Brazil: Day 3

Yesterday was our designated beach day. (For the record, this has nothing to do with the weather forecast as every day we are here it is sunny and in the low 80’s.) We awoke to clear, blue skies, repeated our breakfast of the day before, took care of some business online, and headed down to the water.

What a change from the weekend! We had been wondering how many of the people on the beach were tourists vs. Rio residents; yesterday there was about a quarter of the number of people on the beach. This meant we had an unobstructed view of the water (win) but fewer beautiful people to admire (fail). We spread out a sheet and set to reading and tanning. (In an action that defines “oxymoron”, I read the Economist.)

Eventually, the hot sun drove each of us to the water. Let me take a moment to describe the water here. Although it’s not clear, it’s cleaner than anything I’ve seen in the US and has a lovely greenish-blue quality to it. The waves are HUGE. Yesterday we learned that swimming at Ipanema qualifies as an extreme sport. It is not for the faint of heart! Getting past the 6+ foot breakers takes a lot of daring and cunning. You run a very real risk of being clobbered and losing your bathing suit, and coming back in is even harder. I got hit very hard at one point, which resulted in me corkscrewing along the bottom and for the first time ever feeling slightly disoriented underwater as a result. I also think if you stay in too long that you’d get seasick from the height of the waves. Nonetheless, I have to wonder how to place Ipanema on my list of favorite beaches. Although it does not meet criteria #1 of clear water, it meets the next two (sand and waves). I think the size of the waves merits some bonus points, as do the coconuts to drink (check out my new profile pic on facebook), and the people here provide a stunning visual similar to beaches with clear water. I have to keep mulling this over.

We came back from the beach in the late afternoon. My back is burned, but the rest of me started on a nice tan. After showers and an application of aloe, we set off in search of Havaianas, Gilson Martin purses, and Brazilian bikinis.

The Havaianas store we found did not disappoint, and there is a larger one awaiting us in Copacabana. I was thrilled to find Croatia flip flops amidst the international selection and also bought a pair of the standard whites with the Brazilian flag.

Gilson Martin is a Rio purse brand, and the store completely overwhelmed us. Almost all of their accessories have images of Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain on them, and they come in all sorts of colors and shapes. After agonizing for half an hour and making friends with both the staff and other clientele, Stacey and I each bought an incredible goldish-bronze purse with a Rio landscape on it that is worth every penny. I was equally thrilled to meet a Colombian woman while checking out; she told me that I spoke Spanish without an accent and had to ask where I was from! That’s pretty much the best linguistic compliment it’s possible to receive!

Speaking of linguistics, let me take a moment to say that I’ve never had such a good time attempting to speak a language in which I am not highly proficient. The Brazilians are very friendly and patient and seem to truly enjoy the fact that we make the effort. I managed to talk to a Gilson Martin employee about why she had a tattoo in English on her arm, another about the best type of Cachaca to buy, and a bikini saleswoman about whether Brazilians are more likely to learn English or Spanish as a second language (English).

We went into several bikini shops; Stacey and Mary tried on a few and learned just how itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny the suits are here. Mary bought a lovely one with crochet flower detail.

For dinner we visited a pay-by-the-kilo restaurant that provided a delicious buffet. I got to sample a number of veggie dishes along with steak, squid, salmon, and cod. Mmmmm!

We finally got back to the hostel around 9:30 and got ready for our first real attempt at clubbing. We headed to a place at the border between Ipanema and Copacabana, discovered we were too early at 11, and spent 90 minutes sipping beer at a stand overlooking the beach. Copacabana appears to have significantly smaller waves.

The club proved to be fun although not what we expected from our Lonely Planet guides. Stacey requested Lady Gaga and got “Born This Way” 40 minutes later; needless to say, it was awesome.

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