Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rio de Janeiro in retrospect

Last day at Copacabana Beach.

And I'm home. The last three weeks have been a blur of tango, flan and Havaianas (among other things) and while it's great to be back home (I missed my husband dearly), like most trips mine went by way too fast. Unfortunately I'm still in the process of getting my faulty memory card to work again, so all I have are the photos I took during my second and third weeks. Luckily my sister has pictures of us visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue, etc., so I'll get copies of those when she arrives back in the states in late October.

Anyway, Rio was fabulous, plain and simple. There's a charm about the city, but contrary to popular belief it's not in its beaches. I was told that's where it lay, but the longer I roamed, the more I saw that the beaches were not the main reason to fly southward.

Instead, it's the almost unrecognizable delight of being in a city where practically no one speaks English. Whoever said Portuguese was a dead language has not visited Rio. Here it thrives, and for such a tourist destination I was pleasantly surprised to see that any "American" way of life that may have rubbed off from tourists up north hasn't succeeded in pervading Rio's people or culture.

In the dirty streets, where a mixture of trash and banana leaves line the gutters, one can't escape the smell of car exhaust from the city's buses and cars, which go flying by and could care less about jaywalkers and red lights. With a little help from the humidity that lies thick on its descent in from the Atlantic, the smog sticks like a patina of pollution to your skin, a badge of honor earned as you traverse deeper on foot into the city. Here juice bars stand on every corner with nary a Starbucks in sight. Local "cariocas" (or locals) in tank tops and flip flops sit at corner bars sipping coconut juice under neon lights of soccer games broadcasting on TV sets above them. If they aren't here or enjoying caiprinhas at outdoor bars, they the cariocas are strewn across the shores of Ipanema and Copacabana, dotting the terrain in patio chairs and bikinis, drinking sweet water out of green coconuts with long white straws.

It's not cheap here. Good hotels are pricey, and food is even more so. On one particular quest to find peanut butter at a nearby grocery store, a local guided me to the closest thing to my description -- a sugary peanut paste that tasted more like raw cookie dough than peanut butter (turns out I like actually like this stuff better). The price I didn't like, but the local commented that prices were, in fact, quite high in Rio -- it was once you got out of the sprawling city of 7 million, she assured me, that prices became "normal".

But one doesn't come to Rio for the "normal", so it's just as well that the word stays outside of city lines. Rio is probably the most geographically beautiful city in the world. It's where jungle meets city, and the fascinating combination creates an exciting and dangerous atmosphere thick with lush foliage and urban streets.

The Jardin de Botanica:

An extreme close-up of the Christ the Redeemer statue, taken from the botanical garden.

The botanical garden in Rio is a must-visit. I'm not that big into plants and foliage, but the walled grounds here are breathtaking and serene.

Rio at night:

View of Ipanema Beach from our patio (above), and a very tiny-looking Christ the Redeemer statue (below) atop Corcovado Mountain to the right of our patio.

Taxi ride to the Rio Scenarium nightclub.

Rio Scenarium:

The Rio Scenarium is a samba club in the Lapa district of Rio. Lapa is a dangerous neighborhood, but if you take a cab you can get dropped off right at the door of the samba club. If you only have time to do ONE thing in Rio, it has to be a visit to this (okay, also a visit to the Christ statue, but this comes second). Inside, the Rio Scenarium looks more like a speakeasy in 1920s New Orleans than a samba club in South America. Fun, crazy antiques fill the walls and shelves and there's an electricity in the air as everyone drinks, dances and has a good time to the excellent live music:

The entrance to the Rio Scenarium (above), on the right.

Me having too much fun.

Rio by day:

Laying out on Ipanema. My bikini was by far the most conservative of bikinis on the beach.

I went a little Havaiana-crazy and bought too many pairs. Oh well, when in Rome Rio. Here's my favorite pair.

The favelas:

My earlier blog post on this says it all.

More Rio at night:

We ate dinner one night at the Garota de Ipanema (above), where "The Girl From Ipanema" was originally written by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Apparently the girl is real, and used to walk by this restaurant every day, catching the attention of the musicians hanging out inside.

The sidewalks in Rio are made up of small black and white tiles, with different patterns swirling throughout the city streets. In Ipanema the pattern looks like so (above and below).

In Copacabana (above), the swirls are more free but just as beautiful.

On my flight out en route to Buenos Aires.


Courtney @ One Fine Wire said...

Looks like a great time!

I'd love to design yours or any of your followers blogs in the future! If you're interested, check out:

Take care!

Mandy said...

Wow, I wonder if they make drunks in Rio try to walk those swirly lines instead of a straight line? lol. Great pics. Looks like a grand time.

(Oh, and ignore my comment on the above post. I didn't realize you still hadn't collected your photos from the faulty memory card yet.)

Rio's speakeasy New Orleans style clubs sound perfect to me! :-)

Andi said...

So gorgeous!! Thank you for sharing and I am glad you had a great time!!

Chloe (Naturally Frugal) said...

Yay! You're back!

Every time I was like "huh, Crystal hasn't posted in a while" I had to remind myself that you were STILL on vacation you lucky girl. Looks like an awesome trip, can't wait to hear more about it!

ieatsclean said...

hi crystal... love your blog!!! can you send me the info for the apartment you stayed at in buenos aires. it looks great and exactly what im looking for for our upcoming trip in november.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin