We are in Brazil! To sum up our time in one phrase thus far it would be: "não fala português." (We don't speak Portuguese). The language barrier is high (for us), and that's been our biggest challenge. We've now got the basic words and phrases down and are improving our awkward gesturing skills. Luckily the important words like Por Favor and Cerveja were easy to figure out from Chris' Spanish knowledge.
We arrived in Rio de Janeiro last Monday, and settled into a little studio apartment in Copacabana, two block from the beach. The apartment is basic, but if we stick our head out the window we can see the ocean!
Rio is one impressive city, from the topography to the culture, there is just an energy in the air. It's famous for nightlife, but we were there on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night.... So we enjoyed Rio for it's natural beauty, great food, and lively neighborhoods.
Our take on Rio is that it's the land of Sex, Drugs, and Bossa Nova. Here's why:
The rumors are true, the Cariocas (the term for people who live in Rio) wear very little clothing, especially in the beach sections of Copa and Ipanema. The beautiful (and not beautiful) Cariocas sprawl out on the beach in string bikinis, thongs, banana hammocks, and the trendy men's "boy shorts" bathing suit. I swear, I have underwear with more coverage than most of these men's bathing suits.... but hey, it's the Carioca life! Everyone just lets it all hang out. There is a sexy vibe throughout the city, and people check each other out constantly. Chris thought a policeman was honking at him for jaywalking.... Nope! He was honking at two hot girls crossing the street near us. Our mistake, officer.
No, no, we didn't score any drugs in Rio. Calm down, Dad. There is a local saying we learned here that "God must have created Rio while on drugs" because of the insane natural features of the city. It feels very true! The city is met by miles of beautiful blue coastline on one side, with white sand beaches. Throughout the city giant green mountains pop up everywhere. They rise up amid this modern city, almost as if buildings used to cover all the land, and the giant rocky peaks sprouted up and parted the city right out of the way. And right in the heart of the city is a natural freshwater lake (the Lagoa) just a mere 1/4 mile from the ocean, that the city has encircled. Rio is a huge, sprawling city, packing with natural wonders and it's very own protected National Park (Tijuca)--all within city limits. Sort of makes Central Park feel weensy by comparison.
There's music everywhere you go here. From Brazilian genres like Samba and Bossa Nova to American Rock (they seem to really like 90's American rock?) to interesting fusion music. My favorite was a live band performing at the beach in Ipanema... they were a 4-piece bossa-punk band with a sax player. We heard them do a traditional Bossa song and then MJ's Billie Jean and it was awesome. Loving the musical vibe everywhere we go.
- We taste-tested their version of Bud Light and Miller Light, called Brahme and Antarctica, and Antarctica wins both for taste and design... a) it tastes less like piss, and b) the label is so cute with those two happy penguins!
- By accident, we found some Brazilian craft beer and Chris was in heaven. He had an Acai Stout and it was really tasty.
- Christ the Redeemer inside Tijuca National Park but it was WELL worth it. The views are jaw-dropping, and really let you understand the size and scope of the city.
- Riding bikes around the Lagoa to see where real Cariocas live.
- Exploring Historic "Centro" section of the city, and bohemian hood called Lapa.
It's a cool city but definitely had some issues, as any city does.
- First off, the traffic is AWFUL. Makes midtown on a friday look like a picnic. Their metro is limited (but super clean!), so most everyone travels by bus, car, and motorcycle (the moto drivers are straight nuts, we saw one bad accident and it look bad.)
- The constant fear of a mugging or an even worse crime was exhausting. Admittedly, we let the boogieman stories from travel blogs and well-meaning advice-givers really freak us out, and so we spend much of the time looking over our shoulder and just feeling sketched out. But, apparently it's a very real problem, and we were lucky enough to avoid it.
- Rio's Favelas are fascinating, sad and beautiful. The favelas are the hillside slums that are unsanctioned by the Brazilian government, and unofficially ruled by the drug lords. So 1.4 million Cariocas live without basic services like plumbing, or police. The Favelas, iconic to Rio, were a hot topic during the World Cup, so we, like most of the world, were somewhat familiar. But seeing them in real life (from afar) is eye-opening.
Click through the Gallery below from some Rio photo highlights...