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