Aka the first impressions of Rio de Janeiro.
2019 arrived, with the hesitation where to spend our summer vacation. We knew one thing, we wanted to go far, to a different continent, to one or more countries where none of us have been before. We were checking many options, different parts of our amazing planet, better or worse flight connections, insane schedules, when suddenly a reasonable offer appeared in front of us: Barcelona – São Paulo. Hm.
We booked it. With being able to spend three full weeks in the South American continent. Good. Very good. I mean it was actually an amazing starting point, knowing that we have 3 weeks, that we can schedule in a way, how we want, which countries, cities, villages, hidden places, we would like to visit during this period.
We have agreed on 4 countries, Brazil, since we would land there anyhow, Paraguay, just for curiosity, Uruguay, and Argentina. WOW!
Brazil 🇧🇷 la la la la la!
I know it’s a cliche but anytime someone is saying out loud the name of this country, this song is immediately appearing in my mind. So we had landed in São Paulo, as per the plan. The airport was surprinsigly clean and modern, and even though we couldn’t find the rental car company, all seemed cool and friendly. The first impression were much better versus I had imagined. And the first impressions are important.
Then once we got our car, and suddenly we were already driving on the Ayrton Senna boulevard into Rio direction… And seeing before every intersection a “retorno” sign! Man, I still couldn’t believe that I was there.
We decided upfront that we stop and sleep halfway between São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro on that night, after the crazy long flight and this way we would arrive to Rio only the following day fresh & energetic.
Arriving to Rio de Janeiro…
Well, it’s not a dream. You need to drive through all the suburbs, poor neighborhoods and the sea of favelas… “A favela is a unique, low and middle-income, and unregulated type of slum neighborhood in Brazil that has experienced historical governmental neglect. It is a group of poorly built shacks of mud, wood and recycled materials generally without available public services. The first favela, in the center of Rio de Janeiro, appeared in the late 19th century.”
But once we arrived to Copacabana…
It was out of season, no people, but the weather is warm, the ocean is warm enough too, and you can still find the “best caipirinha” seller, who is even offering seats and kindly warning you about your belongings… and you are just admiring the view, listening the waves of the ocean, drinking your caipirinha and enjoying the warm sand barefoot… This first moment, the first impression, the first feelings there, really priceless. 😎
After spending the first afternoon and evening on Copacabana – we stayed at Copacabana Mar Hotel – and we had consumed enough Caipirinha for the first day we ended up in a very nice and cozy restaurant with amazing local food: LF Café & Bistro., highly recommended! To decide where to stay in Rio de Janeiro click here.
The next day we couldn’t wait to discover the rest of the city, and even though we had a rented car, we decided to take the metro. I do believe that with using the local public transport, you are able to understand the local’s behavior much better, so wherever we go, I really like to try at lest the metro. Well the metro has 4 lines there but some of the lines are overlapping each other, and in the end, on that Sunday afternoon only two of the lines were operating with a very unpredictable schedule. We just wanted to go to Rio centro, so we took L1 from Cardeal Arcoverde to Uruguaiana Station.
Well it’s another story… especially arriving there directly from Copacabana, where everything is vibrant, vivid, colorful and after couple of metro stops you arrive to a completely empty, poor and dirty neighborhood, where suddenly you feel like you are in a different dimension, or in a parallel universe, especially on a Sunday afternoon when the Centro is actually looks like a ghost town, there are no people, zero, no one. We have seen couple of cops on motorbikes talking to homeless people, but besides that no one else. All restaurants, bars, shops were closed. We couldn’t find any place to buy at least water, and even the McDonald’s was closed… we wanted to visit the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, but it was also closed, it (and everything else!) is always closed on Sundays, now we know. 🤓
Therefore we went back on another day, when we were 100% sure that we find the place open. The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading (Real Gabinete Português de Leitura) is a library and cultural institution, is located in Luís de Camões Street, in the center of the city. Elected the fourth most beautiful library in the world by Time magazine, and the Cabinet has the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside Portugal.
Since we were in the neighborhood, of course we couldn’t have missed visiting the famous Escadaria Selarón.
It is also known as the ‘Selaron Steps’, which is a set of world-famous steps by the Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as “my tribute to the Brazilian people”. Originally, tiles for the work were scavenged from various construction sites and piles of urban waste found on the Rio streets. But in later years most of the tiles were donated by visitors from all around the world!
Our story with Rio and Brazil hasn’t ended here, stay tuned, to be continued… 😉