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Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Botanical Garden

9 Dec

Moving on with the Rio de Janeiro posts (it’s been awhile)…

On the third morning of our trip, Jorge and I spent about an hour trying to figure out which was the correct bus to get to the Botanical Garden. After getting several different answers from several different people while trying to find out which one-way street was correct, we were finally on our way!

We passed through Ipanema and the uber-fabulous neighborhood of Leblon. I knew we’d arrived at the Botanical Garden when I saw several lines of the tallest palm trees I’ve ever seen just off to my left. (Palm trees don’t get that tall here in Cancun, aka Hurrican Territory!)

Here are the pictures! It only cost a few dollars per person, and it was a great way to spend a few hours:

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Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Thongs and Fashion

30 Nov

On our recent trip to Rio, we were very surprised by some of the… um… “unique” fashion trends, and not so surprised by others.

Thongs

Everything you’ve heard is true. Brazilian women love to wear their thong bikinis on the beach! Every single woman aged 15 on up to 90 on the beach was wearing a thong bikini, or a very small bikini that had been “tucked in” to resemble a thong. They seemed to be pretty shameless about it as well, which was shocking at first but seemed quite normal after a few days.  They would bend over, run around with the kids, and even play a game of beach  paddleball in their thongs.

Interestingly, the Brazilian women were quite modest when not on the beach. Even when walking along the boardwalk, the ladies were fully covered… unlike Cancun or parts of the US, where you’ll see women walking along in bikini tops. Not so in Rio. When you’re not on the sand, you cover up.

Everything you’ve heard about Brazilian butts is also true. We did not see a single Brazilian woman there who didn’t have a fabulous butt. Didn’t matter if they were skinny or fat, young or old… amazing butts, all of them.

About 2/3 of the men were wearing speedo’s, but luckily Jorge didn’t feel too left out because there were a good amount wearing trunks as well.

American men will never be secure enough to hug another man wearing a speedo.

Workout Gear

We mostly stayed in the Copacabana and Ipanema districts of Rio, where you’ll find tons of locals biking, playing soccer, playing paddleball, walking and running. They even have gym stations on the beach so guys can do pull-ups!

By Day 2, Jorge had noticed that many of the women were wearing the same workout outfit that seemed a bit odd to us. We saw at least 20 women wearing this trend every day: leggings with knee-high athletic socks. For posterity’s sake, we documented some of these women so you can see it’s actually true:

After seeing it so much, this trend actually began to look attractive. Luckily we left Rio before I had a chance to buy my long athletic socks.

What interesting fashion statements have you seen in other cultures?

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach

24 Nov

Moving along with the honeymoon posts, today I’ll write about my favorite part of Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema.

You may remember we stayed in the Copacabana district, which was lovely, but on the 3rd day of our trip we finally made it to the neighboring beach neighborhood of Ipanema. Once we discovered it, we’d spent hours on the remaining days of our trip just wandering around the streets and beach of Ipanema, just a 20 minute walk from our Copacabana apartment. It has a very cool vibe, with lots of surfers, beautiful views and endless restaurants to choose from. Ipanema is the perfect place to just… be.

If we ever make it back to Rio, we’re definitely staying in Ipanema!

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Note: I know I’ve been using the slideshow feature a lot lately. Personally I like it better for posts with lots of photos, but if you have a hard time seeing it please let me know and I’ll be sure to use regular format in the future.

Taste of Playa 2011

22 Nov

I’d been looking forward to this past Sunday for a year now, and I was not disappointed!

Jorge, Viri, Juan and I all made our way south to Playa del Carmen for the annual Taste of Playa culinary event, sponsored by Diamonds International. For those who haven’t had the chance to explore the Riviera Maya, the city of Playa del Carmen is well-known for its charming bars and restaurants. The entire Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is filled with all kinds of dining venues, ranging from casual sandwich shops to chic upscale restaurants. Local bars are open-air, ideal for people watching while indulging in a margarita or artisan beer.

At Taste of Playa,  the best of all these unique options come together at Parque Fundadores, set on the Quinta Avenida right by the Caribbean Sea. Guests lined up to purchase “Playa Pesos”, each costing $10 pesos (roughly $1 USD) each. With just 1 Playa Peso, you can purchase some mouthwatering tacos, a cold cocktail, a spicy ceviche or even sushi!

We each wandered around on our own, sampling from almost every vendor we saw. The favorites among our small group were the crunchy tacos and some chocolate-covered cream puffs. I’m always surprised how the simplest dishes often turn out to be the best.

After an hour or two of culinary inspiration at Taste of Playa, our small group walked up and down Quinta Avenida to enjoy the laid-back vibe of Playa del Carmen before heading back to Cancun (where we immediately went to a taco joint, surprise surprise).

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let the slideshow do most of the talking. Try not to drool onto your keyboard:

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Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Sugarloaf Mountain

17 Nov

I hope you’re excited, because I have more Rio de Janeiro photos headed your way!

On the second evening of our trip, Jorge and I made our way via taxi to see Rio’s famous Sugarloaf mountain.

This view is from the Christ the Redeemer platform. The Sugarloaf is the tall hill set on the center peninsula.

To get to the top of the Sugarloaf, you take two aerial trams from the downtown Sugarloaf station. First you’ll be taken to a lower hill called Cara de Cao with great views of the downtown area and the bay, then the second tram takes you up to twice the height at the top of the Sugarloaf. Jorge was scared to death of the tram before we went, but I think once we were on it he was fine.

A tram leaving the downtown station to the first hill (Cara de Cao), with the higher Sugarloaf in the right background.

View from the tram at the top of Cara de Cao, looking down on the station

CARA DE CAO HILL

The first hill, Cara de Cao, might have been my favorite of the two mountains, even if it’s not nearly as tall as the Sugarloaf. It has more space and is less crowded, and the cafe is a heck of a lot cheaper!

Sagui monkeys on Cara de Cao hill... ugliest. animals. ever. But boy, do they put on a show!

View of downtown Rio from Cara de Cao Hill

Yours Truly with Jorge on Cara de Cao Hill, with the Sugarloaf Mountain in the background

SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN

After playing with the scary monkeys for a bit and taking some pictures, we took the second tram to the top of the Sugarloaf.

Looking down on Rio from the Sugarloaf tram station

The top of the Sugarloaf was pretty crowded around sunset, but we managed to find a few more secluded areas for taking pictures and enjoying the views. We also explored some hiking paths going through the woods! I was surprised that they could pack so much onto the top of such a narrow mountain.

View of Rio's "Zona Sul" (South Zone). The super-long stretch of beach you see just beyond the ridge of hills is Copacabana, where we stayed.

Looking out onto the bay and downtown Rio

I love this picture, even though my eyes are closed! I seriously need to get this Photoshopped...

EVENING…

After some pictures and fighting the crowds at the top of the Sugarloaf, we made our way back down to Cara de Cao. Apparently we were on the “party tram” back down because there was a lot of screaming and excitement from a group of Brazilian college students.

We stopped by the cafe for some very, very tiny cups of hot cocoa and paninis, then sat down on some loungers to enjoy the sunset.

Dusk over downtown Rio de Janeiro

Yes, that's Christ the Redeemer in the background.

The trip to Sugarloaf was my second favorite part of the trip. I’ll tell you about my favorite part in a few days… Ipanema Beach!

 

 

Rio de Janeiro Honeymoon: Christ the Redeemer

14 Nov

 

On Thursday morning of our trip to Rio, we got to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. I’d read on Trip Advisor that you should go as soon as they open (8:30 am) to avoid crowds, otherwise you could be waiting several hours just to buy a ticket for the train up the Corcovado mountain.

So we took a bus from Copacabana very early and got there about 8:45 am… absolutely nobody there, except a few people who were on the bus with us.

the "line" for tickets 😛

Even though we didn’t have to wait in line, a decent crowd with several large groups had arrived by the time we got onto the train a few minutes later. The train takes maybe half an hour to go all the way up the mountain, and there are tons of amazing lookout points along the way. If you ever go, I recommend sitting in the seats facing backwards for the best view.

Jorge falls asleep after 5 minutes in any form of transportation. I envy him.

When we got to the top, it was pretty chilly. I remember stepping off the elevator and looking up at the back of the Christ the Redeemer statue and almost crying in awe. We were at the top of the world looking at one of Brazil’s most impressive monuments. There was a small crowd there that got steadily larger over the next hour or two (glad we went early!), and we spent our time enjoying the views and taking pictures.

lots of hang gliders that morning!

Once we were done taking pictures, Jorge and I went down to the cafe for a coffee. Once we saw a simple coffee was ridiculously expensive, we just pulled some apples out of our backpack and sat down to enjoy the view.

I know I live in a big tourist destination and I can spot a tourist trap from thousands of miles away, (Ok, pretty much our entire trip was uber touristy) but I don’t care. Our morning at Christ the Redeemer was one of the best mornings of my life. Absolutely amazing.

Rio de Janeiro Honeymoon: Copacabana

12 Nov

We’ve been back from Rio de Janeiro since Wednesday, after a fun night sleeping in a dirty restaurant booth at the airport, followed by a 9 1/2 hour flight. Good times. (This bad attitude is exactly why I could never be a backpacker… or go camping.) Can’t complain too much, though, because our airfare from Mexico to Brazil was free! (Best. Deal. Ever.)

Now that we’re settled back into Cancun, I can go ahead and start showing photos of our belated honeymoon!

In Rio de Janeiro, we stayed in the Copacabana neighborhood right on the beach. Most hotels were fairly expensive despite not being very exciting-looking, and even a private room at a hostel would have run us upward of $80 US a night several blocks from the beach, and most were booked up. We were very lucky to find out about Gringo Management, who has many apartments for rent in the Copacabana and Ipanema areas for very cheap. Our apartment was on the 12th floor of an apartment building just half a block from the beach, for only $75 US a night! It looked recently redone, plus it had ocean views, Wi-Fi, cable TV, a kitchenette and a small but nice bathroom. We were pretty impressed with it. (Didn’t take any pictures of it, though… oops!)

The view from our window

Our first day in Rio, we spent the whole afternoon walking up and down the boardwalk. It’s a very long boardwalk and it took quite a few hours! The beach and boardwalk were packed that day because apparently it’s a holiday in Brazil. The main road (Avenida Atlantica) had been closed to traffic to allow for more pedestrians. It was a pretty awesome way to start our vacation! After a long walk, we fell asleep on the beach. (Hey, we were tired!)

We didn’t take any photos our first day because we wanted to just take it all in, but here are some photos of the Copacabana neighborhood from other days:

Overall we really enjoyed staying in Copacabana, especially on the busier holidays and weekend. The mountain views from the beach were amazing, especially after years in the flat, flat terrain of the Yucatan Peninsula. (**This was the first time Jorge had ever seen mountains.**) There were also tons of cool little bars along the boardwalk, where I ordered mostly caipirinhas and pizza!

In a few days I’ll blog about our morning at Christ the Redeemer! Stay tuned…

Xcaret

22 Sep

This weekend, I made the quick trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen with Jorge’s family to visit one of my favorite places in the world: Xcaret.

Xcaret is an immense ecopark filled with unbelieveable attractions. I’ve been there 4 or 5 times already, and I still haven’t seen everything! The park has Mayan ruins, an underground river, a Mayan village, an hacienda, greenhouses, a huge butterfly pavilion (my favorite part), stunning beaches, dolphins, jaguars, sharks, a lookout tower, amazing restaurants, an aquarium… and the list goes on. All this is surrounded by lush jungle and winding paths, making you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

This park isn’t just about nature, though. It’s about Mexico. Combining Mexican culture, Mayan roots and the stunning jungle setting of the Riviera Maya, Xcaret is heaven on Earth. (Except for the snake that slithered across my foot at the entrance… sent that thing flying with a high kick and a scream!)

We started the day wandering around the hacienda near the entrance, with beautiful courtyards and unique colonial artwork, followed by amazing views of the Riviera Maya from the lookout tower. Then, we stopped by the orchid greenhouse (WOW) and took a turn on a riverboat.

A few of us jumped into the underground river, where we swam through caves and vine-covered cliffs, exiting into a beautiful enclosed jungle filled with vibrant butterflies. We walked past jaguars, tapirs and monkeys on our way to explore some Mayan ruins, then stopped by Xcaret’s large aquarium.

After a quick dip in the Caribbean Sea in one of the park’s crystal clear inlets, the family grabbed a quick dinner and headed to Xcaret’s famous show. Mayan warriors greeted us along the fire-lit path to the immense theater, where we sat back and watched the Mayan ball game, Papantla flyers and traditional dances from all over Mexico.

The evening ended with the show’s final song, “Mexico en la Piel” (Mexico In Your Skin), which brings tears to my eyes every. single. time.

Exhausted, I took a little cat nap on the car ride back to Cancun, thinking how much I’m dying to go back already.

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You can follow Xcaret on Twitter via @XcaretPark

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Sunset on Nichupte Lagoon

20 Sep

I came across this photo in my “archives” and thought I’d share it. It’s from an afternoon Jorge and I spent at Plaza La Isla in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Saw this couple sitting on the dock on the lagoon and had to take a picture.


 

Tarantula Crossing (or “Why I Don’t Go Into the Jungle”)

1 Sep

So on our trip to La Ruta de los Cenotes this weekend, I mentioned that you can often see Yucatan animals crossing the road. On our way back from Cenote Lucero Verde, we stopped when we saw this bad boy crawling out of the jungle:

Posted in full size so you can take in every hairy detail

I asked my father-in-law if I could get out and take a picture because… well, because I’m a blogger and that’s what we do. I would have put my hand side-by-side for a size comparison, but I’m not suicidal. (Just trust me when I say it was roughly the size of my face.)

I’ve identified it as a Yucatan Rust Rump Tarantula.