Travel Diaries: Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Literally the day after our pop up shop, I hopped on a plane and flew to one of the most magical places in the world. Seriously! Words cannot even express how in love I am with this country. I wish I had the time to visit other parts of it, but I only got the chance to explore through Rio. I often have a penchant for falling in love with every single city I visit, and Rio definitely was no exception; it has a veryyyy special place in my heart. Every single thing about this city was amazing, from the people, to the streets, to the scenery, to the food. I think I must've eaten steak every single night while I was there, and the people were so beautiful it hurt. I honestly had a blast simply just laying out in the sand and watching people play volleyball and soccer and let me just say, everyone is incredible at it regardless if they're a man, woman, or child. 

The weather was beautiful. It is currently winter in Brazil and it was in the 80's when we visited - the perfect temperature in my opinion. Going in August was a great decision for a number of reasons. It wasn't so hot to the point where it was uncomfortable, and when we visited the Christ the Redeemer statue, we actually could see his face! Unluckily for some of my friends who visited before me, they didn't get the chance to see him as a whole due to the clouds, and our tour guide told us that even in all the years he's done this, this was only the 2nd time that it's ever not been cloudy. So thank you Mother Nature for looking out for us! 

The very first day we arrived was perfect. It was about 10am when we landed, met our tour guide, took a quick walk around the neighborhood by our hotel and chilled on the beach all day until it was time to meet the rest of our tour group. We stayed at the Windsor Leme Hotel, which I definitely recommend if you're ever in Rio and are looking for a nice hotel to stay at. Copacabana Beach is right across the street from it, so the rooftop view is spectacular. You can order food from the hotel restaurant to eat on the roof, or just lounge in the pool. You can see a few of the favelas in the distance, look down into the streets below, gaze out into the beach, and you can even see the Christ the Redeemer statue from here! Supermarkets, drug stores, banks, and restaurants are a mere few steps away for your convenience as well. After meeting with the rest of our group, we headed out to have dinner at a local Brazilian steakhouse (like Fogo de Chao but better!). It is less expensive than Fogo, about $40 a person, whereas Fogo can be between $60-80. Let's just say I ate my heart out haha.

(the rest of these photos are unedited because I never posted them to my instagram and I'm just too lazy to edit all these right now haha, please forgive me)

The next day we woke up bright and early to make our trek to the top of the Christ the Redeemer statue. We took a 20 minute trolley ride up to the top of the mountain, and if you're planning on visiting I'd say the best thing to do is to go as early as you can. We arrived at 8am to avoid lines and were one of the first people there. Any later than that, and you will be waiting in line for 2-3hrs just waiting for the trolley. The ride up was so scenic -- you ride through a rainforest and every so often you can catch glimpses of the city through the trees. I've been to beautiful places before but Rio's beauty is unmatched in many ways. How many places are there in the world where you can be right next to the hustle and bustle of the city life, walk to the beach, then hike up a mountain? 

We finished up around noon and had the rest of the day free. One thing that was a must see for me is the famous Escadaria Selaron, aka the colorful steps from the Snoop x Pharrell "Beautiful" video. Our tour guide told us that it wasn't a part of our itinerary, so instead we took this time to explore the city by ourselves. We took a cab to the stairs and was thoroughly warned several times about how it is a dangerous area and to be extra careful. Another warning was to make sure we do not try to walk all the way to the top of the stairs; the reason being that a drug lord lives right at the top, as it is the entrance into a favela. When we stepped out the cab, I was immediately greeted with the warm feeling of this being a "real" neighborhood. By real, I simply mean it gives a more authentic vibe of how people in this small section of Rio live. While our hotel is great, it definitely is in a more touristy area, filled with a bunch of fancy hotels and much further away from actual neighborhoods. At the steps, we were immediately greeted by street vendors, food stands, and children playing outside. The history of the stairs is way too long for me to try to sum up in a blog post, but it's very interesting so if you'd like you can read about it here. 

Afterwards, we summoned up our courage to venture outside this neighborhood despite everyone's warnings (contrary to what they said, we didn't feel like we were in danger at all), and walked into the city to get to the nearest train station. This is the only place where we ran into a bit of trouble. Well, it wasn't "trouble" persay, just moreso a a complication. As we were struggling to buy our train tickets (the machine was entirely in Portuguese), we realized that they do not offer change, and we also did not have small bills with us. We then ran around the city trying to find a place that would offer us change, but the funny thing here is literally not a single person knew English. We tried our best to communicate what we wanted to no avail, and after getting shoo'd a few times, we finally got it done. Once on the train, we traveled up near the port, where I was told there was an abundance of street art.

That night, we enjoyed a slight dinner on the beach, while a man serenaded us with classic Brazilian songs.

The next day we headed to Sugarloaf Mountain. To get there, you take two separate cable cars up. One of them is a shorter ride than the other and the further up you go, the more spectacular the view is. I think one of the main reasons why I fell so in love with Rio so quickly is because I can't imagine myself ever tiring of these views.


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