Who needs to join a gym when you can work out for free?

Living in place where you are required to squeeze into a little bikini year round, there are a number of gyms to keep you in that perfect ‘CaRIOca shape”. As you have seen Body Tech is one of the nicer gyms in Leblon, and thanks to a fab corporate discount I am still enjoying my membership:) For those that don’t have access to corp rates…. besides taking long walks on the beach, there are a few other options for you to choose from.

Option 1: Get a bike (I got one too!) Not only does having a bike in Rio make it easier to get around, it is also a great work out! Check out the bike road- yes unlike NYC (sorry to bash, but I truly hate how they have set up the bike lane), as you can see it is its own separate bike area, away from cars and people.  Makes things MUCH safer for everyone.

Option 2:After running, walking or biking down the beach, stop at one of the ‘outdoor gymnasium’ overlooking the ocean!  Pull ups, sit ups, dips and more, you will always see someone working out on one of these exercise stations located all along the beaches.

Option 3: There is a park 2 blocks from my apartment that has been full of kids since I arrived so naturally I assumed it was a kids park… WRONG! To my surprise I discovered that it is really a ‘make-shift gym’.  As you can see there are elliptical’s, and other various ‘machines’ you might see at your gym.

While walking through I saw a mother and daughter on the elliptical… The mother was yelling at her daughter ‘don’t you want to fit into your birthday dress!!!’ hmm sound familiar…

As you can see, lots of different ways for people to stay in shape in Rio

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Can you walk the rope?

On Sundays along the beaches in Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana in Brazil you will see all sorts of different things from yoga retreats, to live music, volley ball and more! It’s pretty awesome, they shut down the main road along the beach so people are walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, you name it and you will see it on this street.

This Sunday, walking across and doing tricks on a tightrope was all the rage!

There were about 12 different ropes set up, and each person who was walking the rope was talented, this was not your ‘beginners zone’, these guys were good!

The crowd was loving watching them do flips and turns- created quite the scene.  Check out the video:

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/D206CAB4E7Tightrope walking on the beach produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

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Looking for great waves, spectacular views and Rain Forest? Head to Prainha

Prainha is located between mountains just outside of Barra and is considered the best surfing spot in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Prainha means little beach and considering it is only an 800 meter long beach, its a very fitting name.

The waves are the main attraction, but along the beach will you find some people playing paddle ball and climbing on the rocks (so much fun, when the waves come crashing in you get splashed!)

Prainha is also surrounded by the vegetation of Rio de Janeiro’s Rain Forest, the “Mata Atlantica”, at Grumari’s Ambiental Protection Area. Smells so tropical and clean, its amazing to think that this is only 45 minutes from where we are living!

During weekends Prainha can get pretty crowded, but on weekdays is almost deserted.

Restaurante Point de Grumari

We ventured outside of Leblon to some of the most beautiful beaches in Rio (about 45mins/hour drive). After hanging out on Grumari (see earlier post) we decided to head up the mountain and see if we could find a place for lunch.  The drive up the mountain is beautiful, tropical green everywhere you look; however it is a very curvy narrow road up (similar to Positano, Italy).

Once we reached the top, we discovered Restaurante Point de Grumari.Talk about an incredible panoramic view! There are def postcards of this scenic view. While dining you can see the mountains, the lagoon, and the ocean! The inside of the restaurant is very large and has a ‘tropical feel’; light and airy with various sculptures along the walls.  The outdoor deck (pictured above) is unbelievably peaceful, the breeze feels great-and come on, we are in Brazil…obviously sat outside.

  The restaurant specializes in seafood and has wonderful fresh fish options.  We had the dorado (my first time trying it) and it was excellent, grilled to perfection.  Of course as with almost every meal you will eat in Brazil, it comes with rice and a few other yummy sides.  If you don’t like fish, there are a number of steak options.  Either way, if you are spending a day at Grumari, Prainha or Macumba, head here for lunch!

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Surfing in Grumari

First trip out of Rio! We rented a car for the weekend and headed to Grumari. Grumari is a popular surfing beach in Barra da Tijuca about 45mins west of Rio and it is absolutely beautiful!!!!  Not only a stunning surf beach with huge waves, it is part of an environmental reserve, (together with the Prainha). It is so beautiful, situated between the mountains, a pure non commercialized gorgeous beach.  There are a few kiosks, one or 2 restaurants and a few men selling food on the beach.  Besides that…. a bunch of surfers.  Of course we were there for the waves!

If you are looking at the picture above and thinking, ‘they don’t look that big’… THINK AGAIN! This beach is known for its powerful huge waves, and the surfers are incredible:

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/502B71E94DSurfing Grumari produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

If you want to get out of the city for the day or are just craving the perfect swell, then head to Grumari.  

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Foggy day…

The ocean, mountains, buildings all swallowed up by today’s fog….. pretty cool

Lunch at the Palace

Nested inside the Paço Imperial (Palace, the emperor’s first residence in Brazil) is the Atrium restaurant.  Named one of the most beautiful restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, you feel pleasantly transported to another time.  

The traditional colonial style building was built in 1743 and restored in 1980. Notice the think walls and heavy arches, the elegant decor takes full advantage of the arched walls and stone floors.

The menu is also a mixture of tradition and creativity.  Everything on the menu sounded delicious; from eclectic pastas to traditional carne (beef) dishes. I went with the ‘Light Chicken’ (shocker for me, I know), but this was excellent! Grilled chicken with oregano and served with a green salad in mustard sauce- it was the seasoned perfectly making it my ideal lunch.

After dining here, I understand why it is rated one of Brazil’s best restaurants.  It is only open for lunch, so try to get there before all of the ‘power-lunching business execs’ fill the place up (we arrived right before the place was filled!)

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Church of Gold: Our Lady of Mount Caramel

I studied art history in college and have always had a soft spot when it came exploring churches.  I think they are incredibly interesting, so much rich history and incredible artwork/ architecture in one place that I feel I have to share them. 

The Carmo Church dates back to the original chapel of the nearby Convento do Carmo, one of the oldest city (16th century). In 1590 the Carmelites donated a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of O. The façade was completed only around 1822 by Pedro Alexandre Cavroé, which gave the building a large pediment in classic style.

It is the interior decor that will have your mouth drop! A magnificent gilded garb of rococo covers the main chapel, side chapels, nave and ceiling. The carvings were done in 1785 by sculptor Ignatius Ferreira Pinto (one of the greatest artists of colonial Rio de Janeiro). As you can see the contrast between the golden and white backgrounds is so elegant and illuminates the chapel. The detailed gold carving is absolutely stunning! Sort of reminds me of Bernini’s Baldachin over the High Altar of St. Peter’s (my fav).   

 

The paintings allude to episodes of the sacred order, painted by Angelo Clerici. 

Great way to spend a rainy day downtown Rio

Shenanigans!

If you are trying to find a place to watch the NCAA tournament in Brazil, there is only ONE place to go: Shenanigans.  Walk up the narrow staircase immediately that ‘college bar smell’ hits you like a ton of bricks. 

With lots of beers to choose from, and a real ‘American bar’ food menu (ie wings, nachos, etc) you will feel right at home watching your favorite games here. Might be hard to see it on the menu (pic below), but the last item on the right is “Guido Carpaccio” hahah.  Funny also because no other item has a name like that to it;)

Not just a regular bar, there is a pool table in the middle of the room, a dart board (there are competitions) and on Saturday nights there is a live band singing your favorite college bar songs! There is also a balcony for those that need a little fresh air from time to time. 

 Keeping it ‘classy’, they ‘chilled’ my bottle of vino in the Heini bucket;)

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Ipanema Hippie Fair

Everywhere you go in the world you will find some form of a street fair, each unique with different items, vendors, local merchants, specialties etc…..If you are a New Yorker reading this, the first that comes to mind would be the street fairs that take over 3rd ave (and other various avenues) during the year (but you would only consider going in the spring or fall).  The Ipanema Hippie Fair has a tropical flavor to it that makes it fun to explore:

The ‘Hippie Fair’ takes place every Sunday, from 7am to 7pm (since 1968) in large square/park: Praça General Ozório Ipanema.  The outer edges of the square are lined (about 2 rows) with different vendors on each side.  Within each of these rows you will find vendors selling all sorts of things from religious or traditional Brazilian hand-made items (see below- there were a bunch of these), to

clothes/bathing suits/flip flops (think a tropical version of Florence’s San Lorenzo Square -which is actually what the entire ‘fair’ reminded me of. If you have been to Florence and know what I am talking about then you too have a ‘Ciao Bella’ t-shirt!).  As you can see below, instead of ‘Ciao Bella’ they went with Caipirinha (the drink of choice here).  For those of you questioning my fashion sense— there is a nicer, higher quality selection of clothing and bikinis (not just these t-shirts). You will also find some very nice jewelry; not just beading, there were a lot of silver/other jewelry vendors. Also— if you are looking for any leather items you will find excellent quality, stunning leather goods, belts etc (usually for around R$20 as opposed to R$200 in the stores!)

The inside of the square is full of different artists exhibiting their work. Think ‘outdoor art museum’.  Some of the pieces are absolutely magnificent.

From paintings, to sculptures there is something that everyone will appreciate.  Many of the paintings depict scenes of Brazil, Carnival, the beaches and mountains while others are more basic or simple home decor.  The miniature life like wall hangings below were probably the most creative items inside the ‘art section’ of the fair.  Hard to tell from the picture (I was sneaking the pic), but they are extremely detailed and true to the real buildings they represent.


If you are looking to find your quintessential souvenir, hunting for something small (specifically for a gift/you/your home) or just want to spend the afternoon perusing a fair full of different things, this is an excellent place to go.

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