Anyways, here is my first recap of a few different ones that I want to write about Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. About the amazing beauty I saw and the amazing tastes I ate and the amazing host I had in Brazil.
To start, I'm going to tell you about some of the amazing things to see and do in the city of Rio. And mind you, this isn't going to be a list of ALL the things to do. And I can't really say that they are the BEST things to do in Rio, because there is SO much to do there that I wasn't able to do them all and then come back and rank them all for you (but trust me, I would if I could!) However, I wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite things I did and some of the best "experiences" I had in Brazil. AND, although I can't rightfully claim them as the "best" -- if I didn't find them totally amazing and cool and recommendation-worthy, well than I wouldn't be writing about them, now would I?
SO, let's talk things to do in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!
1.) Visit Christ the Redeamer! It was amazing to me to be able to see in person, as it is such an iconic representation of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Almost every picture you see of Rio somehow has Christ the Redeamer in the shot. People associate the statue with the city. It's like the Duomo in Florence or the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Things that I had SO many photos of and heard about all the time. When you're in a foreign city you can be walking around and sometimes, in the thick of it, the streets and the shops don't look too distinctive of the city you're in. But then all of a sudden you turn a corner, see this iconic figure and remember all over again, "Holy Crap. I'm in RIO!!"
And oh, the views are great from up there!
P.S. I think it's funny to sometimes take pictures of tourists posing for pictures when I'm at these "iconic" spots as well. I have great pictures of tourists in Pisa making the pose of "trying to hold up the leaning tower" -- with the tower nowhere in sight. I did the same with people posing as Christ the Redeamer :)
2. Take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Granted, the cable car is really scary (assuming you're a wimp like me) but there is an amazing view at the top and some really fun statues that you can pose for pictures with.
3. Have brunch at Parque Lage and spend some time exploring the gardens there. Eating here for brunch came off of a recommendation from a couple of friends, one a "Carioca" (native from Rio de Janeiro), and one from Sao Paolo now living in Rio. I didn't read about it in my guidebook and my the recommendation from my Brazilian friends came with the advice, "Go early!" & man -- they were not kidding! This place was swamped with people waiting for tables. However, you have a gorgeous view and lots to look at as you wait.
After you eat, you can check out the park there, which is like going on a little adventure hunt. There is a small aquarium, castle, waterfall, and this is where I saw my first Brazilian monkeys!!! Just hanging in the trees. Doing their thang. No big deal.
The Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro are a lot more well known than this smaller park. However, I actually preferred Parque Lage to the Botanical Gardens. If you have the time, I would 100% recommend doing both. They just had different feels. Parque Lage I felt like I was on an exploration adventure. The Gardens were more of a relaxing "garden" walk experience. Probably why they named it that...
4. Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl... go to Copacabana beach! Although the song refers to a different place, I love that the beach is Copacabana Beach. Take a picture of the sidewalks. Check out the sand castles. Enjoy the fact that you are at Copacabana Beach!!
4. Spend a day each at Ipanema Beach and Leblon Beach. Because you're in Rio. Why not go to the beach a lot? Ipanema Beach and Leblon Beach are right next to one another, really just divided by a small canal. I love the beaches in Rio because you can literally get ANYTHING you want. Vendors walk up and down the beach selling everything that you could possibly want and need for a day at the beach. Bathing suits, blankets, chairs, umbrellas, sunscreen, hats, snacks, water, beer, fresh mixed drinks, fresh coconut water, fresh fruit popsicles, etc.
And I actually enjoyed these beaches more than Copacabana for an actual "day at the beach." First, things are a little cheaper at Leblon & Ipanema than at Copacabana. Also, I am pretty sure that the way that the sun hits the buildings, the beach stay longer here. There is also more sand & beach in general at these locations. Lots of volleyball players and exercisers along the pier as well. There is lots to look at and lots of space to hang out and share the beach with the TONS of other locals and tourists who spend their days at the beach!
5. Walk along the road by the beach -- closed on Sundays!! I thought of one of the really cool things about Rio is that every Sunday, one of the main roads closes down for walkers & bikers. I think it says a lot about the laid back atmosphere of the city. People enjoy their leisure time and weekends aren't for rushing around in your car and doing errands. They are for going for long walks, being outdoors, and of course, the beach!
Bonus -- if you walk down the road by Ipanema Beach and then take a turn in by Post 8, away from the beach, you can visit the "Hippie Fair" open only on Sundays. There is a neat outdoor market only open on Sundays as well.
6. Okay, as even though you check out the Hippie Fair, you should also go to the evening artisan market by Copacabana Beach. Unlike the Hippie Fair, everything here is made by local artists and vendors. You can get incredibly beautiful and unique jewelry, artwork, and unique local crafts. One of my favorite things was choosing the paintings I wanted as the artist was completing them -- before the paint even dried! We did some damage at this market but every purchase was well worth it I think.
7. Visit the Copacabana Fort. While you're there, eat at Confeitaria Colombo. This was a beautiful location with a great view of the Copacabana Beach. I was lucky enough to be here around dusk and I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed sitting and having a beer and a piece of chocolate and enjoying watching the sun go down. If you recreate exactly what I did and go there at the end of a long day to just relax, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
8. Do something spontaneous! While I was in Rio, walking around one evening I realized I was nearby the horse racing track of the city. I decided to stop in and see if I could at least snap a picture. Turns out that not only do they race the horses in the evening, I also walked into a Food & Wine exposition that was going on! Although this wasn't in my plans for the evening, how could I turn up such an experience?? It ended up one of my favorite experiences AND the horse track has incredible views of Christ the Redeamer at night.
With that, I am going to sign off for the night... I hope you enjoyed my first recap of Rio. So much more to come on this amazing vacation of mine!