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It’s a major decision to make when traveling.

Being in Rio for a week or 2 is a long time. You are able to see all of the tourist areas, while even reserving a couple days for bad weather days. You have time for the beaches, Cristo Redentor, Sugarloaf, Lapa, a soccer game at Maracaná, Escadaria Selaron, and maybe even consume a few proper Brazilian meals.
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But settling in, being a resident for over a month, walking the same Escadaria Selaron up and down time after time, spotting the same guy on the corner in Lapa selling fruit, hiking nearly all the lookout points in Rio, knowing the Metro by heart, grabbing food from the same Zona Sul market and renting beach chairs from the same kiosk on Ipanema gives you a whole other vibe (Never bring your own chair & umbrella, they only cost about $1.50 USD each for the entire day here).Image5

You feel just a bit less of a tourist, as you pass the foreigners taking their photos of sights for the first time which you have already seen for weeks now. You don’t hesitate and pull out your phone to search for directions on which street to turn down, because you know the path to the Cinelândia Metro station. You have hiked not just the parks in Rio by the Lagoon and climbed up Sugarloaf, but also deep in Niteroí by Itacoatiara beach on the mountain of a rock looking straight down into the Rio skyline. You know that using a towel at the beaches is something a “tourist” would do. All of course, being guided with the help of local friends!

Itacoatiara is one of my favorite beaches, the waves crash right on the shore and the view is better than any US shoreline. In the collage above to the right, the bottom right photo I’m jumping in is the same rock in the beach photo to the left. It often gets overlooked by many tourists as its not high up on Trip Advisors top places to see.IMG_2710 The path into the beach is also long and a bit dangerous, driving through hilly neighborhoods and skinny back roads. Once you arrive, 2 mountainous rocks line the sides of the beach making it a maybe bit more than a quarter mile wide. The shoreline is steep and the waves crash abruptly only a few feet from the shoreline, and throws thin fast moving sheets of water up the sand. You don’t spot many non-Brazilians around here. This day, I believe I was the only foreigner present on a packed Saturday beach day. Glad I went there with my local friend.

IMG_3752My friend, an avid learner who is featured in the Resources area, took me to Itacoatiara. I can’t explain enough how nice it is to have good friends in Rio. This past weekend after stumbling upon the Thanksgiving feast at the JW Marriott in Copacabana, with the American Society of Rio, he invited me to have churrasco at his home in Campo Grande. Churrasco is BBQ, and it’s not like an All-American backyard charcoal grill with burgers and hot dogs. Here they prepare chicken, sausage, bacon, steak, aipim, rice, beans, salads, farofa, and huge portions of each. Included in this feast was Feijoada. Feijoada is steak, beans and sausage mixed together into something special. It’s the national dish of Brazil. This, is the equivalency to America’s dish of… nothing. Simply put, nothing can be compared to this meal! It is so rich and hearty that as you’re eating it lulls you into a post Thanksgiving day nap. Feijoada will be explained more deeply, to the best of my knowledge, in my upcoming food post.

IMG_3040A BBQ here is an event. You can tell that Brazilians just do it better than us…its meat for everyone! However, this BBQ was only with his family and my brother and me. Nice and calm, laid back, face stuffing activities on an overcast Sunday afternoon. These are the things I will miss when returning to the US. Don’t forget dessert! The sobremesa, which means dessert, was a chocolate sort of graham cracker cake along with another sweet and fluffy cake which ingredients to me are unknown. They were amazing, and best washed down with something light like water. I could not pack anything else into my stomach that day, zero space left.
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Another weekly occurrence is something called Feira. Feira is a street food market, and it happens Tuesday/Wednesday/Saturday scattered in different bairros (neighborhoods) around Rio. When I stayed in Santa Teresa I strolled through the bairro de Gloria; they were selling all kinds of fruits, freshly caught fish, veggies, pastels, spices, etc. I had to buy something…so I decided to buy some honey from this guy selling from a grocery cart, I was super excited as you can see. It was actually amazing, good for those bees.

IMG_2952Yet, there are still many great things I have encountered, so far, on my short term residency here in Brazil. Already I have been to Christ the Redeemer twice (photo view from Cristo overlooking Sugarloaf), Maracana Stadium for 2 games (both tied at 0-0, 1-1), Sugarloaf Mountain twice (once hiking, and once via cable car). I have crossed paths with the head of Hospitality for the 2016 Olympics, and hung out with newly formed friends until the sun came up. I have helped a few lost Brazilians needing directions, and I have eaten a freshly grilled chicken heart for the first time.

I have also had the chance to practice my Portuguese plenty of times; in fact all the time. To paint a picture, each time you walk out of your hotel/apartment/hostel, you are challenged. The only way to get anything done is by communicating, so this forces you to dive in head first. It’s a rush, and a tiny thrill each time you get something done, from ordering food to recharging your phone data.

I already am missing this place because in 2016 I will return home. I am still in pursuit of the #RoadToRio2016 working for the Olympics. In the meantime, I plan to count experiences had over places been. It’s my preferred form of travel, for all these reasons. IMG_3533