Rio is a city that, like Venice, sets one with lofty expectations, yet somehow manages to meet or even exceed them. It is also like Venice in that is heavily laden with tourists, rather expensive (particularly coming from Paraguay), and is so full of astonishing views that virtually any direction you face is worthy of a picture.
We arrived late on a Friday night from Asuncion. Was pretty cool arriving at night, the clear skies meant the city was light up like Christmas. Only because there are national parks/hills spread throughout the city you have lights and massive areas of black out. All of this was further improved as we banked over the ocean, adding the reflection off the beaches in to the mix.
We stayed in an airBNB just off Atlantica near Posto 5. If you leaned out our living room window, Copacabana was right there. So our location was pretty great. We took Saturday morning to acquaint ourselves with our area. Hiking a couple miles down Copacabana, getting my feet wet in the Southern Atlantic (now been both hemispheres for both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean), and stocking up random stuffs for our apartment. Her brother and his girlfriend would be arriving around 1am Sunday morning so we got some welcome wine (for her), South American watery lager (for him), coffee… you know, the important stuff.
That evening we joined some of our friends from PY, also vacationing in Rio at Os Imortais to watch the Copa America final (congrats to Chile, we were pulling for you, particularly after Argentina abused Paraguay in the semifinals) and try all sorts of Brazilian craft beer. I was pretty impressed as a whole. Great evening. Stayed up long enough to make sure the second half of our vacation squad was there before retiring.
Sunday, after coffee, we headed out to enjoy the beach and, eventually, found ourselves at the famous Copacabana Palace for brunch. It was ridiculous. Filet Mignon, red snapper, duck, oysters, various cheeses, fruit, fruit smoothie shooters. We then walked back along the beach to Fort Copacabana and enjoyed, er, more beer and coffee at a café, taking shelter from some sudden rain.
Monday we made it into town to check out the awesome Escadaria Selaron. One man decided to beautify his neighborhood… one tile at a time. As his work grew, it intrigued others who provided him with tiles from their favorite futbol clubs or home city to include in his mural which extends up and up for about 125 meters/yards. Really cool to behold. His neighbors apparently originally mocked him for his garish colors. I suppose now they are happy for the income selling pics and trinkets to turistas.
After we made our way pass the aqueduct and on to the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian of Rio. Was impressive, but when I looked up to the top of the inverted ice cream cone interior, I ended up feeling rather dizzy looking up. Terrified gravity might reverse and I’d fall up. Oh noes.
We followed that up trying to time a sunset visit to Sugarloaf. Mother Nature wasn’t totally down with our plan, clouds came rolling in so the entire view was a rather grey. Ultimately it might have been better that way, as it was still spectacular (particularly when an illuminated Cristo Redentor was visible during a small hole in the clouds), and a brilliant counterpoint to our visit to the famous statue the following morning.
Tuesday was much better, weather-wise, and we took the train up to Cristo Redentor.
Red and yellow, black and white
They all take selfies in his sight
Jesus poses with the peoples of the world.
Busy, but spectacular. Great views of the city, but had to be careful dodging all the people standing, kneeling, even laying on the ground taking pictures. This was 10am on a Tuesday during low season… cannot imagine the crowd during a peak season.
After a lunch we decided to hit the beach. I’m not really a beach guy, but I really enjoyed relaxin’ at Copacabana. We had a great “Beach Guy” who rented us out chairs, umbrellas (to keep me from getting fried), and seemed to come back around to check on us just as we finished our caipirinhas. “Paul, not McCartney” as he introduced himself, made it easy to just relax and take in the scenery. People playing football, joggers, sunbathers, Sugarloaf in the background… stunning.
After dinner we ended up going to a cool samba/bossanova club, Bip-Bip. A great little local venue that has been around for near 50 years It’s the size of a walk-in closet. The tables inside are occupied by a rotating cast of musicians – guitarists (we had 5), flutes (3), squeezeboxes, percussion. You have to slink in along the far wall to get beer from the back, show it to the owner, who sits out front and keeps tabs on the honor system. Oh, and shut up and enjoy the music. As passionately as he preaches about the music, he’ll also erupt and shoosh those whose conversations interrupt his enjoyment of the tunes.
We enjoyed another Maxo-relaxo Wednesday on the beach. Yum caiprinhas. Even Antarctica tastes good relaxing on the beach. We needed to store up as we had an action-packed Thursday planned.
Thursday was the Day of Many Things. While planning everything out, each of us picked out an activity we wanted to do. Kyle was easy enough… beach. Done. Katie wanted to do a bike tour, Kaitlyn see the rain forest, and I wanted to take in a futbol match at the legendary Maracana. As fate had it, the only days that would work for the bike tour and soccer were Thursday, and a jeep tour of the rain forest fit right in.
The bike tour was great, went up the Copacabana around by Sugarloaf, Vermilha beach, by Botafago, through the city eventually coming out by the lagoa near Ipanema. Was a great tour, not difficult, and a lot of really beautiful scenery. If this sounds like your thing, I’d try to schedule in advance for your first day or so in town, as you’ll get a better lay of the land early in your trip.
We had time for a quick lunch before we were off on the Jeep tour. We were able to a scenic ride the the massive nature park in the city – replanted as it was cleared for coffee plantations in the 1800s. Scenic waterfall. Very short jungle trek. Then off to the stunning Chinese View and the botanical garden.
Following a quick bite to eat, off to the Maracana where we watched Fluminense overcome a lot of missed opportunities scoring a late goal to defeat Cruzeiro. Even though the 72,000 seat park was half empty, the supporters end made a lot of noise to cheer on their side. Great atmosphere.
Kyle and Kaitlyn left early Friday, having enjoyed their visit. Katie and I had one more day to enjoy. Amusingly was the sunniest day of the entire week there, so we did what any logical people would do. Copacabana & caiprinhas. Woohoo.
Absolutely beautiful city.