. Photo: 1/90 s at f/2.8 (2006)
You can visit my online galleries to view more of my portfolio. Click the Photography link above.