Reeling Over Rio – Part 1


I think it would be impossible to not fall in love with Rio de Janeiro. Admittedly, my first impression was not a good one. We came across some magnificent architecture as we entered into Rio after driving from Belo Horizonte and my first instinct was to whip out my camera and take some photos. Two things happened immediately after I lowered my window. First, I realized that this incredible building was covered in graffiti and just as that was registering, I was yelled at, almost violently by two men on the street, quickly followed by my friend and his wife. It seems that one does not roll down the windows and one certainly does not stick an expensive camera out the window to take pictures. I couldn’t believe this was my first taste of Rio, how unfortunate. Now before some of you say, “I told you so,” I have to say that Rio ended up being quite safe, nothing happened, I saw many tourists with the same cameras if not bigger and my hosts even admitted to perhaps being overzealous in their paranoia. I think that things have calmed down over the past few years and I think Rio has really cracked down on illegal activity and crime since being awarded the World Cup and the Olympics. If what I experienced is now the norm then I personally don’t see what the fuss is all about. However, one last thing I must admit; every Brazilian thought I was Brazilian, in fact, every non-Brazilian thought I was Brazilian. Perhaps I experienced a different Rio than an obvious non-Brazilian would but I do think it has changed and would pass along the warning I received but I would say it was not my personal experience.

Rio is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in the world, in fact it has been rated one of the five most beautiful cities. I even have to disagree with some of the top rated ones because if you don’t have mountains, beaches, the ocean and magnificent architecture in the same city can you even be a contender? For example, for me, I’d include Sydney, Vancouver and Capetown. And, yes, ok, there’s Paris and Venice (for some) so I take it back. Hong Kong was gorgeous too but that goes back to the ocean and mountains.

During Carnival I was somewhat able to understand the layout of the city and towards the end I was able to carve out the areas I wanted to spend more time in once the crowds were gone. I ended up extending my stay in Rio for four days in order to really experience it. And my friends, that’s when I fell in love. 

I have been trying to put my finger what exactly I love about it. It is definitely its beauty, it’s how incredibly cheap the taxis are and how easy it is to find your way on the metro/bus system. It’s that you’re golden with any grasp of a Latin language and even with only English you’ll be fine to get around even after a few days. After one week I felt comfortable. Now, I can have a conversation with someone one on one. I do speak French and have a year of Spanish under my belt but unlike some things in Brazil, Portuguese makes sense. I like some of the food, ok, let’s be clear, I love the beef and for me that is the #1 food group so I’m all good. Beer is really cheap for those who love it and it’s much easier to love any city when you have gorgeous weather and can walk along a beach on its promenade at 8am and have it be sunny, blue skies and 22C. 

A few fun observations of Rio (and some, Brazil in general):

  • In most supermarkets (supermercado) there is no line for fewer items but there is a line for the elderly and disabled.
  • Often, when it comes to event sales, say for a club event etc there will be a number of tickets available for males and a number of tickets available for females. A great system I think to equal out the sexes.
  • The buses are super fast and you’ll see tourists with tons of bruises, me included. The drivers go about 60-70km in the city and you’re literally thrown around. The driver does not take the money; there is a separate guy inside with a turnstile who lets you in. Once the last person is in the door the driver takes off and in this area there is very little to hold onto. You can go your entire ride without paying and then do so just as you get off, through the turnstile.
  • I love fresh coconut water and it’s everywhere for R$ 3 / 1.70 CAD/USD.
  • Food in general, in restaurants, is the same price as at home. If you’re looking to save money go to a hotel/hostel where you can cook your own. Plus, you’ll likely eat much healthier.
  • There was some great fashion to be had in Rio, and at reasonable prices.
  • There is a ton of things to buy at the beach from vendors walking around. Sarongs (kungas), whistles to annoy people with, every food you could want from peanuts to shrimp on a skewer with lime and salt, salgados (fried/baked pastry pockets with beef/chicken/cheese, peanuts, meat pies with chicken, acai (frozen dessert) and so much more.
  • In Brazil people do not take towels to the beach, they use their sarongs instead.
  • In Brazil you can walk around with open alcohol.
  • Subway cars are quite spacious as they have little seating. Most stand.
  • There are few Asians/Indians in Rio but there is every possible shade of white to black that could ever be imagined.

Next – Part two of my time in Rio.

4 Responses to Reeling Over Rio – Part 1

  1. Excellent. Brazilians claim they can feed the world with their agriculture. Can’t wait to hear more about the country.

    Joanne March 4, 2012 at 8:13 AM Reply
    • Joanne, I have heard the same thing. Quite interesting and it would seem there is great potential. Thanks for reading. :)

      juliemunsch March 4, 2012 at 12:18 PM Reply
  2. Magnificent site. A lot of helpful info here. I’msending it to a few buddies ans also sharing in delicious.

    And obviously, thanks on your effort!

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    altervista.org October 3, 2014 at 9:56 AM Reply
    • Thank you. I’ve been absent for a while but I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. :)

      Julie Munsch December 22, 2014 at 4:12 PM Reply

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