Presenter Ian Wright travels the south-east coast of Brazil, where exports in sugar cane, gold and coffee once made Rio de Janeiro one of the greatest cities of the colonial era. Nowadays the capital city of Brazil and the carnival capital of the world is most renowned as the home of samba & soccer.
After checking into a cheap hotel, Ian checks out the beach at Copacabana. After a white-knuckle bus ride to the overcrowded half-mile strip of seashore where the locals cariocas hang out, he’s quick to find instruction in beach etiquette from two seasoned beach regulars.
From the Centro district of the city Ian takes the only remaining tram in Rio to the wealthy district of Santa Tereza. Since 1971 this area has been called home by notorious ex-train robber Ronnie Biggs. He was sentenced to 30 years for his part in the Great Train Robbery of 1963 but escaped from his British jail and went on the run. He’s still a wanted man in Britain but he’s enjoying his twilight years in Rio running barbecues for carnival-goers and telling his life story to tourists.
A tourist train takes Ian to the top of Corcovado, the 2,200 foot mountain at the top of which is the massive statue of Christ the Redeemer is the most enduring picture-postcard image of Rio as it towers over the entire city. He then takes in the Taguca National Park, a seventy square-mile tropical rainforest right in the centre of the city. The Peak at Pedra Bonita is a natural wonder, and for the best aerial views of Rio, Ian goes hang-gliding over the city vistas.
The favellas of Rio are well off the usual tourist trail and many visitors don’t venture into these shanty towns to find out how a third of the population lives. Ian is shown around this city-within-a-city by tour organiser Marcelo Armstrong.
A short trip across the bay is the Museum of Contemporary Art at Niteroi. It’s Rio’s most modernist building and architect Oscar Niemeyer based his design on a champagne glass. Hedoesn’t stop to admire the content of the museum, though, as he’s on his way to an important game – Btofogo v Flamengo at the Maracana Stadium. It’s home to the nation’s true passion, football, and emotions run high at this lively local match.
On the 6th day of his stay in Rio, Ian flags down a bus along the coastal highway 101 to Parati. The colonial town used to be renowned for its coffee though nowadays its better known for cachaça. Ian visits a workshop, witnesses its creation and samples the pure alcoholic beverage.
Back in Rio the carnival celebrations are heating up and revellers are preparing for the week of festivities which signify the beginning of Lent. But before he can join the main parade Ian has to learn how to samba. At the Caprichosos de Pilares samba school they’ve been creating songs and costumes all year round in preparation of the big day, and now rehearsals are at a fever pitch. On the big day of the carnival all the samba schools are in fierce competition. Ian meets up with his samba school at last and, in full costume, takes up his position for the parade. Sixty minutes of solid samba and its all over, an amazing, electric experience that leaves Ian ready to go at it all over again!
It’s his last night in Rio and Ian finds out how the other-half celebrate carnival at theCopacabana Palace Ball & the Scala Gay Carnival Ball. He parties till the sun comes up, the perfect way to end his week-long stay in Rio de Janeiro.
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