Wednesday, 24 August 2016
Sunday, 14 August 2016
The backdrops to the sprawling city which is home to 6,452,685 people are thick swathes of jungle and high reaching mountains. What a sight this place must have been when the Portuguese settlers arrived in 1502 after a long and dangerous sea journey across the Atlantic. They must have thought they found paradise. The natural geography means that the views from famous 'vistas' are picture perfect.
Delve into the Rio de Janeiro wikipedia entry if you want to get an idea of the long and fascinating history of the city. People often get confused and think that Rio de Janeiro, or even São Palo is the capital of Brazil. Rio did have that privilege until 1960, when Brasília became the new capital.
The beach is engrained in the Carioca. It's not just a way of life, it is life. Life revolves around the beach here, come rain or shine there will be someone at the beach. It's a 24/7 365 days a year part of life.
You can arrive in Rio without having brought anything for the beach, but you can show up ready for a beach session and be able to buy everything you need. Sellers walk around flogging swimwear, sunglasses, beach kangas (never bring a normal towel to the beach - absolute faux pas), suncream, hats, food, selfie sticks, fresh coconuts and cocktails. Service is A+, the beach is separated into invisible stripes, and each is designated to a stall holder that rents out chairs and umbrellas for shade. All of this is set up for you so you just need to sit back and relax. Brazilians aren't necessarily a fan of shade, the darker the tan the better. But for pale old me shade is non-negotiable.
In Brazil one rule goes: the smaller the bikini and swimming trunks the better. I now know where the Brazilian wax gets it's name. Spotting the male tourists is easy as they resolutely stick to the longer swim shorts variety, whereas the Brazilian men prefer the smallest swim trunks possible. My mum couldn't stop laughing when I brought my high waisted granny pant swimsuit with me.
It's easy to feel self conscious about not having the right bikini body, but in Rio every body is a beach body, and everyone is having far too much fun living their life and enjoying it to be worried about body hangups.
Rio is a beautiful city and like every city it has it's difficulties and challenges. It's currently under a microscope under close scrutiny during the Olympics.
I've said before, I know I am very privileged to experience Rio in the way that I do. My experiences here haven't even vaguely scratched the surface. But I try to educate myself and keep an open mind. I see the people who struggle to get through their normal day, I see extreme poverty and I question the prudence of hosting these expensive games. But I also hope that the so far smooth running of the games has endeared Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil, to the hearts of many just as it has done to me.
There's just something about this amazing city that has just captured my heart. There's no wonder why they call it 'Cidade Maravilhosa' - Marvellous City.
My passport is lying impatiently in my desk drawer, ready for that new Brazil entry stamp to be inked on it. I can't wait.