This spring, I took myself to Rio de Janeiro for a week. It was my first time in South America and I couldn’t wait. Having never been much of a beach bunny, I stayed with Anna in hilly Santa Teresa, a neighborhood known for its artists, cobble stone streets and vibrant music scene. It was just the spot I was looking for.
On connection to the outdoors: Any breeze is welcome during the summers, due to the overall humidity. Most buildings in Rio don’t have screens. In Santa Teresa, shutters are very popular. You will see windows open towards the street during the day but generally, most are closed in the evening to prevent mosquitoes from getting in.
They have a saying about mosquitoes here: “unfortunately, if it happens, it happens”, which can be unsettling but most everyone is accustomed to this aspect of tropical life.
On food culture and sourcing from the Amazon: I loved the local food in Rio and wish I’d spend more time just to sample across the region. As my first dinner, I had freshly-caught fish from the Amazon steamed in banana leaf and served on a pool of creamy banana puree. Heaven.
Breakfast isn’t a huge ordeal in Brazil. Very few people go to cafes in the morning as lunch is the focal point of the day.
One thing I loved about traveling abroad in Europe is the dairy, which is truly very sweet unlike that in the States. The same goes for in Rio. I woke up every morning to fix my daily breakfast of wheat toast slathered with honey and butter; it was dreamy.
On Friendliness: Everyone, including passersby, restaurant staff and shopkeepers, was incredibly open. Obligada means thank you in Portuguese and I said it liberally everywhere I went in part due to everybody’s warmth. I even managed to have minutes-long conversations with my taxi drivers with the little Portuguese I did carry around. All else was a mix of English, French and Spanish – and it mostly worked!
The French influence: I didn’t expect that Rio de Janeiro would have such a strong French connection. My host, a Rio native who lived in France for close to a decade before coming back, assured me of that. Per recommendation, I dined at CT Boucherie where I had warm roasted vegetables, creamy mash served with a rare cut of chateaubriand and strolled along the tree-lined streets of Leblon. For one afternoon, it felt just like Paris and for that, I felt glad in my heart.
I love you, Rio and now I’m sure the rest of the world will begin to fall for you too.
(Pictures from my Nikon D5300)