My trip was to Rio de Janeiro in the huge country of Brazil was awesome to say the least. I saw a lot of beautiful places in Rio, visited a favela, drank delicious caipirinhas, and can now order my food in Portuguese.
I did the typical sightseeing stuff – Cristo Redentor (the ginormous and world-famous Jesus statue), Sugarloaf Mountain, Escadaria Selarón (the colorful staircase), and Jardim Botânico (the botanical garden). My friends and I were staying in an apartment halfway up the Escadaria Selarón, a convenient location that wasn’t too far from the touristy type stuff, but still set in a very Brazilian neighborhood just walking distance from local bars, restaurants, and the metro. I would recommend the location, although you need to be prepared physically for the daily staircase trek – it’s no joke with 215 steps. A couple of times I forgot something and had to go back to the apartment, thus having to reclimb about 3/4 of the staircase.
If you go to Rio, one of the must visit places are the beaches. I actually didn’t get any good pictures at Copacabana because we went at night, but I adored Ipanema! The sand, the beautiful water and mountain views, the vendors walking around selling bikinis, drinks, food. At first I found the vendors a little pesky, since where I come from it’s not common to have someone trying to sell you fried empanadas every ten minutes when you’re trying to relax and tan, however after the day began to pass I began to enjoy the convenience of being able to order a couple cheap homemade empanadas for $3, and a homemade lunch of fried chicken, rice and beans for about $4, right from my towel without having to walk or drive to a restaurant. Part of the joy in traveling is experiencing the differences (or similarities) between your culture and another. Being a native Floridian, I was also extremely excited to see that in Rio it’s socially acceptable to wear flip flops, so of course I had to break mine out often during the trip.
Aside from the touristic-type views, we also went to Favela Santa Marta. Seeing a favela (Brazilian slum) was a very humbling experience. Rio is known for it’s natural beauty, but also the poverty many live in, which is clear as day in these types of neighborhoods. From the crumbling concrete buildings to the river of sewage that flows in between the staircase and buildings,
to the Michael Jackson mural and statue (he filmed his video for the song “They Don’t Care About Us” in the favela) to the soccer field at the top of the favela, it was a very humbling experience that I took as a reminder to always be grateful no matter how much or little you have.
All in all, it was a very eventful trip that I enjoyed, and am hoping to return to see more of this beautiful country! After all, as an American I had to pay a hefty $200 visa (it’stypically $160 but I applied from Chile so it was more). For all you other gringos looking to go to Brazil, the visa fee is worth it, and it lasts 10 years! Rio is a grand city to visit with a lot of natural beauty and cultural aspects to see, but it is only one city amongst hundreds in Brazil. If you plan to see other cities like Salvador, Sao Paulo or Recife, you’ll get your money’s worth.