Day 3 in Rio, the sun is out and it’s a wonderful 27 degrees. I’m on my own today and as I’m still at that difficult stage where I’m paying for everything with 100 real notes (£20) and carrying hundreds of reals with me in ‘case of emergency’, I decide to stay local and explore Santa Teresa. This area of Rio reminds me a lot of the villages of the Cote d’Azur in France, such as Menton and St Paul De Vence. Perched on the top of a hill, it’s famous for its winding, cobbled streets which are a favourite spot for artists and tourists, and the fabulous views that can be seen around every corner.
I start out at Parque das Ruinas, a public park with an art gallery built around the ruins of an old Belle Époque mansion. I pass on the cultural centre -my sister will confirm that I’m not much of a one for art galleries and museums! – and head straight for the ruins. I climb up inside until I reach the viewing gallery and am met with the most incredible views. Rio in all its glory. Even Christ the Redeemer has come out of the clouds today and I can see for miles. Rio really is blessed with the most beautiful scenery.
From here I head back down the main street, watching out for the trams which trundle up and down this part of the city, and make my way over to Cafecito for a coffee. This is also a bit of an artsy spot which has the most lovely terrace and, if my Portuguese serves me well, has a programme of evening entertainment – maybe worth a visit over the next few weeks?
Eating and drinking is never far from my mind and a stroll around the streets leads me to Adega do Pimenta for a light lunch of meat croquettes and a local beer – which are proving to be a bit of a staple for me at the moment as that’s about all I can recognise in Portuguese on the menu! From here it’s a short walk back to my hotel and a sun lounger by the pool with my name on it.
Still feeling slightly nervous about venturing too far from the hotel at night, I am thrilled that the lovely hotel staff recommend the Espirito Santa restaurant for dinner, which is located literally at the top of the street. What a great place. I am ushered through the restaurant to a small terrace at the back from where I have a birds eye view into the many apartments, lit up at night, which are clinging to the surrounding hills. Thankfully the waiter takes very good care of me (and also speaks a bit of English) and recommends a couple of house specialities – a starter of green leaves stuffed with local shrimp and a main course of chicken strips marinated and cooked in passion fruit (producing a thick, almost sweet and sour sauce),served with coconut rice and mixed vegetables – both dishes are completely delicious. Feeling adventurous I opt for a glass of Brazilian rose wine, which isn’t half bad. The perfect end to a prefect day. I make my way confidently back down the road, feeling quite bold, but still happy to see the familiar front gate of my hotel.
I really will have be much braver tomorrow as I am leaving the oasis of Mama Ruisa and Santa Teresa and moving into my shared apartment in Copacabana to begin my 6 weeks volunteer programme. I’ll need to get to grips with the public transport system, food shopping, laundrettes, all of the everyday things which seem just that little bit more daunting when you don’t speak the language! I can’t deny I’m feeling nervous but I’m sure it will all seem like second nature in a week or so! Until then, there’ll be time to enjoy one last wonderful breakfast of ripe mango and pineapple, fresh juice, warm bread, coffee and scrambled eggs, before I’m on my way. God, I’m going to miss that!