from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rio-Rio Dispatch

On our way to the USA and home from the USA we stopped in Rio de Janeiro. En route was the second annual reunion of Newton’s high school buddies on beautiful, lush land just beyond Niteroi, Rio’s twin city across Guanabara Bay, where they all lived as teenagers. Amidst the fun and silliness of the four buddies and relatives, the incredible beauty of the forest reached out to me. I happened upon an entire horde of these transparent butterflies, though most went into hiding by the time Newton joined me with his camera.

butterfly 1     butterfly 2

butterfly 3      butterfly 5

We spent two nights in Niteroi with Natal friends Rossana and Cassio, previously of full-moon-boat-with-music on Natal’s big river, great hors d’oeuvres (Rossana) and percussion (Cassio) fame. They moved to Niteroi last November with their daughter Olivia. She goes to a truly happy Paulo Freire school, which I loved visiting. Cassio’s opportunities, as the consummate professional musician that he is, are greatly enhanced in Rio; we await Rossana’s inevitable restaurant there someday!


They live across the road from a mountain. Cassio led us up to catch lovely views of the area:

niteroi hike view       hike

Newt captured more butterflies on film there:

butterfly 4          butterfly 4-a

And what is more beguiling than the beach in late afternoon? Rossana took us to Itaquatiara Beach, Newton’s favorite as a teenager:


Note the nifty maneuvering of this surfer

Dusk brought even more magic on Piratininga Beach:

beach at dusk 1    beach at dusk 2

On our return from the USA, we visited our friend Maria Candida in the Leblon neighborhood, at the end of Ipanema Beach. Maria Candida is THE native Carioca guide to Rio, as she loves being out and about there as much as any tourist! Friday night was spent at Trapiche de Gamboa, a marvelous old, gutted structure with a high, high ceiling and an actual ‘roda de samba,’ – a circle of musicians playing and singing traditional samba.

On Saturday we visited the street scene of the city’s center:

centro      DSC02235

MC and me

We spotted this guy who looks like the model for the villain in the captivating animated film, “Rio,” which we had just seen in LA. Newton tried to get a closer shot of him, but was beginning to seem suspiciously stalkeresque and had to settle for this:


We joined a large lunch crowd in the elevated neighborhood of Santa Teresa (where this cable car travels from downtown:)

cable car     waiting

We ate at the charming seafood restaurant we picked out of several choices that curved up a hill. Here Maria Candida joined in with the local talent while we waited for a table.

We went to a beautiful old structure that has a gallery, live jazz, and spectacular views of the city from its significant height.

loaf      blue corcovado

On Saturday night we finally made it to the neighborhood called Lapa, where nightlife reigns (last visit, both Maria Candida and I got sick and we all stayed in). Being jazz-starved, I was particularly happy to end up in a really good jazz venue. The old aqueduct was right outside the club:

 b & w

The ebullience and youthful energy of the Lapa scene engulfed us:


I guess I’ll always be in love with Rio, the place where I fell in love with Brazil 30 years ago! Maria Candida was part of that. Let’s hope the city is able to prepare for the soccer World Cup in 2014 (along with other Brazilian cities) and the summer Olympics in 2016. It has lots to repair, build and solve in that short time, though its dramatic physical beauty, urbane energy and samba beat are a siren song…which made great bookends for our California visit with Elise and Jake.




  1. I love the transparent wings on the butterflies. I've never seen any like that. And the views from the beach and mountains are certainly beautiful. The cacti growing on the side of the mountain was particularly interesting. I wish I had seen the city as you do one my one short visit to Rio so many years ago.

  2. If I never get there, I will always feel like I have! Beautiful photos, very visual text....always love your dispatches....Janet


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