Friday, December 31, 2010

What I Love About Rio de Janeiro

It's hard not to immediately fall in love with Rio de Janeiro. Of course, like with all kinds of love, it's always unexpected and maybe defies expectations. And that's what happened with my love affair with Rio. When I told all my savvy friends that I was going to this city that's said to epitomize wildness, all I heard was about the dangers that lurked around every corner. "Don't go out alone." "Don't wear any jewelry." "Don't go out at night." These were my farewell warnings from my friends in New York City.

Of course, the news coming out of Rio -- about armed police clearing out drug dealers from a favela (known as a community but what many would call a slum) -- the week I left on my trip didn't help with my expectations of crime. Instead, what I found was a wonderfully artistic, design-focused city, full of warm and welcoming people who went out of their way to be helpful. The neighborhoods of Leblon and Santa Teresa were perfect for walking about and discovering authentic galleries, cafes, restaurants, museums and shops.

Surprisingly, for a city that's noted for it's crowded communities and wall-to-wall chaotic traffic, the city is networked with bicycle lanes and dotted with clusters of lush parks cut by challenging hiking trails, and meticulously landscaped gardens.



Usually when you hear about a city's signature features, they often disappoint when seen up close. They just can't live up to the high expectations. In the case of Rio, Ipanema Beach's wide swath of golden sand, the immense granite Sugarloaf Mountain and the much-revered Christ the Redeemer statue that soars atop Corcovado Mountain are all breathtaking in different ways. And, though I'm not a fan of visiting major tourist attractions, these were all worth viewing because of surprising findings:

* On Morro da Urca, the hill adjacent to Sugarloaf, I hiked through a jungle and discovered families of monkeys.

* Every Sunday, the major road that parallels Ibanema and Copacabana beaches shuts down so that people can walk, bike or blade.

* The 125-foot-high Jesus statue is snuggled at its base by dense forest land that's oh, so hikable and dripping with exotic and native species.

This slide show will give you a glimpse of Rio's beauty and creativity, its ability to stay close to nature even when you're in the midst of all things concrete, and the sense of being alive that pervades all aspects of a city that you can't help but fall in love with.

26 comments:

mjr said...

It sounds like an incredible place...I've never been but the mystic is compelling!

JTravel said...

Hi mjr, Rio is definitely a city I want to revisit, at least for another week.

Susan Johnston said...

I've never been to Rio, but it sounds like a really interesting, colorful place! Great photos, too.

JTravel said...

Hi Susan, Oh, yes, colorful would be the first word I'd use to describe life in Rio! Glad you enjoyed my photos, too.

sarah henry said...

Fear is a funny thing, isn't it? I know lots of folks who won't go to Mexico right now but the truth is there are plenty of dodgy places close to home.

Regardless, after reading this I'm adding Rio to my long list of places to check out in my travels.

JTravel said...

Hi sarah, Absolutely. I recently traveled to Mexico and received the same fear-ridden advice that I got when heading to Rio. If I avoided any place in the world where there's zero crime, I wouldn't leave my house.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear that the hype doesn't match the scenery. We'd heard awful things about Mexico City before traveling there a couple years ago. Like you, we found that the city was clean and free of overcrowding. Great post.

ruth pennebaker said...

Your perspective is really good to hear. I've always been intimidated by the rumors about Rio.

JTravel said...

Hi Ruth, Yes, I was a bit worried before I arrived given all the talk about crime. So I was very pleasantly surprised and delighted to find Rio to be such a vibrant, fun city.

Donna Hull said...

I had heard so many bad things about Rio that when our ship docked there, I didn't want to get off. But I'm oh so glad that I did. Rio is delightful and I totally fell in love with the city. Of course it helped to have a cute, humorous guide. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Sheryl said...

It's so good to read positive things about Rio, after hearing so many frightening, dangerous stories. Loved hearing about your adventures and your photos are absolutely beautiful!

JTravel said...

Hi Donna, It's fab that you had a great guide in Rio. I did, too. She was warm and funny and super smart. She pointed me in the right direction and gave me lots of tips on hidden treasures.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, Yes, it's like a lot of parts of the world where you only hear about the bad stuff. Glad you enjoyed watching my slide show, too.

Stephanie - Wasabimon.com said...

I am completely in awe of how around the world you are. Color me jealous!

JTravel said...

Hey Stephanie, Thanks so much! It's interesting that I've got colleagues who travel way more than I do. So, to them, it doesn't look like I travel much at all. Go figure.

Alisa Bowman said...

I love reading about places I've never been and might be scared to visit. Thanks for exploring the stereotypes and writing it like it is.

JTravel said...

Hi Alisa, Thanks for commenting and I'm happy that my post might help dispel any negative stereotypes about Rio.

Melanie Haiken said...

Rio is on my must-list over the next few years. It makes me sad that folks restrict their travel experiences out of worry when the biggest dangers we face are in our daily lives!

JTravel said...

Hi Melanie, I totally agree with you. I guess it's often that people are more comfortable with the known than the unknown, even if there is crime in their own backyards.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Glad you didn't let the crime talk keep you away! My mother, bless her, is always terrified when I call her as I'm walking around Manhattan at night. We need to get her out more, clearly. :)

JTravel said...

Hi Casey, I know lots of people like your mother. In fact, a friend who lives in Europe just visited me and she was worried about traveling on the subway because of crime. I told her there was no need to worry; I travel the subways all day and later into the night with no trouble.

JTravel said...

Hi Kristen, Sorry you had trouble signing in. But, yes, I agree: the crime talk about Rio is so similar to that we hear with regard to Mexico City. I also found the latter to be a wonderful city and one that's well worth visiting.

Steve said...

I have enjoyed my multiple visits to Rio. What an incredible example of the entire economical spectrum. This is a great place to be, even better a few years ago when the money went further. I would love to make it down for the World Cup, but this it may be too crazy for me.

club villamar said...

I also have a desire to travel to Rio de janeiro.The captures are really awesome which shares the Scenic and serenity of Rio.i gathered good knowledge about Rio which helps me during my future travel to Rio.Thanks J travel for this post.
With love
Johny

JTravel said...

Hi Steve, It's great that you've had a chance to visit Rio several times. This was my first. I'd also love to visit Rio for the World Cup. But I don't think it'll work out logistic-wise for me.

JTravel said...

Hi club villamar, Glad you enjoyed the post and I hope my tips prove useful should you have a chance to visit Rio.