Rio de Janeiro!

We had 5 nights in Rio before we headed to Salvador for carnival. Since unlike Cat, I was a Rio de Janeiro virgin we went out to do all the touristy things! Which meant lots of trekking around the city in the 39 degree Celsius heat…

Firstly though accommodation! We stayed in a guesthouse(?) in Urca called Hostelinho Urca. Cat chose this area because it’s meant to be safer when coming home at night and stuff. It’s also where Sugarloaf mountain is. The hostel was up a couple flights of stairs and our room was even higher. We did know this when booking (I think?) but it was still a bit of a shock when we got there! There’s a little roof terrace where breakfast is served and a small pool. Our room was above this, up a tiny rustically rusting iron spiral staircase and through a very narrow door. Luckily the staff helped us get our bags up! The room wasn’t too bad- air con, nice shower ensuite, fan, fridge, views over the bay- the 75 steps to get there was a bit of a downer though…

Our first morning in Rio we joined Rio Free Walking Tour which leaves from outside the Municipal Theatre. We totally thought we’d miss it since it took us a lot longer than we anticipated to find the metro stop in Botofogo… Luckily we made it! (Even if we totally sweated through our t-shirts in our rush to get there). The tour is done in 3 languages- English, Spanish and Portuguese. Unsurprisingly we joined the English tour…

The tour takes you around the Centro area of Rio- basically the old town and Lapa. You visit some old buildings, the cathedral (which looks like a giant dalek) and the Selaron Steps. I love these kinds of tours as you get far more history, local opinion, and humour injected into it which makes it far more entertaining!

We had some fab sushi at Makoto which was the first time I’d ever had sushi as a kilo buffet. I love the kilo buffets in Brazil- it’s the best way to make me think about what I’m eating and choose appropriately! They should definitely have these back home!

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Copacabana beach before rushing off to Sugarloaf mountain or Pão de Azucar in Portuguese, in time for sunset. Entrance cost $60 reais and takes two cable cars to get to the top. From here you can see over the bay, the Christ Redeemer, Centro and Copacabana. It really is very beautiful! Unfortunately everyone else knows it is too so it gets very busy at sunset here!

Copacabana and my new Havaianas

 

Sunset from Sugarloaf

My biggest surprise from that first day was the amount of mosquitoes bites I got! I think from the hour spent on the beach I got about 20 bites!! I was clearly in for a very itchy few days…

If you’re in Rio in the month leading up to carnival, you’ll find free street parties called blocos all over the city. There’s a website which lists where and when they’ll be I just can’t remember what that is…

The next day we set off bright and early (though probably not early enough) to Corcovado train station which is one of two ways to get to the Christ Redeemer statue. The other is to take a van or taxi to the top. We got there at about 9am and were promptly told there were no tickets available until 2pm! We resigned ourselves to a return trip that afternoon but were pleasantly surprised when they managed to squeeze us onto the next train up at 9.20! We were very very lucky! Entrance again was around 60 reais. (They really know how to charge for these attractions!). 

Again this was another jam packed tourist trap but you just can’t help yourself. You have to go! And of course we did all the standard poses in front of the statue, looking just as ridiculous as everyone else lying on the floor trying to get the whole statue in…

Christ Redeemer selfie

From Corcovado, we hopped on a bus ($3 reais each) to Ipanema to go to the Ipanema Hippy Market! It’s only there on a Sunday so our timing was pretty lucky. It’s mostly cheap tourist tat on offer but there is also some decent art by local arists available. There was plenty of tie dyed goods, musical instruments, woven items to make it feel like a hippy market!

After another bus back to Urca, we got ready to party at the Sambádrome! As this was the weekend before carnival, they had the last of the technical rehearsals before the big parades the following week. These are held in the Sambádrome over the weekends leading up to the big event and are free to go to. You get a flavour for the dancing and sheer number of participants but this isn’t a dress rehearsal so no glittering costumes or floats.

I really thought it would be a quite quiet and relaxing but it was the complete opposite! The stands were jam packed full of locals ready to cheer on their favourite samba schools and to sing and dance. People push through the stands selling food and drink like during any big sport or concert event. If this was the rehearsals, the real thing must be even more chaotic!! In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised. These are, after all, a people who built a massive stadium just for samba…

It was pretty cool though an definitely worth going to since we weren’t going to be in Rio for Carnival, so at least we got to experience a bit of what it’s like there. We also got our first taste of what brazilians are like during carnival which is just all out crazy. We managed to make friends with some locals, though communication was difficult since we don’t speak Portuguese and they didn’t speak English… They tried to teach us to samba which was pretty disastrous! Be prepared to stand out like sore thumbs here, the majority of people who go to the rehearsals are locals!

 

In the Sambádrome…

We got taxis there and back at $30 reais each way. We’ve been really lucky so far with our drivers as we’d heard some horrible stories from others. The last guy in a Rio even waited until we safely in our hotel before driving away!

In between doing all those exciting things we spent a lot of time at the Riosul shopping mall. We went for the air conditioning and left with Havaianas… (They’re about a quarter of the price back home!).

After all of that I was quite sad to be leaving! I think celebrating Carnaval there would’ve been wonderful and it was a shame to leave. Rio de Janeiro is a massive city and there was plenty more for me to explore!

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