The other day I spent about six hours in Rio de Janeiro, just enough time to pay a long overdue visit on some wonderful old friends, to catch up over lunch and cafezinho. I was surprised at how much joy I felt simply to once again walk along those streets. I didn’t even go to the beach, although a friend’s apartment balcony offered a lovely sight of the Lagoa with its little boats framed by the mountains beyond.
Rio, like New York, is a walking city. Its life is found on foot, in linked neighborhoods that flow easily one into the other. It is not merely the immense natural beauty that calls out to you, there is also the ruined grandeur of the architecture – so many heartbreakingly lovely old buildings, many in disrepair, proud beauties from another time.
I realize that much of the romance of any city is inside our own heads, entwined with our personal histories, the people we’ve met on its avenues and in its restaurants, the way those encounters have changed our lives and made us who we are. For me Rio de Janeiro is such a place. When I walk its streets, and take in the lilting rhythm of its daily life, I cannot help but hear, somewhere within my soul, the immortal music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.