Rio has been a definite highlight of our trip. With another win for Air B&B we found ourselves staying right on Copacabana beach, which meant “at the Copa- copacabaaaaana” was sung continuously. Rio has an Art Deco flare in a tropical setting and while apparently it’s renamed ‘Hell de Janero’ in summer, we were there in mid winter and the weather was beautiful. Here are a few highlights:
Our first activity in Rio was getting a birds eye view by Paragliding. It was incredible! While I think it’s just not in Simons DNA to show fear (unless it’s about a horror movie- in which case he enters instant flight mode, the cause of great hilarity when Fiji cinemas believe in showing horror movie previews even when you’re there to watch a Disney film), I was petrified. Especially because something seemed to have gone wrong with a Hang-gliding while we were waiting which meant they almost hit the ground near us from the platform above. They were fine, and so were we- as soon as you’re off the edge it’s absolutely incredible! And far more relaxing than bungee jumping
Free walking tours are definitely the way to commence exploring a new city. Rios tour features loads of sites, plazas, monuments and bakeries that would otherwise be a bit tricky to navigate in Portuguese. They even take you to Carmen Miranda’s house- who doesn’t love a lady who dances with pineapples on her head!? they have a great way of displaying what the key building structures looked like as Rio developed from farmland to a thriving city. Simon was also very taken with our tour guide because looked like a football player
Bike tour of Santa Marta Favela
Open for just 3 months the tour includes a bike ride down Copacabana and up to Santa Marta Favela. Once an incredibly dangerous place a huge police effort means it is now essentially crime free (though the guides assured us this just meant the drug dealers had moved to different favelas). Santa Marta is a maze of pathways and colourful buildings. While the poverty is in your face, so too is the personality of the favela and it’s clear that people have a real sense of community. Our tour guide Thiago was fantastic and took us back to his house for caprihanas, the tastiest meatballs I’ve ever had and to show us his girlfriend Alicia Keys along with a host of other celebrities he’d taken around. Most importantly- Michael Jackson- who filmed the video clip ‘they don’t really care about us’ in Santa Marta. The video brought a lot of publicity, government action and tourism to the favela.
A combination of being a scaredy cat and needing to quickly add to Simon’s birthday present meant I booked us in on a organized tour to a football match. This meant getting one bus- driving up and down the same road 5 times to pick people up, then two hours later arriving at the stadium. Despite Mercado stadium being alcohol free this was a real highlight thanks to the feverish passion of the crowd.
My favourite shop – Farm
So many pineapples and tropical prints! I may have spent a little to long as Simon feel asleep on the decorative chairs, but did score a sweet bird print dress for any bird related activities.
Lowlights: Rio de Janeiro airport is a nightmare!! We first had a bit of a rocky landing that lead everyone to clap when we touched down. Then when leaving the plane they have you line up in the cramped plane corridor for 30 minutes with limited air, then lead you into another immigration queue which follows on concern able order (another plane full of people had been waiting an hour just to enter this queue!). After that it’s time to have your luggage scanned- the line for which snakes right around the arrival area and back to the baggage claim. I really hope they make some improvements before the Olympics. Safety is a general concern in Rio but I can’t say it was an issue for us- they’ve taken a lot of measures to make Copacobana safe which we benefited from- though seeing the police out in force isn’t the most reassuring site when they move in packs with batons out.
The other lowlight would have to be the crowds; at the major sites you can’t take a step without photo bombing someone’s selfie! Showing his age Simon chose these times to loudly profess his longing for the ‘good old days where people actually looked at monuments’. Here are a few realistic photos from the sites. Oh- and the Atlantic Ocean is freezing!
Even more so that French, I cannot get my head around Portuguese- as Simon likes to remind me every time I say ‘thank you’ thinking my use of the male tense means I’m saying “thhhhunk yoooou” in the voice of Homer Simpson