Xtra, Xtra…read all about it! (Gay Rio….)

Xtra, Canada’s Gay & Lesbian News, had a recent article written by Michael Luongo on Rio de Janeiro.   Read all about it….


To my mind, there is no more beautifully situated city in the world than Rio de Janeiro. A beachside metropolis, my favorite kind of urban destination, it spreads up from the Atlantic Ocean into the dramatic mountains behind it. Many are oddly rounded in shape, like Sugarloaf (which takes its name from a time when sugar was shaped in cones) and Corcovado (“hunchback” in Portuguese), graced for more than 80 years by the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, who blesses the city and her residents no matter what sins they get up to.

Rio dates back to the 1500s and was once the capital of Brazil, before the central government was moved in the middle of the last century to Brasília, in the wilds at the heart of the country. Still, even the designers of the new capital so loved Rio they refused to live in Brasília. The most famous architect of the new capital, Oscar Niemeyer, lives in a curvaceous ocean-view high rise on Avenida Atlantica. Niemeyer, who is more than 100 years old, is the perfect example of what locals call a Carioca de Gema, or native of Rio “down to the yolk.” Such people refuse to leave Rio; once you visit this seductive city with its mix of danger, sensuality and beauty, you’ll understand.

On Botafogo Bay looking toward Sugarloaf Mountain.
(Luis Rizo)

My first visit to Rio was in 2000, and I landed in the middle of Carnival. I was travelling with my friend Jim Green, a professor at Brown University and the author of the book Beyond Carnival, about Brazil’s gay history. I could not have had a better person as a guide.

We spent time in Copacabana, where the gay beach, marked by its own rainbow flag, sprawls from the famous Copacabana Palace hotel. We delighted in watching famous Brazilian pornstars order drinks from the gay kiosk on Avenida Atlantica, with its black and white swirled walkways.

The other gay beach is in Ipanema, a more upscale, less crowded part of the city where we watched well-toned men (often called Barbies for their beautiful, though distinctly male, physiques) play volleyball where the sands meet the Rua Farme de Amoedo, considered the main gay drag. I partied at the Banda de Ipanema street festival while getting rained on, surrounded by hundreds of Speedo-clad men whose feathery headdresses wilted to the pavement.

Rio de Janeiro from the Corcovado.

Farther from the centre of Rio is the beach at Leblon, and during Carnival it’s home to the Gay Ball at the social club Scala, which for me was the highlight. I danced with a hunky Argentine tourist, a transgender beauty and a ball-gowned woman old enough to be my grandmother. All this special gay fun was in addition to the normal goings-on during Carnival, including the Sambadromo, where the parades of samba schools competing for the best themes and costumes all take place.

Carnival, which takes place just before Lent, is the party that put Rio on the map, but there are other great times to visit the city. One of the world’s biggest New Year’s celebrations is Réveillon, when millions of Cariocas dress in white and head to the beach, throwing flowers into the Atlantic Ocean as offerings to Yemanja, the goddess of the sea, celebrated in the Penelope Cruz movie Woman on Top. We all know what happens when white clothes hit water, so after the flowers are thrown, people find other ways to ring in the new year.

Young men celebrating during a Carnival street parade in Copacabana.
(Michael Luongo)

Any event will have a gay dimension in Rio, but if you want to visit during Pride itself, head to Rio in October, just as summer is beginning. This year’s Pride had nearly a million participants. Clovis Casimiro, the commercial director of the gay tourism promotion group ABRAT GLS, says that during Pride or any time, “Rio is so fun because of the local people and the combination of nature and metropolis — and also because Rio means the Brazilian way of life — relaxed, happy, colourful, with music and great hosts!”

Casimiro reminds us that while beaches made Rio famous, the city is so much more than just that. Within the old downtown, you’ll find fantastic colonial churches, like São Bento, with its interior awash in gold, or the space-capsule-shaped Catedral Metropolitana. I love the old plazas here in the centre, often devoid of tourists, who stick to the beaches. The downtown is full of imposing early-20th-century classical structures, along with mid-century moderns built under dictatorships, which seem almost Pharaonic in scale.

No gay person worth his or her salt will want to miss the neighbourhood of Flamengo, with its Carmen Miranda Museum. Gay artist Ulisses Rabelo sculpted many of the mannequins that hold the brilliant clothes this Brazilian star wore in numerous Hollywood musicals of the 1940s.

Overlooking Rio is the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, which has undergone a revival and is full of artists and galleries. At the bottom of the hills, below Santa Teresa, is a famous aqueduct, the Arcos da Lapa, in the area known as Lapa. This neighbourhood, now full of clubs and music bars, is a little seedy and was once the haunt of the legendary Madame Satã, whose real name was João Francisco dos Santos, an infamous gang member and drag performer in the 1920s and 1930s.

Madame Satã is just one example of Rio’s gay history and her always-lurking dangers. The city has dramatically improved in the past decade in both cleanliness and safety, as all of Brazil’s economy has uplifted and with the city preparing for the Olympics. Still, night is a time to be cautious. I was once attacked by young kids with knives in Copacabana. In the end, I was relatively unharmed, just a little shaken, but I was left with one of my favorite Rio stories. I flagged down the police, explaining to them what had happened, but we could not find the suspects when we did a drive-around. The police asked me where I was heading, which was to a new gay bar (since closed.) The policemen did not know of it but said they would instead take me to Le Boy, Rio’s best-known gay club. They turned on the sirens and the flashing lights and sped me through the streets. In front of Le Boy, I hugged and kissed the policemen goodbye and stepped out of the patrol car into the club, skipping the long line, with everyone thinking I was a celebrity or a gay cop.

There is no city in the world quite like Rio.

Getting there
You’ll most likely fly into Galeão International Airport, about 45 minutes northwest of the city. Santos Dumont Airport, closer to the city, is where the Rio–São Paulo air shuttle touches down. Pay-in-advance airport taxis can be found at both of these gateways.

Getting around
Rio’s Metro is an excellent subway and rapid transit system. Tourists can connect between Ipanema, Copacabana, Botafogo, Flamengo, Glória, Central Station in downtown, and beyond, then hop a taxi for streets around the stations. Buses are everywhere, but unless you’re a local you probably won’t figure them out before it’s time to board your homeward-bound flight. Taxis are easy to hail on the street, but if you want an air-conditioned cab, you might have to have your hotel call one for you. They are more expensive but worth it on the hottest days.

Ipanema and Copacabana are the centre of Rio de Janeiro’s gay nightlife. Nights out for locals usually begin at friends’ houses, in cocktail lounges or over dinner before they hit the dance clubs after midnight. Though Ipanema has no big dance clubs, it has plenty of small and chic clubs. Watch out for circuit parties, too. They might be anywhere — from the beach to an old industrial building or on a farm outside the city — but most take place in the downtown district.

Men on the beach playing volleyball in Rio de Janeiro.
(Michael Luongo)

The Brazillian real (meaning “royal”) is the local currency. The coins are divided into the same denominations as most currencies, so getting to know the local money is easy. Online websites like XE provide exchange rates that are close to what credit or debit card scales will be. Plastic is widely accepted, so you won’t need to risk carrying a lot of cash. As always when going abroad, inform your bank of your travel plans (to avoid anti-theft protocols), find out if they have local partner banks (to save on ATM charges), and get phone numbers other than 800 codes — which sometimes won’t work outside the US and Canada — just in case.

Rio Tourism’s official gay website: rioguiaoficial.com.br/lgbt
Carnival: rio-carnival.net

Parakeet for breakfast?

We had some parakeets, four to be exact, fly into our kitchen and visit us for breakfast!  Below is a photo of one of the parakeets just above the beverage area.  Fortunately, no messes were created and the guests were delighted!!!

parakeet for breakfast

Clowns Protest Santa Teresa Bonde Plan; Want it returned NOW!

By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter; The Rio Times

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Dozens of comic artists yesterday donned red noses and baggy pants to stage a good-natured protest at the Arcos da Lapa, demanding the return of the traditional bonde (tram) in Santa Teresa after the system was suspended indefinitely following a fatal derailment earlier this year.

Clowns protests at Rio's Arcos da Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil NewsClowns protesting at Rio’s Arcos da Lapa demanded the Santa Teresa bonde be returned to its former glory, photo by Vladimir Platonow/ABr.

“Santa Teresa without the tram is not Santa Teresa. The tram is about simplicity in the face of a more technological world and this is a symbol of poetry, as are clowns,” explained 60-year-old professional clown Leo Bassi.

For the balance of the story, please click on the link below:


Rio de Janeiro Lit In Red For World AIDS Day (December 1st, 2011)

Photo: AP

The city of Rio de Janeiro has marked World AIDS day by lighting 10 of its famous monuments and attractions in red including The Christ Redeemer Statue. The red lights will be on for 3 nights in Rio. Rio’s government has also invested $1.1 million in a program, the largest city-wide campaign in Brazil to combat ignorance, prejudices and misinformation about AIDS.

Posted by Shon Starr on December 1, 2011 on BrazilGeeks.com

The Lighting of Lagoa Christmas Tree in Rio last night -The Rio Times (Nov 27th, 2011)

By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio’s famous Lagoa Christmas tree was officially opened last night in spectacular style, accompanied by fireworks, concerts and ballet shows. The enormous structure sits in the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone).

The 2011 lighting of the Lagoa Christmas Tree in Rio de janeiro, Brazil news
The 2011 lighting of the Lagoa Christmas Tree in Rio, photo by Rogerio Santana/Imprensa RJ. (November 27th, 2011)

The theme for this year’s tree, sponsored by Bradesco Seguros, is “A Present for the Brazilian Family”, and has some impressive specs:

It stands 279ft (85m) tall, weighs 542 tonnes, and has 3.3 million bulbs and 65 miles (105km) of tube lights, all of which is mounted on a floating base of some 8,719 sq ft (810m²), according to its website.

Crowds were treated to performances by famous singers Gal Costa and Frejat and the Barra Mansa Symphonic Orchestra, and although the event only opened to the public at 6PM in the evening, people had started taking their places from earlier in the afternoon.

A number of illegal vendors who were hoping to cash in on the crowds have been caught out by police, it was reported, with many vehicles fined or towed away.

Many consider the event – which first started in 1996 and is now in its sixteenth reincarnation – the start of the festive season in the Cidade Maravilhosa, and sits in third place in terms of events in the city after Carnaval and New Year’s.

Read more (in Portuguese).

Meet the Nominees for the Sexiest Spot in the 2011 NewNowNext Travel Awards

BUT the winner is…………RIO DE JANEIRO.

2011 Sexiest Spot Nominees

“As Europe becomes more expensive, BA’s residents become incrementally sexier! They’re fit, well-dressed, smart, and still have money and good credit ratings!” notes Adam Graham who contributes to New York Magazine and The New York Times. While writer Duane Wells, puts it simply: “BA is Europe meets Latin America… The city just drips sex.”
“More than Barcelonans, the men and women that keep Spain’s capital moving and shaking seem to combine party-ready sexiness with super smarts, business savvy, and worldly-but-not-world-weary charm.” – Darren Frei, ShermansTravel.com
This boho-sexy hipster/foodie mecca doesn’t just feed your tummy. It hits below the belt, too! “I love me some flannelled lumberjacks. And all that wood! Seriously though, it may not seem terribly “sexy” on the surface, but this northwest nirvana does something for me.” – Darren Frei, ShermansTravel.com
“Beaches, cocktails, parties, South American sass, and arguably the hottest people on Earth. Add to that just enough flirty, volatile unpredictability to keep you on your toes… and BAM! What’s not sexy about that?” – John Polly, TripOutTravel.com
“St. Tropez is old-school Riviera sexy, but so gorgeous. And so is everyone there.” –Heidi Mitchell, Town & Country Contributing Editor
“They’re all fit, stylish and look hot in pretty much anything they wear, so for people who enjoy a Nordic/Viking type in Acne jeans and a Whyred jacket (even in summer it’s a little nippy at night), this Scandinavian Venice is hard to beat.” – Charles Runnette

Our TOP Reasons to visit Casa Cool Beans and Santa Teresa….

Our TOP Reasons to visit Casa Cool Beans and Santa Teresa….

1) BEST LIBATION- Looking to savor the BEST caipirinha in RIO? We feel it can be found in one of the BEST BARS in all of Rio de Janeiro; Armazem Sao Thiago..but know to the locals in Santa Teresa simply as Bar do Gomez. Located just one block from Casa Cool Beans, this institution has been around for more than 90 years, serving up the coldest choppe (draft beer), best mixed caipirinha and lots of local characters; NOT to be missed! http://www.armazemsaothiago.com.br/english.html

2) ART- Start your collection NOW….visit Santa Teresa; the artist haven in the hills overlooking the beaches and Rio. Find the Atelier Chamego Bonzolandia, a trolley-shaped workshop (Rua Aurea at the Montreal Supermercado) where Getulio Damado fashions trash into art. Starting at R$10 you can’t go wrong!

3) THRILL- Ride the BONDE…stepping back in time, or so it seems when boarding the little yellow tram which winds it’s way from Centro (downtown Rio) over the Lapa arches and up the hills of Santa Teresa and back again. Just R$.60 per ride.

4) DEAL- Casa Cool Beans is #1 on TripAdvisor for all B&B’s in Rio de Janeiro! Yet our prices our some of the lowest! We will make sure your trip to Rio is not just comfortable, informative, and enjoyable…we guarantee it to be “cool beans”!!!! http://www.casacoolbeans.com

5) BEST MEAL- Want to have the BEST food, view and atmosphere all in one? SImply snag a reservation at Aprazivel; the super hot restaurant in Santa Teresa! NOT TO BE MISSED!!!! http://www.aprazivel.com.br/aprazivel.htm

6) PEOPLE- The streets of Santa Teresa are overflowing on weekends with people from all walks of life; ideal for people watching and bumping elbows with some of the local artists. But you will be sure to note the warm welcome one receives from the locals!

7) MOUSSE- Our dog, Mousse, has become an international celebrity. Guests from all over the world bring him goodies and send him salutations. We promise he will be wagging his tail upon your arrival and be there for your departure; (but make sure to bring plenty of energy to provide his requested pats!).

8) ARCHITECTURE- WOW….wonder the cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa to see some of the most beautiful turn of the century homes and buildings.

9) MOST FAMOUS STAIRS- The mosaic stairs that have been featured in music videos (Snoop Dog); finishing line for Amazing Race, fashion shoots and so much more start here in Santa Teresa and 200+ stairs later lead you to Lapa. The Chilean Artist, Selaron, can be found there most days working away on his masterpiece, which he says will only be completed when he dies. Simply FABULOUS!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escadaria_Selar%C3%B3n

10) Who needs another reason? Just come visit us! Rio is Casa Cool Beans!!!

Rio de Janeiro adds public bike rentals…(as reported in the Huffington Post) Oct 28, 2011

Rio de Janeiro to have public bike rental program

October 28, 2011 04:57 PM EST | AP

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian city of Rio De Janeiro is implementing a public bike rental program, following in the footsteps of Paris, Washington, Mexico City and San Francisco.

Rio de Janeiro public bike rental program starts October 28th, 2011

The system was inaugurated Friday (October 28th, 2011) with 11 bike rental stations in the beach-side neighborhood of Copacabana. The mayor’s office says 60 secure docking stations will be installed across the city by Dec. 13, making 600 bicycles available to the public. The bikes can be returned at any station, giving riders freedom to hop on and off where needed. Users have to register online and buy a daily pass for $3 or monthly pass for $6. Rio’s system is modeled after the bike-sharing program implemented in Paris in 2007 and reproduced by many cities around the world. -as reported in the Huffington Post by AP


We are ecstatic that such a program has been implemented as many of our guests who are used to such bike rental programs want to use one here in Rio de Janeiro!

For the official website (in Portuguese) please find the link below: