Rio de Janeiro: Culture and Nature in a beautiful city

Welcome To The Dynamic City Of Rio

Rio, a city everyone’s heard of, but not all of us have been. I had the tremendous pleasure of visiting and exploring this beautiful city in Brazil last summer, the summer of 2016. For 2 weeks I was stationed in the city of Rio, with not one day where we had nothing to do or to see. From the extremely rich culture, delicious food, incredible caipirinha’s and parties to the beautiful nature of, and around, the city, from hikes up in the mountains to boat trips to skydiving! In this city there is something to do for everyone, whether you love a lazy holiday on the beach or an active holiday, you can all find it in this one city.

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First view of Rio de Janeiro from our apartment

Culture

The culture in Brazil left an impression on me that I don’t think I will ever forget. The people, who were extremely kind and started dancing in a small alley when samba music was being played and who urged you to dance with them. If you have the opportunity, you should visit Scenarium, a samba club, the food and drinks are really nice, but when the hour is a bit later the ground floor transforms into a dancefloor with live music. A place where strangers ask each other to dance and even if you don’t know how to dance the samba, don’t worry, they will teach you. It is really worth a visit.
When in Rio, or better, in Brazil, you should try Feijoada, a delicious Brazilian dish and a traditional Caipirinha. The plates of food are very large, so when it says for 2 people, you probably have enough for 3.
Moreover, the buildings and statues in Rio are prodigious and huge. The first night, when we were in the taxi to our apartment, we could see Christ the Redeemer on top of the mountain and it already seemed very big, but nothing could have prepared me for the moment I stood right in front of it. The view was breath-taking and the statue was colossal and impressive. (tip: try to go up the mountain right before sunset, you have the best view from up there)

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

As Dutchies, we are quite used to riding a bike, but biking got an entirely different meaning in this city. Along the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana is a beautiful bike lane, but everywhere else in the city it’s a bit of a free for all when it comes to biking. However, it was definitely worth it. We biked from our apartment to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a beautiful lagune and we biked almost entirely around it.
Since we were in Rio the summer of the Olympics, we could see a lot of the preparations, especially close to Copacabana (the stands to watch volleyball from for example), which was very interesting, but also quite disruptive for the inhabitants and day-to-day activities.

Another thing that is definitely worth  a visit is the Museo do Amanhã, also called the museum of tomorrow. It’s very beautiful and instructive, it’s about the different cultures of the world and about the environment and how this will affect ‘tomorrow’.

Nature

Now on to my favourite part of the trip, the nature surrounding Rio. Two of the most amazing things, in my opinion, that we have done in and around Rio were a hike and a boat trip.

But we did and saw many more incredible stuff, for example:

  • Skydiving
  • Pão de açúcar
  • Jardim botânico
  • Santa Teresa
  • Parque da Lage
  • Parque das Ruinas

 

Pico Da Tijuca

The hike took us op to the pico da Tijuca, a hike we did with a personal guide. It is quite a walk up the mountain, but even if you have never did a hike before, you can do it. This peak is the second highest one in Rio and gives you an amazing view of the city. During our walk up we even saw a sloth, and yes, they are as slow in real life as you might expect. Sadly, we did not have the fortune to see monkeys, but the guide said it was rarer to see a sloth than a monkey, so we were lucky in some way.

Pico da Tijuca

Pico da Tijuca

 

Angra Dos Reis (Boat Trip)

One of my friends who lives in Rio suggested a boat trip, Angra dos Reis, to us and are we glad that we did it. You visit a few small islands, with beautiful white sand beaches. You also have dinner on one of these beautiful islands, you get to spend a full day with your friends on a boat and see a lot of cool places. And, to top it all off, the sunset looks beautiful reflected on the water. Little heads up, if you are staying in Rio it is a three hour drive to the boat, they will come pick you up at your apartment/hotel and also bring you back again.

Sunset on the water (Angra dos Reis)

Sunset on the water (Angra dos Reis)

 

Jardim Botânico

The Jardim Botânico is extremely impressive and you can spend an entire day there without getting bored. In this park you can find many bodies of water, green and animals. When we were there it was really calm and quiet which only added to the serene atmosphere of the park. We walked around for quite a while and took a whole bunch of photos.

Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro

Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro

Jardim Botânico (little monkey)

Jardim Botânico (little monkey)

 

Extreme Sports – Skydiving

If you are more of an extreme sports person, I would highly recommend going skydiving, either in Rio or in Resende. I did my first ever jump above Resende, a municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and it was the best thing I have ever done. The view from 4,5 km up in the air was beautiful and it is a hundred percent worth it. However, if you are not up for this, don’t worry. There are so many places in Rio where you have an amazing view of the city and everything surrounding the city.

 

Beaches And Pão De Açúcar

A few of the things that might be a bit more commonly known are the Pão de Açúcar (sugarloaf) and the beachesIpanema and Copacabana. Pão de Açúcar is one of the things with a beautiful view where you can see the harbour, something of which many paintings are in circulation, and the beaches are great if you just want a day to relax. However, even on the beaches there are enough things to do, from paddle boarding to volleyball to surfing.

Copacabana beach

Copacabana beach

There were a lot more things we could have done in and around Rio. It really depends on what it is you are interested in. We decided to mainly stay in the city of Rio, but there is a lot more to see and visit in the country of Brazil as well.
We were very lucky to have two friends with us, who spoke Portuguese, because there was a bit of a language barrier (even if you do speak Spanish), but it won’t be for a lack of trying. The people are really kind and really want to help you.
For means of travel in the evening, we mostly relied on taxis, because our friend who lives there told us not to walk the streets at night. So, my last advice to the people who want to visit Rio, enjoy, but be careful!

2 weeks in Ireland

Could there be a better day to tell all of you about my amazing trip to Ireland? The answer is no, today it has been exactly 2 years ago that I went on my first ever holiday all by myself, to Ireland. For 2 weeks I roamed the beautiful green country of the Irish and let me tell you, it was the best experience I have ever had. I’ve had many more amazing holidays, but Ireland was the start of my travel fever and I will never forget the people I met and the things I saw.48

My journey started in Eindhoven, a small airport in the Netherlands, where I said goodbye to my mum and eventually got on the plane that would take me to Ireland. I landed in Dublin, but I didn’t stay here, I took the bus to Limerick where I would spend most of my nights. However, the way I spent my days in this green country was very different. I saw many different parts of the country from Killarney, Dingle, Limerick, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Galway and it ended with a few days in Dublin. In the rest of this blog I will talk to you about my favourite spots and the things I loved the most.

I want to start by saying that the Irish are one of the kindest people I have ever met. Whenever I looked a bit lost, they came rushing to help me and they are always up for a chat – very different where I’m from, when you’re on public transport you mostly just sit in silence, but in Ireland I had a few of my favourite conversations in the bus.
One of my absolute favourites, and probably the one of every tourist, were the cliffs of Moher. As someone from the Netherlands, where most of our country is below sea-level, these extremely high and extremely beautiful cliffs looking out over the ocean was incredible. On the journey to the cliffs I met another traveller at the smallest train station you could ever imagine, and guess what? He was Dutch as well! We travelled together, since we both had the same destination in mind. Once we arrived at the cliffs, we decided to walk all the way to the end (you can walk in two different directions, we chose the one without the little castle), we were very lucky, because it was a relatively nice day. Of course, that luck ran out the minute we were at the very edge of the cliffs when it started to rain. In that moment, we knew we’d be soaked whether we rushed back or just walked back, so we took our time and enjoyed the wild sea crushing against the rocks. Today, it is still one of my favourite spots.8

Tip: for all you Harry Potter lovers out there, a small part of the 6th movie (where Dumbledore takes Harry to find the medallion and they stand on a rock outside of the cave) was filmed at the cliffs of Moher!

A few of the other things that you should visit while in Ireland is Dingle, it’s a small town where you can go on a boat trip to spot dolphins. It also has great diners, where you can have the most delicious food, I particularly liked the restaurant Idas. After spending some time in Dingle I moved on to Killarney. Here I rented a bike and spent an entire day in the national park, one of the most relaxed and calming days in Ireland. If you want a day where you don’t have to talk to people, this is an activity for you. It’s quaint and the scenery is amazing, with a huge lake, waterfalls and enough green and trees to satisfy your need for nature.

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Furthermore, the castle and folk park of Bunratty is also well worth a visit. It feels like you went back in time and you get a feel for what it must have been like back in the day.

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What I liked about traveling in Ireland was that no matter where you looked, there was green everywhere, also a lot of old buildings and a lot of ruins. Things that I find immensely interesting. To be honest, the thing that made Ireland so amazing were the people. I met a young couple from America in a hostel, who invited me to go to a pub with them. Needless to say, that evening was a very late one. Almost every pub I went to had live, and sometimes traditional, music. The music gave me a real feel for the Irish tradition and since it was spent in great company, it was all I could have asked for! Of course, when you’re in Ireland you have to try Guinness, though I have to admit it wasn’t really my thing.
I was lucky to know some people who live in Ireland, because they took me under their wing and showed me the most amazing things. For example, I went cub hunting with a large group of people and young hounds. We tried to keep up with the hounds, with wellies through the mud and through ditches. Afterwards, we all stayed together for an Irish breakfast with black pudding, a delicacy that you have to try when you’re in Ireland. Also, if you are not used to drinking tea and someone offers you a cup, make sure you ask for milk and/or sugar, because black tea in Ireland is extremely strong, a thing I learned the hard way!

If you have the chance, try to visit the university of Limerick. I was able to sit in with a few classes in journalism, the people were very nice and you have karaoke nights and who doesn’t like karaoke?
I ended my 2 weeks in Ireland with a family in Dublin. I met this woman on the flight from Eindhoven to Dublin, she was the aunt of a guy from my high school and when we landed she came up to me and gave me a piece of paper and her number and she told me if I wanted to spend a few days in Dublin I could stay with her and her family, which I did. Sadly, it was a holiday the weekend I was there and a lot of the things I wanted to see were closed, for example Trinity college and the library. Then again, this gives me a great excuse to go back and visit Ireland again!
For everyone who loves nature, drinking, music and kind people, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, I would recommend going to Ireland. It was one of the best things I have ever d24one and I loved every single minute of it!

a worthwhile life is a life well travelled