July 15, 2012
Accessibility Key (rating accessibility/accommodations in and around Rio de Janeiro, June-August 2012):
= mau (bad)
= mais ou menos (so-so, ok)
= bom, ta legal (good, great)
**(Highlighted writings below refer specifically to accessibility issues)
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon halfway through the program, Matthew and Will, two guys that really became excellent traveling companions and good friends of mine during our six-week stay in Rio, and I walked/rode to Ipanema for an accessibility tour of the neighborhood.
In 2001, I had spent three weeks in Rio de Janeiro, living in Ipanema several weeks before Carnaval. At that time, I also studied Portuguese at IBEU. I was eager to re-visit my old neighborhood and the feira hippie (hippie fair–a weekly flea market that is “…Brazil’s best-known arts and crafts fair…started in 1968 by a group of hippies (that) has run every Sunday without fail ever since.”). One can buy quality artwork, clothes, musical instruments and other souvenirs for very cheap at this weekly feira.
Matthew, Will, and I headed down along Copacabana Beach, passing families, couples and individuals walking together or riding in carts, on bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, with runners and walkers on our trek to Ipanema (about a 30-45 minute journey). As mentioned in a previous post,on Sundays, the city shuts down the road to cars along the beachfronts of Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema and the other Rio beaches, so that Carioca families can trek alongside the sandy beaches and the impractical, bumpy, cracked, but beautiful mosaic sidewalk that stretches from Leme to Copacabana to Ipanema and beyond.
Accessibility in Ipanema
There are excellent cafes, bakeries, restaurants and beautiful parks throughout Ipanema. Accessibility is mostly good, too. However, one bathroom I visited in a restaurant across the street from Feira Hippie was small and closet-like with a toilet that seemed only raised one foot off the ground.
The Garota de Ipanema Bar/Restaurant had a very accessible bathroom, although the restaurant itself is not accessible and has very narrow aisles. I relied on Matthew, Will, and the Restaurant Management to get me and my wheelchair situated inside for a feijão and arroz lunch (black beans and rice) and caipirinhas (a delicious cachaça–sugar cane whiskey—and crushed lime with sugar and ice drink specialty).
This bar is where Brazilian musician, Tom Jobim, and Brazilian poet, Vinicius de Moraes, wrote the song, The Girl from Ipanema. Really, my love for Rio de Janeiro began with listening back in the 1980s, to the music and words of these two composers. It only seemed appropriate that we should visit this bar/restaurant where Tom and Vinicius ate, drank, and wrote their compositions. We ordered our food and caipirinhas and drank a toast in homage to Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes!
Afterwards, we wandered around the streets and through some beautiful parks of this bairro. One skateboard park we checked out had extremely steep ramps that I had no desire to test with my wheelchair.There are plenty of ramps throughout Rio–leading up beside stairways to apartment buildings, but there seems to be a lack of awareness around what the grade should be for wheelchair/walker/cane use.
The Ipanema sidewalks in most areas were smoother, with cut curbs in better condition than Copacabana sidewalks, and they were much easier to navigate with my motorized wheelchair.
We visited my old neighborhood where I lived for three weeks in December 2001. The apartment building I stayed at was located next to the Favela, Cantagalo, which has an elevator that goes up to the favela community.
It was a visit down memory lane. I love Ipanema and wish I could’ve returned several more times before I ended my stay. We only returned once during our six-week program, but I bought enough souvenirs for all of my Albuquerque, NM, neighborhood!
NEXT: Niteroí and Excellent Accessibility!