By Joshua Rapp Learn, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Occupying the northeast end of Copacabana beach, the shaded streets of Leme offer a rare respite from the milling city without sacrificing natural beauty. Nestled between Morro do Leme and Morro da Babilônia with spectacular views of Sugarloaf, the small neighborhood of Leme enjoys the pace of life reminiscent of a seaside village. At midday the sun shines through vine-choked trees, dappling the mosaic tiles with light. At sunset, a hazy illumination obscures the waves that roll alongside the rocky cliff side of Morro do Leme.
The area originally became popular in response to the parking and traffic problems that plagued Copacabana. People came here to escape Zona Sul’s congestion. Leme’s unique location between the hills has contributed to preserving its sense of calm ever since. The neighborhood takes its name from the adjacent hill in the shape of a ship’s helm, or leme in Portuguese.
Today Leme is a small area, stretching six blocks between Avenida Princesa Isabel and the old Leme Fortification and about three blocks from the beach. Its tranquility attracts a large senior population, including foreign retirees seeking to enjoy the privileges of beachfront living while avoiding the noise and prices of places like Ipanema.
Despite its peaceful aura, Leme enjoys its share of colorful local traditions. In the 70s, Banda do Leme was one the first bands to contribute to the resurgence of Copacabana’s street carnival. A statue commemorating the group can be found near a plant merchant’s stand in the Rua Roberto Dias Lopes walkway.
Every New Year’s Eve a candomblé procession honoring the goddess Yemaja begins in Leme. On Friday nights the Praça Almirante Júlio de Noronha comes alive with capoeira circles. The Teatro Princesa Isabel on the street of the same name hosts many events, from children’s shows to dance productions.
The beachfront Mariv8 offers a spectacularly kitsch dining experience to the tune of glorified piracy while more budget friendly cafes line the shady streets a block from the beach. Every Monday, the end of Rua Gustavo Sampaio is shut to make space for a fruit and vegetable market full of tropical delights such as the tangy Jabuticaba berry. For those seeking more culinary diversity, the restaurants of Copacabana are a short walk down the beach.
Although cheaper than property in Ipanema, prices range from five to ten percent more expensive than property in adjacent Copacabana on average.
A visit to a real estate office in Leme reveals average sales prices are R$150,000 for a one-bedroom kitchenette, R$250,000 to R$300,000 for a two-bedroom apartment and around R$500,000 for a four-bedroom apartment. Rentals range from R$1,200 for a one-bedroom with a living room and R$1,600 to R$1,900 for a two-bedroom. Dulce Lima from Orla Rio Imóveis on Avenida Princesa Isabel, 186 (tel 9591 0102) is happy to help with any queries.
“Make sure your real estate agent has a valid creci number,” she cautions. This number is assigned by the government to businesses selling or renting properties in Brazil. “There are many scam artists preying on the unsuspecting.”