We often publish blogs from staff here at Explore's head office, we thought it was about time to hear from some of our tour leaders as well. Marie-Louise Coster tells us more about living in 'The Marvellous City' Rio de Janerio:
"There is a warm breeze of change sweeping across the city of Rio de Janeiro ...
First came the announcement that the world’s biggest football loving nation would host the 2014 World Cup. Not only being incredibly exciting for the 200 million football fans (yes the entire population!) as the games take place in 12 cities across the country, but also accessible to the entire football-mad continent of South America, and attracting the attention and investment of Europe for this huge sporting event.
Then came the even bigger news that two years later Rio would be the centre of world attention for the 2016 Olympic Games! The city became euphoric and is still now riding high on a wave of anticipation. But this positive wave looks like it could be sustainable, carried further by the booming Brazilian economy, which in December overtook the UK making it the 6th largest economy in the world.
Since I moved to The Marvellous City (Cidade Maravilhosa) three years ago, the changes have been phenomenal and are still moving at an accelerated pace.
Inner city areas are undergoing huge transformation. The docks area, only a year ago an absolutely no-go part of the city, is now being converted into a new leisure complex and a centrepiece for 2016. Already, up and coming artists are exhibiting work and holding events in what were disused warehouses in run down-streets.
The 'favelas', in which almost 25% of the city’s population live, are currently experiencing the governments’ pacification process (UPP). Previously these shanty-towns had been a haven for drug and arms crime, but now they're being occupied by the police – evicting dangerous crime and establishing constant police presence. Two years ago many residents both in and out of the favelas were sceptical of how this would work, but now people feel positive about the scheme and the continued roll-out across many more inner-city communities. Residents are being given land rights in exchange for legitimising their occupation and utilising legal networks of services such as power, water and sewage systems rather than being part of this enormous clandestine existence.
The bohemian quarter attracting music fans to listen to samba rhythms inside the bars and out on the streets, used to be dubious if you stepped away from the lights and into the shadows. This is no longer so, the atmosphere is now one of frivolity and no longer forbidding. Women can now walk with high-heels and handbags – which three years ago didn’t feel safe outside of the affluent Zona Sul areas.
Employment and movement within the city has grown, meaning the need for improved transport systems. One of the largest favelas now has a magnificent cable car taking residents 3.5kms above their rooftops and towards the city centre. The metro system has been extended, an additional line and two new stations added in the time I have been here, with ongoing plans for further extensions reaching outlying parts of the city where Olympic events will take place. In my neighbourhood of Santa Teresa we are eagerly awaiting the return of the little yellow tram, planned for 2013. We are expecting a more reliable and safer system but keeping the charm of the open sided vehicle, ringing its bell as it brings colourful characters up from the city centre to the cobbled streets and colonial houses of this artistic quarter.
Brazil has always claimed it is the country of the future, maybe finally the future has arrived!
Take a look at all the Brazil Adventure Holidays Explore has to offer. See the 'Marvellous City' for yourself!