You know those crazy times when you think to yourself, “This is a once in a lifetime experience, so I better enjoy it?” My last trip to Brazil was one of those. I was convinced that I’d never have the time, money or otherwise necessary resources to go back.
Yet, I found myself back again just a few weeks ago. R., my amazing Brazilian tour guide from my last trip, got married and graciously invited me and S. to the wedding. After a stop in Argentina, we made our way to Rio. Aerolineas Argentinas was actually a pretty awesome airline to fly. You can read my review about them here.
The nice thing about repeat touristing is that you know enough about the place that you feel a little at ease. You can get your bearings, remember where you are, and remember what you want to do and see, either from past experience or the things you missed out on during the previous trip.
For instance, I knew that I wanted to stay in Ipanema or Copacabana, right by the beach, which is exactly what we did.
R. having been such a good tour guide the first time around, there was very little I hadn’t seen before. Thus, S. and I agreed we’d do one toursity thing a day, and relax for the rest of the time.
That first day, S. did his own thing while I enjoyed an acai bowl on Ipanema beach. It doesn’t look super appetizing, but this frozen delight with a little granola is the perfect lunch when its 35 C outside.
Afterward, I met up with N., one of my closest friends and one of R.’s bridesmaids. We sat and chatted at a beachside bar, drinking bottles of chilled wine, for hours. I wish more pictures survived of the evening, which turned out to be an epic tour of bars in Lapa, and reunions with a few old friends. Sadly, none do…although maybe that’s a good thing, the whole night is a bit fuzzy.
The next morning, S. and I decided that, after exploring our hotel/Airbnb, which, being on the 16th floor, had the best view in the world, we’d go to the Sugarloaf, then the beach.
Our Uber driver dropped us off at the wrong location, but I’d been to Urca before, and didn’t mind navigating us back to the gondola that would bring us to the top of the mountain.
There’s something kind of cool about doing something you’ve done before. I feel like I noticed the little details a bit more this time, and was much more relaxed. There wasn’t the pressure of “this is once in a lifetime, you better enjoy it!” since I’d done it all before.
For instance, I noticed the Christ when going up the Sugarloaf. Can you see it in the picture below?
The view from the top, like the last time, didn’t disappoint. You can see so much of Rio from the top of Sugarloaf!
We signed our names on the banner that must have been put up for the Olympics. A little piece of us will be in Rio forever!
The next day, a little burned after a day and a half in the Rio sun, we set off for Petropolis, where the wedding was going to be. I believe weddings are pretty personal affairs so I won’t share a ton of photos from the event. I will say that Petropolis is a MUST GO if you’re in Rio- it only took about 40 minutes on the bus. Its in the mountains, so I’d recommend taking a tranquilizer if you’re taking the bus only because the drivers whip around those mountain roads as if there aren’t 35-foot drop offs on either side! But it being less than an hour away, it really is worth it. Its much cooler in the mountains, and the views are amazing.
The wedding was held at the Locando della Mimosa, a beautiful bed and breakfast nestled between the mountains right outside the city. The staff were absolutely amazing, helping S. and I get back to Rio at 1am (being the only non-Portuguese speakers at the wedding, we needed a bit of help navigating the public transport). The receptionist had her friend come and pick us up and bring us to the bus station, and her friend stayed with us until we were safely on the bus back to Rio. Seriously amazing…much like the venue! R. has amazing taste and planned such an amazing event. She was a beautiful bride and looked so, so happy.
It was also great to experience a Brazilian wedding with friends old and new. Even though we couldn’t speak Portuguese, everyone was seriously amazing and welcoming. It was a fabulous day.
The next morning, shockingly feeling pretty good after a day of partying, we set out to see Lapa, the Escadaria Selaron and the Sambadrome.
I think the Escadaria is one of my favorite places on earth. Its super colorful and beautiful, which is probably some of the reason why, but the story behind it is amazing, too. A Chilean artist who lived right by the steps started renovating them in 1990. He used bits of broken tile and glass at the beginning, tiling the steps in the colors of the Brazilian flag. Soon, however, people from all over the world starting bringing him tiles to put on the steps. There are tiles from everywhere. Its fun to walk around and see all the different places and messages on the bits of tile.
There are about 215 steps, though, so on a warm Rio afternoon, the only thing you want after trekking them a few times is a nice cold Brahma.
After our beer pit stop, we headed to the Sambadrome. It was the first day of Carnival, so there were a billion blocos, or block parties, going on in the streets. We followed the crowd to see an award winning Samba band, which to my surprise is comprised of about 1000 people, do their dress rehearsal in the actual Sambadrome.
Because the event was free, the Sambadrome was packed. It was pretty cool to be amongst Brazilians from all over the place, watching them sing famous songs and dance to the band. S. and I mostly just watched the people and their reactions, although parts of the band were pretty amazing. The young kids who can move so fluidly were definitely my favorite to watch- so amazing and talented at such a young age!
After the event, we tried to duck out but found that the security services had locked everyone in the Sambadrome- about 100,000 people- and lost the key to the exit door. I was amused, but slightly worried obviously, about getting out. While the security team looked for bolt cutters, raucous members of the crowd took trash cans and other objects they found and busted open the lock. That was probably the most exciting thing that happened to me on my trip. I hope the security team has a better plan for the rest of Carnival.
The next morning, we were up bright and early to go see the Christ. Up the cable car went went, and then up the stairs until we were there.
Having been there before, I was more amused by the crazy things people will do for a good picture…
…especially when you can get a great one just standing up!
It was a hazy day, so the view wasn’t as good as it was from the Sugarloaf, but we still enjoyed it.
After coming down from the Christ, we spent our last day at the beach, eating food from the vendors who walk the scorching sand all day selling cheese, Globo, drinks and more. We then went back to our Airbnb to enjoy our last sunset in Brazil.
I no longer think in terms of “trips of a lifetime,” especially when it comes to Rio. And that was good, because it really helped me relax and enjoy the trip so much more. So the next time you’re in a place, even if you think you’ll never see it again, relax a little and just take the trip in stride. You’ll enjoy it so much more if you do.