I left behind São Paulo’s cooler-than-average temperatures but I didn’t go far enough to escape southern Brazil’s unusually wet summer. It’s been raining on and off since I arrived in Rio last Thursday.
The sun doesn’t always shine in the Cidade Maravilhosa but this is a lot of rain, as in it’s in the news and parts of the city are totally flooded.
The true torrential downpour started on Saturday night. Suddenly, it wasn’t a melodic “plop, plop, plop” but a giant bucket of water dumped onto the city. I thought of the many locals and tourists sitting at the sambodromo, watching the last Carnival parade, and I revised my plans for Sunday—megabloco, maybe… but not under this kind of rain. I can handle a drizzle but torrential downpours in Rio de Janeiro means that most streets are flooded and the lovely Portuguese pavement is very slippery—not fun, barely walkable, very messy.
In the morning, I still decided to give it a shot. I left the Airbnb at noon with my beloved 10-real umbrella and headed to Centro. All quiet in Catete. All quiet in Gloria. Where were the butt-naked revellers?
Oh, fuck it. Way too much rain for a bloco. It seemed that even Cariocas had given up on it. I mean, I’m sure some people attended but I’ve had enough rain-free blocos to skip that one.
So I grabbed coffee in a lanchonete, turned around and decided to do what I always do on Sunday—going to the beach. (Obviously, only works when travelling and if there’s a beach around…)
Yes, the beach. Why not? If I couldn’t have samba, I would have Copacabana and Ipanema.
I took the subway to Cardinal Arcoverde, the first access station to Copacabana. Hey, maybe it wasn’t raining on the other side of the hill! Maybe the rain had stopped!
But it’s only three stations away, so obviously it was still raining when I arrived fifteen minutes later.
I attempted to walk on Avenida Atlântica—impossível, way too windy, I couldn’t hold the umbrella. If it hadn’t been for the coconut vendors and the 25⁰C temperature, I would have thought I was in Brittany. Okay, missing from the picture was a red-and-blue lighthouse and seagulls. Still, same kind of weather, a true Atlantic storm.
I took the inside street parallel to the beach and to Avenida Atlântica, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana. It’s usually crowded but it was dead quiet, both because of the rain and because most shops are closed on Sunday.
My only hope was that Ipanema would be less windy since it’s facing south, while Copa is facing east. It was. Avenida Vieira Souto, along the beach, was rainy and slippery but not too windy.
The military police posted by the Tom Jobim statue gave me a weird look, the “is she crazy?” kind, but on the plus side, I had the avenue and the beach to myself—on the downside, people-watching is the fun part in Ipanema and Copacabana…
I basically followed the smell of money. Copacabana is prime real estate and old rich, Ipanema is posh, paranoid and rich, Leblon is exclusive and mega rich. I’ve always wondered why—I’m not a big fan of Ipanema and Leblon as neighbourhoods, I find them boring and sterile.
I bumped into a bloquinho in Leblon. It raised my spirits for a second—yeah, party! Then I realized it wasn’t a fun, lively bloco but one of these “blocos for rich people” with posh teens getting drunk and messing around with the rental scooters under the benevolent of way too many police officers considering the size of the party. I slowed down but I felt like a parent forced to attend a Hannah Montana concert.
“Take our picture!”
I obliged, and another teen came up to me.
“Are you lost?” she asked in English. “Maybe you need some help?”
I mean, it was kind but it really made me feel old.
“Not lost, don’t worry. I mean, I got the following avenue along the beach part,” I replied.
“I speak English, do you speak English?”
“Otherwise my friend here speaks French and my other friend speaks Spanish.”
Glad to see your parents invested in your education.
“Don’t worry, Portuguese is fine too,” I replied before walking away.
I climbed up to the Leblon viewpoint, then turned around and started to walk back towards Copacabana.
By the time I got to the end of Ipanema, the rain had stopped. I decided to climb the Pedra do Arpoador, the rocky peninsula which is a local favourite for the view over Ipanema. Dumb idea, it was slippery with the rain…
Then I headed to Copacabana, picked up dinner along the way, got soaked again in Botafogo and ended up with an unusual “beaches of Rio de Janeiro under the rain” set.
I met interesting people along the way—a couple of Chilean tourists who found the rain “refreshing” (they were probably from the Atacama Desert), a couple of American tourists who told me I was crazy to walk around alone in Rio (they were from Florida, I assured them I felt safer in Brazil than in their goddamn country right now) and a French-Spanish same-sex couple I hung out with for a bit (super friendly guys).
Not exactly the kind of “Sunday at the beach” I had in mind but a fun experience nonetheless.