I arrived in Rio a few days before one of the biggest parties in the world, Carnival. I was staying in a condo in the neighborhood known as the “little Paris” of Rio, Ipanema and was within walking distance to its famed Zona Sul beaches. The neighborhood was charming with a juice stand around the corner and a minutes walk to bars, restaurants and shops including one very cool “Claudia” shop! With the start of carnival just a few days away, the bars and restaurants were packed. Packed with locals and tourist hanging out in swimsuits sipping on caipirinhas and listening to samba music. The entire city felt as if it was on vacation.
I spent my 1st day in Rio sunbathing on the very crowded beach area known as Posto 9. As I approached Posto 9 I was surprised by how crowded the beach was. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many beach umbrellas covering a single strip of sand. Each posto has various vendors renting out umbrellas, beach chairs and providing drink service.
As I stepped onto the sand I was quickly approached by one of the vendors. I ordered a caipirinha and followed a young man who set up my beach umbrella and chair in a spot that was as close to the water as I was going to get on such a busy day. I sipped on my caipirinha and slowly looked around admiring all the locals and tourists beach lounging. As I sat there sipping on my drink I could hear the sound of vendors shouting “ACAI, ACAI, ACAI!”. Then was approached by a man with a cooler who was selling scoops of fresh cold acai. It was the yummiest acai I’ve ever tasted.
I was three caipirinhas in despite being warned by a friend not to drink more than two of this dangerously tasty yet strong drink. I probably should have listened to my friend’s warning but my plans didn’t involve doing much for the day but soaking up some sun.
I was in my caipirinha daze when a group of dudes sitting to the right of me started speaking to me in Portuguese. The only Portuguese I knew was bom dia and obrigado (good morning and thank you). One of the guys started motioning to his chairs and then pointing to the water. I understood what he was asking. Please watch our stuff while we go for a swim. I smiled nodded and gave a thumbs up.
The boys returned from their swim and again we tried to communicate with a combination of English, Spanish and Portuguese. As we sat there attempting to communicate one of the guys casually offered me a joint. His “thank you” for watching their stuff? Then they began to purchase just about every and any snack the vendors walking by were selling. They’d purchase some for their group and another for me. I don’t remember what we conversed about that afternoon. With that language barrier it simply turned into a lot of laughs more drinks and these interesting globo snacks made from yucca.
As the day came to a close. I said good-bye to my beach buddies then headed home to get ready for a night of carnival festivities. The neighborhood I was staying in had a scheduled street party that night. Leading up to and during carnival, different neighborhoods host street parties. People come out in vibrant colored costumes and masks and fill the streets drinking and dancing. I’d come prepared with a black and gold mask but once you are in Rio the color black and pretty much any color that isn’t neon and vibrant just seems wrong. I found myself a glittery purple green and yellow mask for a couple of bucks. I threw on a bright pink sequined tank and I samba danced till the sun came up. Brazilians know how to party!
The next night I had a ticket to the Sambadrome to watch the Samba Parade. Watching the Samba schools come down on their elaborate themed floats in glittering costumes dancing till the early morning hours is simply intoxicating. I’d never seen so much color, sequins, feathers, sparkles and glitter in one night! The floats would come down the sambadrome and the crowds would go wild. And for the second night in a row I watched the sun come up with the sounds of samba music playing as if it was coming up from the streets and sidewalks.
My time in Rio was short-lived but certainly memorable. If you are looking for a city that vibrates with an electric energy of samba music and beach vibes, then consider taking a trip Rio De Janeiro.