A Last Attempt at Freedom

Because this *had* to be here… after all—what else do you think of when you think of Rio, but this?

This is just any given Sunday, at Ipanema. And if you were wondering, I was wearing sensible clothes, a sunhat, sitting in a chair directly under one of those umbrellas. Because I am “muito brancinha”—a whole lotta gringa—and I had every intention of staying that way. 😀

I only snapped one pic because it seemed intrusive to me to photograph randomly at the beach, so let me just tell you this: EVERYONE, and I do mean EVERYONE (except me), from grannies to quite large-ish people, wear bikinis at the beach. So if you ever go to Rio and hit Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon, A) don’t go in their summer or you will die of the heat (says Jessica), and B) no matter who you are, what your shape, and what your body issues, this IS the place to let it all hang out. No one cares. No one judges. And virtually everyone is just a REAL PERSON. I thought that was really awesome. In fact, you’re more an object of funny looks if you’re NOT in a bikini just like everyone—but I still guard my general paleness fiercely.

Rio is the opposite of São Paulo in all the ways that mattered to me: it didn’t feel oppressively large, it has a walking culture, it’s bus-friendly, and it’s got green spaces (not just for homeless people to sleep in…). On that last point, our visit to the Botanical Gardens was a high point. If I lived in Rio, I would try very, very hard to live directly IN the Botanical Gardens. Let me show you why, starting with my future house:

from my future house, you can see this AWESOME sculpture in honour of Matisse, which basically sums up how I feel about Rio:

and from my future home, you can also see the Christ… if you peek between the trees and squint a little:

So. The Gardens are perfect!

For the History buffs among us, there used to be a gunpowder factory on the site, and some of the old wheels used to grind the powder are still there:

but the highlight, and for me, the symbol of Rio, were the orchids. In Rio, people bind orchids to tree trunks, so there are these random orchids *everywhere*. It’s so lovely! And they thrive!! But I’ve never seen species like those in the Botanical Gardens… so prepare yourselves for the onslaught, which I’ll thumbnail so we don’t all lose our minds. 🙂

Phew. Bummer about my tendency to over-expose, eh? I have to tell you—I had no idea that orchids could look SO different! So pretty—I heart the orchideario!

And closing off our weekend in Rio, we went out to Urca—home of our future inn, don’t you know? Sure, it doesn’t have the immediate beach access like Ipanema or Leblon, but what it does have is a view!

And a picturesque, non-crazy-busy waterfront!

And at the end of the road, there’s Bar Urca, which has waiters running pails of beer out to all the people sitting on the sea wall outside—for a 40 metre stretch! The bar itself is small with a cosy resto upstairs, but the real thrill comes from just sitting outside, enjoying the vibe, and, if you’re lucky like we were, an impromptu gathering of samba musicians.

I’ve been to some pretty amazing cities the world over, and Rio is right up there with the best. 😀