Descanse em paz Tolu Akinduro – Eu sinto sua falta
Your passing to heaven really came as a shock to everyone and deeply hurt everyone who knew you – those who have known you for years, months, days, and even seconds…,you made an impact on every life that you met within the 30 years God graced us with your presence on earth. As you said “we should not grieve for you but fill the void with remembered joys”… Though hard to do, we will all try because we know how full of life you are and wouldn’t want anyone to feel sad for you and live in sadness. God said that July 15th, you will be spending the rest of your days with him, and he took you from us but he left us with all the great things you taught us which death can not take away. You taught me to live life to the fullest and have fun even if I’m tired – from Nigeria to Atlanta to NYC.
Tolu we did have so many random moments – do not remember it all but some were absolutely so random, they’re almost unforgettable – the time we watched those couples doing their “thing” from your old apartment downtown ATL (that was too funny). You taught me the consulting way of life – I remember when I asked you if I should sign up for AMEX points and you said “ Yes of course, how do you think I afford all these trips, they come in handy” – so I signed up for AMEX points. And of course, I started staying in SPG hotels because you told me they were the best hotel chain, gave up my apartment (moved my stuff to storage), party all night and jump on the 6am flight out to work on Monday, and yes I started traveling more (now my passion) because you told me how you traveled to different places. When I think about it – I truly started living because of you. How would I ever stay at any SPG hotel, or go to any city you visited frequently and not remember to ask Tolu for things to do/where to stay in Miami or Houston? Your physical absence from earth, though extremely painful, actually made me realize how MUCH you impacted my life – Tolu I will forever be grateful for that 🙂
I know you wanted to go to Brazil for the World Cup next year, and since I visited Rio de Janeiro a couple of months ago, I am going to dedicate this post to you. Perhaps you can live vicariously through my post (trust I turnt up in Brazil – nothing less than you would have, so don’t worry it is up to par). In loving memory of a great friend, whom I will never forget, who basically fueled my passion for traveling, here you go:
Where I visited: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I traveled to Rio with a friend of mine for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday festivities. My original plan was to go to Sao Paulo, Salvador, Rio and Iguazu Falls. This didn’t work out because I simply had a Nigerian passport (yup this passport can be toxic). The visa process was super hectic. It took me about 8 weeks to get the Brazilian visa – oh and they give you only 30 days – all right before my intended travel date. I was really hoping and praying that the trip better be worth it. After conquering visa struggles, I decided to plan my trip – at this point it wasn’t so convenient going to all the places I wanted to, so we ended up going to Rio De Janeiro.
Finally we got to Rio, it was totally worth it. Tolu, Rio is absolutely beautiful: great and beautiful people, good food, amazing culture, laid back environment. The public transportation in Rio is very reliable. I’m almost convinced I want to settle in Brazil – I mean almost everyone thought I was Brazilian until they realized I couldn’t speak Portuguese – I blended right in. Rio reminded me so much of my home country Nigeria – full of culture and expensive. We spent about 2 weeks in Rio and it wasn’t enough – wished we stayed longer.
Where I stayed:
Since we were spending our entire 2 weeks in Rio, we decided to diversify our stay – we stayed two different neighborhoods – Lapa and Copacabana. Lapa is located in the central Rio. It is like the old town in Rio – it is home to many historical sights including the beautiful neighborhood of Santa Teresa. In Lapa we stayed at Books Hostel (Tolu I know you like your fancy hotels but you have to enjoy my “balling on a budget” trip) – it was really nice, the staff was very friendly and helpful, location was good and safe. It was really hot in Rio at this time of the year and most rooms didn’t have air conditioning (AC). We got lucky to get the room with AC but I think it stopped working and we had to manage the fan at night (that definitely wasn’t cute.) But overall, the place was nice – we spent most of our time in the common area meeting new people and sharing experiences.
After a week in the Lapa neighborhood, we moved to Copacabana, where we spent the rest of our days. Copacabana is more touristy and modernized. It’s very close to the beach and they have a bunch of nice restaurants and bars on the strip. We stayed at Cabanacopa Hostel. This place was really nice and neat, we had AC’s in our rooms (yes big deal, it was 100 degrees outside), staff was helpful in giving us directions and the location was amazing (2 blocks from the beach). We had really cool roommates although they were way older but they also gave us tips on Rio.
How I spent my days:
So we landed in Rio on Christmas day. Upon arrival, we changed some money at the airport, just enough to take a taxi and last us till we find a money exchange place in the city (In Rio, definitely wait till you get into the city before changing money because you get better rates). We scooped our bags from baggage claim and hopped in a taxi to the hostel (the taxi guy was really nice, he gave us safety tips for the Lapa neighborhood).
Right before our flight to Rio, we bought pizza at Houston airport and kept it the entire flight. When we settled in, we microwaved the pizza and it tasted even better (yes, the pizza made it through a 10hour flight). This was an amazing moment – everyone in the lounge watched us while we ate the pizza (it obviously wasn’t from Rio, they could tell). Everyone started asking us where we got the pizza from, we told them Houston, TX! They all thought it was so funny that we bought pizza on a 10-hour flight (it wasn’t intentional though) From then on, people knew us as “the girls who brought pizza from the US to Rio”.
We relaxed at the hostel, went to experience Brazilian food and mapped out an itinerary for the remaining days. Later that evening, we set out to explore the town of Copacabana (one of the guys in the hostel was really helpful, he took us there). We went to meet up with a friend visiting Rio and his friends, and we all set out to watch the Stevie Wonder concert (about 1 million people came to watch the concert). They shut down the entire strip of Copacabana. We walked the strip of Copacabana, mayne we walked miles – almost reaching Leblon, more upscale neighborhood in Rio. As we walked we stopped at a couple of beach restaurants and bars to grab food and drinks. This was when we fell into the devilish hands of Caipirinha (the famous brazilian cocktail). We were like “this drink is sweet” so we kept drinking LMAOO……….needless to say, we don’t remember what happened the rest of the night. Actually I think I do, we kept drinking and watching people sing on the strip of Copacabana.
Day 2,3 and 4:
The next day, we went sight seeing in Arcos da Lapa and started wandering around the famous Santa Teresa neighborhood. We kept walking on the hilly and windy roads till we reached a restaurant at the top where we had lunch. The food in Rio is extremely salty, I didn’t like it that much. We also went to visit the famous staircase in Lapa called Escadaria Selarón, where Snoop Dogg shot his song Beautiful.
We just kept walking around the neighborhood in Flamengo, exploring and just enjoying Rio. Later that evening, we met some guys at the hostel from the US/Canada/Australia/Argentina/Brazil, we pre-gamed and mapped out a plan for the night. This was our crew for the night. We headed out to the streets of Lapa to enjoy the authentic Brazilian nightlife. The nightlife in Lapa is very typical of the Brazilian culture – everyone is outside talking, drinking, dancing, eating and having a great time. So just as Brazilians would do, we grabbed drinks from the local store and we stayed outside enjoying the cooler temperature at night, talking, hearing about other people’s travel experiences and laughing. After a couple of hours hanging outside, we decided to head to this club which usually rocked on Wednesday nights. This was a fun night, we met so many people, did so many random things with our new friends – including screaming “We LOVE RIO!” out of a taxi car lmaooo…pure shenanigans. Our new friends were leaving for Florianópolis, another island close to Rio, the next day for the New Year’s celebration (apparently it is really beautiful and has the best parties).
The next day, we went to eat at a restaurant close to the hostel that had this really great Broccoli rice and Steak. We usually slept during the day and walked around in the evening. It was too hot during the day. We set out to Sugar Loaf known as Pao de Acucar – what an adventure. We asked the hostel staff for directions and we took the bus to the main stop and decided to walk the rest of the way (please if you are ever in Brazil and someone says the place is 15mins away, just know its actually 45mins)…so we kept walking and walking and walking, we even stopped at the mall to do some sightseeing and get food…this place that was 15mins away ended up taking almost an hour (anyways we just figured it’s a good way to know the city, so we didn’t care much).
Eventually we got to Sugar Loaf. We got on the last cable car and headed up to the mountain top. It was definitely worth the trip. Also one thing to note: they have two levels, which we didn’t realize. Make sure to take the 2nd cable car because you pay for two anyways. The view from Sugar Loaf was breathtaking – you can literally see the entire city of RIO from that place. After spending over an hour there, we headed back to the hostel. We walked around till we found the bus that took us back to Lapa…(oh and we eventually found out that there was an easier route to get to Sugar Loaf – such tourists!).
Later that night, we decided to go to this Brazilian club called Scenarium in Lapa. We walked around the main street in Lapa where all the clubs and bars are trying to figure out the happening place for the night. We ended up walking to Scenarium and ended up not going inside. So we walked back to the main streets and watched the locals dance and sing to their traditional music. These folks could dance. They tried to pull us to dance but we kept hiding cos we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves. Lapa is so full of life and energy at night. I mean literally the whole of Rio is outside, thousands of people just eating, drinking, dancing, singing, watching people perform. This was our entertainment for the night. The next day, we stayed indoors for the most part of the morning/afternoon, made potatoes and fried eggs and waited for our taxi to the Copacabana neighborhood later that evening.
Day 5 till the end:
We got to our new hostel Cabanacopa – dropped out bags and headed to Copacabana beach, where we chilled on the beach, then later grabbed dinner at one of the restaurants on the strip and planned our Copacabana itinerary. Later that night, we went back to Lapa (Friday nights are the best in Lapa). We got into one of the tiny buses that the conductors usually yelled the name of the destination from the window. We heard Lapa so we jumped in. In the bus were these girls and one guy also heading to Lapa. We later found out they were going to Scenarium for their friends birthday, and they invited us to come along, so we did. They were super excited that we were from NY. We had a blast in Scenarium. It was purely Brazilian music, nothing we are used to but we had a blast. We almost caused chaos in the club – of course most of the guys wanted to dance with us.
Right outside the club, we ran into some guys from the US (my friend was so excited that they spoke English and that’s how we ended up hanging out with them for the rest of the night). We actually wanted to go home but these guys really convinced us that watching the sunset from the rooftop of their apartment in Leblon would be great. Somehow we ended up in Leblon (of course my friend was hesitant to go but I’m like hmmm YOLO lol). We climbed the rooftop of the apartment, watched water move while we listened to the thunderous sound of the waves and watched the sunrise. We had planned to meet up with the guys later in the day to go hang gliding, but my friend wasn’t down for that. Not sure I was bold enough for it either.
We ended up going for the Favela tour (definitely sign up for this tour, you get a different experience of Rio). We had a great time touring the favelas and eating local Brazilian snacks. Our guides were all awesome and very informative. It is not an easy walk so be prepared for that (RIO is so hilly). We planned to go to the Samba Rehearsals and the Favela Funk Party later that night but my friend thought it wouldn’t be safe to go. The folks at the hostel who went said it was really nice – a different experience, but overall it was fun.
That night we ended up going to explore the nightlife in Leblon and Ipanema. We got into the tiny bus and there again we met a bunch of tourists and we rolled with them for the night. These guys seemed like they knew were they were going, but after walking around for about an hour, we realized they didn’t, so we told them we should go to this bar called Emporio (recommended by the hostel) in Ipanema. Another good place on Saturday is Mud Bug in Copacabana. We ran into one of our friends from our previous hostel in Lapa, so we stayed there and talked outside. I was really attracting a lot of “she-males” this night – one of them was tryna get my attention. I wonder why… *blank stare* . In Rio, I fell in love with this fruit called Acai, a local fruit to Brazil. Once I heard it was good for the skin, I ate Acai almost everyday (i swear my skin started feeling and looking fresh). After hanging out at Emporio bar, we set out to go home around 3am.
The next day, we attempted to go to see Christ the Redeemer statue in Corcovado. We got there quite late and so we decided we would come back the next day. We hopped on a bus to Lagoa to explore this chic neighborhood. We stopped briefly at the Botanical Garden. Oh between the day before and this day, I started having upset stomach. So I was really searching for Pepto Bismol. When we got to Lagoa, we walked around looking for a pharmacy trying to explain to them in sign language what was wrong with me. Not so easy to try and explain what “diarrhea” is in a foreign language. Basically here is what you do: After many attempts to explain diarrhea in sign language and pseudo Portuguese, we nailed it – just make a shit face and point to your butt, they will get it (a tip from we got from one of our new friends lol).
After settling that, we grabbed dinner at this Italian restaurant we found while walking around in the neighborhood (Random: they didn’t seem to have red crushed peppers in Rio). We headed back to Copacabana, and on our way we got on the wrong bus and ended up in this neighborhood called Leme. When we realized we were in a different neighborhood, we decided to walk around to figure out how we would get to Copacabana. So we walked along the beach, watched as the locals performed their pre-New Year’s Eve rituals (They all wear white – the color you wear determines what you are asking the gods for – dance in circles, and toss flowers lighted with candles into the ocean all for good luck for the upcoming year). It reminded me very much of the African rituals. After watching the ceremony, we kept walking and started looking for a bus with the sign Copacabana. We found one, hopped on it, only to realize we were about a 10-minute walk from our hostel.
The next day, we went back to the Corcovado – definitely go visit this place when you are in Rio. The view from here is amazing and it is an amazing experience. If you go around sunset, be aware that the lines may be long because everyone is trying to catch a glimpse of the sunset from the view. Also, check the weather to make sure its not cloudy, so you can get a clear view of the statue. Because it was New Year’s Eve, majority of the buses stopped running around 7pm. Guess who was stranded? We couldn’t find a bus from Corcovado back to Copacabana. This is almost a 30 minute ride by the way. So we started walking towards Copacabana and hoping that we find a bus or a taxi. We eventually found a bus to Copacabana. The bus dropped us off halfway, so we walked around to go find food before the big New Year’s Eve celebration. Everywhere was getting packed at this time. After dinner, we were so exhausted so decided to take a nap before midnight.
We woke up just about 10pm ish and started getting ready to head out. Luckily for us some folks at the hostel came back to get something from their rooms, so we decided to roll with them to Copacabana beach, where the fireworks and celebration was going on. When we stepped outside, we were amazed. Over 3 million people gathered in the neighborhood of Copacabana – I mean you couldn’t even move, we basically tied ourselves together and had to hold on to each other tightly.
We made our way through to the beach, met up with the rest of the group, partied and danced to the bands playing, people screaming Feliz Ano Novo, and watched the fireworks. There was this random woman, she was just getting it in and trying to be so familiar with us – she was mad cool though, she entertained us for the night with her boo thang. It was so beautiful and amazing – you have to go and experience it yourself. Words cannot describe.
At about 2am, we grabbed some roadside food and headed back to the hostel. We all just chilled at the hostel talking and sharing our New Year’s eve experiences. The next day, we spent the entire day relaxing and chilling indoors. We decided to go to one of the best Churrascarian restaurants in Rio called Churrascaria Palace. It is right beside the Copacabana Hotel to have a decent meal. Later that evening, we went to this club in some part of town I don’t remember with a couple of folks from the hostel. It was a nice place but the vibe wasn’t great, so we ended up leaving early. We got back to the hostel, a couple of folks from the hostel we had met earlier were hanging out on the patio drinking and talking, so we joined the fun.
The next day, we went to the beach in Bahia town where we spent the entire day. This part of town is very beautiful and absolutely stunning. The beach here is more exclusive and really clean. Later that night, we decided to go back to the club in Copacabana that we went to on our 2nd night. We wanted to end our last night in Rio with a bang. We thought the club was a walking distance from our hostel (we were really feeling like locals)…huge mistake. We ended up walking for almost an hour before we found the place. We got there and it started raining, we were so uninterested but after such a long walk, we decided we would at least go inside. We spent a couple of hours in, tried to make the most of the night and then we headed back to the hostel.
Our last day in Rio was very surreal, mixed feelings everywhere. We didn’t want to leave. We spent our morning looking for souvenirs and say our last goodbyes to RIO and the folks we met – oh it rained heavily this day but I still walked around lol. We booked a taxi from our hostel, chilled at the lounge with our friends from the hostel, then headed back to the airport later in the evening.
Tolu, I had an amazing time in Brazil. I hope you were able to live vicariously through my post. I miss you and can’t wait to catch up in heaven!!
PS: I didn’t take lots of pictures because we didn’t want anyone stealing our cameras/phones. So most times when we went out, we left our phones in our rooms.