Snapshot of the Week: Rio de Janeiro and Ilha Grande – Blame it on the Weatherman

Here you can see Lego Mark and Sadie at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain overlooking Brazil. Here you can also see a sparkling blue sky. This is something that we have been pleasantly surprised by, seeing as the weather forecast had informed us that every day of our first few weeks in Brazil would be non-stop rain. Michael Fish, eat your heart out.
Rio was simply an awesome city. Sadie had visited before back in 2010, but it was a newbie for me and frankly, the city had changed so  much for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics that it wasn’t far off a fresh one for her too. We did all the touristy things, except Christ the Redeemer because it kept clouding over when we wanted to go up, and had a bloody lovely time doing so. It’s quite hard to describe Rio without descending into tiresome cliché, but the city really does buzz with activity all the time, and it doesn’t half look incredible in the sunshine. Our only regret was that we chose to go out in Ipanema for a night out, which was nice but a little tame, when we should have gone to Lapa – Rio’s newly gentrified historical centre and home to the best samba clubs – but sadly this was only learned the following day. Still, we were drunk enough for 3am McDonalds so we can’t really complain.

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Not a bad view

We then took a bus and a boat to Ilha Grande, a few hours to the South of Rio. Again, Sadie had been here before and pretty much hasn’t shut up about it in the intervening 6 and a half years.* Turns out that it wasn’t without good reason – the island is ridiculously beautiful. It has azure seas  lapping bright golden sands, backing onto lush, green rainforests occupied by birds of paradise, not to mention the odd marmoset or two. My words don’t do it justice. To be honest the photos don’t either. It has to be seen to be believed.

Our few days here, despite the odd thunderstorm (they have to get it right occasionally), have just flown by, and we don’t want to leave, but Salvador beckons. It’s a massive city a few hours’ north of Rio, known as the samba capital of Brazil, which is no small accolade. If Rio buzzes, Salvador thumps. I may have been born with precisely no rhythm or co-ordination (or poise, balance, timing etc) but I cannot wait to make a tit of myself on the floor of a Salvadorian Samba bar. It’s going to be immense. MB
*Not entirely true. I only mention it every time I look at Timehop/Facebook/any time we visit a beach…so pretty frequently I’ll admit. When I last visited I promised myself that one day I would bring Mark back with me. SEE HOW NICE I AM. SGJ

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From Me to You

When I tell people what our travelling plans are, the most common question is:”how the hell are you affording this?” Previously, I could always answer, with a touch of smugness, that we had saved hard for a few years and this was our reward. Then the pound crashed, everything got a lot more expensive, and our savings didn’t look quite so healthy any more.

When I was home for Christmas, I decided to create some photo art for our Central America trip. I’d done this before, making a collage of loads of our previous trips for our house back in Sheffield. I loved being able to put our memories on the wall  in a slightly unusual way, and I had a few people request that I do one for them too. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and set up an Etsy shop, getting to put my design skills to use while I’m away (I have a few customers I work for regularly) and make a little spare cash to make up the huge black hole in our finances.

You can find the shop here. Essentially what I do is take your photos, edit them so they look their sparkling best and put them in a collage of your choice. They then get printed in the UK on high quality paper and sent off to you. I’ve got some sample pictures below too. If you would like to order one of your own, you can contact me on here, through Etsy or on my email at sadiemaygj@hotmail.co.uk. See our store page on the blog for more info and a discount code as a thank you for reading 🙂

 

​Rio de Janeiro: A Travel Guide

GettingThereGettingAroundAccommodationActivitiesFood&DrinkTips

One of the world’s most iconic cities, Rio is sure to grab your imagination and is a must see on a trip to South America. As big as it is beautiful, the city sprawls around Guanbara Bay and into the surrounding hills, where it looks like the rainforest is trying to reclaim the houses. From glamourous Copacabana to the slums of Rochina, it is an incredibly varied city and limitless in what it can offer. By no means is this a definitive guide, but this is how we did it on a meagre(ish) budget.

Getting There
We flew in from London, via Rome strangely, to Rio’s colossal Galeao airport. There is also Santos Dumont airport, which serves mainly for domestic flights. It’s a half hour or so taxi ride into the Zona Sul, and it costs 60 Reais (about £15 at the current woeful exchange rate). It would probably be a little more down to Copacabana or Ipanema, but the tourist information folks at the airport can advise you. Don’t let taxi drivers approach you in the terminal – they aren’t allowed to anyway – use the official ones outside the terminal. It might cost a little bit more but it should mean you aren’t dragged off into a Favela and robbed blind.

Getting Around
Unsurprisingly, Rio is huge. Over 10 million people call the city their home, and consequently getting around the place can be a bit of a pain. You have a few options:

• Buses – the cheapest and probably most reliable option but honestly they are confusing as hell. I read somewhere that there are over 1000 bus routes in Rio and they often vary based on the time of day, day of the week, whether there is Carnaval, a football match or something else on, or the cycle of the moon for all I know. That said, they run pretty frequently from early morning to about midnight and cost no more than R3.80 for a single, and thanks to the bus lanes, they aren’t as at the mercy of traffic as taxis are. Make sure you have change or small denomination notes, I got a death stare for paying for two people with a 50.

• Taxis – They are everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I would guess that nearly half the cars on Rio’s roads are yellow cabs. The yellow ones with the blue stripe are official city taxis and they use the meter so as long as they don’t take you round the houses you are getting a fair fare, to coin a nifty phrase. A few taxi tips though:

o Taxi drivers lie when they say they know where they are going. They want the fare and will pretty much make the route up as they go along. The meter also starts when you get in and keeps running, even if they stop and ask for directions! Make sure they know your address (and have it in their sat nav if they’ve got one) before you get in the back.

o Use Google maps or Maps.me on your phone to make sure they aren’t taking you a really long route. When you’re on a meter you are at the whims of the driver, make sure they aren’t taking you for a ride. Well, a figurative ride. You know what I mean.

o Uber is a thing in Rio and it is cheeeap. Extra pluses for Uber include that you know the fare before you get in the cab, and you can select cash as a payment method so you don’t have to worry about abroad card fees.

• The metro – Rio has a pretty good metro system, but the stops aren’t as frequent as you might expect. It’s a bit more expensive than the buses but obviously is not affected by traffic, so it’s more reliable if you are in a rush.

• Walk – not the best option in a colossal city prone to daytime temperatures in the mid 30s. However, Rio is pretty well signed for walkers, especially in the tourist bits. There are walking routes called Rio a Pe, or Walk Rio, signing the route and distance between various landmarks. Handy if you don’t fancy a bus. Don’t stray off the beaten track without a guide or a local, tourist robberies are very common.

Accommodation
As you would expect in a city of Rio’s size and fame, there are literally thousands of options to choose from. There are plenty of hostels but they don’t come particularly cheap, so we chose an Airbnb. We were in a fairly upmarket, residential neighbourhood called Laranjeiras, about a half hour bus from the two main beaches, near Christ the Redeemer and Fluminese FC. Airbnb has been a lifesaver on our trips – if you’ve never used it sign up using this link and get £25 off your first booking. In fact, even if you have used it set up a new account with a different email address and get more free stuff, Airbnb make enough money don’t they?

Activities
Writing a list of “things to do” in a city the size of Rio is frankly daft. Whatever you are into, there is something for you. The famous attractions, Copacabana, Christ the Redeemer, Suagrloaf mountain, are all easily accessible and frequented by tourists. When you are in Rio, check the weather before the latter two because a trip up to Christ will do you no good at all if he’s surrounded by clouds, and the city doesn’t look half as good from Sugarloaf if it’s shrouded in drizzle.

Food & Drink
Again, this is more than a little pointless. Obviously where you do decide to eat depends entirely on where you are staying in the city. A few little things you should try though:

• Acai smoothies – these are everywhere, they are amazing and they are super healthy. They’re a kind of deep purple icy cold smoothie, sometimes served with granola, nuts, sprinkles, whatever you want really. They should come with a warning though, they leave your teeth a purple mess.

• Per kilo restaurants – these are exactly what they sound like. It’s a buffet where you grab what you want, they weigh it at the end and you pay for what you’ve picked up. This essentially makes items like lettuce and crisps free too, which is a nice bonus. The choice of food tends to bee much better than a british buffet, mainly because the “pay for what you eat” structure means that the food doesn’t get wasted in the same way. We went to a lovely and cheap one called Aipo Apim near Copacabana beach.

• Meat – that simple. Brazillians love meat. Especially steak. We went to a great restauran, a bit off the beaten track in Botafogo, called Caravela do Visconde, where we both ate an inhuman amount of  amazing steak for less than R100 between us.

Tips
Sadly, Rio isn’t the safest city in the world. Income inequality is rife and blatant throughout the city. Stark poverty lives alongside great wealth and the two are not comfortable bedfellows. As a tourist you are an easy target for robbery. The best advice is to use your common sense. If you are debating walking somewhere you don’t know to save a few Reais on a taxi, remember what you could lose if you meet some less than savoury characters on a dark street. Keep your iPhone hidden and carry as little cash as possible. If someone approaches you and tries to grab you, they only want your stuff so make some noise and get out of their grasp, fast.

​Snapshot of the Week: On the Road Again

The last 26 days have been something of a blur. Three weeks, five days and a few hours ago, we arrived freezing cold, jetlagged and excited for Christmas at Stansted Airport, our good family friends waiting for us with a lift. It seems like forever ago, but at the same time like we have had precisely no time back in the UK, and now we’re ready to leave again. Our Lego selves are seen here in front of a plane (that isn’t ours but for blog purposes let’s pretend that it is) at Heathrow terminal 4.

The thing with long term travel is that it looks great on paper. Well, actually nobody uses paper any more because it’s 2017, but it looks great on Instagram, and it sounds super glamorous to boot. Fun as it is, you do kind of forget what you miss out on until you get home. Friends and family come top of the list of course, followed closely by English food and plentiful free booze. Unfortunately after a few days of Christmassing to the max, we had to go and work (all this travel doesn’t pay for itself, sadly) and by the time we were done, we were over half way through our home-holiday (staycation? Homie-day? There are no good puns for this) and running out of time, fast, for everything we wanted to do whilst back in the UK.

We also took it upon ourselves to plan absolutely everything for the next few months, in the last few weeks. We have left nothing to chance. Every flight, every Airbnb, every bus and every trek that can be booked is booked and paid for. Given the current Oblivion-like trajectory of the pound, it seems like a better decision every day. It has made us a bit bloody stressed out though. The stress of it has also meant we’ve had to forsake a little social time, and it’s meant we’ve had more than a few squabbles, but hopefully it means that we can really make the most of our limited time in places this time round. This was something that we struggled a little with in Central America and we are determined to have learned from our mistakes.

We leave in a few hours and it’s safe to say we’re a little bit conflicted. We are ridiculously hyped to go and see some of the things we have planned – Rio, the Andes, Patagonia, Macchu Picchu… the list goes on – but we’re also sad to be leaving home behind so quickly. This trip is longer than our last one too, 180 days exactly (for insurance purposes), and six months is a long time to be away in anyone’s book. Nervous-excited is about the perfect description to be honest. In 24 hours we’ll be waking up in Rio, and I imagine the latter will outweigh the former when we see it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it.