Monday, November 30, 2015

14th - Ipanema Butoh

The beach was a couple of blocks from where we were staying. Rio's beaches are absolutely stunning – the hills and the city as background provide a fantastic contrasting background. So, it was no surprise the habib asked me one day to go with him at sunrise so I could film him while he did Butoh.

This man's crazy. The place was beautiful. The time was perfect. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

14th - Ipanema food

OK, now I'm in a race against time to finish blogging about Brazil, then the Yucatán peninsula, then Seoul! before this year ends! The good news is the only thing left to blog about Rio de Janeiro is Ipanema. The bad thing is that I have so much to say about it! So you're in for a whole week of Ipanema posts, starting with... the food!

Let's start with sherbets. An almost obvious choice given the warm weather. This place, Vero, was supposed to have some of the best in the city. With a nice, citrusy lemon sherbet and a chocolate one (yes, a sherbet, no milk, vegan!), I couldn't ask for more. 

Then there was the drinking. Not too far from where we were there was a Delirium Café! The original one opened in Brussels, and now there are a few in France, Japan, Italy... and Rio! Of course, the beer selection was massive, and we enjoyed a few delicious drafts there. 

Remember I mentioned in a previous post having Amazonian food? We found a place in Ipanema too! Now, the other one, Tacacá do Norte, is probably the best in all of Rio. But this one, Amazônia Soul, was pretty good too. Of course, I had to have yet another bowl of that amazing tacacá soup. Tangy, spicy, lip numbing... too good! But then the habib had something (I can't remember what it was called) in the richest, thickest, darkest sauce you can imagine. It was amazing! I almost wished I had ordered that (but I still love tacacá more, lol). And to finish, a bowl of smoothie-like açaí. Yep, Amazonian food rocks! 

Also, remember the song The Girl from Ipanema? Well, the café where it was first sung was right around the corner! And is also renowned for its picanha (a kind of cut very appreciated by Brazilians). I don't think I had ever eaten so much meat. It wasn't bad at all, although my lack of experience with meat probably makes my opinion pretty worthless. Anyhow, I bet quite a few of you will be drooling over this pic...

Another must in Rio are its fruit shakes! I only had one during our whole stay, but it was the best, with a mix of a number of exotic fruits I barely recognized turning into a dense, thick, dark smoothie. Yum!

We also tried moqueca. Well, I had had some in Santa teresa, but that was the vegan one. This one here was the seafood moqueca. Mind you, this is not a Carioca dish, it is from Bahia. Now, the photo looks horrible, completely unappetizing, right? But just think of a seafood stew with coconut milk, coriander, tomato... Now it looks different, right?

Now, though I was open to trying all these new non-vegan things, at some point we were like dying for something completely vegan! So we got ourselves to this small restaurant in Leblon (right next to Ipanema) with a whole vegan buffet: the Vegetariano Social Clube. We were so happy gobbling on all these dishes made from pulses, veggies, mushrooms, tofu! Vegan Brazilian fare? Thumbs up!

And who could forget about coffee? We went to a small café called Aquim. Super pretty, somewhat fancy. Awesome espresso. But even better than the espresso were the chocolates they sold! Especially a specific kind they had, called deditos. Probably some of the best chocolate I've ever had. The cost reflected the quality, I'll admit. But such quality!!!

Finally, the very last night, we went for one last taste of Brazil - Boteco Belmonte, a Carica institution. We had some chope (the local draft beer). And some petiscos (traditional appetizers). I think this was the best way to finish our culinary exploring. So relaxed, so simple, so Rio!

So, I've got to give the Ipanema food scene an A+. So good. So good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

14th - Centro and Copacabana

Gotta hurry and finish writing the posts on our trip to Rio! I've got another trip to write about, plus tons of smaller stuff, before the year ends! chop chop! LOL

This time I'll talk a bit about Centro and Copacabana!


Many guidebooks warned us about wandering around Centro, especially during the weekend (when office workers were not around) and/or at night. The area did indeed look sort of empty when we visited, and it sure had a number of awesome things to see!

For example, the Catedral Metropolitana do Rio de Janeiro, with its contemporary cone shape, simple sober lines, and colourful floor to ceiling stained glass windows.

Or the rest of its architecture, a crazy combination of the majestic (around which you could enjoy a nice, refreshing local draft), the more colourful and local (where we enjoyed a delicious espresso), and the modern. 

I'd say there are three jewels in Centro. One is the cathedral. The second one? the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), one of their newest ones and about which I found out by chance thanks to a friendly carioca! MAR is one of those modern museums with nothing but temporary exhibitions, and just enough so you can see all or most of it without feeling overwhelmed. 

The views from the roof of the museum, where the visit starts, are fantastic, and you can see another new museum they're building on Guanabara Bay! And then there were exhibitions like one on the role of women in Brazil's history, through the photography of those very same women. Or a tiny one, hidden behind a curtain, about the excesses of the Portuguese against the local population. Or fascinating ones about life in Rio before (by a Jewish Austrian emigré) and after.

All in all, a great visit. And with a gift shop full of nifty and pretty things that, a couple of which made the trip back to Mexico with us!

And the third jewel? The Mosterio de São Bento. This one's old. Very. Founded in 1590. Amazing, eh? But the best part was that the exterior was rather plain and sober. Imposing. But not arrogant. But the interior! Whoa! 17th and 18th century excessive Baroque and Rococo! Gold! Reds! a massive wooden interior door! Theatrical, dramatic, rich, gorgeous.

So, yes. Centro? A must!


I definitely had to visit iconic Copacabana, right? Although I was left with the impression that the way to enjoy it properly must have been with lots of money and a few decades ago, it was still interesting. It was nice to see a beach with a more diverse crowd instead of the throngs of impossibly fit people in Ipanema (more on that in a future post), as well as people doing paddle surfing! Man, what a shame we were short on time (yes, Rio kept us that busy) and didn't manage to try that! Looked fun! But we did hit one of the gay clubs, which wasn't particularly busy, but which had some of the sexiest go-go dancers this side of the world!

There. Only one are of Rio to write about: Ipanema. Yay!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

14th - Jardim Botânico

We were not going to miss the opportunity of going to a botanical garden in Brazil, right? Not surprisingly, this was a fantastic experience (although one could also think all I need for a great time is some nature and the chance to walk for hours...).

This is one huge garden, I think we actually missed a number of sections, but I made sure we hit some of the more interesting ones, like the one containing cacti (probably one of my favourite kind of plants) of many different and beautiful colours and strange shapes. Plus a lily pond with dragonflies! A good start! 

Also, on a bush nearby, we were looking at a spiderweb, and got to see the owner in frightening action! Some poor insect flew into the web and, in less than a fraction of a second, the spider had woven a cocoon around its next meal! I don't think I'd ever seen a spider in action, and what a precise and fast action that was!  

The other section I had to visit was the orchid garden. Containing all the orchids you could need, ever, period. All sizes, colours, shapes... I could spend hours looking at these elaborate flowers. One kind even had spots that looked like the face of a lion, or of Shakespeare, or Jesus? I guess our brain takes a very important role in finding patterns, eh?

Then there was the Mata Atlântica (the Atlantic Forest). What did we find there? Well, who the hell knows what that was, but huge gourd-like things hanging from otherwise ordinary looking trees? What the...? This was a good reminder of how different vegetation in this part of the world can get!

And we also got our nice share of wildlife! I guess such a big botanical garden had to have some, right? First, we saw some monkeys! They were so cute to look at, but they were not behaving cute at all. If there is animal bullying, that had to be it. A couple of monkeys were being simply mean to another one. Like really mean, not giving the poor fellow a break! Fascinating! And to complete the experience? A couple of toucans flew by! Had a good look at them, though it happened too fast to take a pic. 

Monkeys and toucans. Check!

This was a really nice stroll. The rest of the flora was incredible. There were these trees with gorgeous purple flowers, gigantic bamboo, a promenade flanked by palm trees, some huge orange-pink and vaguely obscene/erotic flowers with a strange waxy texture, a behemoth of a tree that flowers one night a year, and some trees that had brown bark peeling off and revealing a rich green colour underneath. Wow!

One of my best memories of that trip to Rio (well, I think almost everything qualifies for a best memory title, whatever).