|Rio de Janeiro|
We had the privilege of visiting Rio de Janeiro for 6 days in January. My dear hubby has been there a few time for work, but it was the first time for the rest us, and for my parents. It was amazing. I can totally understand why people want to live there, and I have to admit I was quite taken by it all. Granted, I was also on vacation, so I had very few responsibilities, no laundry, no driving. We flew there and took taxis to get around because 1) my hubby found tickets for less than R$200 round trip and 2) the penthouse we stayed in had no parking spot and 3) the mere thought of driving in an unfamiliar city known for its crazy traffic gave me the heebie jeebies. We also ate out a lot. So, I realize that my experience in Rio was made even more amazing because I was just there to relax and have fun. Plus we were mainly in Copacabana, so please take all this with a grain of salt.
But all that said, I have some comparisons to make between Rio and Belo Horizonte.
1. Beauty. Rio de Janeiro is beautiful: there is the beach, the ocean, the mountains, sunset, Cristo Redentor, Pão de Açucar. There are certainly parts that are not so beautiful. We went to Centro to go to Confeitaria Colombo and then we walked to the Theatro Municipal, and it was certainly dirty and not such a great neighborhood (at least from appearances). But I would have to say that the ugly views are well balanced by the very, very beautiful parts. Although Belo Horizonte might mean "beautiful horizon" it is not by any means a beautiful city. Sure the view from Mangabeiras Park is nice, and the Serra do Curral (the mountains "behind" Mangabeiras Park) are beautiful, but it is not very easy to see this part of Belo Horizonte. And miles and miles and miles of high rise apartments are not my idea of beauty. And even though Belo is called "the garden city," and there are some streets that still have nice trees, over all it is just not very visually attractive.
2. Tourism. Rio de Janeiro hosts lots of lots of tourists from Brazil and the world. Belo Horizonte is NOT a tourist destination. Rio de Janeiro has resources to cater to tourists, and Cariocas (people who live in Rio) for the most part know how to welcome tourists and help out. Belo Horizonte just doesn't have many great tourist attractions. There's the Mercado Central, some parks, some museums, but honestly, it's not worth adding an extra day to your tour of Brazil to come visit Belo Horionte. Just saying.
3. Accessibility. We found Rio de Janeiro to be walkable. This means that there were places that were flat, that had good sidewalks, and that we didn't feel like we were risking our lives when we crossed the streets. In Belo Horizonte, the sidewalks are HORRIBLE, it is terribly hilly (if you aren't walking uphill or going downhill it means that you are standing still), and drivers here have no tolerance for pedestrians. This was the thing that surprised me the most. I think that Mineiros (people from Minas Gerais), or perhaps specifically just people from Belo Horizonte get really mean when they get behind the wheel. They don't take traffic sign and signals seriously, they drive crazy fast, and they don't like stopping for pedestrians. Unfortunately pedestrians here compensate by being stupid and running in front of cars. But overall, drivers were MUCH nicer in Rio.
4. How things work. In Rio, the taxi drivers refused to stop at the side of the road to let us out because it was against the law and they could get fined. Maybe I'm reading way too much into this, but I was very impressed by this. There is a street in our neighborhood that has several NO PARKING signs, and any time a car parks in front of the NO PARKING signs, they block traffic and it causes cars to back up and it just makes a mess. But no one cars, and people are always parking there. In fact, in Belo, people stop their cars wherever they want to, whenever they want to. I would like to say that I have never participated in this kind of behavior, but when in Rome...
5. Cleanliness. I found Rio to be overall a much cleaner city than Belo Horizonte. Maybe it's because we were in Copacabana, but it was nice. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Rio is a clean city, but compared to Belo Horizonte, it was cleaner. I didn't see any dog poop on the side walk the whole time I was there! Unfortunately, there is a lot of trash and dog poop in the street and on the sidewalk here.
6. Expense. I didn't find the prices to be all that much difference in Rio as compared to Belo Horizonte. There were some things that were much cheaper (groceries! clothing!), and other things that were more expensive (eating out). I assumed that Rio would be more expensive. But then again, I didn't look into renting any apartments....
I think that I was expecting Rio to feel more dangerous, a little darker and meaner than Belo Horizonte. But I was surprised. My son said that when he grows up and has his own family, he's going to live in Rio de Janeiro. I'd move there with him!