Saturday, August 6, 2016

Intro to Rio

Trip date: December 2015

Everyone is talking about Rio de Janeiro and the Olympics. Not all of it is good. But I found it to be an amazingly beautiful city when I was there during my 12th annual New Year's Eve trip.

My official hashtag last year was #FuckOff2015, life had been a bit of a bitch, and I was looking forward to my vacation. I decided to splurge and bought a First Class roundtrip ticket, I'm a fan of the lay flat bed! This was my "Happy Birthday!", "Merry Christmas!", "Happy New Year!", #FuckOff2015!,  present to myself. I'm a good shopper if I do say so.

On Christmas Eve I checked in at SeaTac's Delta Lounge, grabbed an espresso and a bagel and ordered a mimosa, only to be told that they were $8. Not expensive mind you, but really? I just doled out $$$ on a 1st class ticket and you can't give me a complimentary mimosa made with prosecco? Lame.

I boarded the plane and got settled in my lay flat chair/bed complete with Westin down pillow and Heavenly comforter for my first leg to Atlanta. I ordered a glass of champagne only to be told that they don't stock bubbles on domestic flights. Really? It was Christmas Eve and I heard at least half of the 1st class cabin ask for a glass.

Bloody Mary in hand (made with gin please) I settled in to read my magazines only to find out that none of the overhead lights worked, not just mine- everyone's! So you don't always get what you pay for, and Delta I'm looking at you!

My next leg from Atlanta to Rio was much better with even bigger lay flat spaces, champagne, multi-course meal, Tumi bag filled with nice products, etc.

First world (and class) bitching over let's talk about Rio!!!

I went to bed after dinner and woke up at 9am on Christmas day to the plane landing amidst the sprawling city. My friend Kate had landed just a bit earlier from Geneva and was waiting for me in the terminal. We grabbed a cab to our hotel, The Sol Ipanema right on Ipanema beach, for R$76 or about $24. They had Kate and my large double room ready, so we dropped our bags, changed into swimsuits and headed upstairs to the rooftop bar and pool.

The rooftop area is very small but it has amazing views of the entire length of the beach as well as the hills of the Vidigal favela. Caipirinhas acquired, we soaked up the sun and snoozed off the jet lag. Forest and Thibault arrived not long after and the four of us spent an amazing day, never leaving the rooftop!
As it was Christmas, I had packed a special bottle of bubbles. We all brought little presents for each other and had a really wonderful time toasting and unwrapping gifts. We swam and drank and watched the beach fill up with people as the day went on. It was absolutely fantastic!
We witnessed our first Rio sunset, which is quite possibly the most stunning sunset I've ever seen. It was chased by a rising full moon under who's glow we continued to swim.

Finally we were spent! Tired from swimming and playing and drinking all day we had a not-so-memorable dinner in the hotel's restaurant, an Italian-themed place! Sometimes it just doesn't matter.

The next morning we had a very good breakfast which was included in our hotel price. We were introduced to delicious watermelon juice and Pão de queijo, which are basically the national snack of cheese balls similar to gougéres (but gluten free).

After breakfast we headed off to find a bank to get cash, it is very important to only use official bank machines that are inside of banks for cash withdrawls. There is the very real issue of ATM fraud and even being careful throughout my trip, my card was still compromised. Luckily my bank refunded me fully.

We would be flying to Argentina later that night so we packed up and stored our bags for the day with our hotel. They also outfitted us with beach chairs, towels, and umbrellas- again all included in the room rate. As we were getting settled on the beach at Post 9, a local man came over and showed us how to set up our umbrella through our beach bag handles, securing it against thieves. We thought he was doing this for tips but when Forest handed him a dollar he waived her off. Turns out he worked at the barracas (small stands that rent chairs and umbrellas as well as sell drinks and food) that ran the area we sat in.

Being on the beach in Ipanema was amazing. There was so much people watching that I couldn't get past the first page of the book I had brought. Young, old, fit, not-so-fit. Every woman, no matter what shape or age, wearing the famous "dental floss" thong bikini. That was not always so great to see, but everyone was having a ball so who gives a shit?

We ordered caipis and coconuts from our barracas. We watched the numerous walking venders who sold everything from bikins to mate. The people next to me were very excited about what they were getting to eat so I asked them what it was. Warm bread stuffed with ground beef and cheese, a snack called esfihas, and it was delicious!

After a few hours we headed back up to our rooftop pool for a swim and some shade. We got cleaned up and headed to dinner at Garota where we had incredible "grill it yourself" steak complete with the traditional Brazilian accompaniments of rice, french fries, farofa (toasted cassava flour), and molho à campanha which is a Brazilian salsa of sorts.
We caught the tail end of the sunset as we headed back to the hotel and grabbed a taxi to the airport for our flight to Iguazu. We'd be back in four days to explore the city more in-depth and I couldn't wait!
All Rio photos here