Finally, the long-awaited Rio de Janeiro is here on our doorstep. Its reputation places the city as one of the most interesting and beautiful on the globe and I in particular was very keen to see so for myself. It didn’t let us down.
Over the coming weeks Rio will be our homebase as we explore the surrounding area; all in all we’ll be spending a strong 2 weeks here. Our first spell in the ‘cidade maravilhosa’ was a cloudy one but we didn’t mind and, as good old ladies do, we were more than happy to rest our heads after the umpteenth overnight bus. We spent the first two nights in a basic hostel in Ipanema just a couple of blocks from the beach and used our time wisely by walking the streets of the southern side of the city that coasts the ocean. Huge apartment blocks and sky scrapers are just a few meters from the waterfront which in itself is a new view for us. The beach line is never ending and offers truly amazing views of the little islands off shore drifting towards the horizon. The other views are of toned men wearing banana hammocks and bronzed women wearing flossy bikinis; many body shapes and sizes but all equally body confident. Between the beaches’ pavement and the road is what I’d call the fun highway – a couple of lanes dedicated to the many bikers, runners and skateboarders. Vendors weave their way through the umbrellas and people on the beach selling anything imaginable – iced mate (tea), caipirinhas, prawn kebabs, grilled cheese, sarongs, sun glasses etc etc. We actually invested in 2 pairs of cheap Ray Bans but smartly decided to take them for a swim in the waves. Sadly, they’re no longer with us. The memory of the beach which gets me most pumped up is the quantity of ball sports enthusiasts. Beachvolley nets can be found every few hundred meters and if people aren’t playing footvolley they’re competitively challenging eachother at bat n ball (amusingly here called fresco ball). We’ve been carrying around our own set of bat n ball since August but it recently broke so bought a new Brasilian one; completely a new ball game may I say. Soon we’ll be semi-pros I’m sure and won’t let timidness get in the way of asking the locals for a game.
As you can tell we’ve had plenty of time to examine and explore the city’s coastline. We were very looking forward to some downtime after a tiring few months and the beach was the cure we needed. Rio has a multitude of attractions but as Annalie’s mum is visiting us in a couple weeks time we decided to leave those key milestones for when she joins us. To that end, as devoted sun worshipers (with a a thick slab of factor 50 for Annalie), we made our way to more beaches, to Buzios’ beaches in particular. Known as the St Tropez of Brasil, it is a famous summer holiday destination for all higher class Brazilians and South Americans. And why not, it’s absolutely stunning. It’s a fairly small peninsula a couple of hours north of Rio and offers a variety of fantastic beaches. Our first was on the eastern side – Praia de Geribà – and it was just next door to our fancy hotel. Yes, FANCY. Annalie’s Dad gave us a hotel voucher last xmas and we’d been holding onto it tightly waiting for the right moment to come. And well, it finally came…
After a first day of pool lounging and beach resting we spent a lovely evening exploring the main town, its peer, its shops. Our dinner consisted of an excellent selection of meze in a highly praised Persian restaurant.
On day 2 reality kicked in and the sweet taste of luxury vanished into thin air. We had to leave our 5 star hotel. Luckily our new pousada (Brasilian Inn) was cute, comfy and aptly located for us to walk our way around the north of the peninsula in search for more beach spots. Annalie braved on despite the 30+ degree sun and we even found her a bit of palm tree shade to ensure she didn’t get heat stroke. The beaches were all amazing.
Final point of remark for Buzios was our introduction to good Brazilian food. Dinner consisted of mocequa, a gorgeous fish stew with coconut milk, tomatoes, peppers, onions and rice, and for breakfast we tasted our first tapiocas, a Brazilian crèpe stuffed with any type of filling. Made of manioc flour (a pulverised dried vegetable from the Amazon), it’s extremely popular here due to its nutritious properties. Our final food experience was with açaí, an ice-cream made of energy-boosting açaí berries which are solely cultivated in the Amazon. Delicious.
After two days we were ready to head back to Rio. I don’t know why because we ended up in a pretty crap hostel, in a 10 bed dorm, with no windows. Luckily the good weather kept us out of the bunker. We made some friends and explored Rio’s booming nightlife, went on an organised walking tour in downtown Rio which is always interesting, saw the famous Selaron Steps (a staircase decorated with thousands of colourful and unique tiles from all over the world) and of course enjoyed more beach time. And it was whilst enjoying a book on Copacabana’s sea-front that we randomly stumbled upon a Gay Pride parade. Apparently every neighbourhood runs their own every year but Copacabana’s is known to be one of the best – flamboyant, crowded and colourful (but also an attraction to petty crime, as testified by a fight and a chase up in the space of 2h).
We’ve been happy and relaxed here in Rio and can easily say it’s a favourite. The people are welcoming, the vibe is positive and this huge city spoils you for choice. We’re now getting ready to head south-west of Rio to volunteer for a week in an eco-hostel. Wish us luck!
Ciao for now! Xx