Personal style and fashion blog

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Rio de Janeiro

We spent almost a week in Rio, although it felt like 2 days, and that we could spend weeks there and still not discover everything the city has to offer.
The rumours are true: Rio de Janeiro is magical, and in no way was I disappointed. The geography is stunning - right on the coast with endless beaches and water, and loads of small(ish) mountains (I was naively expecting one or two) nestled in between the contrasting sky scrapers and favelas.

We stayed in Catete, a neighbourhood not far from the centre. Although it wasn´t as nice as somewhere like Ipanema (but therefore cheaper), the location was great by giving us close proximity to both the central parts of the city, and the beaches towards the south. Our hostel was right by the metro, and it had all the promise of being a great place to stay, until the staff let it down. It seemed like most of them hated their job, and their guests (or maybe it was just us), with a passion, and any simple request that dragged them away from their computer was met with great sighing and rolling of eyes. But the city more than made up for that.

It felt like we did quite a lot during the week, but as I said, we hardly scratched the surface. The beaches were great, with our preference being Ipanema over Copacabana (despite Barry Manilow singing its praises) due to its stunning views and party atmosphere. The beaches are lined with bars - great for a caipirinha after a hard day of sunbathing - and vendors selling the usual touristy merchandise.
We did both the Christ and the Sugarloaf, both times in the evening - which we praised ourselves for as being the best time. It´s not as hot, and you can overlook the city both with the sun setting, and then as darkness falls and Rio is bathed in a mass of glittering lights.

View from the Sugarloaf
Rio at night
Christ the Redeemer. Bandeau: Urban Outfitters, necklace and skirt: Topshop
Sunset at Sugarloaf
Flamengo beach
The food in Rio was fantastic, and so diverse, with an abundance of great restaurants and bars, especially in Ipanema (as you can probably tell, I loved that neighbourhood). It was pretty expensive, but not nearly as much as Sao Paulo, and there are some good deals to be made.
Our sample of Rio´s nightlife did not disappoint either. On Friday night we ventured out to Lapa, the nightlife hotspot, for one of the world´s biggest street parties. It was incredible - bars, people and music spilled out on the Rua Mem de Sa, and samba was everywhere you turned - so much so that time seemed to totally escape us, and we soon forgot about our early check out the next day.

Rio de Janeiro captured my soul, and I am already planning (well, dreaming about) my next visit.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Ilha Grande, Brazil

On the 28th, we arrived in Ilha Grande, an island that sits just off the Costa Verde, and boy what a journey. After the usual late departure (nothing in South America is ever on time, and the sooner you get used to this the better), we got our transfer to Angra dos Reis. In order to get there in time for the boat to the island, the driver made up for lost time by having no care or respect for the road, and generally driving like a maniac. After being stopped by numerous policemen peering into the van and making us feel like illegal immigrants, we made it to the dock, just as it started to pour with rain (there´s no such thing as a light drizzle in Brazil). Wearing shorts and t-shirts, we were suffering. The boat trip lasted an hour to the island, and I bet on a nice day it would be a lovely trip, but my main concern was trying to retain as much body heat as possible, and not get wet.

After disembarking, we made our way to the hostel. This is where I learnt the hard way that rain, flip flops, and a backpack, is a bad combination. On a slippery wooden deck, my feet went right under me, and I found myself flat on the floor like an upside-down beetle - unable to get up, and legs and arms akimbo. Luckily, the only person to witness this was Adam, who after composing from laughter, helped me up. Fortunately, the hostel was close and relatively easy to find. We turned up, soaked to the bone, to find that the electricity had gone from the whole island and wouldn´t be back for a few hours. So our first impressions of the island consisted of us trying (and failing) to dry ourselves off, and sitting in our dark room.

Ilha Grande is beautiful, but having fallen in love with Paraty, we were unable to rave about it as much as as a lot of people we´ve met.
The island has a typical laidback feel, from its sandy streets and no-vehicle policy (although we did spot a few that must have been exempt from this rule), to the endless amounts of power-cuts that can last hours and don´t seem to be any cause for concern for the locals. It is covered in jungle, and beaches hug the side of the island all the way around, meaning that there are lot of hikes to be done, as well as water-based activities.

Unfortunately, it rained a lot during the 4 days that we were there, and there always seemed to be an ominous grey cloud in the background whe it didn´t. Being a place where all of the attractions/activities are outdoors, this wasn´t ideal - perhaps this is why we didn´t seem to enjoy it as much as we thought.
When the sun did make an appearance, our time was mainly spent on the beach - my favourite being Lopes Mendes for its long stretch of squeaky white sand, clear sea, and jungle background. The beach is completely on its own but can be reached by boat or by foot. We did the hike from Abraao which took just over 2 hours, and it was great to walk through pure Brazilian jungle (although it was pretty strenuous at times - not to mention hot!)

Lopes Mendes beach. Bikini: Asos

Monkeys on the way to Lopes Mendes

Apart from that, all we seemed to do was eat and drink - there are a number of pretty good restaurants in the village of Abraao, some with great settings looking right out to sea.

Ilha Grande is gorgeous, and probably worth the visit (especially if you´re in Rio as it´s so close), although 3 days would be more than enough. Just watch out for bugs and stray dogs...and carry a torch!

Paraty, Brazil

We spent a week in Paraty, a small coastal town on the Costa Verde, between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The town was great - full of cobbled streets (that are less like cobbles and more like random placing of big, treacherous stones), cute churches, and white buildings with colourful doors.

The hostel we stayed in, Che Lagarto, was fantastic. It was always busy and atmospheric, they put on good dinners at an equally good price, and there was a never-ending supply of caipirinhas.
As we were on the coast, we took advantage of being beach-side and mostly spent our time lying on the beach, eating, and drinking. There are lots of other beaches aound Paraty where you can go for day trips etc, but having had enough of buses for a while, we were more than happy with one of the local beaches - Jabaquara - with its idyllic view and bath-like water. There are also a number of beach bars, one of which we made the mistake of eating at the first day - but purely because of the price. The shack was run by a crazy Frenchman, who, with no menu to speak of, declared that we could have ´whatever we wanted´. We settled on spaghetti carbonara, which after a row in the kitchen with the chef over the ´proper´way to do it, came out French-style with the egg still intact. It was delicious, but what we thought was going to be cheap beach food was not, and so came our first realisation that Paraty is actually pretty expensive - at least for backpackers. Having said that, there are a few good quality, and reasonably priced, restaurants in the town, although most seemed to be out of our budget - good job the food in the hostel was so good or it would have been packet noodles all week!

Jabaquara beach

Besides an abundance of restaurants, there are some good bars in Paraty, as well as the ood club (√≥dd´ being the operative word - we went to one on the saturday night and it was like a school disco with strobe lighting, dry ice and bad music, but with the expense. And everything had to be paid for at the end of the night - a concet that took Adam at least 20 minutes to get to grips with).

On one of the days we managed to tear ourselves away from the beach and did a jeep tour, organised through the hostel. Two guys took us and a Chilean girl to all of the waterfalls around Paraty, which was fantastic. We got into the jeep (going strong since 1965), in which we were told ´not to bother´with defunct seatbelts, and headed out for the day. All the falls were great, and with not too many other tourists about, we had our pick. It was a pretty energetic day, with walking through the jungle (some difficult moments when wearing flip flops), and with the falls themselves. One was like a natural waterslide which was awesome - although I don´t think I realised how fast it was going to be, the size of the plunge at the bottom, and the impact it had on MY bottom! Other than that, we had a great day swimming about, using the rope swing, and jumping in the natural pools. The water was amazing - so clean and fresh, and full of those fish that you pay a fortune for at home to nibble at your feet.
The guides we had were fantastic and made the day - right from the beginning, to the cachaca tasting, and to the end where they stopped the jeep on the way back to ´look at the scenic view´, although it was actually so they could look for suspicious-looking mushrooms in the field.

One of the (smaller) waterfalls

The last couple of days in Paraty were as good as the rest. After a delicious Mexican meal at the hostel, we headed to a ´beach party´ (basically just a beach bar full of backpackers) and continued to ply ourselves with caipirinhas and Itaipava, causing a pretty sore head the next day. The usual conversation topics ensued - where we were travelling, where we´re from, our life situation - until we began conversing with a German guy who was only interested in whether we liked Snow Patrol. When he realised that our love for the band was not nearly as great as his, he proceeded to fall asleep - either we were too boring orhe´d had one too many. I like to think it was the latter.

Paraty has probably been our favourite place so far. The people, the scenery, and the laid-back vibe made for a fantastic week.

N.B. Adam had man flu/sore wisdom teeth, and wouldn´t let me, or anyone we met, forget it. So this is official documentation: you must feel sorry for him, he cannot cope. He is also sore, emotionally, because a few guys thought he was Scottish, and he still isn´t quite over it.

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