After a very catered trip flying business class down to Rio de Janeiro, my co-worker Rafaela and her friends picked me up at the airport. We drove throughout Rio - by the slums, the rich areas, the inner city, etc. I always find it strange in other countries that the poor people live on the mountains whereas here in the US the rich people live on the mountains. We eventually wound up at Sugarloaf Mountain. There is a tram service that runs all the way to the top of the mountain and gives some amazing views of the area.
After that, we headed to a nice restaurant on the beach then drove to several other beaches to walk around - the famous Cococabana, Baja, Botafogo, and a couple others. The beaches are all separated by mountains and rock formations which gives a uniqueness to each one.
I spent the night at the apartment of Rafaela's friend near Baja Beach. We went out to a bar at night and I tried Caipirinha (an alcoholic beverage). I think they told the waiter to make it really strong because it was terrible - I thought that I was drinking straight alcohol! I'm planning to stick to the fruit juices for the rest of the trip! They are so fresh and taste delicious here, especially the acai berry.
I was relieved that there was a bike path along the beach that I could run and be safe. I was able to get out on both Saturday and Sunday for runs. I felt very fatigued from all the traveling and walking but felt much more relaxed after having a little time for myself.
We went to the beach for several hours on Sunday and out to a nice restaurant. The weekend with Rafaela and her friends was very fun and I am grateful that they let me join them! I have to admit that it was a little awkward because I don't speak Portuguese and had no idea what they were talking about for two days! Lots of smiling and nodding :o)
Finally Rafaela and I headed to Juiz de Fora, which is about a 2.5 hour drive on very windy roads in the mountains. It was a beautiful drive. I checked into my hotel and finally got the internet so I could communicate to family and friends! I will spend the week here and then head to Sao Paulo on Friday.