Welcome to my place . . . Rio
Copacabana has less of an attitude and is more relaxed than its poser-esque neighbour Ipanema
Patrick O’Neill: from Tallaght to Rio.
Patrick O’Neill is from Tallaght, Dublin, but fell in love with Rio on a visit in 2002 and promised himself he would return and live there one day. Between jobs in London, he went to Rio and lay on a beach reading books (he taught English as well). His company, Sherlock Communications (sherlockcomms.com), helps to promote international companies and NGOs.
Where is the first place you always bring people when they visit Rio de Janeiro?
As I live a few minutes’ walk from Copacabana Beach, it tends to be the first place my visitors get to see. It’s a great introduction to the city and great place to recover from a long-haul flight. Okay, it’s not as ‘chic’ as Ipanema beach, but in some ways that’s what makes it great. It attracts all types of people – families, rich, poor, young, older people, gays and straights. Copacabana has less of an attitude and is more relaxed than its poser-esque beach neighbour Ipanema. It has something for everyone – from beach sports to barracas (tents) serving cold beers and caipirinhas.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are . . .
Take a stroll along some of Rio’s amazing beaches from Leme Beach, through Copacabana, all the way to Ipanema and Leblon (or the other way around) and just people-watch.
Visit Parque Lage, a large park with a tropical forest and an amazing mansion from the last century at the foot of Corcovado. The mansion has been used a backdrop for lots of music videos including Beautiful by Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams
At the foot of the Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar), there’s a hiking trail called Cláudio Coutinho, which gives you a different view of the city. During your walk you’re likely to come across little monkeys called micos and amazing views of Guanabara Bay.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Rio?
For a cheap meal, head to Pavao Azul, a really nice little neighbourhood restaurant with a good selection of Rio dishes and chopp (draught lager). Be warned, it can get busy so I find the best time to go is just after lunch rush (2pm).
For a mid-range meal, Churrascaria Palace is very good Brazilian ‘rodizio’ restaurant (all-you-can-eat) with different cuts of meat served on skewers carried around by many waiters, along with a vast salad bar. It also has fish available, but maybe not a great place for a veggie.
There are lots of high-end restaurants in Rio, but they tend to be over-priced. If you want a to treat yourself, go to the Copacabana Palace Hotel for Sunday brunch.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Rio’s place in history?
Head to Santa Teresa by tram called ‘Bondinho de Santa Teresa’ from the city centre (Centro) which crosses over the Arcos da Lapa and go a walk about. Its cobbled winding streets are full of colonial mansions, bars, restaurants and art galleries. While you’re there, check out the Parque das Ruinas Cultural Centre, and have a beer and carpaccio in Serginhos tiny bar afterwards.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Rio?
Flip-flops are an obvious choice but for something different, try local food produce such as molho de pimento (hot pepper sauce) which you can use to burn the mouth off your friends when you get back home (sorry Catherine and Kareem!). Also, a kilo of Brazil nuts, ‘castanha do Pará’, from a shop called Casa de Pedra – they taste much better than ones you buy in Ireland.
Finally, a bottle of cachaça, so you can make caipirinhas to remind you of Rio when you get back home.