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
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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

Obtaining a Brazilian Visa

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Good thing I found out we needed tourists visas to enter Brazil BEFORE we left for our trip!

If you are a US citizen looking to travel to Brazil, you need a tourist visa. Period. No getting around that one. So how does a US citizen, living in Buenos Aires get a tourist visa to travel to Brazil…that’s exactly what I googled. I found a really helpful article: Leave Your Daily Hell & looked at the actual website for the Brazilian Consulate in Buenos Aires. They both say to visit the Brazilian Consulate in Buenos Aires which is only a few blocks from my apartment building and you NEED an appointment! They will not see you without an appointment. You also NEED to have a few things:

  1. Passport
  2. Passport photo
  3. Visa Application Form you fill out on the consulate website
  4. Proof of transport in and out of Brazil
  5. Proof of a place to stay
  6. 90 days worth of bank statements stating you have enough money in your account to spend in Brazil
  7. And quite a bit of cash on hand (2,985 pesos to be exact)

Once you go to your appointment, if everything is accepted, they give you a slip of paper stating you need to pay 2,985 ARG pesos (around $180 USD) at the Itaú bank, a Brazilian bank around the corner and it must be in cash. Funny thing is, at the ATM you can only take out 2,400 ARG pesos at a time and you get charged 95 ARG ($6) every time you take money out! …Complicated process. Once you go to the bank and pay for the visa it electronically confirms with the Consulate and you return on the date stated on the slip to pick up the visa which is good for 10 years. It’s really not a difficult process, minus the cash situation, but you need to be prepared before you go. So that’s exactly what I did, I quadruple checked everything before I went to make sure I wasn’t missing anything and I was able to get the slip at the end of my appointment! Unfortunately, there was a man in front of me who didn’t print out his bank statements and therefore couldn’t continue with the process. He had to leave, print out the statements and come back in the same day in order to continue.

Looks like I’m visiting Brazil again if the visa is going to last 10 years!

Be prepared and you’ll be fine. My dad’s motto for life 🙂

OFF TO BRAZIL I GO!

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xo,

B

Holiday Plans & Matadors

Here are a couple of fun pictures from previous events 🙂

As I’m writing this, it’s currently 39° F at home and 92° F in Buenos Aires. With that being said…

Cody and I booked our tickets for our Christmas/New Years Adventure! I am so beyond excited! Not only will we be spending the “winter (our summer) break” on the beach, we’re going to Iguazu Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and spending New Years on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! 🙂 WHHHAT?!

So excited!!!!

If anyone has any suggestions of things so do I’m all ears!

We will fly into Iguazu Falls and go to both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side. The Argentinian side is more adventurous whereas the Brazilian side has the better view, so we will do both!

We’ll fly out from the Brazilian side and head to Rio de Janeiro! The Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf mountain are obviously on the list of things to do while we’re there as well as the AMAZING fireworks show that will happen on New Years Eve! It’s suppose to be one of the best firework shows IN THE WORLD! We’re stay a few blocks from Copacabana beach where all the action happens. 2 million people go to this beach to celebrate…it’s going to be a hell-of-a party!

Other things on the list of things to do, suggestions are welcome:

  1. Have a caipirinha, in a coconut, on the beach (this has been a life long dream. I kid you not)
  2. Feria Hippie de Ipanema – a hippie market that only happens on Sundays
  3. The Copacabana Fortress and Palace (two different places)
  4. Pedra do Arpoador for a sunset
  5. Possibly the Carioca Aqueduct & Escadaria Selaron which are a little farther away from the beach
  6. and maybe a tour of a favela

As well as spend as much time on the beach as we can! I know there are a lot of safety concerns when it comes to Rio. I’ve talked with a few people who have told me be street smart. If you feel like you’re in the wrong area, you probably are.

The Christmas situation here is definitely different from what I’m used to! The other night a few of us went walking through La Boca (where the famous soccer stadium is), San Telmo and Puerta Madero to finally sit down and share a drink by the water. In San Telmo there was a massive parade supporting many of the South American countries. There were lots of drums, lots of noise, lots of feathers, in as little clothing as possible with lots of booty shaking! The streets were packed with people watching and cheering their favorite country. We continued walking to Puerta Madero which is where I saw my first glimpse of Christmas this year! There were lights strung on lamp posts in the shape of candy canes, lights wrapped around ships in the water, and a large lighted Christmas tree. It was a little odd walking by in shorts and a tank top with Christmas music playing at a concert near by…but again, I’m not complaining 😉 The lights were absolutely beautiful.

Sunday morning I woke up and thought I was going to go walk around San Telmo market again just because I could. But another idea popped into my head, I wanted to go to the Feria de Mataderos which is pretty far out of the center of the city. It’s a market celebrating the traditional gaucho (Argentinian cowboy) ways and traditions.

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I walked 45 mins to the train station and took a 30 min train ride and a 20 min uber to get to the Feria. Once I was there it was really cool! Like most markets, there were hundreds of stands set up but this one had a stage in the middle. As soon as I got there I heard the music and singing. Come to find out, on December 6th (in two days) they were celebrating 30 years of the Matadors. There were lots of traditional instruments playing, singing and tango dancing. It was quite the show!

I walked around munching on an empanada looking at all of the trinkets and food available and finally decided to get a tamale and oh boy was it good! I remember having tamales growing up when my mom would make them and I thought they were the coolest thing. You had to unwrap the corn husk and the texture and taste of the corn meal was always so tasty to me, needless to say, these were very delicious. I also had some type of sweet puff pastry with jam or jelly on the inside. I don’t know what it was but it was sugary and I liked it!

I spent a few hours walking and enjoying everything before heading back home. Another successful Sunday spent at a market 🙂

Since I can’t show many training photos, here are a few photos of us attempting to get stronger….maybe, you decide.

xo,

B