Rio de Janeiro: Part 1

The flight into Rio was amazing! If you’ve seen any photos of the Olympic stadiums, Christ Redeemer or Sugar Loaf, they’re all just as beautiful as the pictures look. Although I do have to say, getting off the plane, the hot and humid air hits you like a brick wall.

We grabbed a uber right from the airport to our Airbnb where Tomaz, our host, met us with the keys. We had some seriously good luck with our Airbnb hosts because Tomaz was awesome. His place was a block away from Copacabana Beach. It was clean, had AC (which ended up being a LIFE SAVER), and all the essentials. Because we were renting during the New Years celebration, it was more expensive than usual but he seemed to give us a far price. Here’s the link to for his Airbnb page if you’re ever looking for a good guy to rent from in Rio!

After we dropped our bags, TO THE BEACH WE WENT! A little odd being on the beach a few days before the New Years celebration but we sure weren’t complaining! But we soon came to realize just how hot and sticky our stay in Rio was going to be. We actually had to go back to our place after a few hours because of exhaustion from the strong South American sun which we weren’t used to and desperately needing water and nap.

Before we left Buenos Aires, I talked with my physio, Mariana, who is from Rio to get the scoop. Needless to say she gave us a very long list including a ton of food or drinks she wanted us to try. Of course, I’m not going to refuse good food and drinks but personally, I had two goals for Rio: 1. Sip a caipirinha out of a coconut while laying on the beach (which was a little more difficult than I thought it would be) and 2. Buy myself a nice cheeky brazilian bikini :). Both were fulfilled as you will read about later.

After our nap, we decided sushi sounded good and luckily we saw a nice place right down the street. After getting up early to go to the bird park, traveling, and the laying in the sun in the afternoon, we were exhausted. We went to sleep pretty early that night because we were going to get up early again the next morning for more touristy things.

When you think of Rio, the two most touristy places you can go are the Christ Redeemer and taking the cable cars up Sugar Loaf Mountain. Both can be tricky and very dependant on weather/cloud coverage. Luckily, we woke up the next morning to a beautiful day. We walked almost all the way down Copacabana beach, passing Copacabana Palace on the way, to the stand where you buy tickets for the Christ Redeemer. The ticket booth even had live footage of the image of statue to show you the weather conditions. We were told that sometimes you can get to the top of the mountain and see absolutely nothing because clouds will be passing or the weather will be bad. We were luck and had crystal blue skies 🙂

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Copacabana Palace

We bought tickets for a shuttle bus up and back down the mountain so we didn’t have to worry about taxi’s or the train. I had read reviews on taking the train up and although people say it’s part of the experience, we weren’t interested (the shuttles also had AC…). On the way up we saw a few people hiking or attempting to bike up the trail but oh boy did that seem hard! It’s a mountain people, think major inclines! Sometimes, even looking through the dash in the shuttle you couldn’t see the road in front of us because of how much of a slope the vehicle was on.

After sitting in some traffic (sometimes it’s only one lane to go up and down the mountain so the shuttles have to play a game of chicken) , getting dropped off and walking up quite a few stairs, we reached the statue and were greeted by hundreds of other people all trying to get the same photo (the ‘Jesus pose’). The funny part was, on the ground you would find soft mats all over the place so when whoever was taking the picture for you would lay on the ground, at least it wasn’t solid cement they were laying on. Clearly a true tourist attraction but still a must none the less.

After taking our pictures and observing the beautiful views of almost all of the beaches of Rio, we headed back down in the shuttle. Since it was such a beautiful day, we immediately ordered an Uber to take us to Sugar Loaf Mountain or Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese. Well it just so happened to be the most popular time to buy tickets so we stood inline and waited for close to 2 hours…again, part of being a tourist.

To reach the top of the mountain, 65 passengers can fit in each cable car but there are two separate cable cars you must take to reach the very top. The first ascends to the shorter peak Morro da Urca which is 722 ft above the harbor. The second ascends to Pão de Açúcar which is 1,299 ft. Even though we wanted for quite a long time to get in a cable car, in total, the ascent only takes three minutes from start to finish to reach the top of Pão de Açúcar.

We wanted to do the highest/second peak first and work our way back down so went all the way up. The view is unbelievable. You can to see the Christ Redeemer looking over all of Rio (when the clouds allow it), the gorgeous beaches and islands, and the iconic view of the different mountainside favelas and neighborhoods of Rio. There were a few trails you could take to see a 360° view and monkeys if you were luckly…we were not. No monkeys for us but beautiful pictures!

The second peak held more of the places to eat, souvenirs and a helicopter pad for those who wanted to take a 5 min helicopter ride. For breakfast, we had only eaten some bread we found at a place near the ticket booth so at this point we were starving. Even though the food was so over priced, we ended up buying a few snacks to hold us over until we got down the mountain. I got cheese bread or pao de queijo which is always delicious and Cody got a chocolate covered churro…we were not going for nutritious here. 

Heading back down in the cable car, we were literally caught in the clouds! An enormous cloud was passing through the mountain. Our timing for both monuments was perfect! 

After coming down from the mountain, we were walking distance from a bar I had seen on the Food Network. I’m a sucker for food/travel shows so I tend to watch a lot of Anthony Bourdain, Chef’s Table, or Andrew Zimmern. Anyways, Bar Urca was on one of those episodes as a great locals bar with a gorgeous view sitting on the sea wall. After a 25 min walk, we found that it was indeed packed with locals. We were lucky enough to get a table in the inside/upstairs section which is very hard to do. We enjoyed a couple of drinks, some empanadas and a little rest time for our legs. Satisfied and a little tipsy from the caipirinhas, we walked along the sea wall with the locals and caught an uber to go back to Copacabana.

After a little shopping around the beach, dinner was the next thing on our minds. Since we were in the mood for A LOT of food, there was a churrista in Ipanema that sounded delicious. We walked there and were not disappointed. Delicious, delicious, delicious. Since we were staying right in front of a pacified favela, we had to be careful of where we walked but as a group, we were ok. Since tomorrow was going to be a long night, we ended up heading home after dinner very satisfied.

The New Years celebrations in Rio deserve a whole post to itself so I’ll stop here. Our New Years shenanigans next!
xo,
B

Cataratas do Iguaçu: Brazilian Side

Ahh I’m so far behind! Let’s go all the way back to the Christmas/New Years break in Rio…

We woke up pretty early the next morning to get a head start to Brazil!

Our Airbnb host Erik had offered to drive us across the border to our hostel on the Brazilian side of the falls. Crossing the border by taxi was an interesting experience. We went through a toll booth, filled out slips of paper, stopped to get a stamp in our passport and we were done.

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One side of the bridge is Argentinian (blue/white) and the other is crossing over into Brazil (yellow/green).

After we arrived at the hostel, Erik waited for us to drop our bags to drive us to the Brazilian side of the Falls. The entrance to the Brazilian side was right next to a very well known bird sanctuary/park which we also wanted to visit. But we decided to do the park first. Erik took us all the way to the entrance and even helped us purchase tickets for the park and made sure we were in the right line, he gets the sweetest host award.

Unfortunately we got to the park at its busiest time. The non-glamorous side of being a tourist are the lines you stand in and the time you waste standing in those lines. After waiting in the 2 hour line in order to get on the bus/shuttle that takes you to the Falls, we had managed survive the heat and people…barely.

We decided to do the boat tour of the Falls on the Brazilian side so that was our first stop. We stashed our valuables in a locker because we knew we were going to come back drenched so we hopped in the jeep-looking shuttle that took us down to the boats. All 4 of us managed to get in the front of the boat, best seats in the house :), with our life jackets and GoPros on. The boat ride to the Falls only took about 10-15 mins and once we got there is was unreal. Obviously looking at the Falls from land, you recognize the massiveness of the cliffs and drop offs but you don’t appreciate the power of the water and the beauty of something so natural until you’re on the same level as the millions of tons of water that comes crashing down from up above you. The boat went as close to the Devil’s Throat as it was allowed and the sound was deafening, under the waterfalls we went! We had feelings of pure joy and amazement, we were under the biggest waterfall in the world! Amazing. We were only under the waterfall for about 5 mins but that was enough to drench the entire boat and have everyone laughing and smiling.

Getting back to the first bus stop, we waited for the bus to pick us up to go to the second stop, the scenic view of the Falls. We were dropped at the start of the hike. It took us a few hours to walk the entire trail dodging people taking pictures and taking many of our own. The hike was easy and the view was beautiful…I’m running out of adjectives to describe this park!

Once we made it to the end of the trail we stopped to grab a bite to eat while we waited for the bus to take us back. On the short 20 min ride back to the entrance, we passed through a summer thunderstorm, it was gone as quickly as it had come and by the time were back to the entrance it was sunny again.
Since we took our time going around the Falls, by the time we got back and wanted to go to the bird park, it was too late. So we planned to wake up early the next morning to make it to the park before heading to the airport.

That night we went back to the hostel, enjoyed the pool and a few drinks before deciding to ask the front desk for a good place to eat dinner. A taxi driver ended up taking us to a traditional Brazilian churrista which was dirt cheap but oh-so-delicious. You could tell it was a locals place because even the taxi driver parked his car and came in to eat. You could go up and serve yourself from the “salad bar” which had salad stuff as well as pizza and different pastas etc. Waiters would come around with pitchforks of so many different kinds of meats and ask if you wanted a slice. If you did, they would cut it right off the skewer onto your plate. The most expensive thing at the restaurant was my mini bottle of wine which was still even less expensive than a glass of wine in the states. Stuffed and happy we went back to the hostel for the night.

Going to Parque des Aves was one of the best ideas of the whole trip! The bird park was amazing!! You got to walk around seeing so many different types of birds and even walk into some cages where you could be right next to them.

The highlight for me was the Tucans, growing up they were always my favorite but I had never seen one in real life. Finally getting to stand right next to one, it honestly looked fake because of how bright and vibrant the colors were.

We had to rush through the end of the park in order to catch a cab to go grab our bags and head back to the airport. We flew out of Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU) and into Rio de Janiero (SDU)! 

Rio New Years adventures coming soon!

xo,

B