Beaches, Buzios and a Brazilian Wedding

the beautiful bride and the next brides to be

Click to see the whole Photo Album

I left the Mediterranean for Brazil and thought I was going from Portugal to something similar, but not even the language seemed familiar when I landed in hot and humid South America. The attitude and energy changed even on the plane ride over, the friendly flirtatiousness slowly oozing out of the beautiful Brazilians on board. I landed in Rio´s international airport at 9pm and thought it would be too late to get to Buzios, a beach town 2 hours away, but the first driver I saw when I walked into the arrivals hall was a guy holding a sign with ‘BUZIOS TRANSFER.’ I walked past him and went outside to feel the warm sticky air again, and parked directly infront of me stood the Buzios bus. I figured it was a sign, so I went straight to Buzios.

I didnt have the address where my friends were staying and my phone conveniently didn´t work, so I arrived at 2:30 am with my backpack and wandered around the streets unsure where to go. There were many people still out partying and my friend in Rio had said to find my friends at Pacha nightclub… but Pacha was closed. I decided to go to the busiest bar with the biggest crowd, and spotted my friend Matt almost immediately, sitting at the bar with a glass of whisky and a Skol beer.

We spent 3 days exploring the beaches around Buzios, one day by means of a sand dune buggy, which would have come in really handy the one day we braved a sandstorm to get some beach time. The day we were on Geriba, we couldn´t really lay our sarongs on the ground because they were buried by blowing sand within minutes, and so were we if we tried to lay on them. We sat in beach chairs that blew over if we stood up, and our umbrella functioned more as a wind shelter than as shade.

We returned to Rio to meet a group of travelers all attending Mara and Rich´s wedding, two friends of mine from New York City. Our first night together, we gorged on caipirinhas and meat at the Porcao churrascaria, while torrential downpours flooded the city streets and drenched us to the bone in the 30 seconds we had to spend outside to get in and out of a taxi. It kept raining the following days, with only glimpses of sun phasing in and out during the day, so you had to time yourself really well to benefit from Ipanema or Copacabana´s near empty beaches.

The bachelorette party was held inside Leblon, a shopping mall full of bikini and lingerie stores of which each and every one we visited. The wedding was held at Villa Riso, a regal mansion located in the rain forest near Sao Conrado. The lack of sunshine was well received by all the guys in suits and tuxedos, who would otherwise have never made it without sweating through all their fine clothes. Mara was the most beautiful bride I´d ever seen, including every cheesy wedding magazine and bridal model you could compare her to, and the lights, cameras and action constantly surrounding her confirmed I wasn´t the only one thinking that.

The wedding ceremony was held in the chapel, and the reception followed in a big atrium, and I´ve never imagined so many white flowers and yellow roses possible in one place. The champagne flowed all night, with caiprinhas and whisky as bountiful as the salmon and sushi being served all night. There was an entire room of candies and deserts, served in roses, and every woman received a pair of Havaiana flip flops half way through the party to ensure she stayed on her feet dancing the rest of the night.

When the energy in the room started to slow down just a little bit, we didn´t even get a chance to notice the emptying dance floor because a band of 20 dummers overtook the room with such sound and rhythm that noone could stay sitting down. Everyone rushed back to the dance floor and let the drum vibrations move their hips, and before we knew it, an hour had passed and we were still jumping up and down to their contagious beats without even remembering how tired, full, or drunk we had just been feeling.

Rio de Janeiro and Ilha Grande

8 months ago, I was in Florence, Italy, visiting 2 American brothers. Their friends were hosting a Brazilian couchsurfer named Andre. After the group of us traveled to Cinque Terre together and hung out in Florence, I had convinced Andre to surf my couch in Reykjavik one day. 2 months later, he arrived in Reykjavik, and I told him I’d have to surf his couch in Rio one day. 4 months later, I was surfing his couch in Niteroi, with only 2 days notice.


It was impossible to reach him earlier since I was floating around in the middle of the Northern

me and Cristo

Brazilian Amazon, and I wasn’t sure he would be in Rio since he travels a lot. But, he welcomed me in to his family’s home as a couchsurfer and a friend, and Im so relieved I actually remembered I had the outstanding invitation (I have so many people left to visit I often wonder how many cities I’ve visited without remembering to call someone!)

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Sugar Load and the teleferico lines in the fog

His home was in Niteroi, accross the bay from Rio, with a spectacular view of the Sugar Loaf hill. You could see Christ the Redeemer from his balcony, and it only took a 14 km bridge to get to the heart of Rio. He took me to Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, we took the gondola up Pão de Açúcar, took pictures from Vista Chinesa, and waded through the crowds up the Corcodova to see Cristo Redentor. I had planned for 6 days in Rio, but on my second day, we took an impromptu camping trip to Ilha Grande.

We were having buffet pizza with some other locals and backpackers on my first night when Digo invited us to go. He said we would need all our camping supplies and food for 3 days since the island is only interconnected by a series of trails and a few boat docks. We had to hike 3 hours to the ‘secluded’ beach we wanted to stay at, but then realized hundreds of other people had made the difficult trek searching for the same paradise… a perfect case of tragedy of the commons.

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the crowds and the view from Corcovado

But, instead of a wild and rugged weekend, we had a fun-filled beach vacation, making lots of new friends  while dancing and sleeping only inches from one anothers tents. I learned very quickly that I don’t speak Portuguese, but I can understand it, and when I try to speak, I’m actually communicating myself through Portunol and Spanglish, a mix of Spanish and English with Portugese decoration.