There’s so much to do in Rio, we could have spent a whole week and not get bored. It’s comforting to know that we will be back. It was the first stop of our Round the World, and it will also be the last next April, that’s how much we love it.
1. Taking the boat and crossing the bay to visit the MAC de Niteroi (Contemporary Art Museum) designed by one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, Oscar Niemeyer, a carioca himself. He’s the master of light curves and it’s no more evident than at MAC, which was completed when he was over 80 years old (he is still alive at 103 years old!). Harmony, grace and elegance. There was a photography exhibition celebrating his work by Patricia Parinejad, whom I wrote about in an earlier post.
It was a bit sad, though, to see the shape of things in the museum, poorly maintained after only 14 years of being built. And for a saturday visit, it was pretty empty. I guess it reflects the feelings of our taxi driver: “Why are you going to the museum!! you should go to the beach! it’s so hot today!! you are crazy!!”
2. Staying in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. It was historically the outskirts of Rio and our hotel, the Santa Teresa used to be a coffee plantation. Then the area became the destination of choice for the intellectuals, with many cafes around. It’s now a bucolic and very charming part of town, isolated from the buzz of the beaches, high up in the city. There are several beautiful posadas to choose from: Mama Ruisa, Casa Beleza, Rio 180 Hotel and Castelinho38 seem all like good family choice. We had a delicious meal of Amazonian food at Espirito Santa, kids would love the dish with piranhas!
3. Going up to the Corcovado. The view from up there is incredible, 360 degres over Rio. And there’s a breeze, which is nice when it’s over 30 degres in the city.
You could take the little train both ways but there’s often a terrible crowd at the departure. So we took a taxi up to the last point, then a 5minute bus ride, and the Trem do Corcovado on the way down, which is a must with the children.
4. Walking up and down on Ipanema beach, stopping for an agua de coco, watching the cariocas play futebol on the beach, being part of the pool scene at Fasano hotel, having a hearty meal at New Natural where it’s buffet style and food by the weight. Cheap and delicious. Very child-friendly.
5. Dancing in Lapa in one of the many samba bars. We loved Carioca da Gema. Lapa is an institution for good music, the area is so lively it’s incredible, music comes out of everywhere, people of all ages are there to enjoy themselves. The energy is contagious. We were glad to find a babysitter named Vanessa.
6. Listening to stories from the many colourful characters in town. We loved this one from a taxi driver…he proudly told us that he had 16 children, from 8 different women, and already 4 grand-children at the young age of 45 years old! Cariocas and Brazilians in general are very warm, generous of their time and advice, and usually very open to foreigners. It gives you the feeling of being welcome wherever you go, which is really a treat when traveling around with children.
7. Shopping for bathing suits! Salinas has an incredible collection, there is a shop in Ipanema and many others throughout the country. I didn’t quite dare to get a filo dental though!!! (ie. dental floss, that’s how they call their teeny tiny bathing suits)
This photo courtesy of NY Times.
And if we had more time, we’d have done the following:
8. Riding the bondinho (cable car) to the top of the Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf mountain).
9 . Going green either by Hiking in the vast Tijuca National Park, home to hundreds of animal species. It’s only a short drive from the center of Rio and Rio Hiking seems like a good trip organizer. Or taking a stroll in the Botanical Garden near Ipanema.
10. And more shopping: Farmacia Granado (I love their packaging, founded in 1870), Isabela Capeto who also has a very nice kids collection. For furniture and antique stores on rua Lavradio in Centro: Mercado Moderno. Pe de Boi in Laranjerais for beautiful handcrafts. Daqui for trendy local designers including many children’s products. And Dona Coisa in the heart of Jardim Botanico for more Brazilian fashion.
And also going to see a futebol game, visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), getting a cocktail at the Copacabana Palace, spending time at the cultural center Instituto Moreira Salles as it’s worth a visit just for the garden landscaped by Roberto Burle Marx, and drinking more Acai juices, it makes a delicious moustache!