I wasn’t sure if anywhere would have the same energetic vibes as some of the places I have been lucky enough to visit. For me, the most magical places that I have experienced have been the places that boast a different and unique kind of energy to anywhere else in the world. The kind of places that keep a small part of your heart and soul just so you can revisit at any point in time and still feel as though you never left. For me NYC, Tulum Mexico and the hedonistic island Ibiza are exactly those kind of places.
And then I went to Rio de Janeiro.
Welcome to the land of jungle topped mountains, stretches of white sandy beaches and a way of life so bohemian and passionate you can feel the positive energy circling in the air. Life is for living in Rio de Janeiro! My first glimpse was pretty special. Falling asleep on the bus (standard post 15 hour flight behaviour) and waking up abruptly when the bus slammed on it’s brakes at a red light, I opened my eyes and THIS was my first view of Rio. And you wonder why the national anthem for this city is titled “Cidade Maravilhosa”. The translation?
Witnessing the sun settling over a palm tree haven (my all time favourite view) with the forest clad mountains providing the most surreal and stunning backdrop. In the distance I could make out the small monument at the peak of the Corcovado mountain. Christ the Redeemer. The iconic world wonder of Rio de Janeiro before my eyes.
Definitely one of those pinch me kind of moments.
My first night here could have been lifted from a movie. At least I felt like I was in one anyway. (I get this feeling a lot. I think it’s the fact I’ve usually been sling shotted from one continent to another, coupled with fatigue, making you wander aimlessly around the world in a dazed haze wondering how on earth you got yourself there!)
We dine out at a Brazilian BBQ with a friend born and bred in Rio de Janeiro. A native Carioca speaking with flair in his Portugese mother tongue to the waiter, recommending us the best, tastiest (and meatiest) local food, and of course the most intoxicating caipirinhas which Brazil is famed for. The food mouth-watering good. And indefinitely the most meat a human could possibly consume in the space of two hours (diet can always start tomorrow right?) Opting to walk instead of taking a taxi back to the hotel, we pass by the famous mosaic tiled promenade at Ipanema beach and I can not explain how busy the beach was at 10pm at night. Elderly men in groups kicking a football about, young boys doing their kick ups with the ball, girls doing personal training sessions running along the sand with no shoes on (and yes derrières oh so divine they definitely inspire you the urge to run home and begin the 100 squat a day challenge that’s for sure!) Their passion for the sport and healthy well being is undeniable. A different kind of zest for life right on this beach.
Making my trip to Rio an unforgettable experience was the fact I got to share one of the days with one of my best friends in Dubai- Laura, as she was on the trip a day before me. Playing mega tourists for the day was a day we will both cherish for lifetime. Chilling on Ipanema beach and making silly videos with our Brazilian flag purchase, asking the locals to take part was so British (and Australian) of us but so amusing. I asked one passer by if I could take a picture with him (obviously attempting to find the most attractive Brazilian man I could find) and when he agreed and posed for the photograph I turned to him to laugh and received an unexpected kiss right on the lips. Not just a small kiss either I’m talking about a full blown smooch!
The second day I spent in Rio was truly special. A good friend of mine (we met doing the summer together in Ibiza 2008 and have remained friends ever since) is what I like to call a gypsy traveller, with an ethos for wanderlust more than any single person I know. Donna has been travelling for nearly two years. We were lucky enough to meet in Bali last year and she asked me if I could make it to Rio when she finally reaches there. As it’s the best trip we do, it’s subsequently the hardest trip to get. So I said there was no chance.
By luck, or by fate (the latter I like to believe) my friend needed to swap one of her Rio trips that month, so not only was I now going the same month as Donna, we actually landed in Rio on the same day.
I cannot begin to think how we managed this, I can only say that with powerful (and magical) minds we really can do anything. I sometimes wonder what else we could use our magical powers for….but that’s another tale for some other time ;)
I came down to the reception and there was Donna laden down with this larger than life (and herself) backpack (literally do not know how you backpackers carry these things) both of us beaming to see each other.
We stay up all night talking, me listening intently to her incredible South American tales (they’re pretty outrageous…!) She calls me a flash packer. Can’t disagree too much when were both sat in a fancy hotel room equipped with an ocean view! We sit on the balcony and watch the sun rise over the mountains at 6am, listening to the sound of the waves crash against the rocks whilst sharing stories…and a cigarette (or two)
We ‘flashback’ for 24 hours. Sightseeing Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), Escadaria Selarón, Copacabana beach and of course Christ the Redeemer. Taking moments of appreciation after reaching the pinnacle of Cocovado mountain and seeing the word famous breathtaking views of Rio with our own eyes. Cristo Redentor, the symbol of Brazilian Christianity, standing tall and proud behind us. You can really feel the magic of Rio de Janeiro taking hold at this point. Even the million and one photo bombers all standing arms stretched out wide impersonating the statue of Jesus couldn’t ruin that moment between me and my friend. From meeting on one incredibly magical island almost 6 years ago to now being able to share this feeling in yet another spellbinding and worldly city, I am so grateful that we experienced this together.
If you haven’t been to Rio de Janeiro I suggest you add it to your ‘bucketlist’!! It’s the most captivating place I’ve seen so far, with such an electric, vibrant and completely magical atmosphere. It’s rugged yet breath taking coastline and powdery white beaches, dwarfed by the jungle coated mountains make for luxurious views, and create the feeling that your walking around on a movie set all day. Of course my experience was made special due to the company I was so fortunate to have with me, and as I was also only there for a short time I saw only the great side to this incredible city. I’m fully aware there is a seriously dark side to Rio. A side I will definitely seek to explore on my next trip…