According to Cariocas—the people of Rio de Janeiro—God made the world in six days and then spent the seventh lying on the beach in Ipanema. For in a city as beautiful as this, they say, only the philistine or the ungrateful would do anything else.
Photographs cannot prepare you for Rio. There is far more to the city than Corcovado capped with Christ or the Sugar Loaf; these are overtures to the grand symphony of the scene. Rainforest-covered boulder mountains rise sheer from the sea around the vast Guanabara Bay and stretch to the horizon. Their curves and jags are broken by long sweeping beaches of powder-fine sand pounded by the dazzling green ocean, or by perfect half-moon coves lapped by the gentle waters of the bay. The city clusters around them, climbing over hills and crowding behind beaches and lakes. Its neighborhoods are connected by tunnels bored through the ancient rock or across winding double-decker highways that cling vertiginously to the cliffs above the fierce Atlantic Ocean. And there's the city's religious and artistic culture, from the Myan-looking cathedral to galleries displaying the nation's art.
Against this magical backdrop, the famous Carioca day leisurely unwinds. When the sun is down they head for the botecos (street bars) for an ice-cold draught beer or chope. Then they go home, finally put some clothes on and prepare to go out until the early hours of the morning.