What in world you ask is an “un-Rio” tourist? Suffice it to say that I’m not much into beaches, nightlife, alcoholic beverages, dancing, and don’t know any Portuguese. What led me to my first time visit to South America and to Rio in particular were the wonderful posts here unified in expressing that Rio has more than enough enjoyments to offer every visitor of every personality, even fuddy-duddies like me, and after my trip I can concur with “How true!”
I traveled with my family of 4 adults to Rio the first week of June to begin our 3 city, 2 week trip to Rio-Iguazu-Buenos Aires. The city of Rio gifted us with the following:
A FRIEND TO REMEMBER FOR A LIFETIME
Martha Vasconcellos was our private guide and has been consistently (and rightly so) described in TA posts as a friend as much as or even more so than a guide. All that has been written about Martha was played forward in my experiences both before and during our trip. She was prompt and detailed in our correspondences and obviously wanted us to have the best experiences her city had to offer. I cannot think of one thing she did not follow through on and she often went the extra mile on our behalf at no benefit to herself. She made suggestions but worked within what we wanted and would gently nudge us in the right direction when we didn’t know what it was we wanted. Martha was our guide “in the flesh” for all or parts of 3 days but she had her hand in guiding our entire stay in Rio. For all the hours spent with her, we were never lacking in conversation, a resource for advice, humorous insights, and I would be remiss if I did not add FUN!
HISTORICAL AND CURRENT INSIGHTS
Through our tours of the historical Santa Teresa and Praca XV areas, and Downtown, the amazing churches, and the Favelas, we have through Rio an appreciation of the spirit, pride, ingenuity, resilience, and the melding of its peoples and cultures. While Brazil, like all countries, has its problems, the future and direction of Brazil looks promising and I now read with interest of its affairs as our visit has made the world smaller.
What beauty to behold all within a single city! The natural views of and from Corcavado and Christ the Redeemer, seeing Rio from Sugar Loaf at sunset, the sights of mountains, waters, islands, and sands with names still unknown to me were a feast for the soul. Additionally satiating was the creativity of man in the works of art by Brazilian artists we enjoyed at the Museu National de Belas Artes and the incredible Selaron Steps. (Hint: A Martha treat - Walk down from the top and then turn around…BAM!)
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
It is the desire of almost all travelers to experience travels “off the beaten path.” With a population of over 6 million in the city itself, it is not always an easy thing to achieve. For us, we found the experience in our day trip to Niteroi, a short ferry ride across the bay. With views of Rio from the ferry behind and prospects of seeing an area not frequented by many tourists ahead, we were not disappointed. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) by Niemeyer is a wonder in itself to behold. The architecture of the building makes any snapshot of it a winner. The same, unfortunately, couldn’t be said of the current exhibit inside but seeing the views and the sea turtles below from its windows was worth more than the price of admission. We then went by bus to the fishermen village of Jurujuba. Hard to believe we were so close to Rio as we walked the picturesque village with old fishing boats bobbing in water, fishermen repairing their nets, sampled freshly squeezed sugar cane juice that Martha bought for us from an outdoor vendor, and feasted on fresh local seafood at a restaurant for locals.
WITNESS TO TRUE PASSION
Passion’s synonym → SOCCER, or more properly futbol! Initially, in outlining the desires of our trip, seeing a soccer game was a “nice, if we can do it but OK if it doesn’t work out” kind of thing. Was I off! Seeing a soccer game (our first one ever BTW) at the Maracana Stadium is a “Bucket List” keeper. It makes fans at the Super Bowl look like they’re sitting on their hand! But, I’m getting ahead of myself. As our arrival to Rio drew near, Martha sadly informed us that there was no soccer game scheduled during our visit. Being then in the “nice if we could, but OK if…” mode, I got on to other things. Suddenly, I get an urgent email from Martha saying the local Fluminense was now going to play the Boca Juniors from BsAs in the semifinals of the South American championship at the Maracana. Can you spell R-I-V-A-L-R-Y!? Tickets were going fast and at a premium for a sure sellout. An event she said was "not to be missed." Despite my initial hemming and hawing (stupid me) about cost/safety/”I’m not even a soccer fan” and causing some delay by sending Martha on a rabbit trail to unsuccessfully get tickets from another source, Martha miraculously pulled out 4 tickets (when there were only 3 available) from her own connections. We are forever indebted to HER passion of “not accepting ‘No’ as an answer for my guests” and getting us tickets as seeing the game was the highlight of our trip. The crowd was deafening…and that was 2 hours before the start of the game. Fireworks, giant flags rolling over the crowds, smoke, chanting, and 80,000 fans all functioning as one organ. Exhilaration and anguish in unison and then resounding joy in victory. The best part was we were embraced, high-fived, and group hugged by the fans around us as they sought to absorb us into their passion, even as our presence shouted “newbies.” Such passion is and will ever be a gift to have been a part of.
TRY GOING OUTSIDE YOUR BOX
With my fuddy-duddy status previously documented, there was much in Rio to experience outside of my box…and I did, with no regrets. After all, who can truly say they have been to Rio without experiencing samba. We went to the Rio Scenarium and celebrated our last night in Rio along with Martha. The music, singing, eclectic surroundings, and local feeling crowd were so fun to be part of. The dancing was not only great to watch, but fun to try as Martha accompanied us each to the dance floor to help us strut our stuff. Note: I use that expression loosely. I even tried a caipirinha! Whoa!!! Not only that but we EVEN stayed there till midnight!...Hey, baby steps now, baby steps!
Well, my feet still haven’t touch the white sandy beaches, but hey, got to leave something for later.
Thank you all at TA for your many posts that have helped me plan and enjoy my travels. Your genuine comments and love for Rio has been a core to our family’s journey and the experiencing of Rio’s many gifts.
Rio trouxe-nos a alegria. Obrigado.