There are some cities you will visit in the world that just have an aura about them. A vibe that makes you think, ‘ya I like it here, I like it here a lot’. Rio is one of those places.
Arriving at the air B&B apartment we rented in Ipenama for our time in Rio felt like a luxury after a month of hostels. The apartment was cosy and had 2 small bedrooms. Shane and Alva had one, and Sinead took the other for first three nights while I made a bedroom out of the sitting room, and we swapped for the last three nights.
Our first day was pretty chilled out, we went for a walk around Ipenama and stopped at a vegan place for some lunch. Alva and Shane had been in Rio for a week before we met them in Isla Grande so they recommended the place. I got a smoothie, that’s as vegan as I get! Later that night Alva and Shane cooked a vegan curry in the apartment for us all. It was very nice but I was getting the feeling I would need a steak soon to even it out.
On Thursday Sinead, a Belgian girl we met in Ihla Grande and I did a walking tour around Lapa and Santa Mareta. We found out at the start of the tour that the mayor decided a couple of weeks ago that Thursday and Friday would be public holidays, which meant some of the things on the tour might be closed. First BA, then Uruguay and now Rio. What is it with me and public holidays! The tour was really cool though. We seen the famous Selaron Steps, Lapa arches, Saint Sebastion Cathedral and finished with an old 1920s cafe. In between we learned plenty about local history and culture. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who visits Rio.
In the afternoon we took a trip to sugar loaf mountain (via cable car) to take in the famous views of the Rio de Janeiro city and bay. Alva and Shane had been last week and said the queues were really long so we have ourselves a bit of extra time. There were no queues at all though, we put it down to the public holidays. The view were as amazing as any picture/postcard ever made it out to be! We hung about to watch the sun set and see the city at night in all its glory too. Well worth it!
That evening I cooked… A vegan meal… What was happening to me!!! No, to be fair I had a big meat pizza for lunch and I wasn’t that hungry it was no big deal. For the Olympics some countries set up ‘houses’. The houses were meant to show off the country it represented and provide places for parties etc. that night we went down to the Swiss house by the lake because we heard it would be good, but by the time we got there it was shut down, 2 hours early, apparently because it was overcrowded. That was annoying but I guessed it was a good sign for nights ahead. We went to an Irish bar near our apartment called ‘Shenanigans’ for a couple of drinks after that before calling it a night.
The next day everyone headed to the beach, slightly hungover but the original plan was to go to see Christ the Redeemer. I was intent on still doing it. The sky was crystal clear and I didn’t want to risk leaving it for a day that might be cloudy later in the week. So I got a taxi up to the welcome center. I had thought that with the queuing situation yesterday that today would be similar. So I planned on meeting the others on the beach after But I guess I was a bit naive in thinking the day of the Olympic opening ceremony would be quiet… I had to wait 2 hours before I could make the trip from the welcome center to the statue itself. So the day didn’t plan out as expected but I still got to see Christ the Redeemer so guess I can’t complain too much!
That night we went to the Dutch house for the opening ceremony. It was meant to be 60 Real entry if you were Dutch or 240 Real if you weren’t but our Belgian friend spoke Dutch and got us all in for the Dutch price. I had expected it to be free or at least cheap beer considering that entry price but.. it wasn’t. The set up was pretty cool, with a massive screen, 25mtr pool, 2 floors and a night club but we only went up to the night club at after the opening ceremony and it ended at 1am, another early one. Again. What were we missing??
On Saturday we had tickets to go see the boxing that I bought a couple weeks back because I read an Irish Times article that said paddy Barnes was fighting on Saturday. He wasn’t, he was fighting on Monday. The last fight of the day was in the heavyweight category (91kg) and a Brazilian was fighting. The atmosphere was electric. A great way to end the day regardless of my mistake.
I felt really bad about the screw up with the tickets because the road race was on Saturday too. Two Irish lads were in it and I know Sinead really wanted to see that but now she had missed it for nothing. Paddy Barnes lost his fight on Monday, which, selfishly, made me feel a bit better because at least we didn’t miss him winning. Another couple we met in Ihla Grande, Lloyd and Mel from New Zealand, told us about what a great night the had out by the Lapa arches the night before, and Shane and Alva had also had a night out there before. They all said it was great so that was that Lapa it was for Saturday night. When we got there the buzz about the square near the arches was great. Exactly the type of experience you want when you travel. Local people enjoying their local night out drinking local drinks sold from street venders with music pumping. It was essentially a street party but although it’s easy for a guy to find a bathroom at a street party, it was little less easy for the girls so we made our way to a bar after a while for the rest of the night. The bar gave you a card as you enter and you swipe it every time you buy a drink and then only pay at the end of the night, this is a dangerous idea for a drunken Irish man, but apparently it’s normal enough in Brazil. 6:30am…home…I blame the swipe card.
Saturday was a great night but I paid for it Sunday. We had planned on going to the beach all day on Sunday as the weather forecast had it down to be the best day of the week but it was dull all day. I caught up with everyone on the beach at about 12:30 and just went to sleep for a couple of hours. It was about as social as I could manage with the caprihana hangover! Even with the weather the beach was full of people enjoying themselves, music, drinks, games etc. That evening we decided the only cure was a dirty burger so a trip to the highly recommended T.T. Burger was arranged. There was an option for a double pattie. I was in my holidays. I got the double pattie. It was huge. It came wrapped up and when I lifted it I’ve honestly never lifted a burger anywhere near that heavy. Needless to say I ate it all anyway – mission accomplished.
Monday, the last full day in Rio. Everyone went on a hike up to Christ the redeemer, except me, I went to explore cobacabana beach as I’d only been to Ipenama beach really so far. The day was clear enough on the beach and busy up near the Olympic Megastore and the beach volley ball arena. I could see the mountains in the background were covered in clouds so I was happy I went up on Friday when it was clear.
I met up with the everyone after their hike and we headed to the beach volley ball. The number 1 ranked men’s team played, and they were Brazilian so the atmosphere was brilliant. The Dutch women’s volleyball are ranked as one of the highest in the world and they played too so it was great to see.
As it was Shane, Alva, Sinead and my last night in Rio we decided to splash out and go to Churrascaria Palace for a meal. For my Doha friends, you will know Ipanema in the Marriot, it was similar to that, but better, in every way. Service, selection, taste. A great ending for a trip to a great city but I was near close to exploding by the time we left. Food was so good.
There was a lot of talk about Brazil and how dangerous it was on how anyone who spent a decent amount of time there but in my experience, we felt safe all the time. I get that all it takes is for one person to ruin that perception but I can only talk about my own experiences. Even anyone we met on this trip have felt the same. There was a large military and police presence in Rio but we felt the same in other parts of Brazil too. The other thing is that the people of Brazil more than continued the tradition of South America’s friendliness. If there is any sign of you being lost or confused about something people go out of their way to help you. I got the impression that local people were very keen for tourists to have a good time and help in anyway they could to make the games a success, which I think is great, I would probably do the same in my home town if it the situation was reversed.
Tuesday morning arrived and it was time for the next flight. I hadn’t bought a keepsake from Brazil yet. I had the tattoo from Argentina and the hat from Uruguay so why not keep the trend going? No better place to buy a pair of havianas than Brazil, so I nabbed a pair at the airport before we jetted off. Next stop Bogata, Columbia. Wonder what I should buy there.