July 2. The first goal goes to Brazil, and the entire city of Rio is cheering. Fireworks at 11:43 a.m. over the Sugarloaf mountain, car horns blowing - toy rattles rattling - after Brazil scores its first goal against Holland.
Imagine thousands of brightly costumed Cariocas gathered on the Copacabana beach, some 300 meters up from the JW Marriott - a huge TV screen set up on the beach. Kids from 8 to 80 with green and yellow spiky wigs, everybody with the Brazil team shirts, each marked with their favorite players - Kaka, Robinho. A baby in a stroller decorated with flags, is quickly flanked and passed by an octogenarian whose wheelchair is briskly pushed by a young woman painted, and only painted I think, in green and yellow with a huge B, running alongside 5 other fans, with letters R-A-S-I -L on their impossibly tanned and toned abdomens.
Ah to be in Rio, on the day of their quarter-final qualifying match. My wife and I decided to take advantage of our 456th honeymoon in two decades of marital chaos enjoying the crystalline blue-green ocean with white foamy surf and perfectly combed sandy beach. The lady selling Caipirinhas and grilled cheese on a stick has a portable TV with the game blaring. The lifeguard stands with the red "warning - no swimming" signs conveniently placed as they sought to protect their team from being drowned by the Dutch - who proved technically apt, scoring twice to win the match, and giving Rio lesson in humility and chance to be cheered in four years as underdog and host of the 2014 World Cup.
Immediately after the game, the red flags were removed and the sea once again deemed safe for swimming, filled with waders, boogy boarders, surfers. We decided to head down to the less-known but worth visiting "reserva", a beach reserve 30 minutes southeast of the famous Ipanema beach, past the upscale town of Barra, to the laid back oceanfront local hangout Copa Pesqueiro, where we enjoyed grilled fish prepared to perfection with olive oil, a fantastic salad with hearts of palm, and a couple of "cocos gelados" - chilled coconuts, straw inserted. The sweetest drink ever.
We took the public bus from Barra and witnessed a dark-skinned guy who boarded with two very large luggage pieces. A young woman got up and gave him her seat so he could sit and keep his bags from slipping around. A sign of Brazilian graciousness.
We got out a few blocks before the JW Marriott Copacabana, home for us in Rio, and we headed to the top floor pool, to watch the sunrise and go for a swim. What a sight - Christ the Redeemer statue, lighting up.
That night, the concierge recommended a phenomenal restaurant, La Fiducia, known for its exquisite wine list. We we enjoyed salmon carpaccio, watercress salad, and cigalas, an unusually delicate and delicious lobster variety grilled to perfection accompanied by asparagus risotto. We returned to the Marriott business lounge for tea and passion fruit mousse.
After a month of intense work, of the kids' final exams, of high school commencement, of piano recitals, of visits by friends and family, our day in Rio, just the two of us, seemed an undeserved glimpse of heaven.
p.s. the logo photo was taken from my JW Marriott Copacabana hotel room
A delayed thank you for your comments - it really was a surreal day in Rio - a city I visit periodically - though Sao Paulo is quite a great place and Marriott has 3 properties there - the 2 I know are at the airport (which is a good idea to stay there a night before a flight because traffic can be pretty crazy), and the Renaissance property which has recently been remodeled - very chic and a great location. I think Brazil - and Rio de Janeiro - will do a wonderful job first hosting the World Cup for Soccer (Futbol), then the Summer Olympics.