We arrived in Rio de Janeiro from the Lone Star State not sure what to expect, but ready to explore the heartbeat of this vibrant city. We started our first day with a traditional Brazilian lunch meal at Jobi Restaurant. The portions were large and the grilled shrimp with mint green rice was decent. This was our introduction to authentic Brazilian cuisine. Content with our meal, we left the restaurant and explored downtown Rio. Walking, sightseeing and taking in the hustle and bustle of people passing by, we adjusted to the pulse of this great city.
Day 2 was filled with a 40-mile trip to an alluring city that has a sci-fi-like name, Petropolis. As we approach Petropolis, the tour bus snakes up a winding two-lane mountain road. Riding up the mountain, we caught amazing glimpses of Brazilian life outside big city limits. The road was lined with merchants selling bananas and many handmade gifts such as purses, bags, and clothing. But there was no sci-fi here, just a busy small city hovering with locals shopping for everything from fresh produce, shoes, to some of the finest chocolate your taste buds have ever had.
Our trip to Petropolis included a tour of the Quitandinha Palace, the Imperial Museum. It is the former summer palace of the Emperor. Upon arrival, you are given slippers to put over your shoes. They nicely preserve marble palace floors that help showcase antique mahogany furniture and stunning artwork. To top it off, the palace houses the Imperial Crown studded with over 600 diamonds and 77 pearls. We next toured Petropolis Cathedral. It was not only exquisite in its own right, but we arrived as a couple began their nuptials ceremony. Seeing the cathedral dressed for a wedding was simply beautiful. If ever in Rio de Janeiro, make time to visit this lost treasure. You’ll be glad you did.
The tour offered time to walk around the city. Of course, we found not 1, not 2, but 3 chocolate factories. This alone made the day trip worth its weight in gold … chocolate gold that is.
If you have extra travel dollars and time, make a point to visit the Iguazu Falls. This will require a 1-hour flight from Rio to the Iguazu International Airport. The waterfalls are part of the Iguazu River bordering Argentina and Brazil. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. One look at the falls and it may inspire a legend of your own.
No trip to Rio would be complete without visiting Christ the Redeemer statue. Once you reach the peak of Corcovado, a 2,329-foot granite peak atop Tijuca Forest, your eyes will gaze upon the massive Christ the Redeemer statue. We were in awe. The statue and the surrounding views from the roof of Rio are simply spectacular. Visited late evening to enjoy sunset only added to the views.
We closed out our time in Rio attending a Samba show. To see the performers move like belly dancers in sync with African rhythms and Latin music beats will leave you feeling mesmerized by the music and trying to figure out how can I move my hips like this when I get home? This is truly soul … Latin soul that can only be captured in Rio.
With just one more day left, we saved the beach for last. Our time in Rio had been sun-kissed weather with nice balmy breezes. But on our last day, gray clouds rolled in and the sun went into hiding. Unlike other days, when the sun is not out in Rio, the beach looks homeless. No vendors, no kids playing football, no one lying out. So we changed our plans and did some last minute souvenir shopping. One thing for sure on our next trip to Rio, we will hit the beach first!
Source: Sherri Crawford, Soul of America