Okay, so three days in Rio is flat out not enough. What were we thinking? Seriously. You need about five or six good days there, we think. A couple beach days, a couple tour days, a couple of shopping days, etc. What we did was a squishy condensed version of that. We arrived in the middle of the day, after a 6 hour bus ride from Paraty. (BTW, the buses are nice in Brazil—very comfy and the seats recline. It gives me a chance to sleep, read and write in my journal.) We arrived in Rio at noon and made our way to our hostel. We immediately freshened up and went on the hunt for some lunch. We stayed in the Ipanema district and found out quickly it is not cheap. However, the proximity to the beach made it worth it. We went for a short walk along the beach and bargained for some beach chairs where I gradually fell asleep because I was soooo tired. Later on I realized I was drowsy because I had taken an anti-histamine since I was itchy from all my mosquito bites (thank you Paraty hostel with the crappy mosquito net) and didn’t realize it was a drowsy version. Damn. That was a waste of a beach day because we didn’t get any sun after that in Rio. On the plus side, before succumbing to the drowsy pill, I did enjoy the – ahem – view. Let’s just say that this beach is voted sexiest beach in the world for a reason. The water and waves are nice but the bodies are fascinating. People are really really not afraid to show off in Rio. There were a lot of booties and a lot of crab men, as Callum calls them. (Read: they skip leg day).
After struggling to sleep or enjoy the beach because of all the hawkers shouting “Ass-eye-ee, ass-eye-ee, ass-eye-ee and bah-nahhhh-naaaaa” and other things in Portuguese I couldn’t understand, we packed up and I was sent to bed by a firm husband who demanded I nap for at least an hour while he would go and explore our neighbourhood. I slept hard while he discovered an amazing market that was going to close imminently and only occurs once a week. So, he came and roused me from my slumber and I grumpily followed him to said market. It was pretty good! I chastised him for letting me sleep as time was running out, and I had to make some hasty purchases as it would probably be my only chance to get souvenirs in Brazil. I bought a lovely painting which just fits in my pack amongst my clothes, as well as a magnet and a pair of blue earrings. I collect magnets and get one nearly every place I visit.
The next day we had booked a tour with Brazil Expedition and got to see many locations. We started with a look at some of the favelas from a distance and I got some neat photos.
Next, we were taken for a brief look at a beach where the hang gliders land. Originally, we had wanted to try that (well, let’s be real, Callum was the one who wanted to as I myself am deathly afraid of heights) but we couldn’t find the time and the weather was not ideal. It was so cool seeing a hang glider land though. Next, we drove up to Tijuca National Park where we had a short walk through the rainforest, stopping to admire a waterfall.
We next made our way to the highlight of the day for me and probably everyone: Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). As it was the day after Easter, it was extra significant and I found myself getting rather emotional as I gazed up at the 38 meters tall statue. I have travelled a bit in my time and have gazed upon many a statue of a god or a Buddha but this was the first time I have seen my God, and it had me all choked up. What an amazing sacrifice he made for us as his outstretched arms reminded me of the cross. I took a moment to pray and give thanks while there. We also took a ton of the typical photos, along with the hundreds of other selfie-stick, iphone, tablet photo-mania tourists. I mean, c’mon, you gotta—it’s a wonder of the world!
We went to Santa Teresa and were inspired to go back the next day as it is a neat traditional neighbourhood. Lastly, we got to see the famous Escadaria Selaron or Chilean Steps in Lapa, which is a unique set of stairs as far as stairs go (my nemesis). This one Chilean-born guy decided to make his neighbourhood more beautiful, so he started tiling the steps. Eventually he had people donating tiles from all over the world and now these steps attract tourists and even featured once on our favourite show “The Amazing Race” (Season 18).
Later that night we tried to eat local Brazilian food for our dinner. Sadly, it was not a great experience. We ordered a special meat, beans and rice dish called feijoada which was enough for two people. When it came, the presentation was lovely, with the waiter dishing it out for us and being very polite. One bite in we both knew this was waaaay too salty. Every local dish we’ve eaten in Brazil has been very high in salt, similar to our experience in Sri Lanka. Also, the coffee is horrible and the sweets are too sweet. Brazilian cuisine has left something to be desired on our palates and we certainly hope for better meals in the future.
The next day we did our own self-guided tour through Rio. First stop was to get to the bus terminal to purchase our tickets out of Rio the next day. Next, we very clumsily made our way to Lapa again where we had to ask for help finding the yellow tram that would take us for $20 back up to Santa Teresa. It’s an historic tram which used to be used by locals and now has been overtaken by tourists. We got up there and had a wander, finding lunch in a small restaurant in front of the historic cinema. A funny thing happened here. As previously mentioned, we can’t speak Portuguese and the Brazilians don’t have much, if any, English. So, we ordered the “house burgers” which we found out came with fries. We waited a very long time for this meal. It was fine, we could wait. As our tummies growled and snarled in anticipation, I decided not to complain. I would enjoy sitting for a change, after all the walking we’d done. Finally, our meal arrived. I picked up the fries and ate one. Well. They were sugared. Yes, folks, instead of salt, there was sugar on my French fries. I thought “I wonder if Callum’s fries are sugared?” but didn’t say anything, because I had decided not to complain. I continued eating them. My burger was delicious, thankfully. I happily accepted the ketchup offered to me by the proprieter. It made the sugar fries a bit more bearable. Callum asked me “are your fries….sweet?” We laughed a bit about it then wondered to ourselves if this is how Brazilians do it? This was our first time eating French fries in Brazil, perhaps this is the custom here??? We actually made an effort to get wifi on my phone solely for the purpose of googling this very puzzling question. Nothing came up when I typed “do Brazilians traditionally eat fries with sugar?” I felt too hungry to ask for replacement fries but did politely request some “sal”. Once we were done, I decided it was up to me to save future patrons from sugared fries, so I said to the lady “um….our fries have azucar on them, instead of sal. They are sugared, you see.” She was horrified once she understood my broken Portuguese/English. I just laughed out loud and told her and the other worker dude that I thought it was hilarious and that I would tell everyone. So, there you go. We got a small discount and a good story.
After that we walked down to the city again and took heaps of pictures of the colourful graffiti along the way.
I did get the distinct feeling of being watched, though. In fact, a local woman stopped us on the footpath and told us vehemently to put our cameras away if we didn’t want to get robbed. That’s what I imagine she said to us, though, because of course she was speaking Portuguese. Also, a large man with bug eyes glared at me and made a hissing/tsking noise, shaking his head which I took to mean “put your damn camera away, lady, jeez, are you stupid?” So I put my damn camera away and we made our way to a safer neighbourhood and found out how to get to Pão de Açúcar or Sugarloaf Mountain which offers the best views of Rio de Janeiro for sure. It requires a ticket up and two cable car rides.
We oohed and ahhed over the views for at least an hour and would have stayed longer if I wasn’t so “done”. It took an hour to make it back to our area of Rio and to find dinner. This time, we struck gold with our restaurant experience. Seriously, we had the best meal in a long long time at this place. I loved it so much I took a business card and photos of the menu. Resto Ipanema had lovely food—I had the bruschetta and the porcopim, while Callum ordered the lamb. We also enjoyed good drinks and desserts. If you go to Rio, go to this place.