As I’ve mentioned already in this post, I will be visiting Rio de Janeiro again at Easter and then for three months during the (northern hemisphere) summer. Due to this my visits to Rio are a little different to normal travelling life, so I’ve decided to shake up the way I write my posts to reflect this. Each time I come back from Rio de Janeiro I will write about what I did with my time, from the tourist hotspots to the routine day to day things.
Here is what I got up to during my visit over Christmas and New Year
Sunbathed on Ipanema and Copacabana Beach
For anyone who doesn’t know in Rio there are two main beaches: Copacabana and Ipanema, they sit very much next to each other but feel rather different. Ipanema – the beach I frequented more – was less touristy, much smaller and had a wider beach but smaller boardwalk lining the ocean. Ipanema is watched over by the Two Brothers mountain and generally feels more like a local beach. Copacabana is the beach of Rio, the one you see in all of the photos which stretches on for miles. It is a much more touristy affair with all of the hotels sitting right in front of it, with this bring many more sellers and beggars to the beach. It is also the beach which Pão de Açúcar looks over. The other main difference is that the beach is much smaller and the boardwalk much larger with ‘proper’ kiosks rather than smaller-scale stores. Copacabana is where you go to ‘do’ something at the beach where as Ipanema is where you go to relax.
It is also worth mentioning here that the Brazilians really do wear that little to the beach. Believe everything you have read and try not to be too shocked when you see women of all sizes in a much skimpier bikini than socially acceptable in the UK.
Partied on Copacabana for New Years Eve
This was one of the highlights of my trip, the city that is going to host the Olympics this year really put on an amazing party for the coming of 2016. Tradition in Brasil is to dress up all in white and then release flowers into the ocean for the sea god. Although we didn’t release flowers we did dress up all in white and join in the party. Some of the expat community in Rio had organised us a kiosk on the beach for the night, this was our own private area with a bar, toilets and some where safe to sit and chill. Trust me those toilets were like gold, if you were just on the beach then you would have been queuing for hours to use the toilet! There was a stage set up on Copacabana Beach that was playing music and showing the biggest clock I have ever seen, dozens of cruise ships had also docked in the bay for the occasion. Then on the stroke of midnight a 16 minute firework display unfolded in front of our eyes. For me this was watched with my hands firmly in my ears, I am so scared of the noise they make. The rest of the night passed in a blur of maracujá caipirinha which I insisted on watering down, my do the Brazilians make those drinks strong.
Watched Sunset from Pão de Açúcar
Before I arrived in Rio Sugarloaf Mountain (as it is called in English) was the one thing I had read most about. No surprises that it was the first thing that we did after I arrived in Rio. Although maybe the fact we could do it later in the day at sunset also had something to do with it. We decided to take the cable car the whole way up and down, however, after hearing how easy the walk is I’m hoping to give that a go on my next visit. The views from the first hill are good but my the views from Pão de Açúcar are mighty. I was so grateful that we chose to ascend for sunset and were not put off from the looming clouds in the distance. The beautiful colour of the sky as the sun set on Rio was another highlight of my trip and even better we only shared it with a handful of others. Doing this trip so early on also helped me to gain a much better perception of the city and how everything fits together. It is such a huge city getting your bearings can be tricky.
Went to the Hippie Market at General Osorio
This was another place I was desperate to visit during this trip, not because I had read about in but because JP had been the previous week and told me all about it. The Hippie Market is found not far from Ipanema Beach and runs every Sunday. We must have spent over an hour wandering around and buying very little because there were too many things I wanted. From beautiful canvas paintings to leather bags the market has more than you could ever imagine or need. Prices are relatively low although no one seemed to want to barter despite a lack of prices being displayed. This is certainly a place I will return to once I know a little more Portuguese – I struggled to understand the price they were asking for most things, thank goodness for JP keeping me company.
Visited Lapa Steps
Another thing high on my lists because they look gorgeous in photographs was the mosaic steps in Lapa. These steps were decorated by Jorge Selarón who was tragically found dead on them a few years back with no conclusion on how he died. Since then, although the steps are no longer a working progress, they have become increasingly popular for people to visit and photograph. That being said it is very hard to visit during a quiet time except early in the morning – which is exactly what we did. I really appreciated the fact you had personal space and we were one of maybe 30 visitors at the time. I could not imagine visiting here when the crowd is bigger. You need time to be able to stop regularly and take in all of the different mosaics and quotes like we did. I was in awe of this creation and the way each step really seemed thought about.
Went shopping in Uruguaiana
I’d barely been in Rio a week when one of the girls took me out to this shopping spot. It was her first visit too and we had no idea what to expect from this ‘market’. All we knew was that it wasn’t far from the Uruguaiana metro station. When we arrived we spotted some stalls and headed off in that direction. At first it was just technology stalls and sunglasses but then the more we walked the more the streets opened up. Until suddenly this labyrinth of streets and shops lay ahead of us. We walked for what felt like miles that morning up and down the streets, just browsing shops and taking it all in. During our two or three hours here we barely covered any ground but found some great bargains and quirky shops. I will be back again and again that is for sure. Visit this shopping mecca instead of buying goods at Copacabana beach, it is the same stuff just super cheap.
Ran around the Lagoa, along the beach and around Copacabana
As I may have mentioned or not, I am running the London Marathon this year and I thought what better time to start my training than in Rio. While in the city I dragged JP for runs around the lagoa outside his apartment, along the edge of Copacabana beach and dug my feet into the sand on Ipanema beach. All in all I clocked up 48.5km during my three weeks there. We would either wake up early and run before the heat of the day set in or we would wait until the sun was about to set and head out for a twilight run. Although running time was limited those really were the most beautiful times to run. I may or may not have had to stop on every run to take some photos.
This is by no means everything you should do on a visit to Rio de Janeiro but it is what I got up to during my first trip to the city. Knowing I will be back in a few months certainly helped me to take life at a much slower pace and be selective with the things I actually did.