A Long Weekend: Rio de Janeiro

Somewhere between the passion of the samba and the pain of the system lies the truth of this marvelous city. I take a look at Rio de Janeiro from the inside out…

Like a dazzling Hollywood diva in her prime, Rio de Janeiro was once stunning, classy and wealthy. Sadly no longer in her early 20th century peak, these days she doesn’t smell so fresh, is wildly unpredictable and parts of her are literally falling apart. The good news? She’s so high on life she hasn’t even noticed…

Despite the city’s everyday challenges Rio’s local residents, known as ‘Cariocas’, wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else, and post-Olympics the tourists still flock by in their masses despite the media’s portrait of this dangerous and dilapidated city. And its all for one simple reason… Rio is alive. Here you indulge in life’s deepest pleasures: human connections, street corner music, sweet fruit juice, a kiss, a turquoise ocean and the pure energy of living in the moment.

This third largest city in South America unravels over and between several mountains by the Atlantic ocean, nestled under a statue of Christ 700 meters high and governed by the jurisdiction of a new president (since the last one was just impeached). However, the real city lies in the subtext. Because it is a third world city with a first world ego, Rio will constantly have you questioning your expectations of this tropical postcard destination. The best restaurants do not have websites, the emotional state of the banks dictates the hours they are open, and Sambas parties can start spontaneously at any given time.

The fastest way to Rio’s heart is to be open to making friends. It isn’t hard. All you have to do is rent a beach chair in Ipanema and you will be approached by a local, simply wanting to share a beautiful ephemeral moment and let you inside the real secrets of this city.

Best of the Beaten Track

When taking a city break in Rio de Janeiro the rule is: avoid the obvious. Everyone goes straight for Copacabana (long past its prime) and Christ the Redeemer statue (overcrowded), so my advice is to not even put them on your things to do list. If you didn’t come to Rio for bad food or snow globes, try the less apparent Parque Lage. This sugar mill turned art school is found at the base of Christ the Redeemer in one of the last untouched parts of the largest urban forest in the world. This stellar mansion is also home to Plage Café, a fun little spot to hang out or have lunch with a good view of the man himself. Just ask Snoop and Pharrell.

For a fabulous view that ticks the boxes without having to wait hours in the heat, aim for a sunset cocktail on top of Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). You can see everything from Guanabara Bay to the Dois Irmãos mountains, minus the crowds.

What Bourbon Street is to New Orleans, the Lapa district is to Rio. During the day be sure to check out the Escadaria Selaron, Rio’s famous flight of steps adorned with multi-coloured tiles, created by the eponymous Chilean artist as a tribute to the people of Brazil. Then come back at night when people from all over the city gather to drink cut-price caipirinhas on the street under the arches. For something even more authentic put Clube dos Democráticos in your address book. Built in 1931, this art deco dance hall is located on the 2nd floor of a former Portuguese colonial home and has live forró (northeastern sensual accordion & triangle music) on Wednesday nights. For a pre-libation, go around the corner to Bar da Cachaça, a postage stamp size dive bar with artisanal local Cachaças such as green corn, açai and peanut.

'48 hours in Rio' Itinerary:

see the full article here at the Urban Travel Blog

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