WHY I LOVE RIO DE JANIERO: MY FOUR DAYS ITINERARY

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Rio de Janeiro… I must admit that I was a bit nervous coming here. With all the bad news about the city plus the negative  reactions and comments from my family and friends. But the moment I stepped out of the airplane I knew right there and then that I will be having fun.


Cristo Redentor from Guanabara Bay

My love for Rio and the cariocas begun on the very same day I arrived.  Carioca or cariocas refers to  the locals of Rio de Janeiro. 

View of Rio from Cristo Redentor
On my first day , after an 11 hour trans Atlantic flight  from Rome, I was greeted by my personal driver I booked through DoBrazilRight. The same agency I used for my Carnevale ticket. It was an easy ride from the airport to my accommodation in Ipanema. Hotel San Marco Ipanema gave me immediately my room keys  even if I arrived earlier than the usual check in time. This nice gesture of my hotel allowed me to take the Rio de Janeiro Downtown Tour at 1:30 pm. 
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As soon as I was settled in my hotel room, I went out to the bank to exchange currencies. Before entering the bank the guard asked me what’s my purpose. I told him in English because I don’t speak Portuguese that I need to exchange my money. He either don’t speak English so he called a bank staff . The bank staff explained to me in her broken English that they don’t currently  have that service and told me to use the ATM machine instead or go to the money changer in one of the hotels nearby. I choose the latter. 
sunset at Ipanema Beach
 I was wandering around the area looking for a nice restaurant when as  I was waiting for the stoplight to turn green, I saw the bank guard  on his civilian uniform crossing from at the other end  of the street smiling at me and signalled me to cross  too on a red light. Well  there were no cars at that time so I did crossed and thank him when we met in the middle of the street.

this is what a favela looks like
After my tour guide, Vincent,  picked me up at my hotel lobby we went straight to the Maracana Stadium where the statue of Bellini is located. The stadium was closed at that time so we were not able to see the internal grounds. Instead our guide asked the driver to go around the stadium just so we can have an idea how huge it is. 


We then proceeded to the Sambadrome. Since preparations were still ongoing at that time for the Carnevale we were not allowed to enter the middle field. Besides it was scorching hot.
sambadrome at daytime

Next was the Metropolitan Cathedral. This church is famous for its cone shaped design. It may have modern aspect but the interior was mesmerising. 
the Cathedral
The Cathedral main aisle
the jigsaw puzzle like building right next the cathedral

took this photo of the aqueduct aboard on our shuttle bus. on the far right are the Metropolitan cathedral and the modern edifice
Another landmark in Rio de Janeiro is the Escadaria Selaron. Located in the bohemian district of Lapa, this multi coloured stairs made of tiles from all over the world was made by Jorge Selaron. 
Jorge Selaron himself


this is how I looked after an 11 hour transatlantic red eye flight
the famous Selaron Steps full of tourists
this is the portion of the famous stairs
Last stop was at the Sao Bento Monastery. It is said to be the “most beautiful architectural complexes in Brazil”. 

the church inside the Bento Monastery
More photos I took while we were roaming around Rio.

downtown Rio





Aside from the beautiful places we went I also met fellow Filipinos. What’s more surprising was we were staying in the same hotel. We only knew it when our guide dropped us in our respective accommodations. 

Ipanema sunset with new found friends.
Later in the afternoon we all went  to the Ipanema beach and had also  dinner with them. 

Second day in Rio de Janeiro I went with Grayline Tours for the Guanabara Bay Cruise. I had little expectations with the tour but I ended up enjoying it. I also met a new friend who is from Mexico. A few weeks later we met again this time in her hometown, Mexico City. This tour gives you another perspective view of Rio de Janeiro. We also passed by Niteroi and Itaipu. The tour had the option for churrascaria lunch but I didn’t availed it. 

this is our schooner 

Rio's longest bridge connecting the Rio de Janeiro city and Niteroi
Nope.. the plane is not crashing.. it about to  land in Santos Dumont airport.
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Museum of Tomorrow
downtown Rio from the Bay
Contemporary Art Museum in Niteroi 
Alicia and her mom
In the afternoon I decided to join the walking tour around the docks area. This time I needed to go to the meeting place on my own. I took the subway going to Largo da Carioca or Carioca Square and find the tour guide in red t-shirt. Call me paranoid but I was holding on to my bag the moment I was walking on the street going to the subway station. I was on my “red alert” on what’s going on around me. But the moment I boarded the train I felt comfortable seeing other passengers tinkering their phones. An old lady wants to talk  to me but whenI told her I don’t speak Portuguese she apologised and begun speaking in English. She even told me how many stations more before my stop and where will I exit. Same thing happened on my way back. A gentleman helped me find my train and the right exit.The photos below are from my walking tour.
This is The Old Cathedral of Rio
According to our walking tour guide, this is one of the cities older building and it's about to become a 5 star hotel
centuries old houses

Olympic Village





The third day, it’s my birthday!

I had a very early wake up call because I booked the Early Access to Cristo Redentor and Sugar Loaf Tour. The night before, I explained  to my hotel’s receptionist if I could take my breakfast earlier than the scheduled time because of my tour  but they said NO. I was kind of disappointed but I had decided to just buy any food I can find at that hour.  Before the scheduled pick up time of 6:30AM I was already at the lobby. I told the receptionist who changed the night receptionist that I am waiting for my pick up. To my surprise he offered me to have my breakfast even if the dining area is still close. He went to  the kitchen and talked to the staff to let me have my breakfast. He even said sorry that they are still preparing the other foods but I can eat what was already prepared in the dining area and  that I take my meal calmly and he will just call me if my pick up will arrive.  


So my birthday celebration started. 
We arrived in Cristo Redentor before the scheduled opening time. There were already some people who were on other group tours but we were on the firsts batch to climb up. I can say that booking the early access was worth it because a few minutes later the place was already swarmed.
early morning crowd
The view up there was magnificent but seeing the Cristo Redentor in real life was beyond words. And to actually see it on your birthday is a blessing.
from the  ticket office there are different ways going up to the viewing deck. stairs, hike, escalator, elevator 
the small chapel at the base of the statue
After spending a couple of hours here we went straight to the Sugar Loaf. To be able to reach the top we needed to ride two cable cars. First  is from the ticketing station to Moro da Urca then another cable car to Sugar Loaf Mountain. There’s a nice viewing deck, museum and refreshment area in Moro da Urca. 
Sugar Loaf Mountain

the oldest cable car
Ačai pronounced as "a-sa-ee". frozen amazon fruit topped with ripe mangoes

After the  tour I  went straight to my hotel to take a rest before heading out for  lunch at the  the famous Garota Ipanema restaurant. It is well known because of the song “The girl of Ipanema” was written by the composer  in here. While I was in the corridor I met one of the housekeeping staff. She was all smiles I thought maybe because  of the  Carnevale hype that will  officially opens later tonight. We greeted each other then suddenly she gave me garlands and told me to use it later at the Carnevale in Sambadromo. I was so overwhelmed that I hugged and kissed her. 
the garlands that the housekeeping lady gave me
Where is better place to buy havaianas slipper than in Rio de Janeiro? A few blocks from my hotel was a havaianas store. I went there to buy  gifts for my nephews and nieces. What happened next? The saleslady seemed like an old acquaintance, she was very kind and patient with me. After I paid my purchases I said thank you and goodbye to her but she instead hugged and kissed me and walked me to the door. I mean, I never had that kind of experience in any store  anywhere! She was like a dear friend. 
filet mignon ala garota 
havaianas flip flops in different shades and colours
Before 7:00PM I needed to be in the lobby for my pick up to the sambadrome. Ofcourse I brought  my garlands. I was a little bit apprehensive going there alone. My friend backed out from the trip. Add to that, I choose a seat on section 8 which is not the tourists section. Once I entered the Sambadrome the anxiousness immediately went away.  Just by seeing the people around made me feel comfortable. I was really enjoying the parade , cheering the participants and dancing with the rhythm when a Carioca came to me and offered food. At first I was wary but they also offered foods and drinks to other tourists like me in our section so I obliged. I found out that one of them will be playing an instrument on Championship Day.  I may went alone to the sambadrome but had the best birthday celebration with the friendly cariocas. 



when you see these "sweep guys" that means that the group's performance is already finish.  They are right after the last performer to clean the runway
section 7





 It was already dawn when I said my thank yous and goodbyes to them. As much I wanted to watched all the participants but I needed go back to my  hotel to prepare for my morning  flight to Iguazo.
a kind carioca who kept me company and offered drinks and food. 
Fourth day in Rio, after checking out I stayed a bit in the lobby on purpose and waited for my new found friends. It's been days I haven't seen them and I hate  go without saying goodbye to my new found friends. And  there they are in the dining area. 

It may just be a short four days but enough for me to fell in love with the city and the cariocas.