29 October 2017
AN INTRODUCTION TO RIO
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2017
This years vacation took me to an entirely new continent: South America! I’ve never been here before, and been wanting to come for such a long time. After some research I decieded that Brazil was the country to visit, and the most striking city was definitely Rio. Famous for its Carneval, but also the Christ Statue watching over the City - Rio unites both Beach and Mountains into one spectaculary huge city that I couldn’t wait to discover.
If you are thinking of visiting this city too and have never been - heres some informations & tipps that you might find useful.
Cash - Finding an ATM can be quite tricky in the city. To avoid ages of roaming around unsuccessfully its better to always have a reserve of cash and to withdraw local currency directly when you leave the airport (they’ve got ATM’s there). You can pay in most places with credit card, but not all, so its advisable to keep cash ready.
Transport - UBER is really inexpensive in Rio, so its great to usw this to get around. Plus its safe.
Language - most locals don’t speak any english. So for non portugese speakers its advisable to keep 4g network and google translate ready on hand to translate menu cards, directions etc. Prepare to fingerpoint when ordering food and to use sign language. It does work out most of the time.
Safety - I was advised not to walk around after dark, and I didn’t test that. I kept my belongings with me in a sealed bag on my body at all times & didn’t carry any valuables on me visibly. I was just fine & never felt unsafe.
Here are the Foods you must try during your stay in Brasil:
Acai - of course. Its probably the most popular super food at the moment and available outside the country too. Still - don’t miss the chance to get some local stuff, its really good. I always ordered unsweetened and had it together with granola or tapioca flakes. Delicious!
Tapioca Crepe - this is a lovely breakfast or lunch dish. Filled either sweet or savoury the tapioca dough has a unique consistency and snowwhite colour I’m sure you’ll love - plus its gluten and fatfree - so don’t skip this during your stay in brazil.
Jambu - no its not ‘jambon’ as I originally assumed it was and has nothing to do with pork. Its much rather a very flavourful herb that is used in cooking -> for example inside the tapioca crepe. Its very unique and something I do recommend you to try at least one time during your stay.
Bakuri - a delicious fruit, and nickname of little kids. Like little sweetie - you can have it in icecream, raw or as a juice. Bacuri has a unique taste that you should definitely try.
Acerola - the raw fruit looks like a very red cherry. But the taste is intense, not too sweet and very flavourful. Its often found as a juice -> high in vitamin C, a real must try aswell!
PLACES TO EAT
If you are looking for a culinary or gourmet guide to Rio - this is the wrong blogpost for you!
When travelling to a region with such interesting and unfamiliar food culture I find that dining at hip fusion food places is not giving me the authenticity that I am looking for. Fusion places are great if you know the local cuisine already and are looking for a twist on it. But for me, Brazil was a completely new food experience so I preferred to really get to experience the basic traditional foods without any fancy hankypanky or 'twist' to them. I certainly didn't want them 'fused' with any other cuisine - I can do that at home once I got to learn the basics. These you are most likely to find on the street. Streetfood takes any food culture back to its real roots, serving the most basic and accessible food in the simplest economical way. Most restaurants take it to far, and estrange the basic traditional dish in the aim of making it more fancy.
So the number one spot I went looking for food was the streets. Wether its the many streetcorner takeout places with seating available or the tiny streetfood trucks serving churros or tapioca -> here's where I tried most of my food. I tried a variety of Tapioca Crepes, Açai (which I managed to order unsweetened 'sem açùcar') & fresh fruit juices. There are many more things available which I didn't try because most of it is fried and didn't appeal to me.
Buffet Restaurants are also really popular here and a great option for me so I can choose the proportion of foods that I like (high in vegetable & lean protein, but still being able to try out a spoon full of this or that to get a taste without having to order the whole portion).
As to the sit down places here are some I found which are nice for uncomplicated sit down eating:
Amazonia Soul - a little place that offers authentic dishes, acai, tapioca and the food is also available togo. It was located 100m from my flat in Ipanema so I came here often for Açai & Tapioca.
Casa Graviola - Mega cute healthy food place in Leblon offering vegan options, lean chicken dishes, acai and of course tapioca. Its a great place for lunch - portions are large & healthy. I loved coming here.
Cafe Place - Located inside the botanical gardens. It seems to be a popular wedding venue with couples coming here to take photos. It was also the venue for a snoop dog music video:
THINGS TO DO
Christ the Redeemer - One of the reasons I came to visit this city. Visiting the Christ statue on top of Corcovado Mountain was on my Lifetime bucketlist and I am so happy I could mark it done. It was an emotional experience - as I had been anticipating it for so long, and definitely worth it. Not just the statue but also the view over Rio was breathtaking.
Ipanema Beach - My favourite time to visit it was at sunrise, when its completely empty and turned pink by the rising sun. During the day its very crowded with lot of activity happening. You can come here just to chill, play beach volleyball, plus you get served with caipirinhias directly at the beach! The locals are not pushy, so I actually never felt uncomfortable or hustled at the beach. I wanted to relax during my vacation, so I mostly was hanging out here during daytime & just enjoyed the vibe.
Hippie Fair - Taking place on Sunday at the square in Ipanema, its an excellent place to buy souveniers and is nice to stroll around too.
I chose AirBnb in the Neighbourhood of Ipanema. Its located 150m from the Ipanema Beach and was a perfect place to get around by foot during daytime. My apartment was beautiful, spacious and totally affordable. I had a wonderful time staying there and felt safe at all times.
If you want to stay at the same place as I did during your stay - try searching ‘Ipanema Beach Artist Apartment’ - the host Fabian is english speaking & I’m sure will be happy to welcome you.