For the kid’s spring break, we headed off to Brazil for a few days of sun and fun. Rio is a short 3 hour flight from BsAs, but culturally it is miles apart. The first shock was trying to navigate Portuguese. Our Argentine friends said that they could pretty much understand and be understood in “Portuñol” the Spanish/Portuguese combination. Well, let’s just say when the español is weak, the portuñol is non existent.
The vibe is quite different in Rio. Most obviously it’s a city on the beach, like LA or Sydney, and the beach feeling is very strong. Also, the atmosphere is distinctly more tropical (as is the weather which was a healthy 10-15 degrees warmer). The population in Rio is far more diverse, with a mix of natives and people of African ancestry both of which are far less prominent in Buenos Aires. Also, it just feels like a big party. Perhaps it was because we stayed so close to the beach, but we certainly got the feeling that the people were having a good time. Interesting that the beaches are full of little food/drink stands that can create an instant fiesta.
For the first two days, we stayed in Leblon, which is like the Manhattan Beach of Rio. Lots of sport on the beach and folks running (as well as the aforementioned beer/food kiosks). The beach was packed like the Jersey Shore, but everyone was just drinking beers openly instead of surreptitiously sipping them. En route to the beach, we encountered a new food call Bolinhos, which are effectively fried dough with some type of filling. Don’t know why those things don’t get more press.
Our first full day in Rio we had a tourist program. Our first stop was the Maracaña futbol stadium. Interestingly this is where all of the local teams in Rio play their games (unlike in Argentina where each team has their own stadium) as well as the site of the World Cup and other international events. We then headed up to Corcovado, the mountain upon which the giant statute of Christ the Redeemer sits peering over the city. The statute and the views are well worth the journey. We then headed off to Sugar Loaf, another prominent mountain perched in the bay that overlooks all of Rio. We accessed Sugar Loaf via cable car, though we saw some brave souls scaling it. Sort of like visiting Mount Rushmore in that it’s a truly amazing place, but really only worth a short visit.
Kate was a bit under the weather the next day, so Jake and I ventured out to Parque de Catacumba. They have ziplines and canopies and such and we had a good time. Also a nice little hike to get another elevated view of the city. We then moved to the incredible Hotel Fasano. Designed by Phillip Stark, this is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen. Also, because there was the “Rock in Rio” music festival, there were all sorts of “fans” waiting outside since apparently some of the performers were staying there. Interesting people watching.
The Hotel was located on Ipanema beach (like “Girl from Ipanema”). This beach is a even more crowded than Leblon with a bit more of an urban feeling. It was a BIG party and had a little taste of danger, particularly when Jake and I decided to climb around some rock outcroppings jutting into the water. I also took the kids skateboarding in a park right next to the beach. They rode beautifully and we had a great time playing in the sun.
After Rio we headed north to the beach resort area of Buzios. Buzios is a peninsula that juts out between the bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The area is dotted with different beaches to visit each of which has different degrees of wind and surf depending on the location. We stayed at the fantastic Casa Branca, a beautiful european style hotel with the most magical sunset view imaginable. It’s not like a US style resort with a big beach/pool, but the views are spectacular and Sebastian, their concierge, helped us navigate all of the various beaches and local restaurants. We particularly enjoyed Restaurant David although all of Sebastian’s suggestions were great.
Buzios was a great adventure. We went snorkling, did stand up paddle, rented a buggy to cruise around town, surfed on the Atlantic coast and then ended the trip with a boat tour of the area. All the beaches have on site vendors of food, drink as well as other trinkets. They offer beach chairs for their customers so it is a great freemium system.
Overall an excellent trip. I’m not sure we’d have been able to enjoy it as much before our time in Argentina. What I mean is that we had to contend inconveniences to which we were not previously accustomed: slightly dangerous areas, navigating the system of vendors on the beach ( in Portuñol), glacial service. I think our time in Argentina has made us more adaptable and also more comfortable with uncertainty. That realization made the trip even more enjoyable.