By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As winter approaches, the recent drop in temperature has forced many to rethink their leisure activities. Not so long ago, people automatically grabbed their swim suits and headed for the nearest beach, now however, increasingly strong rain and chilly temperatures have put a dampener on seaside activities, leaving many travelers searching for alternatives – which fortunately Rio has in abundance.
Starting the day, no matter when that is, with a hearty breakfast at the Gringo cafe in Ipanema is recommended. A firm favorite among expatriates Brazilians with a taste for American-style diner food, with pancakes, bacon and eggs as well as a bottomless cups of coffee.
Next, especially if it is “chilly” outside, take the opportunity to head indoors and learn a new skill while staying snug and warm in a cozy kitchen. Cook in Rio, located on Rua Ronald de Carvalho, Copacabana, is a fun day activity where one can learn how to cook the traditional Brazilian dishes such as Feijoda, Bahian Seafood Moqueca, or Cachaça Flambé. Lessons cost R$120 and include all food and beverages.
For a more passive activity and change of scene, visit the São Bento Monastery in Downtown Centro. This picturesque building dates back to the fourteenth Century and is fantastically designed. Guided tours operate from Monday to Saturday, 9AM to 4PM and provide fascinating insight in to the way the monks lived throughout the centuries until present day.
While in Centro, it is also worth checking out the Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB – Bank of Brazil Cultural Center) if only for a glimpse at its breathtaking architecture. One of Rio’s oldest buildings, this was the first bank to be established in the city.
It is now open to the public as an exhibition center, housing three theaters, four video rooms and a movie theater plus a tea room serving coffee and cakes in the central atrium. Their website www.bb.com.br/cultura lists current and upcoming exhibitions.
If it happens to be a cool Sunday afternoon, there is nothing more comforting than a hot plate of Feijoda. Brasileirinho on Rua Jangaderois, Ipanema serves home-style cooked dishes that is good on price and big in portion and provides the perfect Sunday lunch spot after a stroll around the Feira Hippie (hippie market).
Another activity if the rain is lashing down, is to stay dry in one of the city’s many shopping malls, where everything one could possibly want is situated under one roof. Shopping da Gavea contains 220 stores, a cinema and four theater halls featuring some of the best plays on show in Rio.
Otherwise, Rio Sul, the city’s first shopping mall, is comprised of eight floors including two food quarts, a fitness center, countless shops and a cinema showing the latest films in English and Portuguese with subtitles. Shopping Leblon is also a great option, which even offers a Starbucks for a familiar afternoon pick-me-up coffee drink.
As evening draws near, head to Quadrofoglio for some serious wining and dining. Situated in the heart of Jardim Botanico, this renowned restaurant offers delicious Italian cuisine in a quaint, romantic setting. Another cozy option for spicy food is Mekong in Lebon, which offers Asian-fusion dishes as spicy as you can handle.
Finally, complete the day with a visit to Lapa and shake off the chill in one of the many samba clubs and bars. On the edge of Lapa and Centro is Rio Scenarium, possibly the most famous in the city and promises a lively night on the tiles. Originally an old warehouse, it covers three floors and is furnished with antiques including dimly lit chandeliers providing the right ambiance for darkening nights, the perfect end to a cool, rainy day.