|Rio de Janeiro
Known to Brazilians as"Cidade Maravilhosa" (The Wonderful City), Rio de Janeiro is always brimming with color, sound, rhythm, and joy, which make it synonymous with Carnival, happiness, and beautiful people. Very few places in the world match the hospitality and natural charm in which Rio is perpetually swathed.
Squeezed into a narrow, astonishingly lovely zone between rainforest-clad cliffs and the sea, in what many have called the world's most beautiful city setting, Rio de Janeiro pulses like an artery. The famed emeralds, amethysts, and rubies of Rio shops are just the beginning; all the colors of the world are here. The thousand shades of Amazon green, the deep black of a businessman's London-made suit, the lucid gold of afternoon sunlight, the gray of granite monoliths, the blue of a tropical sea, the hundred shades of tanned flesh. The primeval splendor of Rio's environs lends the city an eternal youth--the arrogant flamboyance that lets one dance too late and too seductively, talk to a stranger when you don't really speak the language, and wander the streets knowing you will end up somewhere exciting.
That somewhere is usually near the beach: Rio's 45 miles of white sand beach encompass neighborhoods familiar the world over. Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon cuddle together like a clique of celebrities, each brilliantly different. Rio de Janeiro's diverse personalities often delight and astound, and never fail to fascinate, from the impeccable, beach-scarved Avenida Atlantica to the favelas which blanket the hillsides, to the cobblestone streets and artist-inhabited Victorian mansions of Santa Theresa. During the day, the beach-and-cafe culture nonchalantly transform the shoreline into the center of the city. At night, the clubs, restaurants, and dance halls, called forros, dominate. Part of the nightlife's charm is its spontaneity. Be prepared to call ahead.
Rio is indisputably a city--with all the attendant traffic and bustle. But the life that inspires the Rio driver to make three lanes where there were only meant to be two also coaxes an impromptu samba from tired legs and drives that most renowned of all Rio events, Carnival. What color mother nature hasn't already supplied, the local Cariocas will invent. Nothing is spared for this festival of senses.
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