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Riot for Rio December 19, 2009

Posted by Jen Pappas in Rio.
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I’d hate to think that bad weather is enough to taint a place in your mind, especially when it comes to an iconic city like Rio de Janeiro. However, for a place known primarily for its beaches, the weather ends up playing a big role in one’s overall impression.

            Factor in ridiculously inflated prices ($60 US for a hostel room!?!) Perpetually grey skies, monster cockroaches and a room that leaks in the rain, and I don’t care how optimistic you think you are, we still had trouble falling in love with Rio.

            What Rio did have going for it, however, was its innate natural beauty and terminally insane people. The city was virtually built in the middle of a rainforest, creating a unique juxtaposition between the natural and the manmade. Huge cliffs tower up next to high-rises, thick, teeming forest hide lavish homes and historical monuments. The streets are lined with weeping jungle plants and open-air cafes.

            People from Rio are called cariocas and must be the single-most hedonistic, ass-shaking revelers on the planet. Samba music courses through their veins, thus they’re always dancing, singing, playing an instrument or doing back flips on the street. And I mean always.

            We stayed in Copacabana, the mid-way point between El Centro and the hoity-toity beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, supposedly where all the beautiful people go to play. Our first night in Rio, it rained for 15 hours straight, so we stayed indoors and watched the walls of our room ooze water as if they were bleeding.

            Our second day, the sun was shining so we went to the beach. We watched a dance-party erupt from the small tent renting out umbrellas and chairs, and paid too much for a pair of caipirinhas made by a guy we’re pretty sure was both high and drunk. Jen also lost her sunglasses after a rogue wave knocked her on her ass, putting an end to our day at the beach.

            We spent our remaining four days exploring Ipanema, cursing the rain, devouring fried fish, taking a walking-tour of El Centro, watching boogie boarders get slammed by Rio’s vicious shore break and saying over and over, “This city is bonkers.”

            Despite the camera-toting vultures atop Corcovado, taking the cog train up to see Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer was also a highlight. It was our last day in Rio and the sun was out, so we were very lucky, getting clear, panoramic views of the city in all its absurd glory.