What better way to kick off our trip than the famous Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro? We flew out a few days earlier, to see the city in its normal state before the main event, and to visit the usual attractions. The trip was kicked off with Mikey’s sister Anna, a family friend Sophie and her fiancé Tom. We were quickly reminded of the dangers, with Anna’s bag stolen on day one, but it’s pretty impossible not to fall in love with the city which gives literal meaning to the phrase ‘urban jungle’.
After what was probably the worst long haul flight we’ve ever been on (but how grumpy can you really be with a £250 ticket?) we landed in Rio and got an Uber to our AirBnB. This was all to the sweet tune of £2.50 each, and we soon came to realise that Uber was the easiest way of getting around the city. The fare is fixed when you start your journey, and incredibly cheap.
We opted for an AirBnB just because during Carnaval the cost of hotels and even hostels were astronomical. We saw dorm beds going for £100 a night and couldn’t stomach it. Luckily our apartment turned out a treat, with 3 lovely rooms a nice kitchen and charming living room. The real draw though is the outside seating area which literally backs onto a forest. In the days to come, we’d see toucans, hummingbirds and Tom also spotted several monkeys whilst we were sitting outside playing cards.
Day 1 – Ipanema Beach
Whilst less famous than its sister beach Copacabana, and slightly further, we decided to head here on our first day as we had heard it was a little less busy. Caipirinhas were the order of the day, but to warn you now these things are not for the faint hearted! We had a couple by the beach front and they sure do pack a punch for £3… After that we headed for a quick bite to eat then back to Ipanema to wander down the sea front.
It’s a really peculiar beach, with different sections having almost mini communities… There’s the sports section, the LGBTQ section and the ‘my body is a temple’ section (not sure how else to put it, these people are sculpted!) to name a few. As we felt we didn’t really fit on any one section we found a quiet part of the beach where we settled in for some more great service Caipirinhas.
Turns out two may have been too many… as despite enjoying our time there as we went to pack up Anna realised her bag had been stolen. Most frustratingly this had her Epipen in it (essential as a remedy if she were to unknowingly eat peanuts / fish). This meant we had to spend the next couple of hours at the tourist police station, reporting what had happened and ultimately led to a frustrating first day in Rio.
That said, the beach itself is well worth a visit but just worth bearing in mind you should keep your wits about you if you do decide to go!
Day 2 – Farmers Market & Dinner
On our second day we wandered down to a farmers market 10 minutes away from our apartment to see what local foods they had on offer and find a place for lunch. We pretty instantly bought an avocado the size of a small melon, and had fresh coconuts for about a pound each. We then had our first experience of a Brazilian buffet.
Unlike at home, the buffets here are done by weight. It works out at about £10 for a kilo of food… which is a pretty good deal! They have the local foods on offer (empanadas, rice, beans and fresh meat) and curiously a lot of sushi, which seems to be quite big over here.
We ended up eating dinner at a more touristy restaurant in the same market in the evening, which had a pretty interesting back story. The restaurant – Restaurante Joaquina – was started by a former slave a few generations ago and now serves quite premium food to a bustling crowd of people. It was a great atmosphere and we would thoroughly recommend paying a visit if you’re close enough by.
Day 3 – Christ the Redeemer
There’s a few ways to get to Cristo Redentor. You can either get the Fenicular, specially licensed cabs (no Ubers!) or walk up. We read some bad reviews about the Fenicular departing late / not at all and being over crowded so we decided to walk.
It was a great choice, and we’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who feels they would be able to. It’s just shy of a 2 hour trek, and due to the heat we set off at around 9am to avoid the worst of it. It’s through pretty thick jungle but the path is very well trodden, and despite the warnings of armed robberies at the bottom it felt safe.
It was pretty much a nature walk, and we are hardly experts at spotting! Along the way we saw two snakes, about 10 monkeys, 2 iguanas, some frogs and a very strange looking caterpillar type thing. With this in mind and the views on the way up it seemed like the best choice. It was also practically empty which was quite the contrast to the statue itself.
Let us start by saying the monument is incredibly impressive. The scale of it is mesmerising and it’s a fantastic landmark looking all over the city from wherever you are. The crowds however are not so mesmerising – and this is the only reason we’d say it may be better in the cabs. By the time we got there it was around 11:30 and absolutely slammed with people trying to get their best photos in (us too!). That said, we still found a nice table and stopped for a quick sugar hit and a beer, all for non tourist prices again! It’s definitely a must see, not only for the statue itself but the view of the city below, but if you aren’t going to trek you should definitely aim to be there as early as possible.
We still have a few more things to see in the city, but for now it’s off to Carnaval for the worlds biggest fiesta, see you soon! x