Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
If you ask any locals for information regarding Christ the Redeemer, always use ‘Christo Redentor’, as no one knew what we were talking about when asked in English.
At 2300 ft above the City of Rio, there are two ways up – The Corcovado Rack Railway, or a two-hour hike through the Tijuca rainforest.
As one of the 7 Wonders of the World, you can expect to queue for several hours to squash onto this quaint vertical railway, so pick your time wisely. We ventured just before sunset.
Boarding the first train I sat back and took in the lush views as you pass through Tijuca rainforest. The journey takes approximately 20 minutes, and in places it can feel a little hairy.
When the train doors open, there he is waiting with open arms. At a height of 125 feet, he’s a very powerful figure.
Going at sunset was beautiful as you look over the City and see all the lights start to twinkle below. It also means you can have longer perfecting your selfie as you are not fighting with the hordes of other tourists.
Due to the resemblance of concentrated refined sugar, the Mountain was named. A glass wall cable car will give you 360-degree views of the City as you make the 3-minute journey upwards. There are two cable cars to go up, so you can stop half way if your nervous. Once at the top there are viewing platforms as well as a café serving coffee’s, Caipirinhas and Brahma beer. If your fortunate to have a clear day this is a great resting stop.
Copacabana, Ipanema & surrounding beaches.
I’ll be honest I had high expectations of the infamous Copacabana beach. I thought it would be brimming with café's and beach bars along a glorious stretch of coastline (the latter half is true), but there’s a big busy main road all along and no cafes or beach bars to be seen.
At any time of day, you will find joggers, skateboarders and rollerblader’s going up and down the boardwalk, giving it a Venice Beach vibe.
Personally, I found Ipanema- and if you want to go further - Leblon beach to be more pleasant. You can find trails to watch the sunset from Ipanema that are very easy to follow. Everything just felt more calm and pleasant the further you go.
I didn’t venture to the Favela’s as I find it strange paying to look at people that are struggling, but many are interested in this, and there are tours available.
Food & Drink
Street food was the order of the day for me! Fresh Coxinha (shredded chicken covered in dough and deep fried in batter) can be found everywhere. Followed by Churro’s (a long thin donut that they squirt chocolate and dolce leche into).
Caipirinhas are the national cocktail. Made with Cachaca, sugar & lime, you are sure to have more than one. Guarana Antarctica is a Brazilian soft drink that will have you shunning other famous brands, and for beer lovers there is Brahma.
Safety & language
The first question everyone asks...’but did you really feel safe?’ Yes, I did! Travelling as a single woman I arrived with concerns but found everyone to be so helpful. In fact, everyone went out of their way to be helpful. As I looked at a packed bus with my large back pack I thought there’s no way I’m getting on, but the passengers thought otherwise as they passed my bag down the bus and told me to get on (that would never happen on the London underground).
As a Portuguese speaking country (also Spanish), there is a definite language barrier as most locals don’t speak English. However, I found it easy enough to get by, it never felt like an issue.
On my last night I headed to the home of Samba in Lapa. An abundance of bars with live music and people dancing. I sat back, and people watched. A few amorous men tried chatting, but I think they soon got the sign that I was happy on my own. Then a group of Argentinian guys on their holiday sat next to me and we all got chatting. My plan to go home early went out the window as they tried to teach me how to dance. It looks so easy, but being an uptight westerner, the rhythm was not in my hips.
We parted ways at 3am and I hailed a taxi. Realising I had no cash I asked to stop at an ATM. We tried over 5 and none of them would work. As Obrigado (hello) was the extent of my Portuguese knowledge I tried to explain. Now if I was in London at this point the driver would tell you to get out if you have no money. Not this guy. In broken English he said he would collect it from my hostel in the morning. I explained I was flying in the morning, and the response ‘leave it at the reception’. What a driver!! I made sure I left the money along with a note of thanks. Hopefully it made it to him as being stranded in the middle of the night could have ended my Rio experience in a very different way.
That wasn’t the end of my run in with helpful people. As I tried to pay for food at the airport on my card I was informed it was cash only. I was short by £2 and due to leaving didn’t want to draw more out, when a pleasant man next to me said don’t worry I’ll pay for it and off he went.
What a great way to leave a great City