|Standing on Arpoador with Ipanema beach stretching away behind me.|
|This is a view of Copacabana from the Arpoador Fort - you can see the favela lights stretching up into the hills to the left of the lamp post.|
The favelas have attracted many artists. The towns themselves are well known for their brightly painted shacks and are popular subjects for local painters with dozens of colourful canvasses on display in local markets.
|One of a myriad of favela art collections on sale at the Feira de Artes de Ipanema|
In any case, most of the colleagues I spoke to would never dream of venturing into one of these areas yet were complimentary of programmes to improve conditions and safety. What was also interesting was their surprise at my catching a local bus service from Cosmo Velho (near the station whose train takes you up to Christ the Redeemer) back down to Ipanema on Saturday afternoon - surprised that I actually worked out how to manage this and pleased that I felt safe enough to do it.
That's the thing - I felt safe. Shoulder to shoulder with locals, the bus whizzed through suburb after suburb and I felt like I saw more of the 'real' Rio in that 40 minute trip. And despite the lack of English speaking amongst local storekeepers and waiters, everyone was friendly and willing to help - so with the aid of a very limited 'Lonely Planet' vocabulary and some pretty impressive (if I do say so myself) charades, I managed to feed, water and generally navigate myself around this great city...
...walking along Ipanema Beach, I watched the cariocas (residents of Rio) play, at one with the sand and the sea...
|Top left is Praia de Diabo (Devil's Beach); the rest were taken on Ipanema Beach|
...and ambling along tree-lined streets with their colourful apartment blocks, wondering who might live there.
|Top row; Ipanema|
Bottom row L to R: Leblon, Ipanema, Laranjeiras
Let's hope that Rio will be able to put its best foot forward.