Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf)
The Pao de Azucar is another special hill in the Southern part of Rio, one that is supposed to not only hold good energy, but also offer you another spectacular view of Rio. We had heard the cable car ride up costs 50 Reais, and we thought that was quite expensive for going up a hill (especially that we had been up Corcovado and were told the view was pretty similar). So we decided to skip the going up all the way part, and instead planned a picnic somewhere around the middle, a part you could reach by foot. It’s about half an hour climb and what you get up there is pretty unexpected – not only the great scenery, but the little park set up for the visitors to really enjoy the atmosphere and great energy. There were big benches and chairs all around so you could sit on any of them for a gorgeous view of the water, the shore or the neighboring hill. We went there with Maurice on a Thursday afternoon and had a most lovely picnic of cheese, lettuce, carrots and strawberry jam. Another highly recommended activity!:)
Another place we had heard about since week one but only made it there in the last week or so. It’s near the Botanical Garden and it’s a small but most lovely place, a park that hosts a visual arts school and a café, so the perfect place to spend some quality time reading, writing or having good conversations with friends or strangers. They sometimes have concerts or other events going on in the evenings, you might be lucky enough to catch one.
It’s right near the Botanical Garden so if you’re on a tight schedule it’s a great opportunity to see them both on the same day.
The largest urban forest in the world, Tijuca Forest completely took our breath away. We were introduced to it by Daniel, a spectacular person Silviu had met at The Hub Escola, where he was doing music therapy. He offered to take us to some special places he knew about in Tijuca Forest, and the afternoon we spent there together turned out to be one of my most memorable and emotional experiences in Rio. We got to the forest just as it started drizzling, so we found the place so fresh, so lush, so amazing! We listened to Daniel’s beautiful songs, meditated, talked and generally enjoyed each other’s company in that little piece of Heaven. By the time we left it was already dark, and on the way out, as we had no lights with us, we were escorted by armies of fire flies that were shining their little lights on the side of the road. None of us had seen anything like it before, and all we could do was walk in awe and gratefulness we had the privilege of meeting such a person and being met by nature’s perfection.
Make sure you dedicate at least one day to enjoying Tijuca forest. It’s a special kind of something!
Santa Teresa, the artistic neighborhood
Santa Teresa is again one of those spots you read about or hear pretty soon after you get to Rio. It’s right near Lapa and the two neighborhoods make for some really lovely places to hang out during the day or evening. They have an artistic and ancient feel about them and walking on the cobblestone pavement while looking at the old houses and the cariocas gathered for a communal barbecue on a Sunday afternoon is a true delight.
Make sure you don’t miss out on the ride with the Bonde, the oldest tram in Rio. It starts every half an hour from near the Carioca metro station, but usually the queue and waiting time are considerable (weekends especially). So what you can do instead is start walking in Santa Teresa and hop on at any point the tram passes by you. Or just walk through the neighborhood until the last stop and then take it on the way back, to Carioca. The ride costs 60 cents regardless of the distance, and if you’re the lucky one who doesn’t get a seat you will experience the thrill of hanging out the side of the tram as it speeds down the hill. We and Sonia (the lovely lady from Miami we met while waiting in the queue and spent the day with) had a blast doing just that!
The city centre
One of the days we hit the city centre and had a great time walking around, hanging out in a local cafe with a glass of Brazilians coffee (that’s right, here coffee is served in glasses instead of cups) and then spent almost 3 hours in the National History Museum. We found it well organised, extremely educational and with a collection of items very illustrative of the times being presented. It’s really a well worth visit, we think!
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