Rio: Part 1 (A Cafe for the Past, A Museum for the Future, An Outfit for the Present)

Our Airbnb host was a small Brazilian woman who had spent years living in Amsterdam as a photographer, before things went digital. 

The walls of her apartment were covered in sepia portraits. The living room was a haphazard display of trinkets and thick patterned rugs which barely managed to muffle the constant creak of the floorboards. She must of known where to step though, because I never once heard her making the coffee she’d leave on the small dining room table for us every morning. 

It was on her recommendation that we went to the Museum of Tomorrow one rainy afternoon. 

Leaving the traditional tourist stop offs for when the sun came out to play, we headed to the long, white futuristic building built next to the waterfront at Pier Maua

The Museum of Tomorrow chronicles human kinds impact on the planet from past, to present, to an hypothesised future of sustainable living.  It was designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect, as part of the port revamp for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The inside’s spacious, with high ceilings and white walls that reminded me of stepping into a science lab, mid study. The five exhibitions (Cosmos, Earth, Anthropocene, Tomorrow and Us), were an interactive journey that had us stay there far longer than we expected.

We left in a daze of information that downtown Rio slapped out of us as soon as we’d rounded the corner. Right there in a blaze of sequinned glory, was a store selling costumes for Carnaval. 

We emerged gilded to a drag queens standards. All we needed now was accessories. There’d been no shortage of street markets so far. Our first steps outside the Airbnb had led us straight to Copacabanas' iconic black and white tiled footpath. We’d zig zagged the length of the beach checking out the sailors caps and flower headbands on offer, before stumbling across a giant sandcastle built for Carnaval 2018. The resulting photoshoot had held our attention until we headed off for sushi at Lapamaki.

It Begins! (Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro)

It Begins! (Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro)

Copacabana may of been a sea of Carnaval accessories, but we’d heard that the best place to buy costumes was at Mercado Saara. After our impromptu outfit success, we headed straight there. 

There were dozens of stalls and everything was half the price. Carnaval fever swept over us like a street party at Ipanema beach. By the time we sat down at Cafe Colombo, we could of bombed the place with glitter pots. 

At the front of the cafe, a huge mirror reflected suited waiters flitting across the marble floor. The seats at the cafe’s old, circular tables were taken by well heeled patrons chatting nonstop. Despite the rising voices, the cafe held the space as only a grand European design built in 1894 could. 

The rain was still pit-a-patting down the next day, so we headed to the comfy confines of civilisation, the mall. Riosul was drowning in over 400 big brand names with even bigger price tags, so we  got a bite to eat at Koni before heading to the movies theatre upstairs. 

We escaped into the darkness to watch Guillermo del Toros’ The Shape of Water, which as a bonus, was in English. Unlike the Museum of Tomorrow, which I forgot to mention earlier. That place will test your Portuguese as well as your eco footprint. 

When the rain cleared, we set out to visit Christ The Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. We also ended up at an open aired mansion at Parque Lage, where we saw more than one pregnancy photoshoot in action, which is a big (pun intended) thing in Brazil.