The last few days have been completely crazy. I have moved from the sanctity of my lovely hotel in the more genteel area of Santa Teresa and into a shared flat situated slap bang in the middle of ‘party central’ in Copacabana. Now I’m beginning to feeling like a true Carioca; one however, who doesn’t speak a word of Portuguese and still finds it hard not to gawp when looking up and seeing Christ the Redeemer staring back.
I have one last day of being solo and a tourist, before my flat mates arrive and we being our volunteer programme, so I so decide to spend time in the areas of Jardin Botanico and Leblon.
The Botanical Gardens is a 140-hectare park which lies at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain. As the weather was a little humid and overcast with the constant threat of rain (which is pretty much how it’s been since I got here!), I almost had the place to myself. As I wondered around the manicured avenues of plants and trees, as beautiful as it was, I did wonder why there was a need for this park at all seeing as how the whole of the city of Rio feels like one big tropical garden but then as I stepped back out into the hustle of the city I realised it provides a tranquil spot where locals and tourists alike can take time to pause and breathe.
From here it’s off to explore some of the small boutiques of Leblon – a very fashionable part of the city – and then a stroll back down through Ipanema, arriving at Fort Copacabana in time for a late lunch at a smaller Confeitaria Columbo based within the walls of the fort.
Sitting at one of the terrace tables I get my first proper view of the Copacabana beach – not really looking its best today with a grey sky as a backdrop – but impressive non the less. Over a couple of delicious meat empanadas (little meat pies) and a beer, I vow to get up at 6am each day and walk the length of the beach before breakfast, to kick start my new heathy life – which will, of course, start on Monday!
On Sunday morning, realising that I am now going to have to shop and cook for myself again, I head over to an amazing farmers market located in Gloria – a central part of the city – my first trip on Rio’s very impressive metro system. This is a huge affair with stalls rammed with local produce – fruit, flowers, vegetables, as far as the eye can see, many of which I haven’t seen before, and all at rockbottom prices. I stock up on mangoes, papayas, limes, huge avocados and more – another nod towards the new healthy me. A trip to the local supermarket and I am in sensory overload. New and familiar products line aisle after aisle – I often struggle deciding what to buy in my local Sainsburys so this takes my indecision to whole other level. After ages dithering over what to choose I opt for beer and Pringles, not the best choice I admit, but it will provide my last unhealthy meal before Monday morning arrives and the new programmes begins!