Rio is a dangerous place.
Dangerously beautiful, that is.
Haha see what I did there? Funny? Nope, okay, moving on from the dad jokes.
It first occurred to me that Rio was a stunner while drinking caipirinhas with my father on the beach the evening we landed. The beach was alive with Brazilians, all scantily clad and proud, a six piece band played samba in the background, and the curve of the beach allowed for breathtaking views all the way to the end of the bay.
It occurred to me again while I was having my copacabooty handed to me in the mighty waves of Copacabana beach. The ocean water was perfectly warm, and even though the sun was long gone, replaced by the glow of street lamps, there were dozens of people alongside me, laughing and letting the waves tumble them around. Pure joy.
Of course, there were dozens more of those moment where I would pause and think, “wow.”
Rio hands down has the best geographical location for a city that I have ever seen. It pains me to admit this because Barcelona always held this honor, but between the beaches hugging the bay, the jungle heart of the city, and the sharp mountains and small islands peppering the ocean view- Rio has it all.
Their version of street food is Açaí bowls for a few bucks and caipirinhas so strong that you feel a slow burn in your belly after just one. (Two make it hard to walk, and three make it hard to keep the first two down.)
Pretty much all of the beach goers are clothed just enough to cover the fun bits, and you immediately notice how proud and comfortable people are in their bodies. The women have the tiniest waists and greatest butts ever- and those who don’t are still rocking the teeniest bikinis (power to ya!) And while I really didn’t need to see so many old dudes in banana hammocks, I respect anyone who unapologetically does their thing. How refreshing from the States where we are all either prudes or plagued with some sort of body dysmorphia.
Last but not least, there is plenty to see and do in Rio de Janeiro. You can catch a Samba show, cruise through the jungle in a Jeep, or sightsee in the old square if architecture is your thing. You can stroll all the way from Copocabana beach to Ipanema beach, while singing their respective famous songs of course.
“Tall and tan and young and lovely…the girl from Ipanema goes walking…”
Sorry, started humming.
The famous statue of Christ the Redeemer is incredible and can’t be missed, though I must admit tight sweaty crowds give me anxiety and I preferred the view from Sugar Loaf- a mountain that overlooks the entire bay.
Plus you get to take a cable car up to the top to Sugar Loaf, and fun fact about me- there is a very special place in my heart for cable cars. They’re magical and soothing, and I understand none of the physics behind them.
Friends, I’ll admit this is a longer post than usual (I clearly have lots to say about Rio!) so feel free to take a snack break or something.
Back? Okay. Good.
I started this piece with a joke about safety in Rio, but it would be remiss not to comment on it in greater depth.
Most people believe Rio is dangerous, perhaps too dangerous to visit.
It is a city with the same problems as any place with millions of inhabitants, but I truly believe that if you are cautious and aware of your surroundings- you’ll be fine.
I wore my favorite jewelry (with the exception of necklaces on a long chain since those are an easy target) and I did not dress down (which, to be fair, I don’t think I am physically capable of doing…) I wandered the beach alone and walked around the neighborhood by myself in the evenings. I even visited a favella, the well known slums of Rio de Janeiro.
There, I had an incredibly informative conversation with a man who worked as a social worker in the favellas, providing support to women who were survivors of assault. I asked him about safety in the favellas and where the perception came from that they’re deadly. (Media, of course.)
He explained to me that the favellas are actually quite safe, often safer than the rest of Rio. Most of them are controlled by drug lords who do their own “policing.” If you commit a crime, they will find you down and they will decide your fate (I didn’t ask for details, though I imagine it’s not a merciful sentencing process.) Tourists are actually very safe in most favellas for a simple reason. If a tourist is harmed in a favella, the entire police force of Rio (mind you the entire very handsome police force of Rio) descends on the favella. And you know who doesn’t want that? Drug lords. So you know who will make sure you’re safe? Yep. Drug lords.
Fascinating isn’t it?
I am not at all saying that you should go on your own and wander about with your Gucci belt and gold chain out, but I am encouraging you to visit a favella if you do come to Rio.
Almost a million of the city’s inhabitants live in them, so it’s worth seeing the city from their perspective. Literally though? Because the views from the favellas are pretty amazing!
I certainly hope to return to Rio one day because three days just wasn’t enough. I didn’t get a chance to perfect my Samba dancing, or party til dawn to Tropical Funk music, which I have a strange amount of saved to my Spotify, or even the opportunity to fall in love with a famous soccer player. Not that I can name more than two of them, but still.
Obridago for reading.
(Pssst…that means thank you!)