Beach strolls, decadent food, sky high views with the complete color spectrum, caipirinhas, the heat and the sun….these are a few of my favorite things.
From Copacabana we headed to Flamengo Beach and easily found a spot to dig our feet in. And what a view, we had a calm ocean and a striking Sugarloaf Mountain. The area was far less touristy than Copacabana and the locals took in their daily dose of Vitamin D by standing, not laying. All around folks, in groups and alone, stood and rotated like clockwork. Given the name of the beach, I immediately associated it with brilliantly pink and orange flamingos, known for their water side standing. The Brazilian tan is often envied and so its clear their practice is strong. Stand, take in the appropriate amount of sun, be alert and rotate. We felt like amateurs, bringing our towels to nap on and roast like lobsters and so we most definitely looked the part… tourists!
After beach time, it was night two of fine dining. This time we taxi’d to Miam Miam, a retro furniture filled restaurant where once you could buy the table you sat at or the lamp that illuminated your dinner. Now the theme still exists though they finally hit an inventory they weren’t willing to part with. It was lovely, romantically low lit, with an affable wait staff and food that was absolutely memorable, not to mention the artistically seductive cocktails.
Side Note: We had Spanish as a background to the Latin world, and thought it would translate fairly well to Portuguese. It translates about as well as English, in fact we were asked to stick with our native tongue on a few occasions.
As such it was nice and unexpected that Miam Miam had an English version of their menu and that the staff liked to practice their English on us. Had that not been the case, we learned a tidbit of info that the sound for a cow is nearly the same in any language. So we could have just “mooed” for our dinner and been just fine. Fyi not so much the case with chicken and pork.
The next and last full day of our trip was spent walking and touring around. The day started with no direction in mind other than the one leading our stomachs. We were attuned to the Copacabana neighborhood which seemed to have a café on every block. As with every big city, a neighborhood can differ from another just as cities within the same state. It was lively to begin with, with many street kiosks and a large farmers market setting up for a Sunday haul. As we headed downtown, the streets seemed to clear out and the street level business’ seemed to disappear.
The skyscrapers cast long shadows, darkening the streets which seemed less kept. It is what it is. We got the sense, “that feeling,” that we had wondered in the wrong direction and quickly hailed a cab. We nixed trying to find breakfast and headed to a site we planned on visiting that we could easily tell the cab driver, the Mosteiro de São Bento (Monastery of St. Benedict).
The Monastery of St. Benedict is quite a juxtoposion to the Rio de Janeiro we had seen so far. The 16th century baroque style cathedral dripped with gold leaf carvings and beautifully painted statues of saints, Mary and Jesus. The Monostery is still active and perfectly kept. It felt like a place of worship as you might expect and we wondered peacefully, taking in the beautiful artwork that is worthy of note for every person and every faith. It’s a beautiful landmark that tells of both the city’s past as well as the present.
After the Monastery we easily located a lunch spot in the neighborhood, digested the recommended 30 minutes and headed back to the beach. Our last day in the sun was as expected, bright and relaxing. We rounded it out with more food, with a Brazilian barbecue, queue meat after meat on a stick until you literally drop, topped off with a breezy walk home aka much needed exercise.
Rio seemed extra bright that night. We took in the city with a night cap on the hotel rooftop where we could see the gleaming Christo standing out against a cloudless sky.
Rio – we need more time with you, we want to bring a party and family, share more hugs and kisses, find your music and move to your rhythm. You seemed to be hiding some exciting secrets within your vast expanse of buildings and hills and we will seek them someday soon. As always we want more time to explore and get to know the places we visit. Rio you will surely get a second date.