Update Jan. 8, 2011 from Luiz Barreto of São Paulo Brazil: "There are other interesting and nice parks now where you can roll too: Villa Lobos Park (the best place and a very nice park), Parque do Povo (People's Park), and Parque das Bicicletas (Bicycle Park), all here in São Paulo and easy to reach. Also there are some ice rinks in some shopping malls."
I've been working in Brazil the last couple of months. It's a great, beautiful and diverse country, but unfortunately, it's not a place to take a skate vacation. The roads are crowded and rough. The drivers yield to no one. The sidewalks, where they exist, are dangerous to walk on, much less skate. Despite that, I have discovered a few good places, so if you find yourself headed to Brazil for other reasons, you may want to pack your wheels.
A Sao Paulo Surprise
Sao Paulo is huge 17 million peoplethe biggest city in South America and one of the largest in the world. Sao Paulo is the business center of South America. It has great restaurants and nightlife. Much of it is also ugly, dirty and crowded, and traffic is terrible.
However, there is an oasis, a place where everyone heads when they want a break form the urban madness, Ibirapuera Park. Ibirapuera is Sao Paulo's Golden Gate Park. On Sunday, they close all the roads (and there are a lot of them) to traffic. The streets fill with strollers, joggers, bikers, skateboarders and, yes, a few inline skaters. Most of the pavement is great and, if you go early, you can avoid the crowds.
A special feature is the park's huge, flowing, covered pavilion with smooth pavement. It's like a giant open-air dance floor, crowded with skaters, bicyclists and skateboarders. There were two slalom courses and an inline hockey game going in the corner. Actually, there were no corners in this futuristic building. Conspicuously absent among the skaters was anything resembling protective gear. I only saw one pair of kneepads. I saw several novices flopping to the pavement, totally unprotected. Ow, that's gotta hurt!
The Girl From Ipanema Bought Skates!
Rio de Janeiro lives up to all the hype you have ever heard. It is a truly beautiful city, maybe the most beautiful in the world. Soaring green mountain peaks sweep down to white sand beaches. Between is a lively world-class city that shows its African, Latin and European heritage.
There is an obvious culture of fitness here. Everywhere you look, people are working out or playing hard at swimming and surfing, soccer or volleyball on the beach. They even play a soccer version of volleyball called futvolei with no hands. Amazing. When the Cariocas (Rio residents) are done working out, they want to show off the results on the beach. The women favor skimpy bikinis with a thong cut.
What about skating? A great bicycle path parallels the beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana, and continues along the bay. It's a little narrow for fast skating, but good for touring. Every Sunday, the city closes lanes of the boulevards that run along the beach and bay, and open them to recreational traffic. It's paradise for those on wheels: three smooth lanes that run for miles, with beautiful people and scenery everywhere you look. If that's not enough to make you want to pack your skate gear, I don't know what is.
For more information about skating in Brazil, visit the About.com site hosted by my pal Kathie Fry. --Liz