No other word better describes Rio de Janeiro than “exhilarating.” It’s a city that seduces visitors with the persistent rhythm of samba, mile upon mile of sandy beaches, stunning mountains that tumble down to the deep blue sea and sexy tan bodies of its residents. Rio is a true melting pot of races, colors and creeds: Africans, Italians, Germans and even Americans, all proudly call themselves cariocas and will go out of their way to help you navigate their city. Even “Christ The Redeemer” himself stands with open arms as if watching over the city and everyone who comes to visit.
After spending a few days in Rio, I was convinced that it was the cariocas who perfected the art of living well. Without a care in the world, or so it seems, they spend their days at the world-famous beaches, like Ipanema and Copacabana, the heart and soul of Rio life. At night, the frenetic energy moves to the restaurants, bars and dance halls that dot the city. I could have spend days dancing the nights away in Lapa or just people-watching on Ipanema Beach, but there is so much more to Rio than meets the eye.
Spending time strolling through Rio’s historic neighborhoods, enclaves of rich and poor, gives you an understanding of the city’s history. Jump off the tram in Santa Teresa, an urban artsy neighborhood, walk around those tiny streets and you will find the best restaurants in town. And if you are like me, you will strike up a conversation with an old lady at a table next to you, and you could discover slices of her culture you would have never experienced otherwise.
Leaving Rio is never easy. Locals even have a word for this indescribable longing to come back to the marvelous city, “saudade.” Rio’s power of seduction worked its magic on me and I know I will return soon.
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Elina Fuhrman is an intrepid traveler based in Los Angeles. She grew up in Russia but knew before she was 10 years old that she would spend her life exploring the world. She is now a contributing editor to Travelgirl and JEZEBEL magazines. Her work has appeared on CNN, in The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Conde Nast Traveler, InStyle and other publications. Fuhrman’s photos often accompany her stories. To see more, visit her website www.elinafuhrman.com.