8 Myths About Rio de Janeiro from Huffington Post

8 Myths About Rio de Janeiro from Huffington Post

MYTH: You’ll find plenty of nudist beaches.

FACT: Rio’s beaches may be noted for skimpy swimwear, but going topless is illegal, except on the city’s sole nudist beach, Abrico.

MYTH: The crime rate just keeps rising.

FACT: I was warned over and over again to avoid walking around by myself during the day and especially at night; that thieves and other criminals were around just about every corner. In fact, I didn’t find Rio any more dangerous than any other major capital city that I’ve visited. And the Rio crime rates have been declining, with 2010 marking the lowest murder rate since these stats have been recorded. And, if you compare vehicle robberies and homicides in February 2011 with those from 2010, each crime has dropped by at least 14%. No wonder: the police are motivated to keep the crime rate low — each gets a $1,800 bonus if their region sees a decline in crime during the year. Plus, with the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the city has stepped up its crime fighting efforts with specialized police units mobilized in the city’s favelas to fight drug trafficking.

Have to throw my 2 cents in on this one: Just because crime rates has dropped that does not mean everything is safe and carefree… If you completely let your guard down here you are an idiot.

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MYTH: Car-choked Rio needs to get its eco-conscious side in gear.

FACT: Like in so many cities in the U.S., cars rule the road. But Rio’s eco-conscious side dates back to the 19th century when, unlike so many places in the world, vast swaths of land that had long been deforested to make way for sugar cane harvesting and coffee plantations were replanted by order of the king. The result: Tijuca National Park, the world’s largest urban forest. And eco-conscious extends to the city’s ability to embrace a vast network of bicycle paths. Some 90+ miles of paths criss-cross the city, including the one running parallel to the four-some miles of sugary sands making up Copacabana, Ipanema and Lelbon beaches, as well as the path circling Lagoa Rodriguo de Freitas, a salt-water lagoon, and along the bayside Flamengo Park. The city also closes lanes of traffic beside the beaches and in Flamengo Park every Sunday making each a pedestrian thoroughfare. More bicycle paths — another 90+ miles — are planned by 2012. In addition, green accommodations are becoming more popular. The Windsor Atlantica is a new eco-conscious hotel that uses solar panels, captures rainwater and serves locally sourced food when possible.

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MYTH: With the free-flowing caipirinhas, drunk driving is a major problem.

FACT: Since 2008, Brazil has a zero-tolerance law on the books. That means any driver found with any alcohol in their blood can be fined hundred or thousands of dollars, have their license suspended or even be arrested. This is strictly enforced in Rio where, as of 2009, Operation Dry Law went into effect, whereby police regularly set up road blocks all over the city and do impromptu breath testing. Young people who ordinary might be tempted to drink and drive don’t because they never know where a roadblock will pop up and they can’t risk losing their license. (But, like in other cities around the world, there are those using social media to warn others about the roadblocks and get around the system.)

** Huge fan of this system! People drive crazy here all the time, don’t need them doing it drunk

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MYTH: Carnival is just another excuse for drunken debauchery.

FACT: Sure, there’s plenty of lively all-night partying before, during and after Carnival every February or March. But, the Samba Parade that takes place in the Sambodromo on a Sunday and Monday from 9pm until dawn is a skillful competition involving costumes, dancing and floats. Qualifying samba schools choose a theme and engage in rigorous practice for months before Carnival. Watching the Samba Parade and visiting the Samba school rehearsals provide plenty of lessons in Brazilian culture. Rehearsals typically start each year in the fall. And, when I visited, I watched Unidos da Tijuca, one of Rio’s oldest samba schools and the one that won in 2010. (They came in second this year with the theme: “This night I will take your soul” which explains the courage and fear of the Brazilian people.) Over many hours, you’ll be mesmerized with the frenetic pace of the dancing and the pounding rhythm of the drums but earplugs are a must because of the high decibel levels.

MYTH: You can’t stay at an accommodation near Rio’s well-known beaches without laying out hundreds of dollars a night.

FACT: You can book a double room for $100 at Lemon Spirit, a low-key hostel housed in a historic building just a block from Leblon beach. The rooms are simple and basically unadorned but if you’re looking for a good deal this close to Rio’s choice sands, this is a good option. And, it also provides opportunities to mingle, especially over the complementary welcome caipirinha. Another accommodation with rooms going for under $150, the charming two-room Rio Dolphin Inn, sits just a few blocks away from Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. With a hammock in the patio; a kitchen refrigerator stocked with coconut water, nuts and chocolates; and a colorfully decorated living room complete with WiFi and cable TV, you might be easily tempted into getting into a lounge mode.

****You will spend around $250 a night

MYTH: The only good time to visit Rio weather-wise is during their summer.

FACT: July to September, the months when Brazil is experiencing winter and early fall, are the mildest and driest months of the year. You won’t get the sweltering temperatures found during Rio’s summer, December through March. This makes it a perfect time for hiking, jogging and bicycling, activities that you’ll want to participate in, as do many Cariocas, because Rio is networked with pedestrian paths and is also sprinkled with lush green spaces that are coursed with trails.

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MYTH: You won’t find cachaca (the key ingredient in caipirinhas) in upscale bars and restaurants. **This is just a stupid myth or comment, of course you will find cachaca everywhere you go!

FACT: Cachaca was once seen as a poor man’s beverage. But, no longer. Cachaca can be found in a plethora of upmarket bars, restaurants and clubs serve up it. And, cachaca’s only role isn’t simply as a caipirinha ingredient. Perched atop 750-foot Urca Mountain beside Rio’s signature granite monolith, Sugarloaf Mountain, Abencoada stocks 50 different kinds of cachaca, which they blend with watermelon, kiwi, passion fruit, cherry or mango juices. At other well-heeled establishments, an array of ingredients, including cinnamon green tea, elderflowers, sake or absinthe can also find their way into cachaca-based beverages. Among bars where you are bound to find fashionable clientele imbibing caipirinhas or other beverages employing cachaca is the Bar D’Hotel at Marina All Suites, the Baretto-Londra at Hotel Fasano and the Bar do Copa at Copacabana Palace.

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What Is Your Favorite Flavor of Cachaca?

As part of our Paraty Tour in between splashing around in the different waterfalls we visited a few cacasha distilleries.

Fazenda Murycana (Murycana’s Farm) has one distillery of cachaça as well as a museum (Exposure of the private collection of owners with furniture, decorative pieces and weapons of the seventeenth century to the present day.) a restaurant (The coffee made ​​in sugarcane juice with wood stoves is delicious)

The old mill of Murycana, is powered by a waterwheel, which produces liquor aged in oak barrels. It is distilled under fire wood, and which created the liquor (molasses dripping aphrodisiac as they said)

The huge drums keep the spirits aged for up to 22 years. The farm offers visitors a taste of their drips however the booze is only sold in Murycana Finance. While we were there we tried 3 different types of cachaca: regular, 8 year aged (much smoother),and chocolate (which was my favorite of course).

The next distillery of cachaca we visited was Engenho D’ouro.  Here we saw the artesian process of fabrication. This plantation has a sophisticated production set up for one year aging in oak barrels or jequitiba.  The production is totally handmade as in colonial times:  From the cane plantation, until the alternative energy system that handles the production of the pure and delicious rum.

The also produce soft flavors like rum caramel mixed with molasses, Bluis with leaves of tangerine and Garbiela with molasses clove and cinnamon.  Personally, the strawberry infused was my favorite! I recommend tasting all of the flavors;)

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Waterfall Adventures in Paraty

If you go to Paraty, doing one of the waterfall tours (Paraty Tours) is a must!For $60 for the day you will get to explore, swim in and slide down some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Brazil.

The tour takes you to 3-4 waterfalls inside of the Serra da Bocaina.   Our first stop took us to  Pedra Branca’s waterfall (see above).  It was beautiful but the water was freezing!!! We hiked up to the top where there is a nice area to swim in… beautiful but more of an icey adventure…

After splashing around for a bit, we hopped back in the jeep and headed towards Tarzã waterfall. There is a mini hike to get to each waterfall and this was worth the twists and turns to get to! As you can see from the picture above, there was a rope that you can ‘Tarzan’ style swing from to enter the water!

Before reaching our final waterfall we stopped at the entrance of the Gold trail, it took slaves 40-50 days carrying gold on their backs to get across the trail.  Lots of rich history in this area.  Then it was time for our final ‘trek’ to Tobogã waterfall.

I know, you are thinking THAT LOOKS AWESOME and you’re right it is AWESOME!  It is the most famous because people can slide down the waterfall! Before sliding down our guide (who was extremely helpful) took the lead and brought us inside/ behind the top waterfall (not shown).  It was such a rush, apparently it is where slaves used to hide- only room for 2 people at a time, but it is an incredible feeling to be behind the scenes under the waterfall as it is crashing down in front of you.  Note only way to get out from under it— slide down! After sliding through that waterfall it was time to actually slide down the big waterfall- check out the video of me sliding down:

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/E5EA76C3B4Sliding down Tobog waterfall produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat Tweet

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Looking For A Fabulous Restaurant In Paraty?

In the historical center of Paraty (near our hotel) there is an excellent restaurant named Bartolomeu ParatyBartholomeu Paraty has a warm and charming feel to it. The menu is stacked with a variety of fresh pasta dishes (the bolognese was fantastic), a number of fish options as well as the ‘sensational Argentine Rump Stuffed with Roquefor Sal Grosso’ (shown below) unfortunately we were not the ones who ordered it so were literally salivating over someone elses meal.

There is also a very cute outdoor area in the back, candle lit and very private, however it was a chilly night so we opted to sit inside.  The ‘gateau’ for dessert was delicious, but then again it seems to be a Brazilian specialty so it is great pretty much everywhere.  Overall, a wonderful dining experience that I would happily go back to and recommend!

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Scenes of Paraty

Since the historical center of Paraty is such an adorable town I figured I would share a few scenes so you could really get a feel for it.. enjoy

The town (above), love that every door is a different color

Barril is a good spot for drinks and live music, was a very popular spot while we were there,  however skip the food- we waited over 45 mins for a salad that never came… better to go after dinner!

There are many beautiful old churches throughout the city

Since there are a number of cachaca distilleries (will cover that in a future post) there are many types and flavors of cachaca to try— the chocolate one is delicious!!

Not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the waves in Tindade were 15 feet high the day we were there!

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Where To Stay in Paraty

Now that we have a car, exploring other areas of Brazil is much easier! About 4.5 hours away from Rio is the beautiful town of Paraty. Getting there is an interesting experience all on its own, driving through, in and around the many mountains (it is crazy trail as you can see from our GPS above). You will see thousands of cows (I think there are more cows in these mountains then rats in the NYC subway!)  It feels like you are in a ‘live’ version of Mario Cart taking crazy turns and the wild Brazilian drivers passing you on every side.  You will also find that GPS will sometimes not be able to pin point your location- ours actually suggested that we ‘find a road’….Warning: If driving at night— there are NO lights anywhere so try to drive during the day.  Ok so after a few detours we made it to Pousada Ouro. A great hotel in the historical center of Paraty.

Find your room…Looks like a mini version of what the actual town looks like!

Located in the heart of a beautiful colonial town, with great proximity to restaurants and sea; the hotel combines historic ambiance with modern conveniences.  The rooms are on the smaller side, but very charming nonetheless.  There was a nice pool (shown below) in the shape of an arrow with a bar area and pool table on the opposite side.

They also serve a very nice breakfast of fresh fruits, breads, home made yogurt and hot options as well- great way to start your activity filled day! Love that almost every hotel you stay at in Brazil includes a fresh breakfast;)

Packing tip for the ladies— The cobblestone streets here are harder to walk on than any other cobblestone street I have reported on and the night life is low key, consisting of nice restaurants and some live music so it is safe to leave your heels at home, I promise!

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Bikini Report

I have now embraced and become accustomed to sporting a true ‘Brazilian Bikini’ ie. my Bunda (tush) is a golden brown and no longer a reflective pale white… That being said, I realize the ‘bare’ all look is not for everyone (believe me it took a little while to get used to!) For most of you the thought of wearing a Brazilian bottom is out of the question… Therefore I must introduce you to Olga Olsson.

Olga Olsson is bohemian, sexy and contemporary, creating designer swimwear that is personal and unique; products that enhance diversity, celebrate traditions, create meaningful employment and respect local environmental conditions.

Every aspect of Olga Olsson’s bathing suits is put together with a lot of thought and a lot of love.  In fact, the local environment plays a huge factor in creating these gorgeous swim suits.  Doing her part to reduce her carbon footprint, each raw material used to make her stylish swimwear is sourced from Brazil. To start off the tag (made out of recycled cardboard) is a ‘Fita de bonfim’: ribbon from Salvador that you wrap around your wrist and knot 3 times making a wish. Wear it until it breaks off and your wish will come true.

These bathing suits (made of the highest blend of Brazilian lycra) are SO soft and comfortable you will have trouble keeping your hands off yourself! A variety of tops to choose from (bandeau, halter, etc), so go with what you prefer and…For the bottoms (don’t worry ladies, you will not feel over exposed if you don’t want top;)) there are many different choice ‘ties’ including a San Francisco cord (think the braided rope Monks where as a belt to hold up their robes), or the tulle ribbon ties (unbelievably soft!) these suits are extremely flattering (you know what I’m talking about).  Don’t believe me- You can even spot Elle MacPherrson and Kate Moss sporting these bikinis!

There are plenty of sexy solid basics, but it is her digital screen prints of the beaches in Ipanema at sunset and the hand painted silk screens that truly make her collection unique and different; something you will feel special wearing (I kept mine on for the rest of the day)!

Inspired by the beauty and sophistication of nature, together with the dynamism and creativity of urban life; we reject the global uniform of fast fashion. 

Going to the beach or living on one, it is crucial to wear a well made, good quality sexy bikini… especially since you are showing (almost) all of your goodies!

Designer and Founder Ruth Ferguson named the brand after her grandmother Olga, who was both glamorous and kind; two qualities that are reflected in the design and development of the collections.

Browse the collection for yourself http://www.olgaolsson.com/

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