My dream for ringing in 2013 was to go someplace warm and tropical in the face of our foggy San Franciscan winter and countdown to a new year bathed in heat. For months the dream of a tropical getaway during a global celebration was so enticing that by December it had become almost all-consuming. It’s almost impossible to believe that our trip truly happened but here it is nearly 4 weeks since we got back. To say it was a whirlwind adventure is a true understatement in every sense of the world. My friend Rachael and I ventured to South America with the goal of beaches, caipirinhas, and Rio de Janeiro in mind. After leaving early on Christmas morning we had nearly 6 days to travel around and explore the NYT’s #1 place to visit in 2013 (both of us saw this article for the first time the day after we got back home – HA!). It really is a very strange experience to flip-flop between two extreme weather conditions. Going between the dead of winter to the heart of summer makes packing feel unnatural. Packing a suitcase full of summer dresses and bathing suits while you’re currently wearing 3 layers of sweaters is…odd.
Of course the Brazilian landscape is…intoxicating. I’ve never seen such lush greenery and mountains that look so otherworldly. The way that the hills roll and peak feel like they were plucked right out of a fairy tale. I will say honestly though that Rio was not quite the tourist destination that we had initially anticipated and I think that this is only fair to point this out to any other travelers thinking of spending a tropical retreat in Brazil. I will say (and admit that it was quite foolish) that we had read about the crime and dangers of Rio but felt that it was a big tourist destination and thought that we’d be travelling to the version of Rio consisting of beaches, samba, girls from Ipanema, clubs of Copacabana, and of course, Christ the Redeemer protecting over all. Weeeeell… the city is very dense and very populated and of course this means that there is a lot of crime so take that into consideration, and when you are in Rio during one of their biggest holiday’s, you should expect that there will be some shifty characters about. And the city is so large that there really isn’t one particular nucleus for tourist areas, the places you want to see and experience are all over the city and very much spread out. So take this also into consideration when dodging the “children of the night”. Cabs are essential – this is not a city to walk around in at night. But there are still beautiful points. The city architecture is an eclectic mix of South American and European influences that harken back to the countries Portuguese heritage. Often times you can walk along European style monuments in a Parisian-type square right next to the beach line. Incredible.
After ringing in the New Year amidst a 16 minute long firework show directly on the beach surrounded by other carioca’s decked out in white (symbolizing good luck for the coming year) Rachael and I headed to Buenos Aires for 4 days. Arriving in Argentina was like a breath of fresh air. I truly wish that we had planned more time in this amazing city. True to the rumors, it really does have a very European feel and layout. In BA not only did we see a fantastic live Tango show, but we bought custom leather jackets, consumed mountains of Argentine beef and Malbec, saw firsthand the city’s ongoing admiration for Eva Peron and walked amidst the crypts of the countries elite. The Argentinian people were by far the friendliest people and most welcoming that we had met and I strongly suggest to anyone who goes to South America not to miss this wonderful country.
After 4 days in Buenos Aires, Rachael and I went back to Brazil to visit some of the smaller towns. We stopped by the Imperial city of Petropolis and saw the Summer home of the Royal Family and then afterward went to Buzios, the beach town retreat of Brigitte Bardot in the 1960’s. Buzios is an incredible getaway about 3 hours away from Rio by Bus and a MUST-SEE! Buzios was truly the tropical retreat we had been waiting for and full of other Brazilian’s escaping the bustling city as well. Overall in the 2 and a ½ weeks that we were in South America we got sunburned many times, drank a lifetimes worth of caipirinhas, saw incredible sites and met some wonderful people. My favorite moment of the entire trip was our day in Ilha Grande. Rachael and I took a bus about 3.5 hours south to a beautiful island dotted line of the Brazilian coast and took an all-day boat tour. We drank cheap beer, swam in the ocean and in between listened to Samba music played by a little 4-piece band on the boat. Check out the video below to see for yourself! Sitting next to us was a group of VERY fun, VERY flamboyant gay boys and the biggest impression I will take away from my time in Brazil is just how true the spirit of the Carioca is. Play any music remotely near them and everyone knows the words, sings along loudly, and dances until their heart’s content! Because any opportunity to stop and enjoy the pleasures of life needs to be taken with both hands. Brasil.