I love large cities by the sea and, in my humble experience, Rio is the most beautiful one that I have visited (followed closely by Sydney and Cape Town). It lived up to my expectations in every way and despite many people telling me that I was crazy to go there, ‘Rio is so dangerous’, ‘You’ll get Zika’, ‘The country is broke and the government is corrupt, it will be depressing’, I could not have asked for a better experience. It certainly has a bit of an edge about it but use common sense and leave your valuables at home and you’ll be fine.
There are many things that I’ll miss about Rio but here my top 5.
1. Breathtaking scenery – the worlds largest urban forest, lush green hills in every direction, beautiful bays with incredible beaches that stretch for miles, colourful favelas, sunsets that leave you speechless and Christ the Redeemer looking down from on high. Totally amazing.
2. The people – from my team mates and project colleagues, to the beach vendors, local restaurant owners, and our fabulous language teacher, everyone was friendly, helpful and happy to chat (even though in many cases I had no idea what they were saying!) A smile and a wave from Lucy, my favourite coconut water seller, as I passed by on the way to the metro, was guaranteed to brighten my day.
3. £7 manicures and pedicures at the local beauticians – always loud and busy, with the TV going in the corner and everyone chatting at top volume, it became a weekly ritual. And then there was the waxing- cheap as chips and eye-wateringly thorough, but then I was in Brazil!
4. Samba – in all it’s many and varied forms! I knew very little about Samba before arriving in Rio but once there it was impossible to miss. Every night there was some form of Samba being played in bars and on street corners all over the city, with many evening Samba parties attracting thousands of people who sing along to every song and dance the night away. To be completely honest, I can take or leave the music but the atmosphere at these events was totally infectious and you just couldn’t help but smile and try not to look too much like a gringo attempting some of those tricky dance steps.
5. Mangos, papayas and fresh coconut water – juicy, ripe, cheap and plentiful. Nothing beats a breakfast of mango and papaya,sprinkled with lime juice, and washed down with ice cold, fresh coconut water. Delicious and a real help for those mornings after the Samba night before!
And a couple of things that I won’t miss…….
1. Rio food – sorry, but apart from the fabulous finger food, snacks and fruit, Rio food is pretty awful. From the most expensive restaurants to the cheapest cafes, I found it overcooked, over salted, over sweet and sometimes downright strange. Why does anyone need rice, potatoes, beans and sometimes even pasta served in one main course? And where are the veggies – nothing green ever seemed to make it onto the plate. A couple of notable exceptions being Espirito Santa, Bio Carioca and Sushi Leblon.
2. Barking Dogs – every apartment seemed to have a dog shut inside or out on the balcony that barked and barked and barked all day and all night. Sometimes it was so loud that closed windows and earphones made no difference. Not the dogs fault, I realise, but bloody annoying.