Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro. A Cidade Maravilhosa – The Marvelous City. Skyscrapers and mountains stand against a backdrop of ocean and sky, cradling hillside favelas vibrant with song and dance. Waves crash on the beach as locals juggle soccer balls and soak in the sun. Samba music drifts over from an impromptu gathering of musicians, people crowding around to have an impromptu party. Basking in the Brazilian vibe and lack of regard for time, you sip delicious caipirinhas so potent that (a) at Copacabana, it takes you a moment to realize the lifeguards are beckoning you up to their tower…wait…(the lifeguards are beckoning you up to their tower?), and (b) in a churrascaria with enthusiastic service, you don’t realize you’ve already sampled all the cuts of meats…twice.
If you ask me to conjure up memories of Rio, that is the image I would paint. Last week, we explored the Selaron Steps, color bursting out in every which way.
The steps, I feel, reflect the colors of Rio – an intermingling of cultural influences and skin tones, music and flavors, industry and life. It’s often vibrant, sometimes loud, occasionally proud, and always unapologetic.
I can’t tell you what to think about Rio, but I can showcase some of its unique cityscape.
Take a cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain, Pão de Açúcar, and admire panoramic views of urban scenery giving way to nature. Amidst all the city-viewing, people watching, and photo-taking, you’re likely to make new friends. Be open to it. ;)
From across the peninsula, you can take a train up Corcovado and the renowned statue of Christ the Redeemer, Cristo Redentor, with his arms outstretched, gesturing you to take in the vista.
From Corcovado, in Bairro Cosme Velho, it’s a short ride to the nearby Jardim Botânico neighborhood and its picturesque Parque Lage. (From the mansion-turned-art-school, look up. Can you spot the iconic Cristo atop the mountain?) Surrounded by walking trails and forest, it almost feels like an extension of the nearby Botanical Garden.
I can’t mention the garden, o Jardim Botânico, without taking you for a quick walk over. (Yes, the garden and the neighborhood share the same name.)
The whimsical garden feels like a natural segue into an architectural whimsy: Real Gabinete. Having grown up with Disney fairy tales, I enter this hidden gem and almost immediately envision myself in the ballroom scene from Beauty and the Beast, the lace on my golden ball gown swishing as a prince twirls me to the sounds of a live quartet…. Oh, beg your pardon. I momentarily lost myself in a daydream.
A short walk from the library is the Theatro Municipal, among the country’s most beautiful theaters.
Down the street from the theater, we can admire more of Rio’s fascinating architecture with the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião (standing room capacity: 20,000!).
The buildings surrounding the cathedral feature equally creative architecture.
If you enjoy design, you might consider visiting the nearby Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelária.
A hop and a skip away from the church is the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB), currently featuring a Piet Mondrian exhibit.
Another hop and a skip away, you might stumble upon an inland port.
Keep walking and you’ll find another church, the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Antiga Sé.
I started this post talking about the Escadaria Selarón, where there’s a lot of this…
But in the neighborhood around the famous steps, there’s also this: life beyond the city’s attractions.
Rio is like that. It’s a colorful city with shades of gray, a city of contrasts and similarities, modernities and antiquities, struggles and triumphs. Its beauty surrounds you, even in overlooked, everyday details.
We can’t end our time here without spending some time at the beach. What better way to end our getaway than with a sunset?
Have a gorgeous weekend,