It seems like a long way from the airport in the taxi, but it’s still pretty cheap. We were looking at the car window, looking at the docks, when we rounded a corner and there was the Christ the Redeemer statue on the highest hill, looking over the city. Wow. We were really here!
It’s a bit of a surprise just how European Rio is. For a start, the language is Portuguese (although I did find it quite difficult to begin with) and the main part of the city has European boulevards and feels like a Mediterranean port city. But then you have the Favelas, snaking their way up each available curve of hill, as far as the eye can see. But as our Brazilian guide explained, if there is a road up to the Favela, it’s not really a Favela! Makes sense, no? Although they were poor areas, they had all the available amenities and in Rio, everything that has a sea view can’t really be considered a Favela. So there you have it!
Rio has some of the most amazing views I have seen!
For the first few nights we were staying in the little area of Santa Teresa, a charming little village with a bistro and a small bakery. It had that hipster feel and seemed like it was on the edge of gentrification. Although it turned out that the whole city felt like that! A charming yellow tramcar took us down to the waterfront where we explored the museum quarter. The museum of Brazilian art was very interesting. It was European and yet wild and uncontrolled.
A meander into city brought us to a small bodega, which we couldn’t find on any map. We took a table and two bottles of Chopp, the local beer. Unsure of the food, we selected the first thing on the menu – bacalhau. When it arrived, we had 12, perfectly round fish cake balls. Doesn’t sound much. OMG, they were sensational. I don’t know if it was the salt cod or the different kind of potato, but these were heaven sent. We went there another three times during the holiday, they were that good!
We did have one fine dining experience in the ultra posh Leblon area (where all of the primary school kids are picked up by bodyguards and whisked off after school). The trouble with ultra posh, most of the world over, is that they are rude sociopaths! So we didn’t go back!
Ipanema beach was lovely though. Just to walk the whole length of the beach and be that girl from Ipanema was really quite something, I can tell you. Copacabana was a thrill as well, but I couldn’t get Barry Manilow’s song out of my head for the rest of the day, and now I’ve mentioned it, neither will you!
Rio was like stepping back in time in some ways.
Beautiful patchwork buildings clinging to the side of the mountains
The people in Rio are special though. There was only one incident when street urchins sensed an opportunity with my open back pack, but that could happen the world over with a dozy tourist. We spotted the kids coming and fronted them with smiles and they walked off smiling. Foiled!
I was persuaded to go to the football at the world famous Maracana stadium on the last night. Not being a great fan of football, I went because our hosts really wanted to take us. How glad I was that we agreed to go. The atmosphere was…how shall I put it? Bananas! Those fans really know how to get behind their team. It was Flamengo (the local team) and Cruzeiro (the out of towners) and there could only be one winner as Flamengo ran out 2-0 winners. What a highlight! Purely Euphoric!