Beach Vendors

Living in Rio de Janeiro, the beach is undoubtedly the most popular place to be. And whenever there are a lot of people, there are a hell of a lot of other people trying to make a few reais... hopefully by selling you things. This post is going to take a quick look at these guys and talk about the variety of popular snacks other items that are sold in this sandy landscape.

I have to admit I am a big fan of the beach vendors in Rio. They do not force themselves into your personal space or ask you direct questions. They simply walk up and down the beach shouting out the various snacks and wares that they sell. It's a much better system as there are enough of them to be useful but not so many that it is imposing or annoying. These guys are very friendly and just trying to scrape together a living like the rest of us.

These guys and girls are walking vans (vandors if you will) carrying a lot of product over the hot sand; no easy task.

A lot of people have the smart idea of selling clothes on the beach, usually hats, sarongs and weirdly, bikinis. Who needs to buy a bikini when they are already on the beach?! Well, maybe the Cariocas, as they don't quite seem to know what a bikini is...they seem to think a few thin straps held together with smoke are enough to adequately cover their...Sugarloafs.

He even has a mirror on the top so you can check yourself out in your new cool hat.

These strong fellas lumped a heavy box of sandwiches... and a trumpet with them. They were the most intrusive vendors we came across as occasionally one of them would stop and play the trumpet with some skill but at an almighty volume. Interesting technique but didn't seem to be the most successful.
Please excuse the low quality of this image, but can you see the contraption this ice cream seller is using to drag his delicious product about? He has made his own beach kart. It would probably have taken me 10 years of vending on the beach to figure something like this out. I am not even joking.

Tasty ice lollies are tucked away in this man's box. Delightful! There's also a dude who sells fresh fruit salad (smothered in condensed milk so as not to be too healthy!)

A man selling pies on a beach! He had a strong arm too!

Men walk along selling meats and cheeses on sticks and the smell of their portable BBQs is very enticing. The cheese is like halloumi and is coated in oregano - delicious!

This guy trudges along all day, sloshing liquid around with him. He is selling Mate, a popular ice tea although I imagine his is more like sun-warmed tea. He was also wearing a big black beard (not as though you can tell with the photo), and I couldn't help but wonder if it was a disguise...?

The lifeguards are offering safety to the beach-goers. And never forget it, because the undercurrents of the bocas are very strong! The biggest threat on the beach however, are the umbrellas, which get uprooted by high the winds and like to fly at you with great force!
Kids beach toys. He knows a good customer is one who isn't worried about being ripped off, and that's a child. Get one of them involved and their parents will be forced to buy a toy just to shut them up.

Tucked away in this man's box were, believe it or not, crabs. I kid you not. The Crab Man!

This is a very common beach snack in Brazil called Globos. Similar to a wotsit or quaver in texture, with a satisfying crunch, they are very greasy with a strong taste of oil and really not our cup of tea.

This man was selling cuzcuz - a very popular beach dessert of tapioca grains, condensed milk and coconut. Very sweet and a weird thing to eat on the beach but it seems to be a consistent winner with the sunbathers!

A family selling corn on the cob, wrapped in the husk. A delicious healthy snack, although the worst possible thing to be offered when you have just had wisdom teeth surgery!

Búzios In My Mouth

We didn't eat at that many restaurants during our roadtrip along the coast but due to my excellent research skills and a bit of luck, we did have a few very delicious meals. 

On the first day, we had lunch in Arraial do Cabo at a very well reviewed restaurant called Bacalhau do Tuga. Bacalhau means cod, and in Brazil it is usually salted and dried, and then rehydrated to make dishes of Portuguese origin. While our main wasn't actually cod, we did have a starter of the very famous Brazilian snack food, bolinho de bacalhau. I tried one once and it was a little fishy for my liking, what with the salting and drying aspect but these were absolutely delicious! Crispy on the outside, juicy and herby inside with some chilli oil to dip them in, I could have eaten two baskets full! For main we took a risk and got some fish in mango sauce. It didn't say what fish it was and I didn't ask but it was meaty, white and mild in flavour. You might remember our recent fishtastrophe of a meal in Fortaleza, when the mango sauce was like custard! Why did we order it again?! Well, I am so glad we did because it was delicious. The sauce was just the right level of sweetness while still definitely being savoury, and it came with a side of coconut farofa that blew my mind. I have never seen this on a menu before and it was hands down the best farofa experience of my life. I mean, it was still like eating sand but like the sand of a tropical island somewhere, with coconut trees all around and the baking sun toasting everything until it's crunchy and brown...fantastic. I'd also like to mention the restaurant itself, which was very quaint and the service was brilliant. 

You know I can't resist Mexican food, so getting a cheeky plate of nachos at Mr Brad in Buzios was a no-brainer! We were drawn in by the live music and promise of passion fruit caipirinhas, which we enjoyed under the canopy with a great view of the street - we love a bit of people watching! After a quick flick through the menu we settled on the nachos, which were made of yellow, red and green chips and a very generous amount of toppings. Simple and delicious! The rest of their food looked really good too.

Midway through our day of beach-hopping in Buzios we found ourselves on Geriba beach with grumbly tummies. There seemed to be mostly snacks on offer at the beach huts and we were after something more substantial, so we were very happy to come across an actual restaurant about halfway along the beach. The food was good and reasonably priced and we sat looking out at the sea, which is always a lovely way to enjoy a meal. I had a huge steak and Dave got squid, which amazingly didn't come with any carbs! The restaurant is called Fishbone and it turns out it is a very famous beach club - possibly the best and most famous in Brazil! I can't speak to the nightlife as we didn't venture back in the evening but there have been international DJs there on occasion and it is apparently a brilliant place for a night out. It is open to the elements with a relaxed vibe and relatively good service. The music that was playing while we ate was interesting and the whole place would have been at home on a riverbank in Berlin, during the summer of course!

Pimenta Siria was on our list of places to eat for two reasons. Firstly, the top rated restaurants in Buzios seem to be European, which doesn't really appeal to us at the moment. But Pimenta Siria is a Middle Eastern restaurant which (and this is the second reason we went) offers an all-you-can-eat meze kind of thing for a very reasonable price. This may only be available on Sundays, but that wasn't clear so I could be wrong. Anyway, the waiter brought us one of each item on the starter menu and then we were free to order extra portions of anything we wanted more of. So we had hummus, baba ganoush, some feta spreads, stuffed vine leaves, falafel, kofta, sish kebabs, olives, rice, cabbage salad...probably loads of other things I am forgetting but basically it was all delicious and a very welcome change from the usual Brazilian meat-and-three-carbs! And we washed it all down with a very icy beer. Yum!

One restaurant that we wanted to eat at but didn't, was Restaurante do David. It has very good reviews and for some reason the name really appealed to us. We didn't eat there because we simply didn't have time but we managed to sneak in a cheeky caipirinha (passion fruit of course) and were impressed by the service. Having said that, the place was empty so who knows what it would be like if it was busy? Oh and I know we've used the photo below before, but I love it! 

A Long Weekend Road Trippin' from Rio

The Long Way Round to Buzios

Our seemingly never-ending beach hunt continued with an adventure west of Rio on an epic three day weekend. It started like so many of our recent Saturdays, by waking up too early and hitting the road. We had rented a car, which turned out to be a brand new Hyundai HB20 with only 450km on the clock. We were ready to take this car on its first big trip and hopefully see some great sights along the way.

For any of you planning a similar trip, there are tips further down and also information throughout that should be quite helpful. We spent one day driving to Buzios, one day driving around Buzios, and the final day doing a boat tour from Arraial do Cabo.

So let’s start with the crossing of Niteroi bridge and trying to find our way to it. It was tough, as road signs are pretty poor in Rio and there are a lot of manic drivers about... We ended up making a couple of errors and having to take the old “retornos” that are so few and far between. However by this point it didn’t matter as I had a new mission to double the mileage of the car before I returned it.

I have highlighted the routes and stops that we took in the map below to help any fellow travellers considering the same journey. We left from Barra and it took 230 km.

As you can see it really is quite far, and we took the long route to Buzios along a lot of beaches and beautiful coastline. It was a hell of a journey, and we traversed many empty dusty roads. The drive took over 7 hours but that involved a lot of stops, including one for lunch in Arraial do Cabo. All the beautiful photos are at the bottom of the page.

Booze-ios Nightlife

Buzios is known for its wild nights and great restaurants (Katie to talk about these soon!) and we couldn’t help but indulge slightly. The main party area is along a few roads that branch off the main Rua das Pedras, and there are a lot of people about. It was very pleasant as we both felt very safe walking around these streets at night, without the weariness that comes when you are in Centro do Rio or Zona Sul.

We ended up spending the majority of our evenings sipping passion fruit caipirinhas while people watching. We sat in a great Mexican restaurant and listened to a band play some entertaining music while drinking and eating nachos. Saturday night was considerably busier than Sunday for obvious reasons so for all you party lovers out there, best to go out on a Saturday.

Driving Around Buzios

On Sunday we spent a full day exploring the visual treats that Buzios has to offer anyone with a car. We drove around the windy streets, stopping in a variety of places where the parking situation was actually quite favourable. We got a great map from our pousada and I would recommend getting a similarly good map or downloading the photo I took of the map at the bottom. It was a 80 km drive in the end.

The roads ranged from windy roads up the mountains to uneven dirt and rocky tracks. It was a fantastic drive, very entertaining and we even made it to Cabo Frio in the evening. Rather than bore you with the exact details of where we stopped, we are going to give you a photo tour to try and show you how unbelievably beautiful the city and surroundings were. It was one of the best days we have had in Brazil.

Arraial do Cabo Boat Trip

We woke up early on the Monday and made our way to the port city to hopefully catch an early boat tour around the islands. However, the gods were conspiring against us as the weather was very misty and then when we spoke to the tour guides, all the boats were leaving at 11am. We forgot that Brazilians do not like to do activities in the morning if they can avoid it... Must be all those late nights at the botequins drinking ice cold beer and eating steak.

Although we didn’t set off til 11:30, the boat tour was amazing. We immediately saw turtles in the water as we made our way to the first beach. It was an incredible sight and made me think that I should have scuba-dived this year in Brazil. We have missed out on some fantastic experiences I’m sure.

The boat tour involved a stop at three or four perfect beaches. The water was turquoise and completely clear and the sand was a delight to tread on. While on the boat we saw some interesting rock formations that reminded us a lot of El Nido in the Philippines. We wanted to get back to the car and begin the four hour journey before it got too late, as the traffic in Rio is horrendous and the car needed returning. So we didn’t chill on the final beach, and instead took the trail back to town. It is a 10-15 minute walk up some wooden stairs over a small hill with stunning views of the surrounding area. It was a great way to end a great three days.

For everyone thinking of taking a trip out of the city for a few days, I cannot think of a better place to drive to. Petropolis has history and is certainly relaxing but in terms of raw beauty, nothing beats a good coastline in my opinion. We drove back via the quicker toll roads in a 225 km journey.

Below are some tips about driving in Brazil and beyond that are some amazing photos from the weekend.

Tips for driving in Brazil

  • Parking in Brazil is very rarely free. Many people, some licensed some not, ask for a few reais (R$2-10) from anyone who is parking in “their” spot. It can be somewhat annoying but try to view it as enforced charity and giving people some extra money, rather than an overpriced parking ticket.
  • Toll roads are common and cost from R$2 to R$10. Make sure you have some small notes on you before you head off on your trip for parking and tolls.
  • Keep your doors locked while driving and lock your car when unattended. Obvious but I think some non-city folk don’t consider this a necessity when driving.
  • "Streetview" where you are going to stop, as it can be difficult to park and it’s best to have a clear idea in your head.
  • Take water and supplies and be prepared to hold your pee as toilets can be hard to come by. You are best off visiting a restaurant during one of your stops.
  • You will need GPS. Taking a wrong turn in Rio de Janeiro can lead to a 10-20 minute detour to get you back on track. And there are of course areas that you do not want to be driving into.
  • Do not drive at night! After 9pm I would keep off the roads because on the main roads you have bandits that are known to stop cars and rob them, and there are a lot of murders as well. Besides the grim reasons, you also should see what the surroundings look like as Rio is very beautiful. Just drive during the day and spend your evenings drinking ice cold chopp.
  • Do not drink and drive. An obvious one but the police in Rio set up stops to breathalyse people because drink-driving is very common. Also it’s idiotic and dangerous.

This kind of dirt track was what we drove on for most of the coastal route

Ponta Negra Beach

Driving towards Igreja Nossa Senhora de Nazare in Saquarema

It really was just miles of beaches!

Igreja Nossa Senhora de Nazare in Saquarema

The view from the Igreja

Another seaside cemetery. Being buried in such a beautiful area must inspire more visitors!

Praia dos Anjos in Arraial do Cabo

We got a beautiful view of Prainha beach as we drove out of Arraial do Cabo

The view from our pousada in Buzios

Praia de João Fernandinho

Praia da Ferradura

Praia da Tartaruga

Praia de Geriba

"After the years of Castaway, Wilson appeared on Geriba beach"

Tucuns beach

Some of the roads we had to drive down!

Praia das Conchas

Bird of prey on a horse!

Praia das Caravelas

Arraial do Cabo and the morning fog...

The beach of Ilha do Farol

I just found a website that calls this "The Crack of Our Lady"...well, it's a crack
in a rock with a statue of Mary so I suppose it's as good a name as any, right?

This beach is apparently called "Prainhas do pontal do atalaia"

Finally Praia do Forno, from which we walked back to the port

A map of Buzios - may be useful for some