Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts. Stunning stretches of sand juxtaposed with gleaming city highrises, mountains reaching for the sky, and favelas on every slope.

More than slums, they are home to a good portion of the city’s workforce. With homes, shops, restaurants-of-sorts, and ‘law’ enforcement, they are neighbourhoods unto their own albeit not recognized by any city council.

Places like these grow out of need and it is only social policy that will eradicate them, or turn them into viable communities. It will be interesting, and I assume horrifying, to see how the Brazilian government manages these favelas as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games approach.

Have you been to Rio and seen the favelas? What did you think?


Ever been to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro? Yeah, me either, but check out these wild costumes we were able to try on while touring around Rio. Then we had our very own private parade on Carnival Street!

I’m sure it would have been so much better to actually be there during Carnival but this certainly gave us a taste of the pomp, circumstance, and hilarity that must go on during the actual parades.


Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl

With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there

She would merengue and do the cha-cha

And while she tried to be a star, Tony always tended bar…

I know…right? If you remember Barry Manilow at all from being a child of the eighties then how could you not have this song running through your head while strolling along the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro?

Oh, you’re welcome and yes, it is totally stuck in my head now too!

PS…don’t forget about the Giveaway from the Friday Fodder post! Just head to the OneGiantStep Facebook page and Like it for a chance to win Rowing To Latitude by Jill Fredston – talk about stepping out!

We had two…two glasses of champagne. Well, we do have champagne tastes but, unfortunately, a beer budget….so we substituted with beer on the beaches of Rio. And it was actually four nights…

To say I was anxious as the bus made its way to Rio de Janeiro would be an understatement. Every guidebook and website I had read talked about how dangerous it was. Stories of pickpocketing and muggings…even in the light of day. What was I expecting? A lawless state where armed gunmen stood on every corner just waiting for tourists to exit their hotels? It turned out to be fine and, with the usual precautions, we didn’t feel uncomfortable even once.

looking-back-to-christ-the-redeemer-2792737Rio is absolutely stunning. The combination of the water crashing on long, crescent shaped beaches with the city buildings studded amongst green, green hills is what puts it amongst our list of most beautiful cities. I love cities that are on the water. I don’t find the juxtaposition of the beaches with the cityscape jarring, in fact I like the way the city is a little more relaxed because of it and the beaches, because they are so accessible, always have something going on.

gillian-on-ipanema-beach-9331060Both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches lived up to their reputation. Long expanses of fluffy sand punctuated by futbol scrums, volleyball courts and games of futevolie (volleyball played without the use of hands!). Although the beaches did not fill up (it is winter here after all) there was still plenty to see, and by that I mean that yes, the beachwear here does not leave a lot to the imagination and body type is no excuse not to don that bikini! I think that my favorite part, though, was the beer stalls that regularly dot the pedestrian walkway alongside the beach. Cheap, ice-cold beer right next to the beach! Canada needs to seriously work on its liquor laws!

From the Christ the Redeemer and SugarLoaf mountain lookouts, the city looked like a LegoLand version of itself. The beaches, the high-rises, the mountains, the islands in the distance all appearing as if in some diorama in an architects office somewhere.

favelo-view-1578550We did not go on a favela tour. The slum areas of Rio are very visible as they climb the hillsides amongst the city. Tours of favelas are common and popular but was just not something we wanted to do. It’s not about not wanting to face up to the poverty that exists in these countries we are visiting, but more about not wanting to intrude on the lives of those who are living it. How would I feel if tour buses of people came through my neighborhood, looking in my windows, taking pictures and wondering aloud ‘how they live like that’? I understand that the tours are organized, that the money paid goes toward change, and that they are a reality but it just wasn’t something I wanted to be part of.

relaxing-on-the-patio-paraty-2009505We left Rio to finish out our time in South America at a small beach town between Rio and Sao Paulo. Paraty is exactly what we were looking for. A super chill hostel (our room looks out onto the beach!), beer shacks on the beach and warm water to swim in. Here we are doing nothing…seriously, nothing. We’ve managed to pull ourselves back and forth to town to eat a couple of times but mostly we’re just chilling, relaxing….chillaxing…ahhhh……