Hi everyone, so I made it to Brazil and after being here in Rio for nearly a week, I´m going to be really sad to leave and say goodbye to my Brazilian family - Norma, Donato and Felipe, who have been such kind hosts.
Last Saturday, I was met at the airport by my friend Marcio and then we were picked up by Norma and Donato who welcomed us into their home in the beautiful neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. They have an unbelievable view of Rio from their sitting room and I have been lucky to have a view of Cristo (Christ the Redeemer statue) from my bedroom!
There was no time to waste in getting ready to go out and soak up the atmosphere of the bustling, party area of Lapa - the place to be on a Saturday night, dancing samba and drinking caipirinhas! I also tried feijoada, a traditional dish made from black beans blended up with some other ingredients that I never quite did find out exactly what they were... I also tried crab cakes (think muffin with a crab claw literally stuck on the top!) It was strange to walk through the streets filled with busy bars and restaurants, music blaring, people dancing, and then to be met by huge police vans across the middle of the roads with policeman guarding the area holding massive guns!
Sunday was spent on the beautiful beach of Barra da Tijuca, popular with the locals (cariocas!). Norma and I sunbathed (yes, it was hot enough even though it´s actually Brazil´s winter!) while Marcio, Donato and Felipe (Donato´s son) went surfing. After, we drove around Rio...it´s such a city of contrast - lush green hillsides, Cristo overlooking the city from the top, tall white buildings clustered together at the bottom, an expanse of sparkling water from the lake in the middle, beautiful beaches and favelas one on top of the other jutting out from the hillsides. In the evening, Marcio and I went out to Casa Rosa where we danced to baile funk, MPD (Brazilian pop) and a live band in three different rooms, and then headed to the ´after drinks´ after making friends with one of the band members!
On Monday, like true tourists, Marcio and I went to Cristo which was amazing. The views of Rio from the top are stunning and the statue itself is breathtaking. We took the typical tourist photos with our arms outstretched to mirror Cristos! Then we strolled along the beautiful beach of Ipanema and famous mosaic pavement of Copacabana, stopping for an expensive caipirinha by the pool of the exclusive Copacabana Palace Hotel!
Marcio left early Tuesday morning so from then on I was on my own. I have successfully managed to navigate myself around Rio´s metro, buses and vans without problems and am beginning to feel quite settled here! I´ve met Norma for lunch and after work a couple of times and grown fond of the crazy lady outside the station who has a cat on a lead! Felipe was an excellent guide for an afternoon and made me try caçu juice made from the fruit of a cashew nut, as well as showing me how to cook black beans! I´ve been sunbathing on Ipanema beach and ate in the Garota de Ipanema where Jobim and Moraes wrote ´The Girl from Ipanema´ song. I took a cable car up to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and watched the sunset with incredible views over the city - as most of you know (some more than others!) that´s my favourite time of day!
I´ve also been picking up some of the language and a taxi driver told me today that I spoke good Portuguese (!) although I´m not sure smiling, nodding and saying ´si´ a lot can be classed as good Portuguese! However, Guarana is my new favourite drink so maybe I can pass as a carioca after all...
Next stop, Ilha Grande for some island fun!
Tchau for now xx