As the plane descended over Brazil’s most famous city, I peered out the window with a childlike giddiness as I took in the striking scenery. With mountains that rise out of the sea, hidden coves, and sandy beaches, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of this place, even from a plane’s window! I was tired, but that didn’t matter.
Here I was, landing in Rio de Janeiro for the first time. Staying in the heart of the city at Copacabana Beach, my three days in Rio were filled with the best the city has to offer – sightseeing, food, nature, and ‘futebol’ (soccer).
With a few Portuguese words scribbled down, and a friendly, English-speaking guide named Noel at my side, I was ready to take in Rio’s top sights.
First off was a walk through Ipanema, a beach-front neighbourhood. As we strolled streets lined with a range of impressive architecture, my guide gave me the low-down on who’s-who in this flashy and ritzy area.
Low hanging clouds had me a bit concerned about the views from our next stop – Sugarloaf Mountain. Noel assured me that you can never know how the weather might progress in Rio. Things can clear up quite fast, and I’m pleased to say that by the time we boarded the first of two cable cars that lead up to the famous vantage point, that he was right. I spent about an hour overlooking the city and taking in the beautiful landscape from one of its most iconic peaks.
Over the course of my subsequent days in Rio, I spent some time walking in the Tijuca Forest, seeing first-hand how such diverse nature can thrive so close to a large city. Though not religious, I also made the mandatory visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue, both to appreciate the importance of the Christian religion to the Brazilian people, and of course to take in a view of the city from its highest point.
But it wasn’t these activities, nor the tasty Brazilian coffee that I drank almost non-stop that made my trip. It was my short time on Copacabana Beach near my hotel. How could I spend three days in Rio and not play soccer on the beach? You see, I was glued to the T.V. a few months ago watching the World Cup and I became obsessed with the idea of playing soccer on this famous beach – it just looked so exotic and enticing. So I bit the bullet, tackled my own awkwardness and found a group of guys kicking a ball around informally in one of the many public soccer areas across from the hotel. Though I didn’t stay long, I shared some smiles, missed some shots, and made some quick connections with those guys. I thank them for welcoming a foreigner into their circle, as that quick time with them was the icing on my Brazilian cake. After my slice of Rio, I was off to Iguassu Falls – the world’s largest – and the original capital, colonial Salvador, but I’ll never forget falling in love with Rio.
The above was written by Ben Stasiuk, part of the Latin America team at Goway Travel.