The mouth of the January River sang more than just the first beats of samba and the smooth rhythm of bossa nova. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s balmy balneário by the edge of Guanabara Bay, boasts a rich and regal repertoire of cultural heritage and untethered beauty. Encountered by the Portuguese on New Year’s Day in 1502, the city served as the imperial capital of Portugal during the time of Napoleon. It was the only instance in history that a European nation was ruled from one of its colonies.
Yet, there’s neither a trace of pomposity nor of royalty’s rigidness. Rio de Janeiro is as casual as can be. From street corners, the soul-stirring aromas of coconut milk and shrimp call out to empty stomachs. Equally as tempting are the Cariocas themselves, the unabashed residents of Rio who saunter up and down the beachfronts wearing nothing more than Havaianas and a strategically placed strip of polyester. There’s a flirtatiousness even in the way they speak: chewing, guzzling, and gushing their syllables like waves of honey. Every detail is an invitation to be ensnared by the allure of the Southern Hemisphere’s tropical Babylon. Continue reading “Carioca Dreamscapes: Reveries from Rio de Janeiro”