Destinations,  Guides,  South America,  Travel

Oh Rio, You are so Spectacular

After what seemed like one hundred kilometers of walking in the airport at São Paulo, (seriously though – have you been there? How big is that airport???) I was more than ready to just arrive in Rio! We had a late flight which meant I was greeted by a magical carpet of golden lights outside my airplane window as we were arriving! I had NO idea just how big Rio was until we flew over it, and the carpet of lights were never ending.

We were set to land at Dumont airport which mean that we not only got to pass the Christ the Redeemer statue, but we also had a very scary landing because I didn’t know the Dumont runway was next to the water, or basically surrounded by water, and pretty much prepared myself for a water landing when I saw how close we were to the water which seemed inches below us while looking out the window.

After a very exhilarating landing, the passengers all applauded at our safe landing – on land! I guess they thought the same thing I did! Luckily my mom was fast asleep or I’m pretty sure she would have passed out! 

Getting an Uber was effortless, and within 15 minutes we had arrived at our beach front hotel, Grand Mercure Copacabana. To our delight, we had a very friendly receptionist who decided to bump us up to a bigger room! Unfortunately we didn’t have any sea views. (I’m not too sure that it was an upgrade in retrospect- hmmm). The room was nice and spacious, though slightly dated, and very dark, but it was still alright. I had a shower and fell asleep immediately. (As if I didn’t sleep the entire flight to Brazil 🙄). 

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and they had a delicious spread with a huge variety. (Not much vegetarian options though – but it seems like being vegetarian in Rio is not a thing)! There was, however lots of tasty pastries and a selection of brioche buns and breads, and lots of fruit, and even green detox juices which I’ve never seen at a hotel breakfast before! The restaurant was on the second floor and overlooked the Copacabana beach – and I was so excited to finally see Rio in the day time! 

These were some of the yummy pastries and brioche rolls 😛

After breakfast we went up to the hotel rooftop to get a better view, and I was in absolute awe of the gorgeous white sand beach, that seemed to stretch on forever, and the gorgeous sugarloaf mountain in the background framing the view! 

Our hotel rooftop had a small pool, with 180 degree views of Copacabana, and a staircase up to another terrace with amazing views as well! It was a little early when we went there, but later on and throughout the day and evening there’s a bar where you can have drinks as well! 

After resting in the room for a few hours, we decided to go for a walk, and headed to Ipanema, which was just a 10 minute walk away as we were staying on the far end of Copacabana. On the way, we passed a corner where we felt the need to hold on to our phones a little tighter – (where Av. Atlantica becomes Rua Francisco Otaviano),  and as our instincts suggested, we witnessed a mugging right in front of us, where someone ran up to the bus which was parked to our right, jumped up, grabbed one of the passengers phones and ran off, which resulted in a nearby police car starting a chase. It was quite overwhelming for our first day, which is what I think made our visit to Ipanema slightly more stressful, and my mom didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped she would.

We walked through Garota de Ipanema Park and came out at Arpoador, which was a famous corner of the Ipanema beach. When we got there, the sun was starting to set, and it was the most beautiful golden sky I had ever seen, behind the gorgeous “two brother” mountains, Morro Dois Irmãos, which form the backdrop of Praia Ipanema. 

Before it got too dark, we decided to head back to Copacabana and opted for a taxi because we were a little nervous to walk back. 

Note: Often Taxi drivers do not give change, so if your fare is say 8 Reis, and you give them a 20 Reis note, they will take the twenty. This happened a few times, and at some restaurants too! In this instance – Uber is better, so the exact fare is charged to your card! 

On the Copacabana beach, you will find little restaurants every few steps along the promenade! We went to a few during our stay here, and particularly loved coming toward the afternoon / evenings as the restaurants would often have live music, which was a great vibe while watching the sky change into pink hues, and the kids playing soccer on the beach.  

We did find that the coconuts were highly diluted with normal water, the “fresh” juices were actually boxed juices, and the açaí bowls tasted quite powderised, but for such a large city we understood that we were expecting a bit too much from beach side cafes. The carts along the promenade did sell delicious cassava and tapioca pancakes and sweet corn, and the food at the beach cafes were usually good (I loved the fried onion rings)!

Prices in Rio were higher than we expected and with 1 Reis = 3,8 Rand, it was hitting us hard, considering that a basic pasta would be 52 Reis, an Açaí bowl at 20 Reis and meat a lot more (which luckily I don’t eat anyways so it didn’t affect me) 😛 

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well, on top of being slightly nervous of having all my belongings on me at the beach at sunset, so I retired early but decided to stop at our hotel rooftop for a few minutes to catch one last glimpse of the sunset.

I have an absolute weakness for golden / pink sunrises and sunsets so just couldn’t bear to sit indoors in our dark hotel room when the views looked like this! Next time in Rio, I have to find a room with beachfront views and hopefully a balcony too!

The next day (which was Saturday), we headed to the Escadaria Selarón, or the “Selarón Steps”. We requested our Uber and I was in complete shock to see that my Uber driver, Jacqueline, looked like an actress or a model, she was gorgeous! Which brings me to say the following:

  1. I am completely astounded by the woman of Brazil, every single one, regardless of height, size, colour, you name it, are absolutely gorgeous, but besides being gorgeous, are amazingly confident and comfortable in their own skin, not only do they embrace themselves, their bodies, their hearts, but they just enjoy life, with love and support of one another. Trust me – spend a day people watching at Copacabana and you will see for yourself!
  2. I was so impressed with the amount of women Uber drivers there were in Brazil, I don’t know much about how the gender equality fairs in this country but it was just nice seeing women in a role that mostly men do in all other countries I have traveled to before

Driving through the city center allowed us to see a different side of Rio, like these beautiful coloured buildings. 

There is quite a lot of graffiti in Rio, and I think it adds such character to this beautiful city, and I wouldn’t like to see it any other way.

In most cases, you can compare a city to another city, but when it comes to Rio, I just  haven’t seen anything quite like it before! There is so much of character and spirit, it’s so vibrant, it’s so beautiful, there’s gorgeous mountains and beaches, and history, there’s art, passion, and football. It’s just such a beautiful place to be, and witness!

Jacqueline dropped us off right at the foot of the stairs, and I was in complete awe of this work of art. Firstly photos don’t really do it justice, and secondly, I had no idea how many stairs there actually were! 

I don’t know how I got so lucky and had the stairs (almost) to myself on a Saturday morning! This picture was taken closer to the top so it gives you an idea of just how many stairs there were! 

I’m in this photo I swear :’)

Jorge Selarón created the Escadaria Selarón as a tribute to the Brazilian people, which started as him just renovating the broken tiles outside the steps of his home. 

Did you know that the tiles used are from over 60 different countries? While most are from construction sites around Rio, later, hundreds of tiles were donated to him from around the world.

This picture shows off the vibrant green, yellow, and blue tiles which represent the Brazilian flag 🇧🇷 

I am so glad that I got to see this beautiful piece of artwork that projects such passion and has such a great story, in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. 

From the Escadaria Selarón, we took a 7-minute Uber to the Confeiteria Colombo. This was more for my mom, because we had watched a vlog about Rio before coming, and found that the likes of the Queen had dined here before, and the pictures looked beautiful so we wanted to see it for ourselves. 

The Confeitaria was even more grand than I expected. There were large cabinets on each side which housed fancy teapots, cutlery and crockery, double volume ceilings with a glass dome roof, marble tables and carved mirrors everywhere, it was so luxurious, it was hard to tell if you were still in Rio de Janeiro or if you were suddenly transported to Buckingham Palace! 

There was a selection of pastries both sweet and savoury at the entrance, and we had to wait in line for a table for about 10 to 15 minutes.

We each had a sweet and savoury treat, I had the spinach foldover (which was delicious) and a slice of bon-bon cake which was alright. My mom had the chicken foldover and a lemon meringue tart. We then had tea and just relaxed for a little before I took her to our next surprise destination for lunch! 

After we ate, we took an Uber back down south and ended up in the Tijuca Forest, at my “secret destination” Parque Lage, at the foot of The Corcovado Mountain. It was formerly home to Enrique Lage in the 1920s but the mansion and gardens became a public park about 40 years later. 

The park now has walking trails through the subtropical Tijuca Forest – which I unfortunately couldn’t do this time around but will definitely return once I am better! This picture was taken near the entrance of Parque Lage.

I spy with my little eye Cristo Redentor 

I don’t know if it’s just me, but no matter where I was in the city, if I caught a glimpse of Christ the Redeemer, I would just jump in excitement. Brazil truly is just so mesmerizing in every way.

These were the gardens in front of the mansion. Inside the mansion, is a cafe which is where we ate lunch. Above the mansion is the Corcovado Mountain, which is covered by mist in the picture above, but usually you will be able to see Christ the Redeemer too.

Luckily when we went inside the mansion, the mist had cleared up and I got this beautiful photo!

How blessed am I to have visited such a beautiful place and have Cristos Redentor looking down on me, protecting me, and watching over me! 

Did you know: This is where Snoop Dogg filmed his music video “Beautiful” with Pharrell Williams! 

For lunch, we had these beautiful courtyard views, and I had a freshly squeezed juice while my mom had a glass of Vino. I ate a zucchini lasagna with grilled eggplant and it was delicious! I was so happy to finally have a proper vegetarian meal in Rio!

Unfortunately I was quite ill and swollen again so we had to head back to the hotel where we lay down for a few hours.

After 3p.m. we went back to Copacabana. This time we left our phones and wallets in the safe and were “free” to just walk around and explore without having to worry about our belongings on us. I felt that without that stress, I was truly able to appreciate Copacabana more! 

Wow, what a beach. What a vibe! There is nothing quite like it – I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to have seen one of the worlds’ most famous beaches, and see why it is so famous.

Firstly, the sand is so white, light, and puffy, and secondly it is just so clean! There are thousands of people who are set up along the beach yet there is no litter and no garbage in the water either! 

Although, what I love the most is the people. Man, everyone is just so carefree and having so much of fun! It really broke my heart that I was not well enough to be able to get in the water, swim or even just have a good time on the beach, but I watched with longing, and vowed that once I am better I will come back and experience Rio and the beaches the way it’s supposed to be experienced!

A gorgeous sunrise at 6 AM on Copacabana beach, just outside our hotel. 

The next day we set off to do the thing I have been wanting to do from the moment we landed! So up Corcovado we went in search of Christ the Redeemer.

On the way, we passed the Santa Teresa favelas, and stopped to get a better view. Next time I am in Rio I would definitely like to visit one of the favelas, and experience the football culture properly, and also try be more involved in terms of helping where I can, or however I can, even if it is in a small way.

At the Corcovado souvenir shop, there was a beautiful viewpoint overlooking some of Rio.

When we finally got up the mountain, passing through the lush Tijuca forest, we were taken in mini-vans from the souvenir shop up through the winding roads to the top of the monument, and from there took an elevator and two escalators to the top. 

I’ll tell you this now, no pictures do it justice. It is absolutely breathtaking and even bigger in person. 

The highlight of my trip was definitely having Cristo Redentor to Myself ❤️

After marveling at the Christ the Redeemer, getting this beautiful shot, and looking over at the viewpoints over the rest of Rio, we went to the chapel behind the statue and my mom and I spent a few moments there praying. It was truly something I will never forget. 

In Jesus name I will be healed and I will be restored to perfect health 🙏

Somehow seeing the Christ the Redeemer now, on this trip, coming to Brazil for healing, was just that much more special. It was just that much more meaningful. 

Do you want to know how I got the Christ the Redeemer all to myself? Let me know in the comments and I’ll tell you my little secret!

After visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue was the next spot I was super excited for – purely because of the movie: The Mechanic Resurrection! 

P.S. I’m a huge action movie fan and an even bigger Jason Statham fan, and I loved the cable car scene in Mechanic Resurretion so I just couldn’t wait to get to Sugar Loaf mountain to see it for myself!

We were dropped off at the “Square” (called Parque Gal Tiburcio) where we headed to the cable cars and ascended up the first mountain, Morro da Urca, and walked through a lush pathway to get to the second cable car which took us up the Sugarloaf Mountain. 

On the way up, I caught sight of the most stunning island style beach which I was just dying to go to! It reminded me of an European beach, but unfortunately it wasn’t my moms type of beach (🙄) she prefers the Copacabana / lots of waves / Durban beachfront kind of beach, so we didn’t get to go there this time. I’m sure I would have been able to swim there because there was no waves and it was like a big swimming pool so I wouldn’t have gotten hurt / sick! Oh well next time 😀 

Note: The waves at Copacabana look quite rough and it’s known that some parts of the beach are very rough with strong currents! 

At the top of Sugarloaf Mountain we got amazing panoramic views of the whole of Rio! How gorgeous does Copacabana look??

Views from the top! I just love the mountain terrain in Rio – it’s my weakness! What a beautiful city! P.s. if you look really hard you can see the Corcovado Mountain in the top right corner of the picture – and of course Cristos Redentor! 

On our way back down, we walked along Morro da Urca, and there was a cafe which you could sit at, which I would have liked to (but our guide didn’t let us – this is why I don’t use guides! Haha! I just love exploring at my own pace) – also I’m pretty sure this is where the Mechanic scene was set. (Or made to look like it was set) – I also found out that a James Bond movie was filmed at these cable cars too! 

After the mountain we all went to a traditional Brazilian steakhouse where I indulged in salad and vegetarian sides while my mom finally got to enjoy a Brazilian meaty buffet. Afterward we rested for a few hours before spending our last evening at Copacabana once again! 

Rum-Free Mojito is exactly what I needed after a long, very hot day!

In the morning I was so sad to leave this beautiful city but at the same time extremely excited to visit the Casa de Dom Inacio Loyola in Abadiânia 🙂 

Lastly, I would just like to say, that this may not be the best circumstances as to why we travel, but my illness has taken my mom and I all over the world in search for medical treatment, help and healing, and along the way we have gotten the chance to see the most amazing cities, and have amazing experiences, and for that we are truly blessed. Our pictures may look likewe’re always  having  a good time, but behind the scenes it’s not as easy as it looks. Often I’m very ill and my mom has to deal with and put up with a lot, but mom there’s no one else I’d rather share these memories with. Thank you (and thank you for being my photographer as well :P) 

My beautiful mommy. I love you.