Rio is intoxicating. The vibrancy of the city, the diversity of the people and the laid-back feeling have created a delicious energy that sinks into your veins making you crave more. Its addictive quality has me seriously thinking about how we can spend more time there again… soon.
John and Nina, of the fabulous Rio Dolphin Inn, made us feel at home in their cozy bed and breakfast. Not only do they run a great inn but they are both passionate about Rio and have tonnes of tips and ideas on what to do when you visit.
We took 5 days to explore some of what the city has to offer…really you could spend at least a month, perhaps a lifetime exploring Rio but here are a few of our highlights:
Hanging with the beautiful people on Ipanema
Ipanema is where it is at for sun-worshippers.
Break out your umbrella, grab a coconut water, your itty bittiest bikini (or teeny weeny shorts for the men) and settle in for some serious people watching (my fave activity anywhere). Or, for the more active, jog along the boardwalk, play beach volleyball or surf. This is winter in Rio… it’s a rough life.
Visiting a Samba School
Carnaval is months away but for those involved behind the scenes it actually starts about 8 months earlier. One of the first things that a samba school needs to do is choose a song for the upcoming Carnaval. Songwriters have a chance to submit original works of music to their school. The songs are then performed and a long process of choosing “the” song begins. We went down to one of the biggest samba schools in Rio for their first night of song selection. Being typical westerners we arrived around 11pm but the party didn’t really begin until 1am. Insanely loud music, sassy samba dancers competing like preening peacocks and loads of drinking kept that party going all night long.
Checking out the madness at Selaron’s steps
“The Great Madness”, 215 ever-changing tiled steps, is Chilean artist Selaron’s life’s work. Starting in 1990, he began to tile the steps in Brazil’s national colours as a tribute to the country’s people. He kept on even when he couldn’t pay rent or utilities and now, 20 years since he started, numerous photoshoots, magazine interviews and thousands of tiles later Selaron is still working on his masterpiece. Tiles have been sent from all over the world and you can find one from just about every country. We stopped by for a look and found Selaron hanging out on his steps, not much of a talker he did agree to have a photo taken with us. He has said, “This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death” and so he can usually be found working most days exchanging old tiles for new.
Partying with the locals in Lapa
On Friday nights the place to party is the Lapa district, close to the Rio’s old aqueducts. Our taxi left us there around 10:30pm and the streets were packed with hundreds of people, all waiting for the night to begin. After buying $2 caipirinhas from a street vendor we heard the seductive pounding beat of drums and headed over to investigate.
A full bateria (the drum section, the beat behind the samba) was playing on the street, and they had everyone moving to the groove, before long the group turned and marched into a club with the lively crowd following. Not wanting to miss out we joined them and busted some dance moves of our own though we were definitely put to shame by the Brazilians who seem born with an innate ability to move well. We finished the evening off with maracuja (passionfruit) caipirinhas at a small club listening to sultry bossa nova .
Seeing the classic “Rio” view from the Sugar Loaf
High at the top of the Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) you can enjoy a drink and check out the view of Rio de Janeiro and the Christ statue. Built in 1912 and rebuilt in the early 70s the cable car takes visitors high above the city. The awesome view is so iconic it is definitely a must-see.
Tags: Brazil, copacabana beach, driving in south america, Driving the pan american, ipanema beach, lapa, Pão de Açúcar, party, rio de janeiro, rio dolphin inn, road trip, samba school, selaron's steps, sugar loaf