This tale will take us back to April 2013, beginning of Autumn in South America, quite the perfect time for someone like me who suffers during the heath of summer at the beach.
For a long time I had dreamed to travel to Rio de Janeiro, to dance samba and drink Caipirinhas while watching a sunset at Ipanema beach. Well, I had those things but not necessarily together, which leaves me thinking about going to Rio one more time.
At that time I travelled for the first time abroad with my partner, let’s make a pause here, if you have not yet travelled with your partner for longer than a weekend you should definitely try at least one long trip to see how you both get along in a different environment. This experience can bring you two closer, or make it clear things are not going well… Anyway, on to the Rio story, not without a nice selection of Brazilian Music that you can listen here!
It was early morning, the sun was about to light up the horizon at Ipanema Beach, the hotel right in front of Ipanema had a gorgeous view. You may have heard a lot more about Copacabana than Ipanema, but really Ipanema is less crowded, more relaxed and without missing on anything, plus the view of the Dois Irmaos hill is iconic! Also, Ipanema has a very nice offer of restaurants of all kinds: grilled meats, Italian, Japanese, you name them! So to me it was the perfect location. Some locals advise to also stay in Leblon or Barra de Tijuca but those are too far off, and with the traffic jams you would most definitely enjoy being nearer Copacabana.
Another plus to Ipanema is that it is next to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, and a short bus ride to Jardim Botanico, which is a great option to spend a day in nature. I enjoyed going for a run everyday along Av. Vieira Souto, from Leblon all the way to Arpoador, there is people doing sports at all times, so that one can always keep motivated. If running is not your thing, there is also people doing Yoga at sunrise 🙂
We found a great tour agency that took us in one day to Pao de Açucar (Sugar Loaf), Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer), Vista Chinesa, and the Foresta de Tijuca. The open Jeep was great to have a nice view on the way, take some photos and stay fresh, our guide was incredibly nice. Believe me when I say that Brazilians are probably the nicest and warmest people in South America, we all are nice in our own way, but I specially like Brazilians, and I particularly love their music as well, I don’t know if I have mentioned before that I don’t like Salsa at all, on the contrary, Samba makes me dance without even realizing.
At Cristo Redentor, I was a little disappointed once again, like I was when I saw the Statue of Liberty in New York. Let me explain a bit more, in Peru (and surely in most South American countries) we (my generation) grew up watching Novelas with our mothers, in my case those novelas where mostly Brazilian, incredible productions with a plot that kept us all glued to the tv every night over and over, and for some reason all of them had the stories happening in Rio de Janeiro. So I had seen Rio de Janeiro more times than I can count, hence, when I saw the Christ, it was definitely smaller than it appeared on tv, but the view from there over the city pays off for any disappointment.
After our adventure day, the next day was a bit more relaxed, spending the morning at the beach, and then exploring Lapa and the city Centre. We headed first to the colorful Scadaria Selarón, then to the Aqueduto da Carioca, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Sao Sebastiao. Then walked to the centre’s Praça XV and Rua do Mercado where Cariocas play live music, and everyone dances samba whilst drinking beer or the incomparable Caipirinha. As I said before, I like to walk and explore as much as possible, however we were warned to be very careful with belongings such as cameras or phones, so there were not many pictures of buildings along the way.
As good football fans we spent a morning around the Maracaná Stadium, although we couldn’t do the tour inside because it was being renovated for the World Cup (Brazil 2014). On the way back to the centre we passed by the Sambodrome Marques de Sapucaí, home of the Carnaval de Rio.
The afternoon was reserved to explore Santa Teresa neighborhood, this area is probably the oldest and most colonial side of Rio, you can either take a taxi, a bus or take the Bondinho Santa Teresa (the tram). Here we had a traditional meal at Sobrenatural restaurant, my favorite dish and I strongly suggest you to try is the Mocheca (kind of fish stew) and Shrimp empanadas, plus a freshly squeezed Laranja juice (Orange juice) that was the perfect introduction for yet another nice Caipirinha.
At night we tried the famous Garotta de Ipanema restaurant, no doubt one of the best grilled meats we ever had (well for me it was grilled frango -chicken- because I don’t eat red meats), and to finish a fun day a stroll by the shore letting my feet feel the still warm water on the way back to the hotel.
You may have noticed I use some words in Portuguese with easiness, well since the Brazilian Portuguese is quite similar to Spanish it becomes really easy for us to communicate without necessarily learn the other language, after a couple of days I was already speaking some Portuguese, accent included. That mix of Portuguese and Spanish is well known among us Latin Americans as Portuñol, and to be fair I can assure you we enjoy speaking it whenever possible. Some words worth learning are Ola (hi), Obrigada (o) (Thanks, the ending changes depending on female or male), Adeus (good bye), Bom dia (good morning) tudo bem? (everything all right), sim (yes), nao (no).
So far, four days had gone already, and we left one day for shopping, again in Ipanema we found nice stores along the Visconde de Pirajá avenue, there is something for all tastes and shapes, trust me. And to say goodbye to the delightful Rio nothing better than a sunset view from Pedra do Arpoador, from where there is an unforgettable view of both Copacabana and Ipanema beach.
Visiting Rio for 5 days was incredible, and the memories of each person I met, each place I visited, each meal I had, still make me smile, although with some mixed feelings. For that was the first trip I made with whom was my boyfriend back then, and it was also the last one, we broke up four months after we returned from Rio. It was as if we had made a farewell trip, and after 8.5 years of relationship we took different life paths.
That was just the beginning of a series of changes I made in my life over the following 4 years until now. Sometimes we get caught up in routine and monotony, we get too comfortable in what we know, and what we can control, until there comes the time when change is the only way forward. Or maybe it is just that I longed for the changes deep inside but somehow decided not to pay attention to them until it was inevitable, what to do? I decided to let myself go with the flow and enjoy the ride.
As my favorite quote from Mark Twain says “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw of the bowlines. Sail aways from safe harbor. Catch the winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” So I did, and when I look back I don’t regret the decisions I made back then.
Want to know what other changes I made in my life? stay tuned, until the next trip! Meanwhile… Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir! Adeus!