The last time I was in Brazil was at Christmas and I thought about Rio de Janeiro every single day when I was back in the UK. There's something amazing about this city that I just can't put into words. I'm so thrilled to be back.
Today was my first real day of being out and about in Rio de Janeiro again. I arrived on Wednesday evening but my jet lag laid me low on Thursday, plus I had to go and get my yellow fever vaccine as well so it's been a double whammy and I've felt pretty useless.
My parents have finally settled into their amazing flat just off Ipanema beach, and have got a nice little routine going. On Friday mornings my mum heads to the market to stock up on all the fresh produce that we need for the weekend. As I shot out of bed at 5:30am again this morning (09:30 UK time) I was ready to help her do her rounds this time.
The market is unlike anything I've ever seen. The stall holders tempt you in by giving you free samples of all sorts of fruit. My Portuguese is non existent so I smile and accept whatever I'm being offered to avoid being rude (curse my adopted British behaviour!). The result is mixed. The strawberries, mango and pineapple are out of this world, but there are some more strange local fruits that I can't quite get to liking (looking at you papaya and other fruits I don't know the name of).
Not only do the stall owners lure you in with free fruit but they love to charm you. Going off from my basic Spanish everyone was convinced that my mum and I were sisters. For their efforts my mum relented and bought some amazing strawberries the size of my fist. Brunch is going to be a treat this weekend.
You can buy everything at this market, form fresh meat (the lack of hand sanitation did concern me), to every type of chilli imaginable and exotic flowers which cost less than a bunch of daffodils in Cardiff.
After stuffing our bags (and faces...) Mum and I happily trotted home in our Havaianas with our bounty and prepared for our afternoon adventure.
At Christmas I'd only managed the trip into 'Centro' once. At the moment there's an amazing Picasso and modern Spanish artists exhibition so that was the main reason for our venture.
'Centro' is the heart of Rio and comparable to downtown New York. It's the financial district with Petrobras, amongst others, having their head offices here. Centro is exhausting. It's loud, it's busy, cars are driving down roads they shouldn't be driving down and you're ver likely to get hit by a bus or taxi. I love it.
Not only is it busy and you see all sorts of people, but the architecture is fascinating. It's a paradoxical mix of modern high rises and old colonial buildings from when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil. Sadly most of the beautiful old houses are completely derelict and are being torn down to make way for shiny and impersonal high rises.
Nestled amongst the high rises and colonial builds is an absolute gem - Confeitaria Colombo. A tea room built in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants it was initially a pastry shop. All the glass, decor and 4 meter high mirrors in the tea room are original pieces which somehow survived the journey on a boat from Belgium to Rio de Janeiro.
The ambiance is amazing and you feel like you're in a Woody Allen or Wes Anderson movie. Sadly there is almost always a very long queue for a table and the pastry isn't quite up to scratch but it's well worth at least one visit so you can scratch it off your bucket list.
Centro is a pretty cool part of town but at the end of the day I was more than happy to head back home to Ipanema to nap off my stupid jet lag.
Tomorrow we're taking a little day trip out of Rio and then next weekend we're off to Argentina (!) to see the Iguazu Falls. There will be plenty for me to blog about and share with you but for now I'm having another nap before we head out for tapas.