We arrived in Rio straight from the Middle East, and as these are very different cultures, we were ready for a bit of a shock. Nothing could have prepared us! Flesh, everywhere!
Rio has an energy and passion for life that is infectious. Couples kiss on the street, there is constant loud chatting and laughter, and women and men wear the scantiest of clothing no matter what their mass. It is fabulous.
We stayed in the top apartment room at Casada Harmonia, which was an excellent choice. The hosts were a blast as well as a wealth of information. Once we got settled, it was time to hit the town! If you know us, you won’t be surprised we chose bikes! Rio has over three hundred kilometers of bike paths, which make bikes an amazing option for exploring.
Next up was obvious: Christo. Not so obvious was our choice to hike to the top! After the 45-minute hike with steep incline, we felt like we earned the magnificent sight of Christo. I’m not sure what we expected, but he is colossal! Another surprise was the surrounding view—Rio’s geography is full of islets and the vista is breathtaking.
Also, at the base of the trail is a gorgeous old mansion and its expansive garden grounds. The walk around is beautiful and peaceful—definitely worth a look.
Next we went to another main attraction in Brazil: a football match! This being our first game, we were a bit wary. The reputation of Brazilian football can be intense, sometimes dangerously so. We shouldn’t have worried. We made friends with a local in the ticket line and he gave us an inside look (including the team’s fight songs and gossip!). As you can see, we got into it quickly.
The following day we visited one of the coolest churches we’ve ever seen (and yes, we're saying this after going to Israel): The Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. The outside looks uber sketchy, but once you walk inside, your eyes will travel up and your jaw will drop. Massive stain glass windows that measure 210 feet high and an alter piece that hangs from the 246 foot ceiling make this a wonder to behold. Absolutely worth a visit.
Next were the Escadaria Selaron, or the “Selaron Steps.” The bright tiles project the colors of the Brazilian flag, and the steps were artist Jorge Selaron’s “tribute to the Brazilian people.” The eclectic mix of decorated tiles has something for everyone—even a girl from Augusta, Georgia!
But honestly, you don’t travel to Rio to view sights the whole time. Arguably the main attraction is the culture, people, and nightlife! In honor of that, we hit the town to see if we still had it in us (after Africa and the Middle East, we were a bit out of practice!).
First up: A Brazilian BBQ. Ryan's past corporate life (and inner fat kid) gave him some experience in this, and strategy is key. First, as delectable as the salad bar looks, don’t fall for it. You don’t want to fill up on the parmesan wheel. Second, the servers walk around with every type of meat. Be selective. Know what the best cuts are, and become best friends with that server!
After this, we fought the food coma to hit up one of the coolest neighborhoods for nightlife: Lapa. The streets of Lapa are full of people, and the bars were full of music! It’s the Brazilian version of the New Orleans French Quarter. We went to Rio Scenarium which is fantastically decorated and has tons of different nooks for different scenes and music. We hit up the samba floor (though our samba looked suspiciously like swing dancing) and had a blast doing it!
It’s worth discussing Rio’s reputation as a fairly dangerous city. Like most big cities, a certain level of danger exists that is easily taken care of through street smarts. Unfortunately for Rio, this danger is a bit escalated because the slums of the city aren’t isolated to certain areas, but located throughout the city. These flavelas are fenced off (which speaks to a worse time when people were locked inside for certain hours) and the children from these areas will coordinate to raid the beaches. Rio has been battling the issue for decades and is slowly making progress. As long as you take precautions (don’t flash your camera, iphone, and jewelry around!) you’ll avoid being a target.
We had a fabulous time in Rio, but the rest of Southern Brazil was calling. Specifically: a teensy island called Isla Grande.