Ipanema Walking Tour / Falling In Love With Rio

Have I told you about how scared we were to travel to Rio? Well, we weren’t afraid of anything when we booked our tickets. But the fear arrived shortly thereafter, when we told people we were going to Rio de Janeiro, and everyone told us we were putting our lives at risk. And you can’t help it — when everyone you tell about your travel plans freaks out on your behalf, that can get into your head. By the time we arrived in Rio I was googling “Rio safety” and stuff like that with increasing frequency, naturally finding terrifying results. I wasn’t sure we should even set foot outside our hotel.

We arrived to a pristine airport all shined up, ready to receive Olympic guests. We’d booked an airport pickup, and he was there to greet us. It was so seamless, I was beginning to think that maybe we’d worked ourselves up into a fearful lather that was perhaps a bit excessive. We checked into our hotel, it was lovely. The front desk staff told us where to find the nearest grocery store… and mentioned that when we walked outside, we should not wear obvious jewelry. That was pretty much it — you can walk around, but don’t like dangle diamonds everywhere or whatever. (That’s not a problem for me because I’m not big into jewelry.)

When we were alone in our room, I turned to Andrew and remarked, “Hey, they made it sound like we could cautiously walk around. Like, it’s normal for strangers like us to just walk to the grocery store. I think we should give it a shot.”

The first thing I like to do when I get to a new hotel is find the nearest grocery store and get myself a giant bottle of water, since flying is very dehydrating business. I was still pretty alert from the frightening blogs I’d been reading, but nevertheless, we ventured out of our hotel room and into the elevator. Another couple joined us in the elevator. We asked where they were from: Minnesota. That’s pretty close to where we’re from. We asked how they liked Rio. They told us that they’d been there for four days and had spent the first three days terrified from all the horrible stories they’d been told. In fact, they’d been rehydrating exclusively from the tiny expensive waters in the mini bar for the first three days because they’d been too afraid to go out into the streets much, since yeah, Rio is among the most dangerous cities in the world. It was only on their fourth day that they’d eased up and ventured to the grocery store that was just one block away. And they’d finally relaxed on the beach. And their main regret was that they hadn’t relaxed sooner. I mean, they made it clear that it’s good to stay aware and wise to your surroundings et cetera, but they’d been a little TOO uptight. Like… that’s how WE were feeling, ourselves, now, at the beginning of our visit to Rio.

Honestly, I’m not even sure that nice Minnesota couple really existed. It was too perfect, it was as if they were some kind of benevolent apparition, sent to let us know to relax a little. To relax enough to check out the corner grocery and get some water for pete’s sake.

And you know what happened? Nothing. Only normal things happened. We walked down the street, took note of a cool gourmet beer and coffee store really close to our hotel (which we visited several times after), and purchased life-giving H2O. And, we felt awesome. Thank-you nice Minnesota couple for allowing us to learn from your experience.

At the end of our first full day in Rio, went went on one of those free walking tours. This one was of Copacabana and Ipanema.


Standing on the famous Ipanema sidewalk.

All the other walking tours we’ve been on have left in the early morning, but this one met at 3 pm at a metro station. Initially we figured we’d take a taxi to the metro station… but then we figured well… if the walking tour meets at the metro, then probably it’s normal and safe to just take the metro to meet. So we gave it a shot, and it all worked out quite nicely.


Walking along Ipanema beach at sunset.

This place is gorgeous. The setting just puts you at ease. I can see how it can lull people into not being aware of their surroundings. The trees, water, beaches, climate… all so relaxing and beautiful. Everyone’s enjoying themselves…


Some sights we encountered as we strolled along the beach with 20 other people in our group.


Ipanema was made even more famous by Tom Jobim’s song Girl From Ipanema.


Tom Jobim’s statue in Ipanema.



Our tour guide was super into Capoeira, which is Brazilian dance-fighting. It came to be, because the Portuguese settlers used slaves to work the sugar cane fields, and the slaves had no way to defend themselves, so Capoeira was born. It involves complex kicks and acrobatic maneuvers. It’s fantastic to watch and very impressive, but if you get too close to a someone performing Capoeria, you will come to harm.


Our walking tour concluded by the side of a lake, where our guide encouraged the group to learn Capoeria.


I declined… but I enjoyed just sitting there on the grass, doing my weird stretches. (Which Andrew always photographs…)


At the end of the Capoeira lesson, the walking tour ended and we all realized we didn’t quite know where we were anymore and it was dark in this supposedly very dangerous city. Our guide was busy giving everyone directions to different metro stations. We joined a group that he assured could get to our original metro very easily, all we’d have to do is run across a freeway of sorts.

Wait what?

Oh, here we go. Time to jump up and run around in the dark in Rio. NBD.

Thanks to all my stretching during the Capoeira lesson, I was feeling limber enough to join the splintered group, on our own now, darting across many lanes of traffic by a cloverleaf, now through a ditch, under palms, through tall grass, now through a few more lanes of traffic AHHHHHHH all in order to take advantage of a valuable shortcut to our desired metro.

I felt so empowered… and also kinda like a little kid. It was amazing!

Having successfully walked all over the place, grocery shopped, taken the metro, and ran through traffic in the dark, Andrew and I were feeling awesome. So we went to Delirium Cafe. We first went to Delirium in Brussels the previous year, and that place was huge and excessive and loud and really too much for me. But the beer is so good. So we’d wanted to check out the Rio Delirium. It was really different! Just small and quiet, with a few other couples on dates at other tables. This is how we ended our night:






4 responses to “Ipanema Walking Tour / Falling In Love With Rio

  1. Oh, how I wish you had the chance to meet my friend Andrea last week! She lived and travelled throughout South America the past 3.5 years and her stories are incredible! For the most part she was always safe but imagine doing all her travels solo in such big cities as Rio! Yikes! 🙂


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