IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A breathtaking view of Rio

‘The outstretched hands of the statue (Christ the Redeemer) seemed as if they might pluck us from the sky.’ Matt Lauer chronicles day one of his ‘round-the-world adventure.
/ Source: TODAY

I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since my last trip, and that I’ve been to 19 locations, now in the fifth year of this odyssey we’ve created. As the plane pulled out of New York around 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, I thought about all the incredible things I’ve seen and done: From standing on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt to walking across miles of still-warm lava on the edge of a Hawaiian volcano, from a cold night spent mid-mountain on Everest in a sleeping bag to gazing at the beauty of Victoria Falls as it mist soaked our guests and crew, the list goes on and on.

LOOKING AHEAD to the next five days, I think to myself (as I have every year), this year we will out-do ourselves again!

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro at about 7:30 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, having caught just a few hours of sleep on the plane. One of the first things I noticed: the heat. With temperatures hovering in the upper 80’s and the humidity hanging thick in the air, one thing was clear: our location on the beach would be a hot one.

After a quick bite to eat I took back to the skies — this time in a helicopter where I got a bird’s eye view of the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Rio is an incredible city from the air — with it’s miles of beaches and Sugar Loaf mountain looming above it all. But by far the most breathtaking site was perhaps one of Rio’s most renowned — the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop one of the highest peaks. Our helicopter circled the statue from about 100 yards away. We were so close the outstretched hands of the statue seemed as if they might pluck us from the sky. People tell me its an even eerier sight on a foggy day, as the statue seems to rise from the mist.

Back in Copacabana, I had some time for one of Rio’s most renowned activities: a walk on the beach. Because it was a Sunday, the place was packed. There were lots of children and families, vendors selling cold drinks and snacks, and scores of volleyball courts set up along the sand. I was struck by the Brazilian passion for exercise. There were countless people running, walking and biking along the pathways that edged the beach.

Late afternoon was spent preparing for Monday’s show, and I was able to get in a quick (much needed) nap. By dinner time I felt well rested and well prepared. I met a dozen or so colleagues for a fabulous dinner of authentic Portuguese food in one of the city’s more elegant restaurants. We had a delicious meal of seafood, lamb and indigenous tastes. I went to sleep feeling the excitement of what I knew would be a great day one and the perfect kick off to the week. I would be getting up early the next morning for the show, which would begin at 8 a.m. local Rio time.

The sun was blazing as we headed out to the set for the show. It was a crystal clear day — allowing for an incredible shot of the statue of Christ the Redeemer from our location on the beach. The show moved quickly — and I think we really gave viewers a sense of the culture and lifestyle of the region. On tape we were able to give glimpses of some of Brazil’s other important sights and stories; including a trip down the Amazon river and a look at Rio’s obsession with plastic surgery. A local chef shared an authentic Brazilian menu, and a samba group came alive with beautiful dancers and great music.

All told, it was a great show and a great start to the week. As I write, I am already back in the skies — heading off for day two. It’s a long trip to our next stop... and that’s all I can tell you. You’ll here from me next after day two.