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After a couple of days in Rio de Janeiro, we set sail for Ilha Grande, about a 3-hour trip (bus then boat, from downtown Rio, we used easytransferbrazil.com). The island has many paradisiac beaches with shallow pools and jungle hikes. There are no cars on the island, and only one main strip: Abraão. The island is a tourist attraction for cariocas, but also for Argentinians. Seriously there were so many Argentinians. On Ilha Grande, hotels are replaced by Pousadas, little home stays or bed & breakfasts often equipped with A/C, hammocks and cute rugs. There are seriously like a hundred on the island, for all budgets and almost always include breakfast!

We spent 9 days on the island. Relaxed on the little local beaches, swam around in the clear waters, explored the more rainforest-esque parts of the island, indulged in fried calamari and pints of fresh juice and caipirinhas…It was perfect. Since the main port is rather small and slightly crowded, we took advantage of taxi boats to discover various dreamy beaches not really accessibly by foot (or far too long of a hike): Praia Lopes Mendes (a one hour hike from where the boat drops you off), Praia Dos Rios or Praia Aventureiro on the other side of the island. Depending on the season, some beaches aren’t accessible due to the intense wave action. Aventureiro looked EPIC, but as it’s a beach facing southeast, the waves were too cray when we were there. La prochain fois. A must see is also the Lagoa Azur, a lagoon on the north side of the island only about 20 minutes away by taxi boat. If you’re a hiker, hike to the Cachoeira da Feiticeira, a waterfall a short hike from the main port, and on the way take a dip in the natural pool, or Poção. And of course, enjoy coconuts whenever possible.

A calm getaway that does the soul some good.

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Firstly, when Googling Rio de Janeiro, I seriously had NO IDEA that the literal translation was River of January. Wow. I think that’s pretty adorable.

For as long as I can remember as an adult, Rio has always pretty high on my “places to go” list, since two of my dear friends grew up there. There’s something special about visiting a city where close friends grew up, right? It makes my heart warm and fuzzy. It’s also where my boyfriend’s little sister is studying abroad for a year, so basically it’s city that will be a topic of conversation for the years to come, I’m sure. Needless to say, I was so anxious to finally discover it. It’s a big city with big avenues and big beaches (and little swimsuits), well known by its three mountains: Corcovado, Sugarloaf and Two Brothers. One thing I noticed is that pretty much any direction you look in Rio de Janeiro you’ve got some breathtaking view in the distance. The city’s distinguishable neighborhoods are easily recognizable after even only a couple of days there: Urca, Ipanema, Botafogo, Jardim Bótanico, Copacabana, Gavéa, Santa Teresa, Lapa, Centro… Each of them with their own charm and rad things to see. And holy smokes is this city colorful!

Our taste of Rio was guided by one of my best pals, we stayed in the house she grew up in (already a really great experience as a friend). We were spoiled every morning with a typical Brazilian breakfast by her precious mother who has a humongous heart, and let me tell you, the Brazilians have some delicious cheese and they eat it for breakfast. I realized then and there that Brazilians probably start their day better than any of the rest of us. Our 3 days were jam-packed with sight-seeing and strolling with blue skies and hilly views. We went downtown in Centro with Ana Clara’s mom, popping in and out of fabric stores on the ground floors of pastel-colored buildings with colonial architecture. We ate a traditional dish, moqueca, with cocktails and craft beer in a bungalow that we had all to ourselves at the Santa Teresa neighborhood’s epic Aprazível, an evening that ended with 4 of us in the back seat of a cab and 2 up front while the driver was literally WhatsApping while driving. We spent hours strolling through the botanical gardens after downing a bowl of açaí. We people watched at the Praia Ipanema and watched the humongous waves crash against swimmers of all ages there. We danced to live Brazilian music at Rio Scenarium with our families without counting how many caipirinhas we had (and I realized that I look like a dancing chicken next to Ana Clara doing the samba). We went to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. We took the cable cars up to the top of the Sugarloaf with thousands of other tourists. We sipped coconut water out of a freshly pierced coconut while Ana Clara told us stories of her growing up in the Urca neighborhood. Our days in Rio were magical, and honestly Louis and I are already stoked to go back.

Oh, and as humans that could never be mistaken for cariocas, the most practical and stress-free mode of transportation was taxis, which was much easier with locals because they have a rad smartphone application (usually around R$20-30, or 5-7€ to get from one neighborhood to another). Final note, the portions of food are all humongous in Brazil. Keep that in mind when you order food.

For more pictures of our trip to Rio de Janeiro and Ilha Grande, check out #megxrj on Instagram.

MY FAVORITE RIO PLACES:
Aprazível* – Modern flip on traditional Brazilian restaurant in Santa Teresa
Confeitaria Colombo – Lavish setting for a coffee and cake
Feira Hippie – Artisan and everything market on Sundays in Ipanema
Felice Caffè Bar et Gelateria  – Insanely delicious homemade ice cream
Garota de Ipanema – Brazilian barbecue joint in Ipanema
Devassa – Unpretencious restaurant and microbrewery in Ipanema or Copacabana
Jardim Bôtanico – Botanical Garden and Portuguese palm tree paradise
Pão de Açúcar / Sugarloaf – Iconic mountaintops accessible by cablecar in Urca
Parque Lage – Former residence of industrialist Enrique Lage, now art school and brunch venue
Rio Scenarium* – Live music venue and restaurant in Centro
*reservation required

 

A new city (and continent) to me, one where two of my closest friends grew up: discovering Rio de Janeiro was the perfect kick off to a new year with a fuzzy heart. I tried really hard with my basic Portuguese (aka random phrases), but most of the time it came out like Spanish with a German accent. I’ll need to work on that for next time.

The thought that in the minds of those from the Southern Hemisphere, December, January and February are the warmest of months will always intrigue me. I’m sure it’s the same the other way around when Northern hemisphere folk associate June, July and August with summer heat. Funny.

We should probably all just stop taking everything so seriously.

I have a thing or two to learn about packing for a tropical vacation. I even forgot to paint my toe nails. 

Coconut water is one if the greatest beverages on the planet.

A good book and the beach is a recipe for getting a sunburn. I just finished Big Magic and boy did I like it. 

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If you’ve followed my blog or know me you probably know I get a cake every year for Louis and I’s anniversary. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want an excuse for some cake?! This bad boy was done by none other than Cat from Sugar Daze (the only place I’d ever order a cake from in Paris). This year it really hit me, holy smokes, how has 6 years gone by so fast? This cake was dedicated to my boyfriend’s acceptance of my addiction to vintage teacups and glasses. Something about traditions makes me a happy girl, I mean, if we didn’t have that, what else would we have?