Day 1 in Rio - making new friends and exploring the surroundings
Our Adventures

Day 1 in Rio - making new friends and exploring the surroundings

Rio de Janeiro beach

The second part of our journal is more about the first day in Rio.

The pousada a.k.a. the bed & breakfast.

We chose this place as it was the cheapest we could find during the Carnival. We booked on booking.com and paid R$165 (~38 USD / 35 EUR) per night (total for 9 nights was R$1.490, ~340 USD / 313 EUR). We searched other websites and most prices were at least double. Besides, this one had great reviews (score 9.3 on booking) and was close to both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

Chris got a little scared by all the stories he read about the favelas and looked online for safety precautions. He found out that this area we were in was one of the safest favela locations in Rio. It was located right at the intersection of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

An unexpected friend on the first day in Rio

Five minutes in the favela and we made our first amigo, a german guy who’s been to Rio 7 times. He stays at the favela 3 months at a time because that’s how long the tourist visa lasts in one year. Franz (though Chris understood Heinz) was a man around 65 years old. You could see right from the beginning that a young spirit still drives his decisions. He likes samba, tries to master his Portuguese, and knows a lot of people from all over the world. Chris saw him as a fun grandpa, and he wasn't wrong! First day in Rio wasn't so bad!

Although outside there were more than 30°C and we were exhausted after a 25-hour journey, Franz was kind enough to take us to Copacabana so that we buy tickets to the Rio Carnival. I thought it’d take about 30 minutes to get there and back so that we can rest and recharge our batteries, but we got a "Franz mini-tour" of the surroundings.

the streets of a favela in Brazil

Before we left, Franz saw my cross-body bag and he said that’s a no-no. He continued saying it is too dangerous to carry valuables like that. He also frowned at Chris's backpack but after he saw we have a Pacsafe he said it was fine. So I left my bag in the room and only took the backpack. We went down the 109 steps and then walked downhill for about 15-20 minutes to the agency that sells tickets. The streets looked poor, some houses were still in construction but with people living inside.

TIP: Franz also took us to an ATM to withdraw money and recommended we only pay cash in Rio. Apparently card fraud is very high in the city, so we paid by card only at restaurants.

We decided to only get tickets to the Carnival finals for Monday, as they were quite pricey - R$ 540 per person (~123 USD / 113 EUR). After that, Franz took us to Copacabana beach to show us around. Everything looked so exotic, beautiful, and full of life. We had a beer on the beach and then went on to Ipanema, but not before going to see a great spot for magical sunsets.

Ipanema was beautiful, but there were fewer people in the water. Maybe the name truly represents the reality. Ipanema is an indigenous word for dangerous waters.

caldo de cana in rio de janeiro
Caldo de caña is a cold drink made out of peeled stems of sugarcane and it is very refreshing. 

On our first day in Rio, Franz wanted to show us a second way of getting to the favela through Ipanema, so we left the beach and went towards the favela. We stopped at the market and various other spots of interest. We got a SIM card, saw some good places to eat, and went through the market. There, Franz invited us to a Caldo de caña to fully emerge us in the Brazilian culture.

After all the walking on our first day in Rio, we got to a shortcut by elevator to the pousada. Yes, we used an elevator that was part of a building on the hill to get to the hilltop. Fascinating! While we were waiting for the ~ 50 people queue for the elevator, we couldn't stop thinking

How great, whoever made this block made the elevator available to the community, to facilitate their climb in the favela.

A special invitation

Speaking with Franz, we learned that he was going to be part of the Rio Carnival, with a samba school named Renascer de Jacarepaguá, and that we can too. What a cool opportunity! The costume is called fantasia, and we paid R$400 for one. Our first day in Rio was amazing!

Rio carnival costume 2020
Julie's black fantasia costume with skulls

Three hours later we managed to sleep for a bit before going out in the evening. We decided to go for a stroll through Ipanema as the journey was shorter. We wanted to try some traditional food, so we chose the Brazilian picanha and took one for two. It was gigantic and delicious. We served it with a maracuja caipirinha as we were dying to taste a real caipirinha - and we were not disappointed!

picanha brasileira, sirloin steak brazilian style
Picanha consists of a large piece of grilled sirloin sliced and served with gravy, salad, breadcrumbs, french fries, and rice.

Read more about our adventures in Rio in the next article.

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