There was one big scene we missed when we passed through Brazil, headed toward Uruguay. So while we were stopped in Canela, Brazil, waiting for borders to open, we decided to go back and see it.
What was it, you ask? RIO DE JANIERO!!!
That’s right. We did not venture into Rio on our way down the coastline. It just wasn’t the right time for us. So to make up for it, we did this side trip a little differently. We left the dogs with a sitter at our rental home and flew to Rio. While there we stayed with a wonderful overlander named Roberta. We have chatted with her many times, but we never met in person. It was great to meet her and enjoy her hospitality and familiarity with the big city.
We only had a few days, so we packed it full of fun and adventure. On the hottest day of our visit, we explored the city with Roberta. She showed us many wonderful features including the unusual church where we parked to see more sights on foot.
She led us through the city streets with the familiarity of a lifetime. We passed historical buildings intermingled with modern structures.
We saw the newest museum with an elaborate water feature. We stopped for a delicious dessert at a famous restaurant. The skylight was incredible and the walls of mirrors were beyond belief.
We sweated our way past beautiful churches and decorative doors.
While exploring the city we stopped at the harbor to enter a submarine museum. This was the coolest place in town, as the Riachuelo metal sub was air conditioned and underwater! Mike enjoyed seeing the small bunk bed area, looking at the bomb shaft and crawling though the sections. The control center was impressive, too.
But we were both surprised by the size of the batteries and the power they stored back in the late 1970’s.
The handsome sailors in their snappy white uniforms were willing to pose for a masked, socially distant photo, even in the heat!
For the bookish readers of our blog, I present a quiz. What semi-famous library was modeled after this one? Look closely at the photos of this fantastic book archive. This beautiful room contains over 350,000 volumes, the largest collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal. The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading is a small but mighty sight to see in this fine city.
Our day in the city ended with a delicious meal, enjoyed with friends. The famous beef in Brazil is served in many settings. At this restaurant we ordered a picanha served with broccoli rice (green), farofa (toasted corn flour/cassava mixture) fried potato chips and fresh fruit juice.
While in Rio we participated in one of our favorite activities, a food tour! These experiences have always introduced us to new foods, new neighborhoods and new people and this tour was no exception. We started the tour in an open-air market with beautiful and colorful fresh foods. We sampled many fruits, including the brightly colored pitaya. There we also learned about tapioca, which can take many forms and be used for many cooking purposes. Each bag here is a different type of tapioca. And when the flour is made into a paste and cooked, it forms the outside of a delicious crepe. Do you know what tapioca is derived from?
The tour continued through restaurants, bars and through the city streets. At one beautiful bar with were served traditional (and strong!) Brazilian caipirinha drinks, which we were allowed to carry on the sidewalks as we continued. This bar had a beautiful ceiling made of recycled wood from the renovations of the nearby buildings.
A little alcohol dissolved the shyness, and our small group became even friendlier! We visited a famous outdoor site in Rio, the Selaron Steps. This eclectic display was created by a Chilean born artist and displays tiles and ceramic pieces from all around the world.
Another group photo of the newfound friends.
The group stopped to taste coxhina, a fried cornmeal, teardrop-shaped food with shredded chicken and creamy cheese inside. It was served with salsa in a metal container with a label. The guide explained that the health department requires the label. Salsa can only be used for one month, and then it must be destroyed. The label helps the kitchen staff track the information.
To cool our taste buds, we sampled delicious, thick, cold acai (pronounced Ah-say-EE). This yummy food turned our tongues purple until the next dish. A short walk away was the grand finale’. The appetizer was fried cheese with a sugar cane, molasses type sauce. Then large bowls of regional dishes including a blend of beans, rice and potatoes with shredded beef and cilantro arrived. And finally, a colorful platter of shredded beef, mashed squash and a bean, onion, lentil mix blended with crumbled farm cheese. In the end we had walked and taxied through Rio for about five hours, enjoying amazing food and drink. I urge you to consider finding a food tour at your next travel destination.
We spent one morning exploring on our own. We used the city subway (safe, clean, cheap and efficient) to get to Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach. From there we toured the historic Fort Copacabana. This former Brazilian Army base protected the bay from invaders for man generations. It is still in use for offices and some training, but the encroaching sea has claimed much of the original structure. We were fascinated by the huge wrenches used for managing the water systems. We also found the metal work in the bathrooms was both beautiful and a little confusing. The words say Pracas (enlisted) and Inferiores (lower)
After a few days of eating and drinking we should have tried a little exercise by climbing the famous Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio. But, nope! Instead we took the cable cars to the top and ogled at the fabulous views. There are many great things about Rio, but the aesthetics of the city, beaches, mountains and green spaces are spectacular. The view from Sugarloaf proves that Rio really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Apparently this bride and groom agree, as they used the view for their wedding photography session.
We had a memorable trip to Rio de Janiero and the images of our visit will be with us forever. We want to give special thanks to the overlanders that are in this gorgeous city who shared their time with us during our visit.