31.12.2009 - 01.01.2010 34 °C
New Year’s Eve has finally arrived. We started talking about visiting Rio for New Year’s Eve about four years ago, thinking it would be a great place to visit and different from our times at NYC (heat instead of cold).
We planned to walk Impanema Beach in the morning and then take an afternoon nap before the festivities. However, we woke up to a dreadful rain storm that did not want to let up. So we relaxed in the morning and started to sort clothes for our January 2nd flight to Iguazzu Falls. Luckily we did, as Darwin could not find his medication. Somehow our medication box went missing between Ilha Grande and Rio. Darwin had copied his prescriptions to our thumb drive, so off to an internet cafe to print them off. Then we went to a local farmacia (pharmacy) and voila prescriptions filled immediately. It is so easy to get medication in the southern hemisphere.
The rain started to ease, so we went to the hotel roof top patio to look down upon the beach and check on the setup. We spent the afternoon up there, watching the fireworks barges move into place, roads close, garbage can deployment, emergency personnel set up and spectator arrival. We were joined by two girls for Norway, so the four of us had a great little party until 6:00. Note to Kim – Oceano Copacabana is a very basic hotel. The rooms are not fancy, but if clients want a somewhat affordable room, this hotel certainly has the location. It is in the middle of the beach, so all the firework barges were directly in front of us. We could have stayed on the balcony for the night and watched the action from there, but if it rained all night, we would have been drowned rats. But good for you to know. The Copacabana Palace is two blocks away from us in the opposite direction from the JW Marriott.
Then it was back to the room to shower and get ready for the night. The McDonnell clan tried to skype us but there was not enough bandwidth to connect, so we could not chat. We tried to call back to Kathy’s later on that night, but only had a connection for a few seconds. We did manage to connect with mom Durnie and Lorraine for a few seconds each. Skype is great, when you have a connection.
Off to our restaurant – Rondinella for the evening. Note to anyone travelling for New Year’s Eve. Our waiter Fransisco speaks great English and he was correct when he told us, this corner was the hub of activity. The Metro (subway) stop is two blocks north of this entrance to the beach and there was a constant stream of people arriving throughout the night. The food was not the greatest, but location was the big sell for this spot. The service was great (they left the bottle of Bacardi at the table for Darwin and brought bottles of wine to the table instead of glasses and each table got their own bottle of champagne – forget about this one glass stuff we get back in NA). And, we had a front row table to watch all the action.
It is hard to describe Rio on New Year’s Eve. It is a definite MUST on anyone’s travel bucket list. We actually recommend seeing it three times for various perspectives – one like we did at a restaurant, one from the beach to see the lighting of the candles and throwing of flowers into the ocean to honour Vejema (their goddess of the ocean). This is a huge celebration for Brazilians and the history behind why they wear white on New Year’s. They pay respect to the dead and throw offerings into the ocean (mainly flowers or little boats) and light candles in honour of the lost souls. And one from a balcony, to see the fireworks from across the skyscape. We are happy with our decision to spend it in a restaurant at street level to get a sense of the energy. We were free to leave anytime and wander the beach, knowing we had our table when we returned. Five large cruise ships were anchored along the shoreline to also catch the action. What a great bonus for those passengers.
This is definitely a family event and we did not feel threatened at any time during the night. The hype about safety here is an over-reaction. Now that Rio will be hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, they have an image to uphold. The beach was safe and families were gathered in tents celebrating the New Year. Alcohol was allowed and you did not see police checking packs before you entered the main zone of the beach like we saw in NYC. Even though most people were drinking, it was an orderly evening.
Two main stages were set up (one by JW Marriott and the other by Copacabana Palace)and performers such as the Rolling Stones, U2 and Black Eyed Peas have performed here in the past. This year’s line up was Brazilian bands, so we did not wander to these stages but rather enjoyed watching the local families/tourists wander the streets and beach (Madonna is booked for next year). There is no countdown to midnight. Emergency personnel blow sirens to signal 20 minutes before midnight. Bar staff told us when it was 5 minutes before midnight and then at midnight, a fabulous 15 minute firework display that we have never witnessed starts. It was absolutely stunning. We will try and upload some video we took to this site but it may take awhile as we will need a good internet connection. It was by far the best fireworks EVER.... And then it was over and the streets started to party. We stayed until 2:00 watching the crowds and then headed back to our room.
We applaud the organizers of this event, as it was first class. Having some experience in event management, we were both impressed by the preparation for this spectacle. While on the balcony earlier in the day, we had some interesting observations. Their first aid stations were easily identified with large lit balloons. Stakes were erected along the beach that looked like volleyball posts but were numbered to identify various zones. Garbage cans were deployed every 50-100 feet and police presence was everywhere. All in all a great evening.
New Year’s Day
Slept in today and were happy to see the sun finally shining. It was 34 today and HOT. We walked Copacabana beach and then over to Impanema. Darwin put it into perspective. You need to see Copacabana, but stay at Impanema. What a different atmosphere no more than 500 metres apart. Copacabana has the bars and restaurants along the street, whereas Impanema has the condo towers. No one swims at Copacabana (the smell is putrid) but Impanema is full of heads bobbing in the water. Both beaches are full of umbrellas as you will see in the pictures. Definitely the place to stay if we return. (Note to Kim – we found this great boutique hotel called Fasano (www.fasano.com.br). You should check it out for clients. Other than that, Caesar Park was the main hotel on the strip followed by Sol Impanema which is a Best Western with a great location).