Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I finally also went to Rio. I picked it long ago as a stopover…a hem for a week…on my way up to Seattle for my cousin´s wedding because the airline TAM is Brazilian and was the cheapest flight up. Plus the additional change to stay cost less than 200 USD. It was a very fun city. There is almost too much to do there and see. It is a city of 12 million all together and 6.5M city proper. I stayed in Ipanema and loved it. Out of the beaches most people stay at and see, I liked it the best. It was safer, smaller, had just as much activity, clean, and with great sunsets. I also liked it here because of the running route access.
Rio is an exercise city. Everyone is constantly exercising. They are running, biking, soccer, volleyball, footvolley, long boarding, surfing, paddle boarding, walking, skating, paddle board, and more! I had a few runs along the boardwalk and around the lake toward the hills (the lake is a nice 5k exactly…also a nice spot to walk or dine out). Sunday they close one whole side of the street along the beach until like 4pm for people to exercise…oh and they do..you almost can´t cross to the beach!
I stayed at Che Lagarto hotel which is rather cramped but excellent for meeting people and doing things. Mine in Ipanema was 2 blocks from the beach! I spoke mainly Spanish as Portuguese is not really existent for me yet, but I plan to learn…i have a book! Sports world is there and it is a huge nation developing fast, I´ve decided it´s important for my career. Also Spanish was used because it is similar and with my level conversations were understandable plus those there were mainly from LATAM countries.
The first night I landed was Friday..took the bus from the airport (13 reales)…traffic was horrible, took two hours, and arrived just in time to use the last ATM (atms close at 10 pm for safety reasons) in order to pay for my hostel. From there I dropped my bags, changed, and headed to the bar in the hostel to meet some people. Everyone was headed to LAPA, my group of 4 headed out as well. Friday is the best night to go there…it is crazy. We did not go too crazy…we grabbed a beer and chatted on the main drag, ate street food…burgers with carrots and other random vegis…delish oh and maybe more drinks..they sell them everywhere. There was also samba dancing going on near the aqueduct but i was highly distracted by the delish burgers and drinks that I didn´t check it out. From there we checked out clubs, but they were to expensive so we went elsewhere. The other girl in our group left us when we got to another club in another area of town…we didn´t because it was even more expensive…30R just to enter. Instead we went to the boardwalk for a coconut…yummm!
The next day i spent getting to know the beaches. The whole day i walked from one to the other slowly and eventually ate something…fried cod balls but the place had frozen ones, not recommendable. Arrived back just in time for sunset.
During my stay I did several tours. One to see main touristy places bc I didn´t want to think about which days to do what (plus cost was decent, 80R for two expensive stops plus more and transit). The other tour was to a favela (slum) because i wanted to see it but knew it was not safe, best on tour then, right?
City tour was good except the weather was foggy and all cool things on the hills had no views…bummer. The tour went to some areas and places I probably would not have gone to as an unplanned traveler this time around. Plus I was able to meet some other cool people who I later went out with a few times.
The favela tour was interesting except the stops were really touristy, like the local artists who seemed to be the only ones, other parts around did not sell art. A lot seemed staged for certain hours each day. The tour took us walking down one whole street from top to bottom, street 1, which was literally a sidewalk between homes and stores, no motorized access! We did learn a lot though. The areas that were really showing the favela were the top and bottom. It had a sharp contrast between rich, million plus USD homes and 700 dollar ones next to each other.
I also did a boat tour. The day they recommend is Monday, but i avoided it because it was just tourists a big party and not with Brazilians. Instead I went Sunday for a discounted price last minute with a friend´s friend who worked in tourism…we were like 30 min late for the cruise but they waited..ja ja oops. The boat was cool, it took us to Niteroi across the bay from Rio. We did not get off, well some jumped in the water, but weather was on the cooler side, so I didn´t. There are two ways to get there, by ferry and driving across this really really long bridge across the bay that floats…next time i´ll cross it and maybe stay a night!
Went to a local futebol game too. In the world cup stadium. The first local game in the stadium since remodel. The stadium had record attendance in the world cup of 1950 final. A total of 200,000!!! woah, i think they let in way more than permitted, corruption ya think. The rebuild lets in 80,000 and it is massive but has nothing fun outside of it. Any who this game was Flamengo v. Minas Gerais and fans were great, so loud and fun, and it sold out, which was unexpected. Best of all we Won!! Also to note that Brazilian law requires that a % of tickets are free for those who are poor, so for the 56K people attending, some 2,500 additional were given free.
Itching to see more and with news of another rainy-foggy day I planned to head to another city, Pétropolis, the imperials summer resort. It was two hours or so by bus then a local bus (20 min) to town. I went because it was not a big city, it seemed to have cool and unique museums, and maybe not many go there. First I went to the palace, which was pretty cool. Brazil only had two kings both of which left and went back to Portugal either to marry or return to the kingdom. They left Brazil with independence and to my happiness, one of the wives freed the slaves, long before the US! Inside was beautiful jewlery, furniture, paintings, and more – all of which I could not take photos. You walked with slippers through its three floors. The prize gem here was for sure jewelry. For example, there is a crown that weights 1.7 kgs and has 600 diamonds and 77 pearls that was used for the coronation of a 15 yr old prince!!! I also went to the glass palace brought from FR and was unimpressed but eventually enjoyed taking fotos of myself inside because the blue glass was pretty! I spent to much time there and missed the brewery of Brazil´s first beer (Bohemia)…I later tried it at dinner! My last stop was the best. the museum of Santos Dumont! He has a tiny summer house here….You may be asking, who is he, I had no clue either and the tourist book did not make it obvious. He is a aviator who built the first plane that flew, even before Wright Brothers. Although they say the Wright Bros commercialized it and became famous with a granted military contract. Any who, this guys house was very interesting. He had one of Brazil´s first phones, ph # 111…ja ja. He had an observatory to watch the sky…only it was a total surprise when I saw it. He had a alcohol infused shower that mixed with cold water to make it temperate and his small dressers tripled as a bed and desk! Very interesting place, although I didn´t get my student discount…oops forgot real ID! There is a statue of his plane the 14 bis in the main square…so after my visit I became wicked into his inventions and life and went to find it! One last thing here was the gothic church, it houses the bodies of the last royals in Brazil and has cool dudes holding the roof up.
A few more days were passed in Rio but I had to head south to Sao Paulo to leave. It was suggested to go to Isla Grande (so many islands with that name on my trips these days). I skipped it because everyone went there, instead I went to Paraty (pronounced ¨para ti¨ in Spanish). Great Choice! In fact I liked it so much i cancelled my SP hostel and stayed longer. The town had a historic area and beaches. The historic part was very very cool! I was in like photographer heaven! Then I also spent time in Trinidage at its lovely beaches. Ha I walked one long one and then had to eat, all food on the beach was ridiculously priced, like 60 reales for food! So I headed more into town, much much better. I decided on a crepe lasagna thing, it was ok…but I also ordered Acai!!! Best idea ever, soooooo goooood. It is a local fruit or berry or something but anyway it was frozen sorbet like and came with bananas, honey, and granola…..oh i was in love (got another back in Paraty the same day)! Anyway, I missed my bus and had an hour extra (comes every hour, it is cheap), but turns out there is a whole other beach that i missed and got to discover, a prettier one! So i spent my hour exploring and having a beer at the beach watching sunset! Best way to spend my last day in Brazil. Trinidage was like 45 min away and I would like to stay there next time, plenty of hostels-hotels.
Unfortunately, because of the change of hostel (no más SP), I has to take the night bus..like most do to SP (get tickets in advance, they sell out). Usually it is the best way to maximize time but I couldn´t fall sleep. The bus in addition to the long flight to Seattle I got sick…weee travel perks…not!
I didn´t move hostels in Rio as I would have liked to but I highly suggest checking out other areas there. I didn´t because I was carry lots of stuff, presents and stuff to return home, so I didn´t do as planned or as I normally would, but it worked out! (hence all the recommended places to stay below and throughout)
I think my favorite beach in Rio was Botogofo but I really never had the chance to enjoy it! It is more of a bay with great views of Sugarloaf hill and is very central. Next time I would also like to stay in Santa Teresa on the hill, a very cute, eclectic, small neighborhood, with a relaxed and charming feel to it.
Funny, one night on the town, I ran into a guy I was studying with in Chile for my exchange. A dutch guy named Sjoerd (pronounced Steward but without the T sound) that I had Spanish class with and the profe couldn´t pronounce his name so she called him Don Shoe…ja ja ja. It was hilarious. I had no clue he was still traveling. It was a good night. He biked from SP to Rio with his friends. Sounded like a crazy trip…good memories I am sure!
Important: Be very careful in Brazil, it has a high rate of fraud. I actually had my bank hold my card because I used an Atm with a scanner. I had trouble taking money out most days and never took enough (Brazil is Expensive!). The time they put it on hold I literally had no cash left, not even for food or transit. I walked back to the hostel and used Skype to kind of get it resolved. They ended up taking the hold off for 15 minutes so I could take out enough money for the last 3 days of my trip. I took out just enough…no gifts…left with 12 reales (6 bucks)!!! Sheer luck it happened when it did because I was off to Seattle and could get the new card that week :D! (P.S. I normally carry a spare card but somehow forgot to pack it amid the moving and trips…only 4 days in between EC and RIO).
I definitely recommend Rio and you could easily stay a week or more and not be bored.