Christ the Redeemer presides over Rio's highest bar
Air France. They fly from Heathrow to Paris quite quickly, but you may spend more time taxying around Charles De Gaulle than you do in the air - and the booze trolly is locked away. The flight from CDG to Rio is more leisurely and there is plenty of time to work your way through Air France's splendid wine list.
One word of caution when travelling around the new year period is that the French lace a 'new year cake' with a small but solid piece of bathroom tile in much the same way Britons used to add a sixpence to Christmas Pud. This tile can have a serious destructive effect on teeth, and the 'prize' of a cardboard crown replete avec les fleurs-de-lys, is no compensation for a chipped tooth, unless you have been seriously anaesthestised in your adventures with the wine list.
You can bring in $500 worth of goods purchased overseas and $500 of anything purchased in the 'duty free' on arrival BUT: a one bottle of stiff booze rule applies. Keep any paperwork issued to you by immigration safe in order to exit the country without hassle, and remember that there is a stiff airport departure tax on leaving.
Rio Palace Hotel. This is right next door to the best Restaurant/Bar on the Copacabana strip at the south (Ipanema) end of the beach at which the food and booze are plentiful, good and relatively cheap for the location. Seafood is expensive however. There is even a seedy dive just around the corner too !
Rio boasts some excellent fruit juice (Sucos) bars where one can rehydrate before the sun bursts over the yardarm, and the adventuresome will love ploughing through the rare amazonian treats on offer - Cupaçu is my favourite, and it mixes well in the stomach with local beer.
Copacabana beach is now floodlit at night to deter footpads etc. but you must be careful day and night. If bathing, check the tides and winds as in unfavourable circumstances the beach can attract large shoals of 'Mersey Trout', and many locals head for nearby Ipanema beach. Gentlemen of sensitive disposition should bear in mind that the beachwear worn by most Brazilian girls can make nudity appear positively prudish.
Rio had the reputation among the young currently enjoyed by Ibiza - and the 'Help Discotheque' on the Copacabana strip is the epicentre of activity in this respect. If you are severely one over the eight and the neon sign fails to attract your attention, then your nostrils will lead you to the forecourt where some mysterious force of nature causes a large number of bladders to succumb.
There are two touristy things to do, and you can do them in one day. The Sugarloaf (Päo de açucar) has splendid views over the city, and is made accessible via cablecars which may seem rather familiar "farewell, Meester Bond ...". Despite plenty of hints to the contrary, quite a number of tourists seem to forget that there are two sets of cablecars to be navigated, and the bar actually on top of the Sugarloaf is a lot less crowded.
Copacabana beach seen from the Sugarloaf.
The Corcovado is the home of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue made famous by all those 'over the shoulder' helicopter shots included in every feature film having anything to do with the city. If your legs are a bit stiff from the previous evening's pub crawl, then you can get there on the funicular railway. Before the train departs for the summit, you'll get your picture taken by a lady with a polaroid.
Needless to say, Corcovado boasts the highest bar in Rio giving splendid views over the bay, and if you are the kind to come back from Benidorm with a plastic black bull for Auntie Doris, this is where you get the replica statues. On the way back to the train, you'll be assailed by some girlies sorting through piles of flimsy plastic plates. They will rapidly find the one with your mugshot in glorious black-and-white in order that you can take home a little souvenir for the pleasure of the mother-in-law. Some superb 'Nodding Armadillos' for the car back windscreen can be got from the market that materialises most evenings in the middle of the dual carriageway behind Copacabana beach.
"Lion", rescued from the cruel clutches of a circuit bar trader, enjoys a little nap in the hotel before becoming a successful UK asylum seeker. There are currently a few thousand 'pikachu' being toted around Rio's bars that are looking for a good home.
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