I’ve made it quite clear on this blog that European beaches kinda stress me out. It was partly due to this – and the fact that I LOVE good beaches – that I was so looking forward to visiting the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.
Unfortunately, the weather gods were clearly not on our side on our first day in Rio. It rained ALL DAY, and not in that annoying Dutch way with which I’m now well acquainted. I’m quite used to that omnipresent wet air found in the Low Countries and the UK, but not so much the tropical downpour that greeted us in Rio.
Even in the rain, we found that we quite liked Copacabana. Everything I’d read about it told me that it had seen better days and of late, it’s all about Ipanema. But I didn’t find it tacky at all; it was full of open-air bars, little kiosks on the sand and although the beach was empty, it looked clean and loved. We decided that we had to go back. Which we did. Twice.
But first, we had to check out Ipanema. It’s the glamour girl, and without a doubt is pretty much the most stunning city beach I’ve ever seen. (Sorry, Bondi.) All of the buildings opposite the beach aren’t too high, so the ‘Two Brothers Hill’ stands out proudly as the main landmark at the far western side. It was only about ten in the morning, so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, which was hard to believe in a city of over six million.
As Paul has a thing about ‘touching the water’ in just about every place we visit (this time it was ‘oh, but I haven’t touched the Atlantic from the western side!’), we then raced into the water, with me being scared by a wave almost immediately. Sometimes I’m really bad at being Australian.
We ended up getting distracted by the English and Dutch team buses going past, so we wandered then through the neigbourhood. It was like another world, with upscale boutiques, day spas and hipster cafes selling tiny plates of food for about as much as a month’s rent anywhere else in the city. We nonetheless indulged in the latter, eating a brownie that looked like a work of art. Eventually we hit the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, a large lake nearby usually referred to as simply ‘Lagoa’. I’d seen the lake on maps of Rio but had hardly heard anything about it, but it was a lovely surprise. We joined the cyclists and walkers part of the way around, before succumbing to the silly but fun paddle boats.
We hired one – a giant duck – and as my feet couldn’t touch the pedals Paul pedalled us around in the sunshine. Sometimes I love being short. We liked Ipanema – hey, it was pretty easy to like – but we wanted to give Copacabana a second chance. That night we headed back for the FIFA Fan Fest, basically a big free party with bands, a big screen to watch the football, reasonably priced drinks and lots of sponsors’ stands.
We watched Brazil-Mexico at the Fan Fest in Porto Alegre which was a lot of fun, but Rio’s was in a slightly more iconic location. Yep, it was right on the beach. We joined a few thousand others from all around the world and watched Bosnia-Nigeria with the sand between our toes and the sound of waves crashing nearby.
All my photos are shocking (there’s also a fuzzy one of me looking like I’ve had way too many Brahmas) so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say it was a LOT OF FUN. I cannot wait to see what it will be like for the beach volleyball at the Olympics in 2016; it seems to me to be the perfect venue.
We still weren’t quite done with Copacabana, so on our last morning in town we snuck in one last visit. Being a Sunday, the boulevard alongside the beach was closed to traffic, meaning that the whole stretch was transformed into a parade of people. I could hardly think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning and not for the last time, found myself feeling just a tad bit jealous of those lucky enough to call Rio home. We joined the parade for a while before moving onto the sand. We didn’t quite know the routine here either but I didn’t freak out; a short little lady trotted up to us straight away and showed us her wares. We hired chairs from her, ordered drinks from another and enjoyed the free entertainment of people-watching. I could get used to this, I thought.
European beaches may stress me out, but Rio’s don’t. Not in the slightest. They are drop-dead gorgeous, open for everyone and utterly relaxing. I’m already plotting my return.
Each Sunday I’ve been connecting with some other travel blogs through #SundayTraveler. Click the below link for some other great stories through chasingthedonkey.com.