We have arrived in Rio, at last! It was a long day of traveling: after getting back from the US-Portugal game, we were up at 1:30 for a 5:00 flight via Brasília. But if only all travel days were like today!
Rio upon arrival:
Once we got to Rio, we checked in, put our bags down and headed off to Santa Teresa. All my life I’ve wanted to come to Rio, and the idea Santa Teresa has been a big reason why. My expectations were not disappointed, and our first real meal of the trip was a major contributing factor.
After walking around Santa Teresa and seeing the Escadaria Selarón (the beautiful and colorful mosaic stairs dedicated to the people of Brasil), we set off to find a place to eat (our food options at both Manaus and Brasília airports were lackluster). Brasil was playing at 17:00, and we were prepared to struggle to find an open place given out previous experience in Manaus on seleção game day. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and while out first choice was closed, there were plenty of open-air bars with the game on.
We ended up at a restaurant called Rústico. It was a rustic and eclectic, but also refined place that had great light pouring through its opened windows onto the wood tables. It reminded me of one of my favorite places in Brussels, Le Cercle des Voyageurs, which also has a very moody, let´s be alone together vibe… and beautiful windows as well. When we got to Rústico, we were the only ones in the restaurant, and there was no game on. We actually debated leaving for some of the more energetic bars down the street, but I´m glad we opted to stay. More people eventually showed up shortly after we did, and a television was tuned onto the game. It was a great game (Brasil won, and secured top spot out of their group), and we enjoyed talking throughout the night with some of the Italians who were sitting next to our table.
But honestly, of course, the best part was the food. Oh my. I chose a Rio rift on barbeque: ribs slathered with barbeque sauce made from guava. I loved trying something that I knew well enough, but with a twist, and it was delicious. I was very impressed. Keith ordered a very decent frango ao poblano mole (chicken with mole), and Abby had a fantastic moqueca vegetariana de maxine com arroz com castanha de caju (some sort of stewed vegetables in rice and cashews, which the waiter tried to explain by drawing something that looked more like the way a third grader draws a sun… we´re still wondering exactly what he was trying to get at). There was also a selection of rather fine finishing oils… a very spicy mix, vanilla beans in oil, and then two others I think were infused with other spices.
And if all that wasn´t enough for us, we went even further and ordered an amazing petite gateau de doce de leite com sorvete (dolce de leite cake with ice cream). Incredible. We were there for nearly four hours, and the time just flew by. What was most impressive was the amount of care that the waiters and chef de cuisine put into with presenting their dishes on both the plates and to us at our table. Not a bad introduction to Rio.
The next day, our first full day in Rio, let us really play the tourist. We had a somewhat plan to try and see both Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf, but we only got to Cristo Redentor since the lines up and down the mountain were so long. It was a good experience, and we also spent a lot of time walking around several parks. Rio is beautiful and more tropical than I expected. Sometimes it is hard to believe that we´re in a city at all. It is certainly different from Chicago.
The place we´re staying at has a decent breakfast, which kept us well fed until we were due to go up Corcovado to see the statute (we had a train reservation to go up at 14:20). We were a bit rushed for time since it took a while to get back to the train station to go up, so unfortunately we opted for a fast-food chain we´ve seen both in Rio and Manaus: Bob´s Burgers. We were even more rushed since it took forever to get our food (and it was just as good as you would expect). And of course, the train was running late since a tree fell on the tracks earlier, delaying all the next trains by nearly a half hour. Oh well, that´s traveling sometimes, no?
Our dinner more than made up for the lackluster and rather embarrassing lunch. We ventured into Flamengo and settled on a seriously tiny Japanese restaurant called Mitsuo right off the main street. Keith and I both had an assortment of maki sushi, which were standard but very decent. I also had some sort of creamy shrimp tempura. Abby had some soba and vegetables; despite being one of her few vegetarian options, it was very tasty. She also tried a few bites of sushi here and there just for fun.
Tomorrow is beach day, and I´m very much looking forward to seeing some more of the sights that make Rio so famous, both in my mind and in others. Until then !