With songs of Copacabana and girls from Ipanema humming in our heads, we were anxious and intrigued to explore this beach-side city. However, we also felt a bit of hesitation due to all the conflicting things we’ve heard and read about with regards to safety, or lack thereof. Upon landing we were certainly intimidated walking through the airport as dusk was settling. But we arrived at our hotel and breathed a sigh of relief… this place isn’t so bad.
Believe the hype of the Copacabana beach in terms of the backdrop and overall setting. Tons of people on the beach, walking, tanning, playing soccer and literally selling everything imaginable. From bbq’d shrimp to henna tattoos; we even saw people carrying clothing racks with dresses packed on hangers and colorful bikinis strewn from umbrellas.
We grabbed a great bike tour from Bruno who took us from Copacabana through Botafogo, Urca Flamengo and Lapa to name of a few. Along the way we saw the city from a different perspective that wasn’t as much of the brightly-colored hustle bustle that Copacabana and Ipanema create. We cycled through locals drumming and strumming beautiful live music, the house where Carmen Miranda grew up before she famously topped her head with fruit and an incredible tiled-staircase called Escadaria Selaron, created by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron. Each piece of tile covering the 200 plus stairs was unique and it is still evolving with new additions – some even from people’s own homes.
Of course we had to take the train up Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer, which we discovered is another New7Wonders of the World we can check off our list. Seeing a 125 foot statue of Jesus was something else. And the view in general, made big bad Rio seem almost small and unassuming. As people started to head back down the mountain, we stayed, watching the pink and purple colors of evening drown Rio de Janeiro.
Lucky for us, we also happened to be in Rio while it was celebrating its 450th birthday, which came on a Sunday. This also meant that everyone was out in full force. We headed over to Ipanema – home to the tall and tan and young and lovely – to the beach and were greeted by thousands of people enjoying an even nicer beach set up than Copacabana and some pounding surf. There we rented some chairs, an umbrella and took full advantage of an absolutely beautiful day.
Big miss on Sugarloaf as we waited until after our Buzios trip to sneak that in and give us something to look forward to, but the overcast skies and drizzle didn’t allow for much sky scanning at the top of the mountain. But our comical living situation the last three days took our mind off it. We decided to save money and rent a private room from a couple who failed to mention they had a newborn baby, the a/c didn’t work and the bathroom (which was shared by another room-renter) stretched out to all of about 7 feet high and 3 feet wide, at most. Skyler nearly had to exit the shower to turn around. Silver lining was it was located in Ipanema, which is a great pocket of Rio that felt safe and accommodating due to everything being walkable.
Between beach days, awesome seafood, friendlier people than we had expected, it’s safe to say we enjoyed Rio much more than initially anticipated. It really was a beautiful place with dramatically stunning views.
And with this, after 7ish weeks, we wrap up South America. On to South Africa!