Brazil’s rich-poor divide doesn’t get clearer than the views from my Rio Sheraton balcony: Up and to the left, a shanty town built into a cliff; down and to the right, a fancy swimming pool and the posh beach neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema.
“The place with the bulletproof windows?” a friend joked when I told him where I was staying.
Still, my first visit to Rio de Janeiro — and Brazil — left me excited about a great city, which feels like it’s on the upswing.
The imminent World Cup and Olympics obviously won’t fix the city’s income gap, and big sporting events have a reputation for wasting money and time on short-term infrastructure.
But even in the two days I had to explore Rio, there was a definite sense of urgency to build and repair: A terminal at the main Galeão airport, a branch of subway service into Leblon, new hotels, etc. I wasn’t looking for trouble, but Rio was cleaner than I had expected, and there wasn’t a minute I felt unsafe.
My hope is that all the attention Rio is about to get will be a big confidence-booster, and that improvement will continue. Meanwhile, it’s already on my short list of places to return — I’m looking forward to the “after” shot.
Also: Rio’s Leblon: Eat Here