Sunday, 14 August 2016

Rio Rio Rio

With the Olympics in full swing I thought that now was as good a time as any to share some photos from my visits to Brazil. It's also a bit of a love letter to a city that I've fallen head over heels in love with.

My parents moved to Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2014. The move was quite a surprise to us all and I won't lie, I was anxious and a little apprehensive. Rio De Janeiro has always been a place that appeared to be dangerous and I had little interest in visiting before the big move. 

I went out in December 2014 and fell in love instantly. Since then I've been out a further two times and my flights for a two week October visit are booked and I'm counting down the days impatiently.

Rio is almost difficult to describe, I've never been to a  city like it. It positively buzzes with colour and life. The predominant colours are the colours you can see on the Brazilian flag: blue and green.

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.

Rio de Janeiro feels like an urban jungle. Everywhere there is greenery and you're never too far away from the most famous beaches in the world.

But people here exist in close proximity. High rises are stacked tightly in blocks and resilient people build their homes up along the mountain, making a life for themselves. The inner city feels how I imagine New York to feel like. Bustling with excitement and life but that little bit more green. The taxis are also yellow, and also whizz past you at a dangerous speed. But the drivers are chatty and warm to you instantly.

The local 'carioca' are warm and welcoming people, people will smile at you as you walk past and will wish you a good day, even if you don't know each other. Even taking out the bins leads to small talk. Life is notoriously relaxed. When my mum has an emergency in the flat the handyman leisurely visits and his life motto is 'fica tranquilo”, which pretty much means keep calm and don't worry.  As my mum has found out though, that doesn't necessarily mean that things are under control or that you should be remaining calm.

The fascinating thing about Rio is that you can hop onto a metro, get a taxi or jump into your own car and take a short trip and in a matter of minutes you're experiencing a whole new side to this amazing city. One of my favourite moments was taking a short 20 minute car ride up into the Tijuca Jungle and visiting an old stately home tucked away in the heights. You're so far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life you feel like you're in another place entirely. 

Almost everywhere you look you can see Christ The Redeemer with his arms outstretched over the city, welcoming everyone. Construction for this iconic New Seven Wonders of the World statue began in 1922 and ended in 1931. If there's only one thing you do in Rio, you have to go up and see the statue. Seeing it in person is almost overwhelming and very moving. The view over the city is also spectacular and gives you an idea of the sheer scale of the it.

During my first visit we did all of the 'touristy' things but with my parents now being settled in their flat, we always slip into a nice little routine when I visit.

Going from Cardiff to the bright bright lights of Rio means that even every day things are exciting and a little adventure. One of my favourite Rio experiences is going to the farmers market on Tuesday's and Thursday's with my mum. We load up with big shopping bags and empty stomachs. Stall sellers entice you in with free fruit samples and the typical carioca charm ("Oh you two must be sisters!").

There's never a dull day, even going out for milk and eggs can turn into an exciting trip. Whether it's a funny encounter with a Carioca in the supermarket aisle or a Bossa Nova flashmob in the subway, there's always something to make you smile and keep your mood high. 

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.

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  1. This post is so great! Watching the Olympics and seeing the views of Rio make me want to visit so it's nice to hear about your experiences. It is quite disheartening how the government has spent so much money on sporting events when there's a lot of problems and poverty in the city and I hope things will get better soon.

    Belle in Black and White

  2. Such stunning pictures and beautiful words to accompany them. I would absolutely love to visit Rio, or South America in general. Such beautiful places and their carefree way of life. I can't wait to hear all about your trip in October xx

    Jessie | allthingsbeautiful-x 💚

  3. I love this post so much. Rio is one of my favourite cities I've been to, I really want to visit again. Everything and everyone is just so damn beautiful!

    Jane / deluminators


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