Rio, oh dang! / by Nadia Fallahi

It’s been a long time since I’ve been around, been a long time, but I’m back in town. And this time, I’m here with all the best (and worst) of our little trip down to Rio de Janeiro.

A few months back, my roommate, Will, found a design conference in Rio that we would be able to attend through work. We are allowed to travel to any conference that pertains to our work within a set budget, so we knew we wanted to travel to somewhere we hadn’t been before. The conference, we found after attending, didn’t really apply to our work nor was it planned nor run very smoothly, but I’m still grateful for the opportunity.

The country of Brazil is so, so beautiful. I had never been there nor even south of the equator, so I was even more excited to visit. It’s quite funny looking back on this trip – the six days we were there were so incredible and relaxing, yet the trials and tribulations of getting there and getting out were so stark in contrast. I didn’t even have a visa until just a few hours before my outbound flight, and on my way back, I had an unknown airport switch which put a twist on my route back to DC for Thanksgiving. All in all, this taught me to be as present as I can in the moment and to not get hot n bothered over things out of my control.

Will and I stayed right on the Copacabana, which is as stunning as you could imagine. We could pop right on over across the street to that toasty Brazilian sand and just soak up those rays while sipping on caipirinhas (a signature cocktail in Brazil – also, they will get you realllllll turnt). I’d never felt more body positive on a beach before. Everyone was incredibly beautiful and confident, and it was amazing to see such a diverse crowd rather than the washed-up frat bros of SF. The rumors are also true – they all have great butts. I felt like I could just throw my insecurities away and focus on being there.

The food in Rio was UN-FORKIN-BELIEVABLE (shoutouts anyone who watches The Good Place). Will and I are what I like to call “attainable foodies,” and we have very similar palettes when it comes to dining and aesthetics. First off, the produce was so fresh – you could tell they grow it so different based on color and taste. We also made sure to get that authentic açai experience and ate endless bowls. For our bigger meals, both with the group and just the two of us, I took to Instagram to find out what was hot in Rio. Side note: when I travel, I easily just go search #riofood (switch for the city you’re in!) on Instagram and scroll through to see what looks appealing. I was able to find INCREDIBLE spots.

Our first dinner was at Alfaia Restaurante, a little Portuguese spot. The next night, we did Oia, a super cute and delicious Mediterranean restaurant. The food and presentation was amazing, and the staff was so helpful and caring. The aesthetics were perfect, and the meal wasn’t badly priced at all. Our third night, we wanted to get sushi, so we went to KōBā Izakaya. KōBā Izakaya was a small, intimate place with an incredible twist on so many of my favorite Japanese dishes. I also tried their wasabi ginger and tonic. Would highlyyyy recommend. Ino, where we stopped for dinner on the next night, was hands down our favorite meal and restaurant of the trip – so good that we stopped there again for lunch on our last day. Each dish was more incredible than the last, and the ambiance perfectly matched the meals. Our meals at Ino were some of the best of my entire life, and I would go back to Rio just to eat there again. For our last night, Will and I wanted to get a traditional Brazilian steakhouse fix, so we hit up Churrascaria Palace. I’m not the biggest fan of Brazilian steakhouses, but I’m glad we got to do this.

My favorite part of the trip surely was the tour we did on our last full day in Brazil. I knew I had to see Christ the Redeemer, but I was hesitant to do it with a tour group. Will convinced me that we should do a tour, so we were able to book one through our hotel that took us to four stops and picked up and dropped off at our hotel. The tour was absolutely incredible. We stopped at the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, the Selaron Steps, Christ the Redeemer and up to the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain. Our tour guide was sweet and knowledgable, and I really felt like I learned so much. Each of the stops was so fun, but closing out the day watching the sunset from the top of the mountain was just the icing on top of the cake.

I’m so happy to have done this trip with Will. He and I have grown extra close in the last few months, often joking about being married, so this trip was set to be our “honeymoon.” In retrospect, I remember endless laughs, “Oh dang!”s, content, caipirinhas and wine chugs. We went through ten disposable film cameras together, which so perfectly capture our time together in Rio. It’s really fun to have this kind of experience with one of your best friends.

Brazil is one of the most amazing places I have ever travelled to. I’m so grateful to have gone and experienced it myself along with Will. I look back on this trip with a full heart and a clear mind. It couldn’t have come at a better time in my life, and I look forward to my next trip back down.