One of my fondest memories of travel is the year we went to carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Before all of the festivities started, we drove along the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches to Sugar Loaf Mountain.
There is a two-stage cable car that will take you 1,390 feet to the top of the mountain. Once there, you will see the entire city, from beaches and bays to the forested mountains that go on for miles and miles.
While there, you can toast the city of Rio with a caipirinhas, a favorite Brazilian cocktail made from cane liquor.
Our next stop was a trip to visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain. To get to the top, you will ride a cog train that dates back more than 114 years. It was first inaugurated by Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II.
Along the way, there is an opportunity to view the flora and fauna from the world famous butterflies of Brazil to sloths and monkeys. The cog train will travel across the Tijuca National Park before reaching the top, where there is a 360-degree panoramic view.
We now enter the part of our trip that left us exhilarated and tired at the same time. While in our room at the hotel, we could hear music in the streets 24 hours a day. It was impossible not to run down and join the dancing in the street.
Since Rio is the carnaval capital, it is filled with all of the joy and entertainment you could want leading up to Lent; the time for carnaval is the Friday to the Tuesday before Lent of each year.
One thing that is a must during carnival is going to a ball. Now, this is not your typical ball. I remember getting to the door of the hall and dancing in with everyone doing the same thing. No sitting here. Just keep dancing in the direction all are headed.
Along the way, you can get a drink from one of the bars setup along the outside of the building. Keep dancing. The group goes around the building and right back into the door and starts all over again. This goes on for hours.
We got to our hotel in time for a shower and then we were off to the Escola de Samba parade. There are many of these schools that dance down the street doing the samba in bright and sometimes very large costumes.
After several hours of watching and, oh yes, dancing in your seat, head back to the hotel for some rest. During this time we were up for three days and two nights with no sleep. Guess what? We were having so much fun we really did not seem to need it.
After a breather from all of the excitement I highly recommend a trip to Iguassu Falls. These falls are two miles wide and 250-feet high in some spots. The roar and the spray are unbelievable. The tropical growth, along with the falls, makes this an unforgettable natural wonder.
If you still have time, a trip to Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon River, would be a great ending to your vacation. The Opera House, built almost entirely of European material during the rubber boom and inaugurated in 1896, looks much as it did then. A stroll through the art nouveau-style municipal market is a great way to top off your adventure.
Boa viagem (Portuguese for "good travel").
Rosemarie Mascarenhas is a consultant at Gadabout Travel. Visit www.cruisetraveltours.com or call (772) 589-0633.