Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

Rio Floods: Fixing Favelas and the Future

April 9, 2010

At least 170 people died after a week of heavy rain prompted mudslides and floods in Rio de Janeiro state. More than 50 houses were engulfed as mud and rubble poured into the Morro do Bumba favela near Rio de Janeiro. The shantytown was built on top of a disused landfill which makes it prone to landslides.

Most of the victims were swept away in landslides that roared through favelas (slums) built on steep, unstable hillsides. The tragic affects of the floods do not touch tourist areas.

With the images of the deadly mudslides and flooding in Rio de Janerio circling the globe, the Brazilian government has sought to preempt any ideas that rains risk turning the preparations or the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games themselves into debacles.

In a conference call with international reporters this week Brazilian Planning Minister Paulo Bernardo said funds were being marshaled to repair damages from the flooding in Rio and elsewhere (other Brazilian population centers have also been lashed by floods lately). In the call, Bernardo said 7 billion reais ($3.9 billion) had already been set aside for recovery of flood-stricken areas as part of the government’s pro-economic growth package.

He also said that investments will be made in sanitation, housing and infrastructure so that Rio and other cities will be better prepared for heavy rains in the future.

“So the government is not predicting—is not foreseeing any type of major hindrance or disaster in this regard because all the measures are being taken … We do not foresee any natural disasters … during the World Cup or the Olympic Games because … they will be held … outside the rain season in Rio de Janeiro particularly.”

On Thursday, the government also announced it was dispatching some $100 million in emergency funds as well as a new fleet of ambulances and medical systems to help Rio de Janeiro cope with the impact of the flooding.

For more maps of the areas around Rio, click HERE.

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Brazil Announces $880 Billion Infrastructure Plan

April 1, 2010

Brazil has announced big, big plans to build $880 billion-worth of infrastructure between 2010 and 2016.

The projects are part of an economic stimulus program whose first phase is half-completed, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced Monday.

The new plan, named the ‘Growth Acceleration Program 2’ or PAC 2, places importance on increasing the country’s energy production capacity, construction of homes and necessary improvements for hosting the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“PAC 1 and PAC 2 are a commitment by the Brazilian state to the redemption of this country. Whoever arrives in the presidency will not be able to tear it up and do something else,” Lula said while rejecting the opposition’s allegations that the announcement only hides the electoral motives of the ruling party.

The president, however, said bureaucratic red tape has been delaying the PAC projects, which ‘cannot stop’ and must begin ‘as soon as possible.’

The new programs include construction of two million homes, which will contribute to reducing the country’s housing deficit by half, and a high-speed rail service between Rio and Sao Paulo.

Visit RentinRio.com to plan your stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro: The Past on Film

April 1, 2010

American fascination with Brazilian culture is nothing new—we’ve been enamored with the beats, bright lights, and gyrating bodies of Rio de Janeiro for centuries. Modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 when the city’s bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally echoed the European form of the festival, and later absorbed elements derived from Native American and African cultures.

Until the dawn of the technological age of the 20th century, the only way to simultaneously witness the sights and sounds of Rio was to sail to Brazil and experience it firsthand. With the development of movies, Americans became voyeurs of this exciting and exotic culture.

Here are two examples of films that aimed to portray Brazilian culture in the early 1940s.

It’s All True
An unfinished Orson Welles feature film, this compilation contains three stories about Latin America. “My Friend Bonito” was shot in 1941 and both “The Story of Samba” and “Four Men on a Raft” were shot in 1942.

It was the subject of a 1993 documentary written and directed by Richard Wilson, Bill Krohn and Myron Meisel. Both a documentary and a unique exercise in film restoration, The documentary It’s All True tells the complex story of Orson Welles’ ill-fated attempts to make an anthology film about the life and culture of South America and concludes with a reconstruction of one of Welles’ unfinished segments, edited together from rediscovered original footage. The idea for Welles’ South American project was conceived by the American government as a sort of cultural exchange to improve relations with Latin America. Using interviews and period footage, the filmmakers tell of how the project quickly turned sour, as both the Brazilian government and RKO studio executives objected to Welles early footage. They wanted Welles to use more people with white skin coloring, and often asked Welles to try and avoid using black people. Thanks to a local witch doctor, the film could literally be said to be cursed. Although Welles stuck with the project, RKO eventually withdrew support from the film. It’s All True concludes with a partial reconstruction of the “Four Men on a Raft” segment, in which Welles tells the true story of a dramatic, thousand-mile raft journey by four Brazilian peasants.

Here is a clip of Welles discussing the project

Carnival in Brazil (1942) Directed by Leslie Roush

Review from Variety:
“Sock Latin-American one-reeler, lacking a dull moment. The annual Mardi Gras of Brazil is excuse for parading Latin-American artists and atmosphere, with newsreel shots of actual Rio de Janeiro festival trimly dovetailed into production material. Singing of Elsie Houston, Brazilian soprano, fits nicely into the opening sequence while the wild gyrations of Jose and Lolita Vega are nearly as primitive as some of Brazilian stepping captured (but a mere flash) by the newsreel camera. Fernando Alvarez supplies change of pace by introducing the current South American carnival anthem, Carolina. Exciting enough to make on want to visit Rio at carnival time. Another to Les Roush’s credit.”

One interesting thing to note about this production is the lack of black faces. This says a lot about the US in the 1940s. After the failure of Welles’ film It’s All True, Paramount Studios, in an attempt to appeal to the American public, opted to not portray the black population in this follow up project.

Truly important works, these historical films capture the essence of Brazilian culture as seen through the eyes of the American voyeur.

-Jennifer Bunin

Museums of Rio de Janeiro

March 26, 2010

Whoever visits Rio soon finds out that his/her agenda is always full – that is the pride of the local population. There is never a lack of exciting activities— from exhibitions, theater plays, dance and music shows to sports events for all tastes. But the Wonderful City has yet a wide range of other attractions to offer, such as cultural centers, churches, famous confectioners’, old streetcars and numberless museums. On your visit, be sure to set aside time to learn about the culture and the history of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil by utilizing one of Rio’s most important resources—museums. These institutions range in subject from all sorts of modern and indigenous art to natural history and political history. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Modern Art Museum
Inaugurated in 1958, the Modern Art Museum (MAM) is located in a privileged area and has a great history to tell. It hosts a collection of four thousand works. It exhibits the Gilberto Chateaubriand collection – with paintings by Anita Malfatti, Tarsila do Amaral, Lasar Segall, Di Cavalcanti and Portinari. Its gardens were designed by Burle Marx and were restored in 2004. It offers also an art cinema, a library and a bookstore. It is located on Avenida D. Henrique, at Flamengo Park. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday: during the week, from noon to 5:30 pm; on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 7 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2240-4944.

Museu da Republica

National Historical Museum
The architectonic complex became a museum in 1922, during the Presidency of Epitácio Pessoa, and hosts a priceless collection with 275 thousand pieces, including paintings, guns, royal carts, furniture and rare objects – such as the plumed pen used by Princess Isabel to sign the Áurea Law, which abolished slavery in Brazil. The Museum is located on a 18 thousand m² land and occupies three separate buildings erected at different times: the Train House, from 1762; the Royal Arsenal, from 1822; and the Annexed Building for military quarters, from 1835. It is located on Praça Mal. Âncora, Downtown. It is open to visitors from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. On Sundays, the entrance is free. For more information: +55 (21) 2550-9224.

International Museum of Naïf Art
Naïf art – “naïf” means “naive”, in French – is made by self-learnt artists, without much technical skills, The museum hosts the works of 520 national and foreign artists with the predominance of live, strong colors and irregular, abstract traces. It is considered as one of the largest collections in its genre in the world. It is located on Rua Cosme Velho, 561, at Cosme Velho. It opens from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from noon to 6 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2205-8612.

The National Museum of Beaux Arts
It hosts rarities from Brazilian artists such as Victor Meirelles, Rodolfo Amoedo, Pedro Américo, Almeida Jr. and Eliseu Vasconcelos – works that comprise the largest collection of Brazilian art from the 19th century. This institution also keeps a much-prized collection of foreign paintings, including Italian baroque paintings, landscapes by Dutch painter Frans Post and paintings by French Eugène Boudin. Rooms are divided by themes and there are always excellent temporary exhibitions. It is located on Avenida Rio Branco, 199. It opens from Tuesday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. For ticket prices and other information: +55 (21) 2240-0068.

The Catete Palace – the Republic Museum
It hosts the Republic Museum and what used to be the headquarters of the Brazilian Republican government 1897 and 1960, the Catete Palace; with a neoclassic architecture, with granite and rose marble façade and white-marble engraved portals. 18 Brazilian Presidents lived and worked there and it witnessed some of the most events in the Country’s history – such the Brazilian decision to enter both Great World Wars and the dramatic suicide of President Getúlio Vargas. Turned into a museum after the Capital Federal moved to Brasilia, the museum offers an intense cultural agenda and offers also a bookstore, a bar, a restaurant, a souvenirs store and a beautiful garden. Located on Rua do Catete, 153, at Catete, the Museum opens from Tuesday to Friday, from noon to 5 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 2 pm to 6 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2558-6350.

For accommodations in Rio, visit RentinRio.com

New Report Provides Positive Analysis of Brazil’s Tourism Industry

March 26, 2010

Brazil Tourism Report Q2 2010 – New Market Report Published

This quarter’s tourism report has shown that Brazil’s tourism industry has already benefited greatly from the announcement of several high profile events planned to be held in the country. The 2014 FIFA World Cup is set to be a huge draw for visitors and the addition of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will further boost the industry. In January 2010, the government said it would invest 1 million Brazilian reals to improve facilities throughout the country before of the World Cup. 

Inbound visitor numbers had been growing but the industry could benefit from greater stability. While arrivals rose from 4.7 million in 2001 to 7.2 million (about a 65% increase) in 2008, the report estimates a fall in that number in 2009 because of the impact on developed countries of the global financial crisis. The recovery should be relatively quick, with a forecasted increase of tourist arrivals of 9.2 million by 2014.

The number of Brazilians looking to travel within their own country and that can afford to do so is growing. According to Instituto Brasileiro de Turismo (Embratur) president Jeanine Pires, the revenue generated by tourism in 2008 was nearly 17% higher than in 2007, which was the best year on record. 

Sector growth appears to be building up momentum as the global economy recovers. Brazilian airline Gol Transportes Aéreos reported an increase in year-on-year (y-o-y) growth for January 2010. Compared with January 2009, Gol’s revenues were up by 32.1%. 

In the hotel sector news has been positive too, with French corporation Accor planning to add nearly 5,000 rooms in Brazil with an investment of about EUR200mn. This will be achieved through expansion of their 20 Formule 1 and Ibis hotels in Brazil throughout 2010.

Renovations are a positive area for investment in Brazil’s tourism infrastructure. A lack of infrastructure has held the sector back to date but this looks set to change as investment increases over the coming years.

View the report here.

To rent long and short term vacation apartments in Rio, visit RentinRio.com.

Brasília to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

March 12, 2010

Catedral Metropolitana de Brasília

Yesterday Brasília, the capital of Brazil, announced the attractions for the party celebrating its 50th anniversary on April 21.

Disney World characters will parade on Eixo Monumental at 10:30 a.m. Concerts at Esplanada dos Ministérios will start at 6 p.m. and feature Brazilian artists NX Zero, Para lamas do Sucesso, Luan Santana, Daniela Mercury, Bruno and Marrone.

In order to fully enjoy all Brasília has to offer, you must not think of the city as an image of corruption, and discover every good thing this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. Be sure to see the amazing plan and architecture by Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, check out the bars and restaurants, and visit the surrounding cerrado, home to Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks, also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Cathedral, one of Brasília’s top attractions, won’t be fully renovated by anniversary day. Work should be concluded by June. However, according to recent reports in Brazil media, the cathedral will be opened for anniversary day celebrations.

For accommodations, visit RentInRio.com

Savory South American Cuisine

February 26, 2010

Visits to South America provide travelers with the opportunity to sample a wide choice of delicious cuisine. It is important to make every meal throughout your journey culinary event in itself.

The entertainment capital of Brazil, Rio is home to several distinctive cooking styles for which Brazil is probably best known. In the cultural melting pot that is Rio, one can taste the influence of not only Amerindian and Portuguese foods, but the cooking styles of immigrants from many other parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. For more information on Brazilian cuisine visit one of our most popular sites, indeed, one of the most popular sites for South American food on the Internet, by clicking this link.

If you desire a real Brazilian meal with the masses we recommend “comida a quilo” restaurants (literally “food by the kilo”). These are inexpensive dining options commonplace in most cities. Food is paid for by weight and customers usually assemble the dishes of their choice from a large buffet. If you desire a slightly higher class, but nevertheless authentic, palate pleaser we suggest dining at a churrascaria, a Brazilian or Portuguese steak house. Churrasco is a distinctly South American style rotisserie, a sort of Latin American barbecue. It owes its origins to the fireside roasts of the gauchos (natives to southern Brazil traditionally from the Pampa region). Passadors (meat waiters) come to your table with knives and a skewer, on which are speared various kinds of local meat.

The cuisine of Uruguay has its own version of churrasco known as asado. This Uruguayan barbecue is one of the most exquisite and famous in the world. The national obsession of Uruguay is dulce de leche, a sweet paste which is used to fill cookies, cakes, pancakes, and other South American pastries such as milhojas (a puff pastry), and alfajores (a filled layer cake). Our friends in other cities of call such as Buenos Aires tell us not to miss out on the tantalizing traditional drink, mate, an herbal tea commonly known as the “drink of friendship,” made with the infusion of the dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. So with a drink of friendship in hand, soak up the beautiful sites, enchanting sounds, aromatic smells, and delicious tastes as you travel through South America.

-Jennifer Bunin

For the Best of Rio’s Nightlife, Head to Lapa

February 8, 2010

Lapa Breaks Through

In recent years, Lapa has exploded as the hip place to go for vibrant nightlife. On either end of the Lapa night scene are unique nightclubs, Carioca de Gema and Rio Scenarium. Carioca de Gema is a renaissance of the downtown of Rio in one of its hippest posts. In these clubs, 19th and 18th century architecture meets Rio’s cool, artsy crowd. The streets are lined with sidewalk cafes where cariocas gather for hours to indulge in chi chi chi (banter and chatter). The district’s street parties are among the most famous of Rio’s party attractions, and crowds gather in droves Thursday through Saturday from around 10 am until 4 or 5 pm as a celebration of what it is to be a carioca. Partiers will wander from street bar to street bar, enjoying the music and the unique vibes of the city. Between the clubs and the street parties, the district comes alive with thousands of Generation X cariocas out for a good time, a couple of caipirinhas, and a lot of paquera (flirting). You’ll find all sorts of entertainment lining the streets—from rock bands and hip hop to samba circles, the parties encompass all aspects of carioca culture. Cariocas recognize Lapa as the site where samba was reborn. Away from the often jading middle-class nightlife, the streets of Lapa come alive with music of local musicians who have resurrected a lost art.

Lapa Aqueduct

“When the people rent my apartments ask where to head for nightlife I always tell them: On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays it’s Lapa,” says Dan Babush, President of RentinRio.com. “There’s something with great music for everyone—from Gen X to Gen Y to Boomers. A couple of caipirinhas and you samba without a care and everyone will be teaching you new steps.”

“Rio Scenarium is particularly interesting,” says Dan, “as it is loaded with old antiques that are not for sale, paintings from years before, and three floors where you can wander around amazing artifacts from Rio’s past, along with one of the best samba scenes in Rio.”

Ideally, Lapa deserves three nights: One night for the Rio Scenarium area; one night for Deco do Rato, an area which is excellent to bop around (have the taxi drop you in front of Theatro Odisséia); and one night for Lapa 40° on Rua do Riachuelo, the hot new place for samba. Rio Scenarium is a great place for Boomers and Gen Xers to experience samba. Next door to Rio Scenarium is Santo Scenarium, a more Gen X and Gen Y club that plays less samba and has more of a new beat. Boomers will also like Estrela da Lapa and Carioca da Gema—but there is something for everyone in Lapa and it will take no time to find it.

Chris Nogueiro, writer of Rio for Partiers, says, “Lapa is something that happened out of nowhere. Out of a completely dead area and dead scene grew a particularly hot expression of Rio’s carefree way of being. And it stuck. Lapa is on its way towards being a world-class nightspot area.”

A Hidden Historical Haven

Among all the vibrant neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, Lapa has held on to an aura of historical soul and the vibrant spontaneity of parties untouched by commercial tourism. One of the hidden treasures of a Brazil, Lapa is a small, gorgeous district once known as the “Montmartre of the Tropics.” The town is centered on the Largo da Lapa, a picturesque plaza of architecture which barely survived centuries of intermittent periods of progress and civil unrest. One of Lapa’s most famous attractions is the Carioca aqueduct, also known as the Arcos da Lapa, a remarkable structure built in the mid-18th century by colonial authorities. Since the end of the 19th century, the aqueduct has served as a bridge for a tram that connects the city center with the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Another famous historical site is the Passeio Público, Brazil’s oldest public park. Built in 1779 to glorify the new colonial capital, the park is also one of the oldest public parks in the Americas. During the 20th century, the whole historical center of Rio—including the Passeio Público —fell into decay. In 2001 the city’s municipal government began a project to renovate the park and restore its historic beauty.

There’s little to recommend in Lapa during the day, except for the Escada de Selaron and the antique stores on the Rio de Lavradio (great turn-of-the-20th century antiques at really low prices can be found there). When the party dies down, visitors can walk to the Lapa staircase (Escada Selaron) and view the work of Chilean painter Selaron. Since 1983, when the 215 steps were covered in blue, green and yellow tiles (the colors of the Brazilian flag), the artist has constantly changed them to include contributions from more than 60 countries around the world. Selaron calls the stairway his “great madness” and claims he will never stop working on it until the day he dies.

-Jennifer Bunin

Official Olinda Carnival Guide 2010 Now Available Online

February 8, 2010

Olinda has a seemingly endless amount of Carnival events, so to help you organize your Carnival schedule, programs are listed by day in the newly launched Olinda Carnival Guide 2010! Just click on “Programação”.

To the right of the homepage, you have can search using the “buscar” box if you have a specific group you would like to stick with. The search result will yield the full list of events for that day. Take advantage of this useful resource to make this Carnival even more wonderful than the last!

Go to RentinRio.com for Carnival accommodations!

Carnival Parade: A Cautionary Tale and A Word of Advice

January 29, 2010

Carnival in Rio de Janerio is the event to which every other carnival is compared. The parade is among one of the most incredible spectacles in the world. You will dance the night away with the samba, the lights and the sounds of carnival. In order to fully enjoy all the wonders of the carnival parade, it’s important to think through what kind of parade experience you want. For the parade, there are two types of seats:

Grand stand seats (bleachers) offer open seating. You can get as high and you want and sit wherever you want.

Allocated/numbered seats All seats in sector 9 (the tourist sector) are also numbered and reserved. The reserved seats are either in boxes or you can plant yourself on the concrete, so be sure to bring blankets and seats to make yourself comfortable.

There are pros and cons to both options, but let the following “harrowing tail” help shape your decision:

Back in the days where Rent in Rio’s President Danny Babush first began to frequent Carnival, he opted to watch the parade from sector 3. He took a seat next to a delicate French woman who resembled Audrey Hepburn, and struck up a conversation with the girl and her husband, explaining the history of the parade. Next to the girl was approximately 21 centimeters of seating space, hardly enough for a single butt cheek of an average sized person. In the midst of jovial conversation, cushioned by the comfort of just enough space for belly laughs, a woman towering at over 1.8 meters tall, donning a green derby, a star on her cheek, and with a rear-end easily a meter wide, began to make her way towards Danny and his new friends. Throwing her an uneasy sideways glance, Danny wrongfully assumed that she was merely trying to pass them to reach the isle. Positioning herself in front of the wispy French girl and the sliver of space beside her, the woman began not-so-discreetly wedging herself into the “seat.” The green derby shaking on her head and a grin from ear to ear, the woman did not cease until the whole of her was seated and the French girl was smushed, shoulders crossed, like a one slice ham sandwich.

The moral of the story: If you can’t take the heat, reserve a seat in the tourist section. The only disadvantage of viewing the parade from sector 9 is you miss out on close contact with cariocas—but in such a crowd, there is such a thing as too much contact.

-Jennifer Bunin