I can still distinctly remember the bar in Bocas del Toro, Panama, nine year ago, where I fell in love with a Brazilian underwear model. Barco Hundido it was called (meaning sunken ship). True to its name, in the middle of the open-air bar was an actual sunken banana boat. I was sat with my feet dangling above the wreck, in the Caribbean waters, sipping on a Balboa pale lager when I first met eyes with the gorgeous creature across the way. I channeled all the supernatural powers I could muster to influence him to approach me. When that tactic failed, I marched over his way and bought him a drink. We got to talking and I learned that his name was David, he was from Rio de Janeiro, but living in Miami, and was modelling to support his surfing habit. I immediately declared my love to him…Out loud.
Sadly, David and I did not keep in touch after Panama. Some years later I found him on Instagram and started following him because I remembered that I loved him. He eventually closed his account (not because of me) and, devastatingly, slipped out of my life for a second time.
One month prior to my trip to Brazil, I had a dream that I was in Rio and I bumped into him. I told one of the girls who I was going to be traveling with, Pia, and she said, ‘Don’t be absurd. There are six million people in Rio, and you don’t even know if he actually lives there.’
Fast forward to Monday, 1st May, when I arrived in Rio, after a 10-day tour of Peru with my parents. The girls I was meeting up with (Pia and Victoria) had arrived in Brazil two days prior to me. They had a big night out in Rio on the Saturday previous and then went to Iguazu Falls for Sunday and most of Monday. We all convened at my hotel (the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel and Resort) on that Monday night.
Drinks were ordered to the room and we took turns sharing stories of the happenings from the preceding days. During this chat, I learned that on Saturday night Pia met the man of her dreams. She caught this handsome human yawning at the end of the bar, which sparked a bit of banter. Unfortunately, no numbers were exchanged, but he would live on in her fantasies.
Pia already knew of my great Panamanian love, but I filled Victoria in on the story above, bringing up some of his modelling photos on my mobile for emphasis. Victoria took one look at David (who’s name I had not yet uttered) and said, ‘That looks like David.’ Long story short, we worked out that my love from Panama was Pia’s dreamboat from the Saturday night! What are the chances? Clearly, we both have excellent taste.
The next four days were spent hunting for David (in between eating, drinking, changing hotels and/or pretending to sightsee, of course). #FindDavid.
After checking out of the Sheraton on Tuesday, we wandered through Leblon, Ipanema, the Botanical Gardens and Santa Teresa before making out way to our next hotel, (Mama Shelter). When we checked in, we were warned that there would be no water at the property the whole next day, due to maintenance, but we somehow managed to overlook that piece of information at the time.
That evening we started with sundowner drinks at the Hotel Santa Teresa. There, we met an international group of guys who knew each other from an MBA program in Singapore. We ended up joining them for dinner at Aprazível and then going to a 'rap' concert in a dilapidated house bar in the Bohemian neighborhood of Lapa. I am fully aware that these next few sentences will make me sound like an old lady who says things like ‘kids these days’ or ‘when I was your age…’, but it was not rap. It was shouting into a microphone, to a hip hop beat spun by Snoop Dog’s 10-year-old cousin twice removed. And the house? Well, it was worse than any fraternity house I have ever frequented at any US university. It might have been a crack den. It was seedy and crumbling, with graffiti everywhere, broken windows and sticky floors.
On Wednesday morning, we were somehow surprised when we woke up with no running water. Not being able to brush our teeth nor have a shower was unacceptable so Mama Shelter kindly called us a car and moved us and our belongings to Hotel Santa Teresa for the day. We showered up there and then spent our morning eating acai and Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread balls) before riding the tram from Santa Teresa to downtown Rio (Centro), passing over the Lapa aqueduct arches along the way.
From downtown, we walked back to Lapa and took photos of the famous Selaron Steps.
Having had just about enough sightseeing that day, we hiked up the hill to Santa Teresa and plopped ourselves down beside the hotel’s lovely pool.
In the late afternoon, we packed up our stuff and moved hotels again. This time to the Caesar Park Ipanema. We had a drink on the rooftop at Caesar Park and then decided we hadn’t seen enough Rio hotels yet, so we went to the beautiful Fasano for another few sunset libations.
Dinner that night was at Zazá Bistrô Tropical and was divine.
By Thursday there had still been no sign of David, so we decided to splurge and took a panoramic helicopter tour of the city with Helisul. It was incredible to see aerial views of Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf and the coastline.
After looking down on Cristo from the sky, we decided to look up at this cultural icon from Corcovado Mountain, where he stands at an imposing 98 feet tall (excluding the pedestal). This statue was included as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 (of which I have now visited all but two, in the past two years).
We battled the crowds to snap the obligatory arms out photos and then went and sat on Ipanema beach to get hassled by every person who walked by, trying to sell us everything from water and adult beverages to snacks, trinkets, soccer balls, cocaine, flip flops and bathing suits (in case you forgot to wear yours to the beach?).
In the early evening, we had a few drinks at the hotel’s rooftop before we had to bid Pia farewell. She had a wedding in the US to attend.
Feeling abandoned, Victoria and I decided that we'd have a mellow night, so we went to Bar Astor for some delicious gin & tonics and oysters.
We woke up feeling fresh on Cinco de Mayo, so we decided to get a little exercise and walk from Ipanema to Copacabana.
We attempted to catch some rays on the beach, but it was a touch too chilly and cloudy.
Since suntanning was out of the question, we decided we really should visit this place called Sugar Loaf that everyone kept talking about. We took two separate cable cars up to the top, grabbed some photos and promptly came back down to escape the wind and cold.
With all that touristy stuff ticked off the list, we felt we deserved some cheese balls and rosé, so we stopped off at the Belmond Copacabana Palace.
We hadn't yet hit our quota on Rio hotels so we then hit up the rooftop at the Pestana Atlântica for two more bottles of champagne before heading back to get cleaned up, ahead of our romantic final supper at Casa Vieira Souto.
After dining amongst newlyweds and googley-eyed couples, we headed to Bar Stuzzi in Leblon. This is where my dream came true...Literally.
Victoria spotted David and before she could finish saying ‘There’s Da…..’ I had already bee-lined over to him. I was grinning from ear-to-ear and talking a million miles per minute, trying to explain to David (but failing in my excitement) how we had met nine years prior, in Panama. He had no idea who I was and I was making an absolute fool of myself. This meet-up went so much better when I dreamt it.
Once Victoria ordered and paid for our drinks (thanks, lady), she came over to where David, David’s cousin (who miiiiight have been just as hot as David, if not hotter) and I were standing. David still didn’t know who I was and was even more confused as to how Victoria and I knew each other (apparently he had no problem remembering her from Saturday...I wasn't bitter). About five mins passed before David said to me, ‘Wait, we met in Bocas del Toro, right?’. Score! He did remember me! I then awkwardly hugged him and stroked his abs before he made an excuse to leave. Fair play to him. I was a creep. But I was a thrilled creep. Victoria managed to capture of photo of us before he dashed off, which I shared with just about everyone in my iPhone contacts.
Sadly, that night took a turn for the worse when Victoria and I were involved in an automobile accident. I ended up spending another two weeks in Brazil…More on that in my next post…