Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the state with the same name. It was Brazil’s capital until 1960, when Brasília took its place. It’s the second largest city of Brazil and it lives about 6.3 million people within the city and about 11–13.5 million in the state. Residents of the Rio are known as cariocas.
I arrived in the morning to Rio and took the airport bus to the center for 11 reales. When I arrived in the center it was raining. Buhu. I got of in Cinelandia and walked towards Lapa to take the local bus to Santa Teresa where my host Kike lives with his girlfriend Vicki. Both of them really super sweet and the apartment is super cool. We had some fresh expresso coffee and toasts and talked and got to know each other a bit :) It stopped raining so Kike took me out for a walk in the neighborhood, we went to Gloria where they have the Sunday food market and I bought some fruit and bakery stuff.
It started to rain a little bit again and we went back and Vicky prepared a nice vegetarian meal (yes, they are both veggies, woho :) Around 15 Kike went to work and me and Vicky stayed and had some more coffee and some sweets, love to have coffee after food!! I have so missed it! Haha.
Then I went out for a walk around the neighborhood which is really calm and charmy. It’s filled with art galleries, handy craft shops and a lot of bars. In the evening me and Vicky passed by Cafecito where Kike works and had dinner there together with Domingos, their friend who is a supercool artist. After that we grabbed a few beers out on the street. Apparently Sunday is a party day here. Haha. Then home to sleep… I was really tired! Haha.
Next day I started with a free walking tour in the city center with Walker Tours. They have it everyday at 10.30, meeting point just outside Carioca metro station. It showed up a lot of people, around 30 or something, and I was seriously thinking about leaving because I would never hear something, but boy was I wrong haha. The little girl had a super voice, and she was so funny and sweet too. Really great guide and tour through the city! This is a good way to cover the center of Rio too, because the main tourist attractions are not in the center (sugarloaf mountain, Christ the redeemer, the Copacabana and ipanema beach etc).
The Center lies on the plains of the western shore of Guanabara Bay, which Rio de Janeiro was named after (January river). Centro is the historic core of the city, as well as its financial centre. We visited plenty of sites of interest and got a good introduction of Rio.
The center is a big mix of churches and buildings from the 16th to the 19th century together with new and modern designs of the 20th century. Since Rio was home to the Portuguese Imperial Family for many years, and the architecture has been influenced by the Portuguese, English and French. It is weird to see this old buildings together with the modern sky scrapers and then all the trees in the middle. Crazy! It is not so beautiful in the center though due to the sky scrapers which mostly are just ugly haha.
This is a little bit of a miracle here in Rio. This statue fell from the church top, really high up, and didn’t break anything but it’s finger. But the bell clock of iron, it broke in the middle. Mystical! We also got bracelets that you knot with three knots, for every knot you make a wish. Then you can’t cut it of yourself, but when it falls of, your wishes will come true. Apparently this is true :)
We walked towards Lapa, a neighborhood besides the center which also is very arty. It houses the modern Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. Very ugly from the outside.. apparently beautiful inside but I didn’t visit it..
We visited the famous path between Lapa and Santa Teresa which is complete covered in red tiles, made by the artist Jorge Selaron. Almost every city or country has their own brick there in the red mosaic stair-thingy. Really cool!
We rounded up with a typical Brazilian lunch in Lapa – Feijoada for about 25 reales, and I had the vegetarian version, and it was really good!
In the evening it was supposed to rain so I had planned in a few museums, but since it turned out to be a clear evening, I took the opportunity and went to the Sugar Loaf Mountain. I went with a really sweet couple from Australia I met on the tour who also were completing their bucket list before going home to build their family.
But guess what? When we jump of the bus at the Sugar Loaf mountain, I notice that I don’t have any money left!! I knew I had a 50 reales-bill there but I must have dropped it when I paid something, the bus or the food or something. I was like… well.. I’ll do this another day then. But, oh, the Australian couple said they would pay for me, that it was no big deal for them. Such a nice gesture. I wanted to be able to pay them back, tried to have a meeting point so I could pay back another day, but they just said that I should pass it on and help another fellow traveler who is in need instead :)
Our guide gave us a tip about how to do the Sugar Loaf Mountain for half price – you can do a hike there to the first mountain, and from there take the cable car to the next mountain, then it will only cost you 26 reales instead of 53 for the whole thing. So you only pay for the one between the mountains, because after 19, the cable car back is for free too. :) I did that by myself… and I had got to understand that it was quite easy, but it really was in the middle of the forest, and it was about 50 minutes hike, straight up hill, climbing up on roots and it was all muddy and jungle-like haha. A sweaty experience!
But once there on the top… the view… amazing!! Made me I understand how Rio de Janeiro is connected… it’s huge, but still there are so many green parks and lakes. Very nice! And so calm up there. I took the cable car from the first mountain over to the other higher mountain, the sugarloaf mountain, and I met the Australian couple there. We talked for like a few hours about everything and just enjoyed the sight over Rio and then watched the beautiful sunset there.
Lovely first day!