Last week I was in Rio. It was a brief encounter, I crossed over the Amazon on a plane to say “Hey” to my homeslice Olivia, who is studying at university there during my university “reading week” (they don’t really have reading weeks at uni here, it was more of a half term but that makes me think of school). Anyway, Rio has always been on my holiday wishlist, so I was bare excited to be going, but I was ever so slightly apprehensive that it would not live up to the hype…
I was not disappointed. Rio is a beautiful city, and it was the perfect holiday – a smidge of everything that you hope for, the beach, amazing views, beautiful people and fucking amazing cake. Yes the cake was definitely a highlight worth writing home about. Latin America is not given enough credit for its desserts in general. Forget France and Creme Brûlée, Italian gelato or New York Cheesecake, I don’t even care about your Nan’s apple crumble, Latin America holds the crown when it comes to sweet stuff. (Bakalava and Algerian cakes are exempt from the competition because I am biased.) From dulce de leche ice cream, tres leche cake, banana bread, coconut flan, and deep fried sweet plantain, the sweet treats on offer across Latin America are a milky dream. If you are lactose intolerant I feel for you because you are missing out BIGTIME. Every country has its own take on the different desserts, some echan un poco de canela, some vary the proportion of milk and sugar in order to get more caramelly or more fudgey textures. But I have to say, Brazil is stretching out in front with its cakes and naughty foods. I think I had a minimum of one cake a day, and one day we went to a place where you bought cake by weight in a restaurant. It was peng.
Although I could talk about cake all day I’m sure that is not why you are reading my blog about Rio. You are expecting some crazy stories, some mental encounters, a bit of drama perhaps? Whilst there will be some of that later, I have to say that my intention was to fully chill out in Rio. I made the most of staying with my friend in an apartment on the Copacabana and rolled out onto the beach in the morning with a good book to catch some rays and check out the sexy asses playing volleyball. I succeeded in my mission of chilling out and could literally spend hours switching my attention between my book and the bodies soaking up the rays on the beach. Everyone wants to know how the mandem in Brazil size up to their reputation. Are they really heavenly Adonises and Aphrodites with J Lo bums and perfume model pecs? Yes, yes they are. Not all of them mind you. Obviously that would be right mental, but the percentage of ten outta tens is higher in Rio than most other places I have visited in my life. But, don’t go crazy rushing out to buy your ticket in the hope of finding your perfect partner. The men that I encountered were CRAZY arrogant, I had one disillusioned tipo approach me in broad daylight on the beach and try to kiss me on the mouth. Motherfucker. The most frustrating thing was that he could simply not understand why I wasn’t playing his game. I don’t care if you have the body of Mario Casas (he’s a tasty one worth a google) that doesn’t mean that you can behave however you want and just go round touching girls up. Jeez.
The machista mentality running through the veins of Latin America can be quite wearing sometimes, and the way that guys are with women in the street can be a bit much. And for the guys looking at the Brazilian ladies, just keep in mind what you see is not always what you get. You know the J Lo song “I’m Real”? Yeah, well she wasn’t talking about the girls in Rio. (Obviously this is a gross generalization and there are many many hotties in Rio, don’t get it twisted, I’m just saying, Rio is not a place that you can accept on face (bum) value.)
So, with the tasty subjects outta the way (bums and cakes) I should probably tell you about what I actually did when I wasn’t being lazy on the beach. I am not a big fan of touristy sights. The Eiffel Tour is one of my least favourite spots in Paris. It looks crackin’ in photos and is probably one of the most used images on Tumblr, but up close it is quite disgusting to see rich American tourists with their €6 hot dogs alongside gypsies and groups of somewhat questionable looking gents trying to tout tacky souvenirs and bottles of cheap wine, the two world mingling like water and oil, together but separate. Compared to this the Cristo Redentor statue was what sights SHOULD be like. The view of Rio was sensational. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by touts and there was a mixture of people up the top. We went at around 5pm so it was quieter than usual and we caught the sunset which was divine. Some people had said the Cristo was a bit of an overhype but I whole heartedly disagree. For me it was one of the most memorable things that I have done on my travels.
Besides the Cristo, my other big sight that I wanted to see was the Steps in Lapa. You know the ones where Snoop Dogg and Pharrell filmed the video to Beautiful. Yeah, there. I was so happy when we got there because I have always seen photos of them, they are a really identifiable spot in Rio and I really really wanted to sit my bum down somewhere where Pharrell had once been. PAH! But yeah, Olivia was my beautiful tour guide and told me that each of the tiles on the walls were brought from different countries, and that there was an artist who had made it all up, and included some of his own tiles. We bumped into him sitting on the steps drawing a self portrait/caricature whilst talking to himself. He had a massive moustache and wasn’t wearing any shoes, and he grunted to everyone that went by “Where are you from?” and then grumbled to himself in Portuguese and Spanish. He was pretty jokes.
After listening to his mentalness for a while he pointed out that something was being filmed on the steps, as we were wandering past to leave I had a cheeky nose and asked a young guy in Spanish what they were filming. He looked completely nervous and lost and desperately shouted at one of the older guys to come over and help him. Only then did I hear his strong South London accent and realise that he was from the UK! Turns out they were filmed a little something to release in the UK later this year, like a promo video, and the next thing I know I see the cheeky Adam Deacon coming over. He asked if I’d mind doing a little cameo, I asked him if I would have to take my top off, he said no, so we went ahead. Two minutes, had to pretend to be Brazilian getting chatted up by AD and then Olivia and I went and got some well deserved lunch. Might I just add that Adam Deacon is exactly like his character in Kidulthood. Or even Anuvahood. Whatever, the man made me laugh with his lines. Casanova he most certainly is not.
I went to a favela with Olivia as one of her friends (who used to live in Cambridge, small world) was living there. It’s called Rocinha, probably one of the best known favelas in Rio as it is one of those where tourists some scurrying through hanging out of the windows of “Safari buses”. It was quite interesting to see this as I have been working on correcting a paper for one of the professors at my uni which was about poverty tourism and glamorizing the slums, because they are considering doing similar things in the slums here in Colombia. Apaz the police levels had been kicked up a lot in Rio in advance of the World Cup, and it was noticable that there were quite a lot of them hanging on street corners, checking out the girls and toying with their guns. The police and military presence is a lot higher in Colombia than in Brazil and every man in uniform is brandishing a massive rifle of some sort, but what I didn’t like in the favela was seeing the policemen with discreet little things that fit snugly in their hands. I like to be able to see where the shots are coming from thanks. We wandered through and saw the police dragging a man from his house in his boxer shorts. He was resisting a lot and people were coming out of their houses to have a butchers. The view of Rio in that favela was also phenomenal.
One day, Olivia had class, so I decided to go out on a little adventure and catch a bus somewhere that I didn’t know to have a little wander. Sounds a bit irresponsible I guess but I had heard about an area not far from Copa and I wanted to find a cafe or something to chill out in. I got lost on a bus and met some Brazilian girls, and one of them ended up giving me like a little tour of the area and taking me to a different “favela” in the area. We went and sat by the lagoon and exchanged details, and on the Friday she contacted me about going out. Olivia and I got ready and made the massive journey away from the bright lights of Copacabana and went out to near where the City of God is to a gigantic nightclub where the girls were waiting for us. The venue was rammed full of Brazilians, we are talking thousands, and I think I was the only person present who didn’t speak Portuguese. The dancing made daggering look like two-stepping as the rules of decency were casually brushed aside to make way for dance moves that would no doubt lead to babies. Needless to say I was resolutely dancing on my jays, water in hand. The guys were pretty aggressive about trying to dance but luckily I had some fiesty Brazilian chicks around to keep things in check. There is no way I would have stepped in that club without Brazilian backup.
We stayed in the club until it closed at 5am, and made our way past the bodies on the floor, and those stumbling to get sausages for breakfast in their high heels and short skirts, licking ketchup off their fingers as the sun crept up behind them. I felt pretty lucky to see the sunrise as I had been telling myself that I would have to see it at least once whilst I was staying in Rio, so I went home feeling a little grubby from all the dirty men grabbing my arms, but pretty blessed.
Rio is a sick city. I’m not sure if I could live there, but it is one of those places that you have to visit in your life. It feels Latin American but European in some places, and there was a lot which I identified with Colombia – they are neighbours after all. I hope that one day I can live somewhere with mountains in the skyline of the city. I loved being with my friend Olivia, even though we hadn’t seen each other in nearly six months, we just have one of those friendships where time just goes on hold whilst we are apart, and we can pick up from where we left off. Doncha just love them ones? We had a girlie last night, drinks and pizza in Lapa and I felt really lucky to be with my gorgeous friend who speaks Portuguese and looked after me so well, in such a special city. Thanks Olivia!
One last point that I wanted to make was that if you have a wishlist of places that you want to visit, you should start making plans today. You never know, you might end up finding that you feel right at home in one of those places on your list, and you might even decide to live there permanently. There isn’t any excuse to put your dreams off until tomorrow, live in the moment, take advantage of your freedom and go have an adventure 🙂
Peace love and blessings to all, take care, besitos, LEY x