Three days in Rio de Janeiro

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It has been a long time since I’ve done an international trip in business class, so in early November I decided to splurge a bit and spend some of my Northwest WorldPerks miles on a trip to Rio de Janeiro over the Christmas break. My family was celebrating the holiday a few days late this year, so that left me with nothing to do for a few days – except travel. I’m never one to complain about that, so it was a lot of fun to put together an interesting itinerary to a place I’ve never been before. I first planned on using that time for a giant southwest American road trip with stops in PHX and LAS for some aviation photography, but the thought of doing an international run to South America seemed like the better option. Especially since the road trip would have actually cost MORE than cashing in some frequent flyer miles and flying half way around the world. Funny how that works sometimes, right?

The plan right from the beginning was to make this trip as relaxing as possible. No plans, no rushing – just 3 full days of sitting on the beach and exploring the city of Rio de Janeiro. Heck, I didn’t even make a list of things I wanted to do while I was there – I just wanted to take it one day at a time and do whatever I felt like doing in the moment.

More than anything, I was excited because this trip to South America meant that I could legitimately say that I have been around the world. Sure, I’ve seen lots of Europe. And a little Asia. But really, that’s it. I was very excited to be headed to a part of the world that is so far from anywhere else I have ever been.

My flight itinerary looked like this:

  • 12/23/05 Continental San Diego to Houston – 737-800
  • 12/23/05 Continental Houston to Sao Paulo – 767-400/ER
  • 12/24/05 Continental Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro – 767-400/ER
  • 12/27/05 Continental Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo – 767-400/ER
  • 12/27/05 Continental Sao Paulo to Houston – 767-400/ER
  • 12/28/05 Continental Houston to San Diego – 737-800

Best of all, these flights were in first class. Well, technically, only the domestic SAN-IAH and IAH-SAN legs were first class, but the international segments were in business class (what Continental Airlines calls BusinessFirst). And let me tell you – it was good. Continental features a 2-1-2 layout in business class on the 767-400, and I booked the middle “1” seat for both the trip down and back up. It was a decent choice, but I’ll admit that it was a bit bothersome to have people walking on both sides of me during the flight. Not that I’m complaining though – it was a very nice experience with very comfy recliner seats and very good food.

San Diego to Rio de Janeiro

Route map from San Diego to Rio de Janeiro on Continental Airlines

Unfortunately, I passed out on the airplane on the way to GRU. Seriously…I had a bit too much to drink (lol), and during the night, I woke up to use the bathroom and PASSED OUT as soon as I shut the door behind me due to standing up too fast and becoming very light-headed. It was a weird experience waking up on the floor of the bathroom with the flight attendant banging on the door to see if I was ok. She said she heard a loud “thud” and then got worried when I didn’t respond. She took good care of me for the rest of the flight, and I actually felt ok after that. Mental note: don’t drink so much on airplanes!

One final comment before I get on to the pics: my first impression of Rio wasn’t all that good. I had booked what I thought was a decent hotel right on the beach, but I was a bit taken back when the taxi driver dropped me off. “Really?” was the only thing I could think of, as the entire area looked a bit on the sketchy side. But the hotel was only a block from Ipanema beach with tons of people (tourists) around so I got over it and checked in. The walk down to the beach about 30 minutes later erased any of those questionable feelings I had really quick – it really was a beautiful place.

Enough of my rambling. Here are some pics (with some added commentary from the trip):

flying from sao paulo to rio de janeiro

The flight from GRU to GIG was nearly empty up in business class so I moved over to one of the open window seats for a better view

The view from my hotel room

The view from my hotel room. Look, I see the ocean! And the weather looked pretty good that first day too…

Ipanema beach

Unfortunately, the next morning (Christmas morning) greeted me with gloomy and overcast skies. After breakfast at the hotel I walked down to Ipanema beach.

Ipanema beach

Despite the gloomy weather, it was still really beautiful

Ipanema beach

It was also very warm. Remember, it’s summer time down here when it’s winter time back home!

rio de janeiro trash bin

I spent the day wandering around Ipanema and Copacabana, just casually checking out the sights.

rainy morning rio de janeiro brazil

The weather was even worse the next morning when I woke up. Heavy wind and rain.

me overlooking rio de janeiro

But things cleared up after breakfast and I decided to take a taxi to see the Corcovado. Here I am about halfway up the mountain.

me standing in front of the corcovado

Here’s a better shot of me with the Corcovado and the Christ statue in the background.

view of rio de janeiro from the corcovado

The view from the top was simply amazing. I was really glad the weather cleared up by the time I made it all the way up there.

view from the corcovado rio de janeiro

I wasn’t even planning on coming up here during this trip, but I’m glad I decided to do it. The views were beyond amazing. That’s Sugarloaf mountain in the background.

The Christ statue

The Christ statue

ipanema beach

I spent the rest of the day wandering around Ipanema and climbing the rocks at the beach

Ipanema beach

Slightly blurry pic, but I ended up sitting here for a couple hours just relaxing and thinking. A very nice way to end my first trip to Brazil!

plane spotting rio de janeiro

My flight didn’t leave until later the next day, but I got to the airport a bit early to do a little plane spotting.

rio de janeiro sunset

And finally – the last pic I took. This is from the airport as I was waiting to board my flight. I wish I would have seen sunsets like this every night of this trip!

In summary, Rio de Janeiro was really cool. It wasn’t really what I expected it to be (there were some very sketchy parts of town), but I still had a good time. It was a very beautiful city, that’s for sure. Yes, it did rain a lot during my entire time there, but I actually think that added to the experience more than anything else. Otherwise, it might have been too hot and miserable!