Reeling Over Rio – Part 2

Reeling Over Rio – Part 2

I think one of the reasons I liked Rio is that I gave myself a chance to walk around, feel like part of my neighbourhood (stayed in Flamengo with friends) and I felt like a local.

It’s easy to begin to feel like you belong when repeating a routine, whether it’s returning nightly to your same quaint neighbourhood brasserie in Paris after a long day of touring or sitting on the same park bench on Impanema Beach night after night. And, in my opinion, it’s the feeling that one “belongs” that makes the difference between an ok vacation and a great one. When faces begin to recognize yours, when they know what you’re going to order each morning because you’ve been there four days in a row, when you get that complimentary digestif at the end of a dinner or they trust you with a “hidden gem,” – that’s the key.

I could have easily stayed in Rio another 4-5 days and there is a lot I didn’t get to do, much of what I’ve mentioned below in my dream itinerary of Rio. It’s also important to take the summer heat into consideration if you’re visiting during this time and double your estimated time because the heat zaps everything out of you and plans change on a dime when your air-conditioned bed or your third shower of the day is calling your name. It’s interesting because yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend who has lived in the USA (Minneapolis) and in Brazil. She was remarking to me how her children are dead tired at 4pm here where as in the USA things are ramping up after school; play time, activities, and essentially the energy to do things. And yes, I think we’re all familiar with “island time,” affectionately referred to by Canadians and others for the slower pace of life in the Caribbean where many of us have observed so when heading south to escape the winter. But, many of us know that it’s not just the Caribbean, it’s pretty much anywhere it’s hot. Productivity goes down as do expectations and some might say the quality of life but many might disagree and love the slower pace. Personally, I like a balance. I barely lasted a year living in the Turks & Caicos Islands when my employees wouldn’t come to work when it rained or when settling our phone bills at Cable & Wireless (come to be known as Cable & Useless) as it took hours and often half days of work were the norm. 

I had an “a-ha’ moment during this conversation with my friend – of the vicious cycle we have perpetuated because we live in a climate with changing seasons, colder weather and higher productivity. It seems to me that we have acclimatized ourselves to produce more and because of that we have also found it acceptable to have less vacation. I mean it is utterly ridiculous for Canadians and maybe Americans to begin with two weeks of vacation for the first five years we work with a company. And then three weeks for the next five years? In many countries with MUCH reduced productivity they begin with three-four weeks of vacation and many I know have six. Perhaps, collectively as a nation/society we should all stay home if it snows, stop conference calling if we’re snowed in and turn off the air conditioning in the summer so we simply cannot go on and have to go find a pub or a pool to rejuvenate ourselves for the next day. My advice would actually be to read Tim Ferriss’ “The Four Day Workweek” and permit yourself a better/higher quality of life. If you’re going to read one book this year, or one non-fiction piece this will give you the greatest return. And please, do yourself a favour and don’t go, “oh that’s nice in theory but I’d never actually do it” or.. “it doesn’t apply to my life or my job,” because it can for everyone. It’s your life.

Anyway, I digress; it was f-ing hot in Rio.

What did I do in Rio? Let’s see. I visited Christ the Redeemer and hang-glided, both of which I had seen on The Amazing Race years ago. I visited the areas that were suggested to me, Lapa, Centro, Impanema/Copacabana and Barra di Tijuca. However, I didn’t make it to a favela (after a debaucherous night out in Lapa – do not schedule tours early in the morning. I knew better but was running out of time. Oh well). I didn’t realize that I could kite-board in Rio and was planning on doing so when I found out I could but the prices were exorbitant, much higher say then in Cabarate (Dominican Republic), Dahab (Egypt) or Boracay (Philippines). The tour guide mentioned below comes highly recommended but she’s expensive. I hear she is definitely worth the rate but at $300 USD for a day I skipped it. I could have found another but I was with some Cariocans and felt I had seen enough although I would have loved more history and the tidbits of information that my readers want to hear about.

There are no soccer games during Carnival ☹ and I wasn’t feeling museums. The highlight of my visit was the hang-gliding. There are many reputable companies to fly with but I would wholeheartedly endorse Alex. Alex is kind, speaks English well and has a passion for hang-gliding that spans 25 years. I’m not sure how old he is but I think that means he started when he was 15 or younger. He ensured I felt comfortable and saw that I signed my waivers. I had forgotten my running shoes (island time in my head) but they’re prepared for tourists and have a rubber band contraption to keep your flip-flops on. He pointed out the camera mounted to the frame, told me when to turn to take pictures and took video as well – all available for purchase.

I have to say I had a huge smile on my face when we first arrived at our take off point at the top of the Tijuca Forest. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to do this and while being scared of heights. I actually have hang-glided a few times but I was four years old and was strapped to my “father,” my biological mother’s boyfriend, whom I knew as my father for most of my first five years. I remember getting strapped into him and I remember taking off but I don’t remember where we did it. I feel like it might have been the Niagara Escarpment but I’m not sure. I also remember riding motorcycles with him and loving the speed. I sadly have to say he died of heart failure in 1982 at the early age of 33 about a year after I was given up for adoption. Rick Redford, you will always be loved and missed and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and passing along your sense of adventure.

While Alex’s driver (the right hand man who sets up the equipment and drives the car back to the bottom of the mountain) set up the hang-glider I watched people get ready and take off. Alex then helped me into my harness, showed me what to do (video to come shortly) and before I knew it we were flying over Rio. I can’t begin to tell you how safe I felt and it makes no sense to me. I felt as safe as if I was in a car, wearing a seatbelt. It didn’t even feel surreal, it felt entirely natural. I would definitely recommend it and I saw people of all shapes and ages doing it although I think the maximum weight is between 225 and 300 lbs depending on the company. If I was doing it again I would call daily to assess the wind conditions and go when it was windier because you get a longer ride. Mine lasted about ten minutes but the more wind there is the more the pilot (Alex) can play with it, catching currents and soaring higher, wider and longer, much as a bird does. My dream was to hang-glide over Christ the Redeemer as I had seen on The Amazing Race and Alex said it is indeed possible, however, with windier conditions. Why not call in to maximize your experience? I would do it again, tenfold and from now on, when in a gorgeous city, I plan to check it out.

To summarize…

If I had been visiting Rio during another time of the year/summer I would have spent my time differently. Ideally, I would have done everything I wanted, relax, partake in adventure, sightsee, enjoy more of its culture, and shop/entertain myself. And, in fact, I did do this but on a much smaller scale. In no particular order I would have spent my days as so.

Day 1 – City tour with Neyla at neyla@tourguideneyla.com (she comes highly recommended on Trip Advisor – as do a few others).  I’d arrange it to depart at 10am from my hotel and I’d return around 3/4pm. Relax, go out for a nice dinner, walk around Impanema/Copacabana Beach area.

Day 2 – Hang-gliding from 9-11am with Alex voo Dupho (alexvoodupho@gmail.com or (21) 7845-7400. And since I was closer to Barra di Tijuca beach I’d head that way and take a 2-3 hour kite-boarding lesson and then spend the rest of the day on the beach.

Day 3 – Christ the Redeemer early in the morning (9am) to avoid wait times. From there I’d head to Centro and have lunch at the Café Colombo, walk around the area, do some shopping and take photos of the magnificent architecture in the area. Chill in a chopp café and people watch. Dinner at (beachside/rooftop).

Day 4 – A favela tour with Marcello, departing at 10am – 12pm (he also departs at 2pm). Visit to Sugarloaf Mountain. NOTE: If possible, 100% visit the Favela Painting Project. Night out in Lapa. Samba Club?

Day 5 – Sleep in. Day at Copacabana/Impanema beach. Go to a soccer game (Flamengo). Or maybe order room service and watch a movie.

Day 6 – Helicopter tour of Rio. Visit some museums. Soccer game if not during the evening before. I’d add in a day or two for screw ups to my schedule, spontaneity, visiting with friends, etc..

I look forward to my next time in Rio de Janeiro and will definitely be going with friends and/or a loved one. Rio has definitely captured my heart. Hope to see you for the World Cup in 2014!

I’d love to hear about your experience. Is Rio in one of your favourite top ten destinations? It is in mine.

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