I thought I would write a little more about my trip to Rio. If you just want to look at pictures, see below.
I flew from O’hare to Sao Paulo (Guarulhos) on United, then continued on with United to Rio. I only had 40 minutes between flights and so I was a little concerned about being able to clear customs and immigration. Nobody was able to tell me whether I would have to do that in Sao Paulo, or if they would let us do it in Rio. Even the Brazilian United people in Chicago were wrong. It turns out that I didn’t have to, when we got off of the plane there was someone waiting for us and we just looped around and went back into the gate area. The aircraft used for the Rio flight is actually a flight from Dulles. It was delayed so I ended up sitting around drinking some excellent capucino’s and eating pao de queijo. After the flight from Dulles arrived we got on and flew up to Rio. Going through customs and immigration in Rio is much easier than Sao Paulo because there aren’t so many international flights that arrive there.
If you are planning to fly to Rio I would say that it is really nice to take either the United flight from Chicago or Dulles and then continue on with United. I don’t think that any of the other US carriers have a continuation flight up to Rio. The other option was to take a flight with TAM, but I would have ended up sitting around in Sao Paulo until the afternoon, which I didn’t want to do. However, I can highly recommend TAM airlines, Even if your flight is only 30 minutes, you will be served a drink and something small to eat (usually a sandwich, sausage, etc.). I have never had a bad flight with TAM.
I stayed at the Transamerica Flats Hotel in Barra da Tijuca which is just a little West of Rio. The hotel was nice, I had a decent view of the beach, although getting there was difficult due to a canal being between the hotel and the beach. I don’t remember how much the room was, but I do remember being surprised at the daily rate, so it must have been a little high. The restaurant in the hotel was good, but a little too formal for my tastes. However, they have pizza’s on the room service menu (they don’t serve them in the restaurtant for some reason) and they were excellent. I can highly recommend the Pizza Portuguesa. Another problem with the hotel is that it is in the middle of a large (very nice) residential area and it is a long walk (~1.5 miles) to the nearest store or restaurant. I have been told that there is another hotel at the East end of Barra that is directly on the beach. If I go back to Rio for work I may try to stay there just to be closer to the beach.
Barra da Tijuca is a very nice suburb of Rio. Most of the homes in the area are high rise condos. My host owns a nice condo on the 16th floor with a balcony off of the living room. The beach is a straight-line view from his balcony, probably about 1/4 mile away. From his couch he is able to see the waves crashing on the beach, very nice. There are excellent restaurants in Barra and some very nice shopping centers/malls. I ate at one of the best Churrascaria’s that I have been to. This one was in Barra and is called Porcao. Looks like they have opened restaurants in New York and Miami also.
While I was there, one of the local futebol teams, Fluminense played against an Argentinian team, Boca Juniors in the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores at the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio. My hosts tried to get tickets to the game, but came up empty. So, we did the next best thing to being there, went to a bar to watch the game. It was an excellent match, without a doubt it was the best soccer match that I have ever watched. Fluminense came out on top 3-1. Unfortunately, they went on to lose the cup.
I have been studying Portuguese in my meager free time for about the last year. I am getting to the point where I can hold a very poor conversation, but my reading comprehension is not so bad. I was able to read the newspaper every day while I was there and that helped a lot. I probably learned 20 or more new words while I was there. It is so much easier to learn when you are completely immersed in the language.
I won’t repeat the details of my sightseeing around Rio, see the posts below if you haven’t already. I reduced the quality of the pictuers to make them load faster, if you want the high quality version of any of the pics let me know and I will e-mail them to you.
I left Rio on a Saturday afternoon. It was an absolutely beautiful day, I really didn’t want to leave. We had lunch at a very nice buffet style restaurant that was also a brewery. I certainly tried a few of their beers and can say that they were excellent.
I got to the airport pretty early just to be safe. When I went to check in with United, they told me that the flight from Rio to Sao Paulo was going to be late. I informed them that was a real problem for me because I only had 40 minutes between flights in Sao Paulo. The idea is that if you are taking the United flight and connecting to Chicago, you go through customs and immigration in Rio so that when you get to Sao Paulo, you just switch planes. So, the United people in Rio put me on a TAM flight to Sao Paulo, which was late also. I still had about 2 hours between flights, but I had to check in with United and go through customs and immigration in Sao Paulo. When I got to the United area in Sao Paulo, the line to check in for the Chicago flight was all the way across the airport and out the doors. I have seen this before in Sao Paulo, and that is what I was worried about. One time when I was coming back from Sao Paulo, they didn’t want to delay the flight, so they took off and left a lot of people sitting in Sao Paulo, which was the reason for my concern. To make a long story short, I made it through the check in line, and got through customs and immigration with about 5 minutes to spare, yes I was sweating it. But, they had quite a few more people that hadn’t checked in yet, so they delayed the flight by about an hour to get everyone on. I wish they would be consistent.
I got to Chicago and had to stand in line for about 45 minutes to re-check bags with United, after already being an hour late. By the time I made it back through security and got to my gate, I had 10 minutes to spare. After, we got on the jet and taxied, we sat for about 45 minutes waiting for a storm to blow over. So I made it home Sunday morning in time to enjoy what was left of fathers day.