Rio de Janeiro – In the Lap of Luxury

22 Feb

Private beach at the Sheraton Rio de Janeiro (carnival beach party is just around the bend)

Disclaimer

We have very few photos from our time in Rio because everyone has advised us not to carry anything on us except the cash we need and photocopies of our IDs. (Did you know it’s a legal requirement in Brazil to carry proof of your identification on you at all times?)

On to the Blog Entry

We arrived by plane from Puerto Iguazu into Rio de Janeiro around 6:00pm and paid $120 (BRL) for a taxi upfront at one of the taxi stands. This is what you’ll pay upfront at any of the taxi stands but cabs in Rio, we later found out, are relatively cheap (though slightly more expensive on Sundays) so for next time I would get a taxi and have the driver run the meter.

The scenery on drive from the airport was pretty amazing: large rolling rocky hills with trees growing out of them, houses of all sizes and conditions built on steep hills and a number of bridges. We drove through a dark tunnel (like in NYC) and came out the other side on what was seemingly the nicer part of town. There was a lake with a wakeboarding riding out the last of the daylight, people biking on the paths running alongside it and 10 – 12 floor apartment buildings with amazing views of the water and the rolling rocky hills in the background.

Next we entered the beachy part of Rio, passing through the carnival street parties where we got our first tip that carnival is more like Halloween than Mardi Gras, with people dressed in all sorts of costumes from Minnie Mouse to brides to what seemed to be a mish-mash of whatever could be found that was glittery, light up, made of tulle or brightly coloured. We also noticed an overwhelming number of men wearing women’s clothing, not in a drag way, but as a costume. There were umbrellas set up everywhere you looked along the beach and women and men of all shapes and sizes wearing the very small Brazilian bathing suits without judgement.  We also saw that drinking in the streets was perfectly acceptable.

We arrived to check in at the Sheraton Hotel which Tal had used her Starwood points to book. Being a Platinum Club member she was able to check in with 1 guest so as soon as our cab pulled up to the hotel entrance, J.J. and I wandered away leaving Tal and Jonny with our bags, as planned.

J.J. and I stood nearby taking in the beautiful sunset view of the beach accompanied by the salty smell of the ocean breeze as we waited for Tal to come down and get us. In the distance we could see the beach parties we had passed in our cab and the anticipation of carnival became a reality.

Tal came down a short while later and we rode the elevator up to the 20th floor. When the hotel door opened it was like finding yourself at the threshold of heaven. After all of the hot, sweaty, messy, previously bed bug infested rooms we’d stayed in so far, the cool temperature of the air conditioned room, freshly cleaned bathroom with toilet paper, clean white linens and towels neatly folded, hair dryer laid out, bottle of chilled champagne, double doors looking out to the ocean – we were in the lap of luxury. I don’t care how dirty ‘they’ say hotels are, ‘they’ probably haven’t lived in hostels. This was bliss.

We decided we’d shower and get ready for dinner, glass of champagne in hand of course. We planned to go to Oasis which offered a traditional Brazilian meal: salad buffet, fresh meat served table-side on a stick and dessert a la carte. Our hotel even offered shuttle service to and from the restaurant.

The dinner was incredible – all different kinds of meat, each piece served to you faster than you’re able to take a bite of the piece served before. And the servers keep coming until you tell them to stop. I waved my white flag earlier than the others but not to say it wasn’t amazing! (I was saving room for dessert, which was an enormous chocolate molten lava cake and vanilla ice cream. Can you blame me?) For 2 beers, a bottle of white wine, all-you-can-eat dinner and dessert for 4, our bill was just shy of $500 (BRL) – expensive, yes, but we had free accommodations during carnival and planned to mostly eat street food in the coming days.

The cut on Jonny’s leg that he’d gotten in Iguazu Falls was painful so we all opted to call it a night after dinner that first night (we were all in a food coma anyway) with big beach plans the following day.

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