Hangover, jetlag, acai, octopus, and samba

Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog

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Bartender at a typical Rio juice bar

Getting up was harder than I thought.  It wasn't just the Brahmas, though those share part of the responsibility.  I hadn't slept in 2 days and Rio is a full 5 hours ahead of San Francisco time.  That's as big a time difference as the East Coast, U.S. to London.

I dragged my sorry carcass out of bed and immediately sought nutrients.  At the aforementioned Praca NS de Paz, I stumbled upon the juice bar Polis Sucos.  On a scale of 1 to 10, Polis Sucos rates about a 12.  Dozens of freshly squeezed juices, sandwiches, and 10+ helpful staff members, all packed into about 300 square feet of corner shop space.  People straight from the beach just step up to the counter and have lunch or an afternoon snack.  I settled on a glass of acai juice (a berry from the Amazon) and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

Outside Carioca de Gema
  Now, we have acai in the U.S. at Jamba Juice, whoop-de-do.  But the acai smoothie they served me at Polis Sucos brought me back to life.  They guy next to me ordered a large, so I could see that I was on to something.  It has a dark purple color like grape juice but a very mild berry flavor.  They served it sorbet style in a simple glass with a spoon.  No styrofoam, no energy boost, nor any other Jamba Juice nonsense.  Just real food, served real simple, by real people.  That's what it's all about.  Here is the NY Times review of the place if you don't believe me.



I took it easy in the afternoon, reading my guidebook and plotting out all the locations I needed to visit before I left Rio.  A couple quick tips to make your life easier in Rio:

  • Don't over think things, it's Rio, relax
  • Traffic is very slow in Ipanema and Copacabana, not much faster than walking
  • Buses are cheap, frequent, go everywhere, and have cashiers on board to make change
  • Learn the Portuguese pronunciations of the places you're going. Sounding them out in English or Spanish may or may not help. 
  • It's not as dangerous as you've heard, just don't be stupid.  Millions of Cariocas go about their business everyday without bodyguards and bullet-proof vests.
  • Apparently, Snoop Dogg enjoyed Rio  http://youtube.com/watch?v=XLsx1kDKEzQ

After a dinner of grilled octopus it was time to catch live samba in the Lapa nightclub district.  We took a cab ride seemingly all the way through the city.  We saw a roadblock setup with policemen pointing machine guns at cars as they passed through, a strange thing to witness on your way to a samba club.  Nevertheless we arrived in Lapa and the place was crawling with people. 

I had read about the club Carioca de Gema and the talents of Teresa Cristina in the guidebook.  It was pure chance that she happened to be performing there that night.  It turned out to be one of the nicest surprises of the trip.  I have long loved Latin music, ever since my drum teacher taught me to play bossa nova and appreciate the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto.  However there is something inherent to this music that a drummer growing up in the midwestern United States cannot understand. Seeing samba live in Rio was truly one of the reasons I made the trip.  Teresa Cristina and Grupo Semente didn't disappoint. One song flows into another, and the crowd seems to know every word.  The band fills the room with sound but doesn't overpower Teresa.  She definitely has a special talent, singing effortlessly, out of pure enjoyment.  You get the feeling she could sing all night long; and I wish she had.

Carioca de Gema unfortunately doesn't sell her records, nor did anyone else in town.  Either they were sold out, or didn't carry them at all.  My only option was a DVD, which I have since gone through 3 different times.  I'm excited to announce however that yahoo music now has Teresa Cristina's music available online.




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Bartender at a typical Rio juice b…
Bartender at a typical Rio juice …
Outside Carioca de Gema
Outside Carioca de Gema
Teresa Cristina
Teresa Cristina