It was 4am and I was looking out the window to see a sleeping Rio de Janeiro – a huge city grid of lights famous for its festive culture and awesome mix of beach and city life. Rio de Janeiro is part of my bucket list and at that time before the touch down, I couldn’t resist to put it on video.

17seconds of pure excitement! #touchdown #riodejaneiro #bucketlist✔️

A video posted by Edward Illustrisimo (@lifeisabigsurprise) on

From Rome, I could still remember the night I wrote to my friend Bianca, asking if they had a vacant “couch” to sleep in. She of course offered me more than a couch: their home and the warmth of their hospitality.

I arrived at a few minutes later with my very poor Portuguese but thank God I was able to contact Bianca via Whatsapp.

Brazil is a huge “continent” inside a continent. Each state has its own dialect and the language varies uniquely. Carioca is the name of the people from Rio and Rio is a buzzling city beside the beautiful beaches of Copacabana, Leme and Ipanema.

Free wifi at Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport
Free wifi at Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport

Quick tip: When you arrive in the airport there is available wifi and that will be useful to contact your future host via any messaging app; I suggest Whatsapp or Viber.

I took a taxi going to Bianca’s home in Grajaú. I would have opted for an Uber but I didn’t. Anyhow, the usual way of taxis is they will give an invoice for the total fare, but then you could ask them to use the meter by saying “Você poderia,por favor, ligar o taximetro?”. In my experience, the driver got a bit upset when I asked for the meter to be turned on but in the end, the meter’s total rate almost equaled the invoice amount.

And if you wanna sharpen your Portuguese here are some words you might wanna learn:

Family atmosphere

Upon arriving, I immediately had a warm Cariocan embrace plus a smile of excitement from Bianca, coupled with barking dogs and the sweet smell of the swaying mango tree. I was so happy to have met Bianca again after a short meeting in Florence.

When I came inside her home, I was welcomed by her family, her dad, mom and her brothers. Cariocan families usually live together extendedly in the same house, just like Filipinos. It means that their houses look like a labyrinth where there are spaces for each family member, nephew and grandchildren.

Delightful Breakfast

Bianca then treated me to a quick sumptuous breakfast. I fell in love with the tropical taste of coco and milk in a sort of rice cake called cuzcuz.

#cuscus - Cariocan dessert 😎

A video posted by Edward Illustrisimo (@lifeisabigsurprise) on

In Rio, the usual breakfast is cheese and bread, but you should take note that the Carioca tastebud usually looks for sweets, they have a sweet tooth, literally.

Of course what happens after an 11 hour flight and breakfast?  A well-deserved nap!

Waking up at Lunchtime

When I woke up, it was lunch time so we went to the veranda to have some fresh air. It was getting warm by noontime. Rio was already around 23℃ .

Now here’s a quick video of my first Carioca lunch, I just had to get it on video, haha! The usual lunch plate is filled with rice and beans (feijão) with farofa. There were portions of meat and a bit of vegetables, too.

Flying parrots pass by to perch on trees; the ones I saw flew in a group of 4. The tropical surroundings of Rio is even more accentuated by the Mountains that have a unique conical shape and the granddaddy of them all is the SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN or Pão de Açúcar.

Pão de Açúcar and Praia Vermelha

That afternoon, Bianca told me that she would bring me to Pão de Açúcar – our first destination.

During the bus ride I took notice of the unique way of paying the fare – they use a prepaid card that you tap on a sensor-counter. So from Grajaú, we took one bus ride directly to the corner of Botafogo. Along the way, I already saw a glimpse of Rio and of course Christo Redentor looking down at the city. We were in the area of Botafogo where a small beach nestled some yachts. A few distances away, we arrived near Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and here I saw the artistic graffiti on the various walls. Here’s one of them:

From there, we took the sidewalk walking towards Pão de Açúcar, all the while asking Bianca why it was called Pão de Açúcar. She explained to me some details but since I can’t remember well, she referred me to excerpts from the Bodinho official website:

”There are several versions for where the name Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) came from. According to historian Vieira Fazenda, the Portuguese named the mountain Pão de Açúcar as inspired by the fact that in order to transport sugar to Europe during the peak of the sugarcane cycle in Brazil (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), lumps of boiled and reduced juice obtained by pressing sugar cane were placed in cone-shaped clay molds called “sugarloaves” which resembled the famous mountain.

However, the mountain has been called in different ways along the years:

“Pau-nh-açuquã” in Tupi language – given by the Tamoios Indians, the indigenous inhabitants of the Guanabara Bay area, which meant “tall, isolated and pointy hill”; “Pot de beurre” given by the first French who invaded the region; “Pão de Sucar”, given by the first Portuguese colonizers; “Pot de Sucre” given by the second group of French invaders. According to old spelling rules of the Portuguese language, Pão de Açúcar was formerly spelled “Pão de Assucar” with a double “s”.

The name Pão de Açúcar caught on in the second half of the 19th century when Rio de Janeiro received artistic missions from German artist Johann Moritz Rugendas and French artist Jean Baptiste Debret, who acclaimed the beauty of the mountain in magnificent drawings and prints.”

Along the way, Bianca told me that it would be a treat to find coconut juice called  água de côco that were served fresh alongside the beach. Beach? Oh yes, there is a hidden gem just beside Pão de Açúcar, the ”Praia vermelha” . This beach spreads underneath the sliding cable cars that cross fromPão de Açúcar and Urca.  And the coconuts? Oops,sadly, no more coconut juice for us.

When you’re at Praia Vermelha you get to realize a world that seems to have chosen to stop rushing: kids, teens and parents swimming in the beach while tourists slide up and down the cable cars.

Bianca told me that it would be nice to hike up to the peak of Pão de Açúcar, so we took the 45-minute hike upwards. It was so enjoyable that I lost my jetlag! I was catching my breath for some moments but when you arrive at a certain point, the view just takes your breath away (cliché)!

When you arrive at the peak, you will be asked by the security personnel to empty your water bottles or leave them by the gate. The reason ain’t clear why there is this policy, but what we did was drink our water and bring our empty bottles inside because the guards themselves told us that we could refill inside. Yeah yeah, rules are rules!

On the peak of ”Praça de alimentação” there was a view deck filled with specialty stores, restaurants and amenities. There were clean restrooms and lavatories, drinking fountains and a lot of souvenir items.

Since it was my first time, Bianca treated me to a lot of photos looking towards the view of the sunset behind Christo Redentor himself in Corcovado. It was majestic! And I was so happy because at last I saw this view of Rio and it was so beautiful to start-off with this. It’s kinda windy up there so be careful with your hats and skirts.

We also had a photo of one of the first cable cars!

I also saw the plant from where the name of Brazil comes from!

We sat down for a few moments to take some snack and I had to order Pão de Queijo (Cheese Bread) which has become my new favourite while Biance treated me with a pint of Açai – a famous Brazilian health-fruit that has this very nice and distinct flavour.

It was nice chillin’ up there while you look at the bay and the uniquely shaped beaches and island all viewable from one roof deck. The golden sunset adds to the heavenly appeal of the place, all the while the Brasilian music played in the background becomes the cherry on top.

Ahhhh “I dreamt of this, and now it’s here”, I blurted out while enjoying the food and the view.

We also passed by a small museum that shows how the place was developed. The story behind the Sugarloaf, the old documents and photos – all aesthetically designed for visitors.

IPANEMA: Coconut juice and a night stroll

We had to get down before 6pm, hiking down the same path, being very careful not to slip along the loose soil and rocks. We were also advised that the gate we entered in would be closing anytime soon so we had to go down. Along the way, there were still people going up, jog-hiking, and Bianca said they would eventually get down via the cable cars which cost 20 Reais per person.

When we were back at the bottom, Bianca remembered that we might be able to catch some coconut juice at the Ipanema beach so we took the bus and arrived there in around 15 minutes. There was occasional traffic but it wasn’t that much.

When we were back at the bottom, Bianca remembered that we might be able to catch some coconut juice at the Ipanema beach so we took the bus and arrived there in around 15 minutes. There was occasional traffic but it wasn’t that much.

When you feel the sea breeze blowing, you are already near Ipanema! I was so stoked! I was already there in the place where the song Garota de Ipanema (The girl from Ipanema) hums about. There weren’t a lot of people but it was noticeable that those who were lounging at the beach were either doing physical exercises or spending time being cheesy with someone.

Ipanema is soothing, a beach by the boulevard under palm trees with musicians, bracelet makers and dreamcatchers.

We sat down, for a sip of refreshing coconut juice, the very first one after two years in Europe. Ohhhh, it was sooooo good!

Later we took a stroll to look at the bracelet and necklace makers spreading their handicraft along the sidewalk. Most of these merchants were not Brazilians but were a mix of Peruvians, Chileans, and Paraguayans. We had a chat with some of them while Bianca got busy purchasing a few trinkets here and there. They were awesomely made and the designs were nice. The simple ones could cost at around R$5 while the intricate ones with beads can cost from  R$15-R$25.

Before the night ended, we passed by the statue of a certain musician named Tom Jobim, who wrote Garota de Ipanema (apparently, he is a fixed resident in this beach, haha!).

The day’s excursion commenced with sandy shoes and  jetlag breaking in. But nevertheless, it was an awesome day in Rio de Janeiro! So, would you like to go to Rio de Janeiro too? Any Questions? Do leave a comment below!

P.S. speaking of awesome, you might want to check out my Amazon experience, hahaha #justsaying

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Edward
Thanks for visiting lifeisabigsurprise.com, I made this site as a gesture of gratefulness to all the people who have showed me how happy life can be! I survived SuperTyphoon Haiyan, and since then, I started living everyday to its fullest. I travel and loaf around in the internet for good finds. I wish to share all the discoveries I made with you. Find out more about me here. Big hug!

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    • Thanks krista! You should treat yourself to see this place it’s really nice and the people are so warm and hospitable 🙂 The vocabulary lesson was sent to me by my host, it did save me a lot of time figuring things out, haha!

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