You can’t really go to Rio and not go up the Cocovado to see the huge iconic statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) which looks out over the city.
It’s the biggest Art Deco statue in the world but surprisingly only the fifth biggest statue of Jesus.
Make sure you go on a clear day because the views in all directions are amazing. It was a bit hazy when I went but I could still nearly see my house.
You can drive up in a van but I took the old cog train (first electrified train in South America) to the top. It runs every half hour and costs about 40 reals.
There’s a cafe under the statue where I had an iced smoothie made from Acai, a delicious Amazonian jungle berry, while taking in the stunning view of Ipanema below. It can be pretty busy up on the belvedere but it really is worth all the time and effort.
After coming down the mountain I got a cab to Belmonte (300 Praia de Flamengo) in Flamengo which is a classic old Bodeca (Brazilian bar with open sides). It’s a succesful chain now but this is the original.
I had some great Bolinhas de Bacalau and a Gilo, a fruit looking like a stubby courgette but tasting a bit like marrow.
It was pretty good with some good Portuguese olive oil and a cold glass of Chopp (draught beer).
After these starters I went round the corner to Cafe Lamas (18A Rua Marques de Abrantes), one of the oldest restaurants in Rio (since 1874) and historically frequented by presidents, bankers, writers and poets.
It looks like a bar from the front but go inside and there’s a huge dining room in the back. It’s definitely seen better days but keeps up a good pretence of being posh with waiters in white tunics and gold buttons attending you silver-service style. My guys were very nice and friendly and looked after me very well.
I had Linguica a la Brasileira, with a side order of Batatas Fritas, essentially sausage and chips but also with a portion of manioc flour fried with more, smaller chunks of sausage. The sausage tasted very North European and went very well with the kind of mild mustard they have up there (B+) although the chips were pretty average.
To finish, a decadent dessert called Delicas do Lamas, a chocolate parkin topped with ice cream, chocolate sauce and Chantilly.
On the side a Cachaca Maturada, wood aged sugar cane rum (B).
Flamengo is the oldest neighbourhood in Rio and is said to be the site of the first Portuguese-built house. It was once the posh area but became dilapidated when the tunnel to Copacabana was built and all the middle classes moved to Zona Sul in the south of the city. It’s a pretty nice area to walk around if you like old architecture.