Queenstown New Zealand

New Zealand: The Debrief

A quick guide to what we did and what you can do too…

Do: Hire a car

Or, even better, a campervan. It is absolutely the best way to get around. Public transport is basically inexistent so you’re reliant on tourist coaches and flying, both of which are pretty pricey. Meanwhile you can hire a small car for less than $50 NZD (£25) a day and the roads are beautiful and largely empty so you’ll be able to see far more of the country if you have your own wheels.

Hiring a car in New Zealand

You can read about our adventures in a campervan HERE.

Don’t: Always believe the hype

As Franki said in her last post, New Zealand has fantastic PR. Everything from the hikes to the wines to the mountains and lakes are billed as being the Best You Will Ever See In Your Life. And while many of the experiences you have in New Zealand will be one-of-a-kind, they won’t all be (after all, we have mountains in Europe too) so it’s important not to expect every waking moment to be a sensory rush. NZ is nothing if not laid back and it is totally okay to not spend your entire trip rushing around trying to have ALL THE EXPERIENCES and then ending up disappointed when that Mega-Extra-Stunning-Best-Ever view turns out to be shrouded from earth to heavens in thick cloud.

Marlborough Sounds

There are plenty of things to do and see in New Zealand. Some will blow you away (hello Tongariro Crossing), others will leave you feeling a bit… meh (Milford Sound, I’m looking at you). When it comes to deciding what to do, it’s always best to go with your own tastes and judgement and not what the tourist billboards necessarily suggest.

Try: An extreme sport

Confession time: We went to New Zealand and did NOT do a bungee jump. Neither did we partake in sky diving, jet boating, white water rafting, glacier trekking or any of the other adrenaline-fuelled activities on offer. To be honest, we’re surprised they didn’t deport us.

NZ has styled itself as the extreme sports capital of the world. Because simply looking at beautiful scenery isn’t enough, you have to leap off it, soar around it or otherwise conquer it with the combined forces of modern technology and your limitless enthusiasm. If that sounds like your bag then this is absolutely the place to get involved.

For us it wasn’t. This was partly to do with money (turns out jumping off a bridge with an elastic rope tied round your ankles doesn’t come cheap) but mostly to do with the fact that jumping off a bridge with an elastic rope tied round our ankles sounds a lot like our vision of hell. We did, however, go caving which was utterly exhilarating and you can read about that experience HERE.

Waitomo caves New Zealand

Buy: Internet time

When it comes to the internet, New Zealand seems stuck in the dark ages. Most hostels, cafes and bars will have WiFi but they’ll charge you to use it. Some will offer a preliminary half hour (or 50MB) for free but after that expect for fork out. Some charge by the minute, others by the megabyte and you can usually buy blocks of either (though be warned your MB may have a 24 hour time limit on them).

Eat: Seafood

Green-lipped mussels, fresh crayfish, Bluff oysters, paua, scallops, clams… New Zealand has a fantastic array of seafood available for pretty good prices.

Fresh Crayfish in Kaikoura

We didn’t actually manage to sample the oysters, though. These babies sell out the minute they come in so despite three separate attempts to procure them in Hawks Bay, Christchurch, and Queenstown we’re sad to say we left NZ un-oystered. Never mind. If in doubt, there’s always good ol’ fish and chips.

Fish and chips Kaikoura New Zealand

Drink: Pinot Gris

If you thought NZ was all about the Sauvignon Blanc, think again. By far our favourite tipple was the local Pinot Gris. The crisp, dry, acidic Italian version, Pinot Grigio, has long been a British pub staple (not to mention a regular in the Tesco half price offers!) so we were pleasantly surprised to discover this smoother, more aromatic take.

Sample it at Gibson Bridge, a tiny “boutique” winery in Marlborough where they specialise in the stuff. In fact of their eleven wines, eight are Pinot Gris. Yes please!

Gibson Bridge winery New Zealand

And not forgetting…

… the time when, stuck in traffic in Auckland, we were both near the ends of our respective tethers when Rob checks the rearview mirror and nearly has a heart-attack because it turns out the car behind is being driven by a clown in full dress and make-up, bobbing along to whatever he was listening to on the radio. Terrifying.

Milford Sound

Laters y’all! Next stop… Australia.

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Kush coffee shop Nelson

8 cool things to do in New Zealand that have nothing to do with hobbits

Eat at Pedro’s House of Lamb

This Queenstown eatery does just one dish: slow roasted lamb shoulder with rosemary potatoes. But by God is it good. You can’t actually eat in, it’s take-away only. Pedro and the team start up the slow-roasters in the morning and come dinner time simply walking past is enough to have you keel over in a mouth-watering stupor. Which is why you should never walk past but instead go directly inside and pay $40 (£20) for a box of lamb and tatties that will keep you and a friend happy for… oh at LEAST twenty minutes. And if you’re lucky you might even have leftovers. Our next-day cold lamb was easily the highlight of our Milford Sound trip and I am NOT EVEN KIDDING.

Find it at: 17b Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch and 47 Gorge Road, Queenstown

Pedros house of lamb

Drive Arthur’s Pass

One of the on-the-road highlights of our New Zealand trip, this winding pass takes you through yellowed Canterbury fields, past the mysterious boulders at Castle Hill, across the gorge of the Waimakariri River, past the Alpine peaks, and down again through the now-verdant hillsides of the West Coast.

Arthur's Pass New Zealand

Instagram some art deco

I raved about Napier’s architecture in our last post on campervanning in New Zealand but it’s worth a second mention, not least because it appears to be somewhat off the beaten track. Tourists, desperate to get to the South Island often seem to bypass the East Coast of the North Island, heading straight from Rotorua and Taupo to Wellington. Don’t make the same mistake. Even if you can’t get there for the annual Art Deco vintage festival, it’s still well worth a visit to see the jaw-dropping 1930s facades.

Art deco Napier New Zealand

Visit a brewery

You’d have to be an idiot to come to New Zealand and not visit the wineries but what about the beer? There are tons of great craft beer breweries (see below for details on Nelson’s “beer trail”) which offer tours and tastings. We liked Monteith’s in Greymouth which provided some much-needed cheer after a long drive in relentless drizzle.

Find it at: 60 Herbert St, Greymouth

Hang out in Nelson

The geographical centre of New Zealand, this small town on the northern edge of the South Island is often used as a base from which to explore the stunning Abel Tasman National Park or the equally attractive gastronomic delights of the nearby wine regions. However a combination of crappy weather and time constraints put paid to our plans to do either and we ended up simply hanging out in the town, hopping between cafes, bars, and coffee shops.

Coffee shops Nelson New Zealand

As it turns out, we couldn’t have found a better place to do it. Nelson has long been a magnet for arty types and as a result it has a quietly hip, creative vibe. Plus, as the self-styled New Zealand “capital of craft beer” it has at least a dozen breweries to tour and try. We spent less than 24 hours there and even with the dismal weather, we really wish we’d had longer.

Spend a penny in a (designer) public loo

I can honestly say we’ve never recommended a public toilet to anyone before but New Zealand is nothing if not surprising. For those visiting the Northland, be sure to swing by Kawakawa for a toilet stop at the colourful public bogs, designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Hunterwasser public toilets Kawakawa

Oh and there’s a good coffee shop opposite.

Take a dip in the natural volcanic hot springs – for FREE

I wrote about all the free things to do in Rotorua at length in our last post but of these, our favourite was definitely Kerosene Creek, a natural hot spring complete with steaming waterfall, that you can paddle, swim and bask in for the grand total of zero dollars. Find it by heading south down SH5 from Rotorua towards Taupo for about 30km. Turn left at the sign for Old Waiotapu Rd then follow the gravel track down to the car park.

Kerosene Creek New Zealand

NB: Don’t put your head under the water in any thermal hot springs. The warm temperatures provide an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of amoebic nasties that absolutely want to get into your brain via your ears and nose and wreak havoc there. Not cool.

Party on Cuba Street

We loved New Zealand but as city-dwelling, chaos-thriving, grit-loving Europeans we have to admit we found it, at times, a little on the quiet side. So upon arriving in Wellington we were delighted to discover Cuba Street. With its vibrant cafes and bars, vintage shops, tattoo studios and possibly the only street art we saw in the whole of NZ, it provided a welcome hit of urban cool and a much-needed antidote to all that clean air and laid-back charm.

Cuba Street Wellington

Charquipunk street art

Chile: The Debrief

A quick guide to what we did and what you can do too…

Eat: Sandwiches

Did you know Santiago was famous for its gourmet sandwiches? No, us neither. But these are no ordinary sarnies. They’re at least three inches thick and packed with fabulous meat, veggies, sauces, pickles and preserves. The classic is the chacarero, a pile of thinly sliced, churrasco steak, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, mayo, green beans and – because this is Latin America, baby – a good helping of aji verde chilli.

To my mind, there is not yet a satisfying round-up of all the best places to get sandwiches in Santiago (though I’m happy to volunteer!) but these blogs are worth a look if you’re heading that way.

On the Chacarero Trail: Where to Eat Santiago’s Favorite Sandwich

Chile Restaurant Guide by Nathan Lustig

We were only in town for a couple of days so didn’t manage to get round them all but we really liked Bar Liguria – both for its sarnies and its decor.

Bar Liguria Santiago

Drink: Pisco

Pisco is so beloved in this part of the world that Chile and Peru have actually fought courtroom battles over who can lay claim to it.

It’s a brandy, invented by Spanish settlers in the 16th century. The really premium stuff can be drunk neat but for the most part, the best way to enjoy it is in a Pisco Sour. It’s a simple cocktail of Pisco, sugar syrup and lime. In Peru they add whipped egg white and Angostura bitters, in my view the superior version. But never say that to a Chilean, they’ll go spare.

The best way to learn about Pisco is by doing a tour of the Elqui Valley near Pisco Elqui, covered, as you might expect, in the latest Booze of the World post.

Pisco tasting in the Elqui valley

Try: Your luck at whale watching

You can book a trip to see the tiny Humboldt penguins – residents of the Islas Damas – from the seaside town of La Serena, five hours north of Santiago. We almost didn’t because the price of the tour was out entire day’s budget and then some. But we can confidently say that it was money well spent.

Islas Damas tour

Don’t be put off by the weather… or the size of the boats. You’re guaranteed to see the cute little pinguinos (among the smallest in the world) alongside seals and a host of rare birdlife. If you’re lucky you might also get to see bottlenose dolphins and if you’re REALLY lucky you might even spy a humpback whale, flummoxing around in the chilly Pacific water.

We, as it turned out, were really lucky. We christened our whale Humpberto… because he’s Chilean and he’s a humpback whale. YES, we are that creative.

Buy: A Chilean phrasebook

OK, you probably don’t need a phrasebook but it is worth noting that Spanish speakers visiting Chile might be surprised by how different espanol chileno sounds compared to the accents and dialects used in other parts of South America.

It’s not just the pronunciation, either. Like Argentina, they frequently drop the esses (so desculpe becomes “de-culpe”) and both the (as in mayo) and the double ll (as in Guillermo) becomes a “sh” or even a soft “g” sound (so mayo becomes “masho” and Guillermo becomes “Guishermo”). In addition Chileans use a lot of words that derive not from castellano (“casteshano!”) but from the indigenous Mapuche language as well as chilenismos, their own idiosyncratic slang. Oh, and they talk really fast. Brilliant.

Mercado Central Santiago

Good luck in the market

Given that this was our last stop in South America, we were arrogant enough to think it’d be a breeze. Rob’s Spanish had skyrocketed from conversational to pretty proficient and even Franki, who spoke no Spanish at all before arriving was starting to be able to hold her own in basic conversations. So being sent straight back to square one in Chile was a bit of a shock! Luckily the Chileans are a pretty cool bunch and will do their best to help you out if you come to a comprehension impasse.

Do: A walking tour

We didn’t really consider ourselves walking tour people (perhaps due to the lack of gigantic trainers, khaki zip off shorts and bum bags?) but Chile really changed that. We booked onto the Where’s Wally tours in both Santiago and Valparaiso and found them excellent, both in terms of the information shared and the general ethos of trying to incorporate culture, history and a little bit of “real life”. The tours are “free” but you are expected to tip, and a suggested donation is around $10 per person.

Where's Wally tour Santiago

Can you spot him?

Highlights for us included the weird and wonderful stories told at the Cementerio General in Santiago and the fascinating history behind some of the street art in Valpariso (which was so impressive, we’ve dedicated an entire post to it!).

It also enabled us to find the best place to buy fresh fish at the Mercado Central in Santiago and discover the most delicious alfajores  made by this chap and sold from his front door just off a flight of stone steps in an alleyway in Valparaiso.

Alfajores Valparaiso

Don’t: Take your eyes off the pavement in Valparaiso

This quirky costal city is a joy to behold… except when it comes to the roads and pavements which is festooned with dog shit. It’s almost as though the neighbourhood canines have gone out of their way to liberally cover the place with crap in order that your every step be laced with hazard. By all means enjoy Valpo’s stunning street art and higgedly-piggedly UNESCO-protected buildings but never ever forget to keep an eye on your feet.

Valaparaiso Chile

Beautiful but treacherous

And not forgetting…

…the greatest ever name for a piece of art (and what, by the way, I am totally going to call my next band), discovered in the wacky Palacio Barburizza, Valparaiso:

Sex Eclair

The house – which is well worth a visit for the outlandish design, both inside and out – was formerly owned by Croatian Pascual Baburizza who had an eccentric flair for architecture and surprisingly conservative taste in art. The rest of the collection is dull as ditch water. In sum: Approximately 200 paintings of the ocean and two dozen dreary landscapes. It’s safe to say Sex Eclair is the highlight in more ways than one.

Want to know what it looks like? Well, you’ll have to visit and find out…

 

Adios Chile. Adios Sudamérica. A continuación… Nueva Zelanda!

Valparaiso Chile

Valparaiso: Where cafes come with toy monsters for you to play with

What to do in Argentina

Argentina: The Debrief

A quick guide to what we did and what you can do too…

Eat: Lamb

You expected us to say steak, didn’t you? Well yes, Argentinian steak is world renowned for a reason. The quality of the beef is amazing. But when Patagonian lamb is done right… dios mio it’s good. Juicy, flavourful, tender… you can’t beat it.

Patagonian lamb

Drink: Torrontes

Again, we defied your expectations right? Don’t get us wrong, the Malbec is divine but Torrontes was a new one for us, a white wine we hadn’t had outside Argentina and for that reason we have to recommend it as the most “local” experience.

We’ve covered both grapes extensively in our round-up on the Mendoza wine region and Rob’s latest installment of Booze of the World.

Try: At least one Patagonian hike

Patagonia is heaven for walkers and climbers of all abilities. Even if you’re not much of a hiker, you’re bound to find a trail that works for you and believe us, whichever you choose, the pay-off is sure to be spectacular.

Cerro Catedral Bariloche

In the north of this wild and lovely region is Bariloche, an Alpine-style haven for skiers in the winter and walkers and campers in the summer. The walk to Refugio Frey is steep and challenging but rewards you with the delightful glacial lake beneath the jagged peaks of Cerro Catedral.

A touch easier is a trip to Llao Llao and the loops around it, which affords amazing views of Lago Moreno.

Lago Moreno Argentina

Down south, El Chalten is the place to visit. Check out the best of El Chalten in our Patagonian blog, here.

Buy: A mate cup

If you really want to blend in in Argentina, forget the red wine and tango and get sipping on one of these.

Mate (pronounced “ma-tay”) is a sort of bitter – and highly caffeinated – tea made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate shrub. It is traditionally served in a hollowed out gourd with a metal straw but you can also get some stunning engraved metal versions.

Mate cup

It is not uncommon to see people walking around the streets carrying one of these as you might see people in New York or London carrying take-away coffee cups. Seriously, walk into a shop, police station, customs office, hospital (ok, I don’t know about the last one) and you will see someone sipping mate as they work.

It has no known health benefits but given the caffeine content it is presumably a stimulant and potential appetite suppressant. Either way, the Argentinians love it so much that they can’t bear to be parted from it. They actually carry it around in thermos flasks so the mate cup never runs the risk of being empty (and you thought the British loved tea!)

Do: Change money on the ‘blue market’

When we were there (Jan/Feb 2015) you could get 8 pesos per US dollar in the bank and 13 on the street. Frankly it’s a no-brainer. Even the best steak and red wine tastes better when it’s almost half the price.

The reason for this is rapid inflation, due to the dismal economic record of Cristina Kirchner’s government. Frustrated Argentinians would rather hold foreign currencies such as US dollars and Euros as savings, because unlike their pesos, they know they won’t depreciate.

Technically the blue market isn’t legal but it is completely accepted all over the country (hence “blue” not “black”). Head down to the shopping streets of Lavalle and Florida in central Buenos Aires, you’ll hear “Cambio, cambio! Change money!” every five yards. Go with them into a nearby shop to do the transaction, rather than on the street, it’s safer. And make sure you check the count and watch out for counterfeit notes.We only had one fake in the entire month-and-a-bit we were in Argentina but it was annoying and furthermore embarrassing when we unwittingly tried to pay for our dinner with it.

US dollars are accepted and some will change British pounds and Euros as well. Larger notes will get you a better rate so withdraw your cash in 50s and 100s if possible.

San Telmo Buenos Aires

NB you cannot withdraw foreign currency once in Argentina so make sure you bring it with you. We were able to get ours at the Bureau de Change in Sao Paulo airport when we left Brazil. We’ve also heard of people making the trip across the border to Uruguay to get dollars but didn’t try it ourselves.

If all that sounds too hairy, you can also use Azimo, an online service that gives you a good rate. You transfer your money online then then pick up the pesos at an office in one of Argentina’s larger cities. We did this in Mendoza and it went off without a hitch… unless you count the fact that we over-estimated how much we’d need. Let’s just say our week in Mendoza was preeeeeeetty goooood.

Don’t: Mention the war.

To be fair, in our experience when the Falklands came up in conversation, most people really didn’t seem to have strong feelings on it… but perhaps they were just being polite.

This 30-year-old conflict is referenced EVERYWHERE you go and anger about the war is still simmering away in some communities, stoked by a government that needs a bogeyman to distract from its own failings. Best avoided unless you’re sure of your company.

Las Malvinas son Argentinas

And not forgetting…

…the time we ran out of money in the middle of Patagonia. No cash machines that would accept British cards for hundreds of miles, no food and only half a tank of petrol.

Were it not for the help of a kindly petrol station worker, who agreed to ring up a petrol transaction and give us cash instead of gas, we would still be working in a hotel in the one-horse town of Gobernador Gregores. Yikes.

Hasta luego, chicos!

Mount Fitzroy El Chalten

Rio de Janeiro skyline

Brazil: The Debrief

What we did and what you can do to…

Eat: Fish

Whether you have it in a traditional spicy moqueca stew, fried with rice on the beach, stuffed into a bolinho, “by the kilo” in one of Brazils excellent buffet eateries, or served up raw in a sushi bar, Brazil is the place to develop a taste for seafood.

Rob went crazy for the late night prawn cupcakes at Belmonte in Rio while Franki loved the moqueca up in Salvador (white fish and prawns stewed in coconut milk and served pretty much everywhere). We tried Sushi at Soho in Salvador and at Azumi in Rio and the latter – thought not cheap – was sensational.

Moqueca Bahia

A note to vegetarians: It’s not easy to avoid meat in Brazil so if you do find yourself existing on side dishes, you can at least take comfort in the fact that the fruit in Brazil is possibly some of the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. In fact, Franki’s pretty sure she developed a pineapple addiction during our stay.

Drink: Caipirinhas

The classic Brazilian cocktail – cachaça, sugar and lime – needs no introduction. Though the hangover you get from consuming that much alcohol alongside that much sugar should probably be mentioned. Nevertheless, they’re delicious and astonishingly easy to put away – see the latest Booze of the World for more!

Special mention: Coconuts

Back home it’s been trendy to drink coconut water for quite some time but it’s taken me until I came to Brazil to really appreciate quite how glorious it can be. Of course it’s a bit different when you’re drinking it straight from the source. On almost every street corner is a kiosk with a cool box full of fresh coconuts. They hack the top off with a machete and hand you a straw. It’s heaven in the heat.

Coconut water in Brazil

Try: Playing football on the beach

Rob was barely able to walk due to back problems so didn’t have the chance to embarrass himself. But Brazilians really do play football on the beach and they are damn good too. One kid scored a goal reminiscent of Gazza v Scotland at Euro 96 and barely celebrated. If an Englishman had scored that in the park he’d never pay for a drink the rest of his life. Joga bonito!

Football on the beach in Brazil

Buy: Havaianas

Possibly Brazil’s greatest fashion export [can’t be bothered to actually research this so let’s go with it!] Havaianas are the footwear uniform for tourists and locals alike. You can find them everywhere, from supermarkets to shoe shops and of course the ubiquitous Havaianas stores in every town.

They’re comfy, colourful and best of all, you can pick them up for less than R25 (around £5/$8). At prices like that you can have a different pair for every day of the week!

Buying Havaians in Brazil

Do: Buy bus tickets in advance

Time for a public service broadcast: Buying bus tickets in Brazil is annoying. You can’t buy them online unless you’re Brazilian (the booking form requires you to enter your Brazilian social security number) so you have to go the bus station. But the buses tend to book up quite quickly so it’s a good idea to plan ahead and get to the bus station ideally three or four days before you intend to travel. If you have plenty of time this won’t be a problem. If you’re on a tight schedule [check!] and/or you’re travelling during public holidays [check!] you may well find yourself wanting to scream.

Don’t: Bother visiting Christ the Redeemer

He might represent heaven but we can honestly say we found the trip to get up close and personal with one of the world’s most famous statues to be hellish on all fronts. Even without the four hour queue, the heat, or the absolute joke that is the ticket-purchasing system, you’re still talking about a lot of effort simply to stand in front of a statue you’ve seen a billion pictures of and can be admired from one of the many rooftop bars around the city.

Sugarloaf mountain

And once you get up there… oh my gosh. As Rob put it, “Now, admittedly I’m Jewish but I think you would struggle to find less Christian behaviour than I saw up at Corcovado.” Now, prone as he is to acerbic overstatement, he has a point. Everywhere you look is selfishness and narcissism as people literally shove you out of the way, elbowing each other in the ribs to get a selfie with the art deco icon.

Corcovado
Our advice? Skip it.

 

And not forgetting…

The time we stayed in a Brazilian love motel.

These by-the-hour motels gained publicity during the World Cup and led to soaring demand and the opening of  higher end luxury versions. And it turns out they’re pretty good value! You don’t have to rent them by the hour and rooms start at R165 a night (£35/$55) which in Sao Paulo was actually cheaper than some of the double rooms in hostels. Plus how often do you get to stay in a hotel room with a glitter ball?

Lush motel Sao Paulo

View over Rio de Janeiro

Seven cool things to do in Rio de Janeiro

It won’t come as earth-shattering news that Rio de Janeiro is pretty awesome. Brazil’s beachside metropolis was already high on the list of must-visit cities before the 2014 World Cup but the football bonanza has made Rio hotter than ever.

We’re assuming you already know about Christ the Redeemer, favela tours and Copacabana Beach. So here’s the Let’s Be Adventurers rundown of the best of the rest.

1. Drink street caipirinhas in Lapa – A lot of tourists end up staying in Copacabana or Ipanema but the truth is that neither are particularly interesting, or authentic, when it comes to nightlife. Instead, head to the all-night street party that is Lapa, where Rio’s cool and multicultural kids hang out, listening to live music, flirting outrageously and drinking caipirinhas sold by street vendors. There are cool bars and restaurants here too but most of the action is outside.

Caipirinha stall in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

2. Take the Metro – If you visit in Brazil’s sweltering summer, chances are it’s 40 degrees outside, you are a sweaty mess and you need a break. So the air-conditioned Metro comes as a blessed relief. Buy a MetroRio card and ride in ice-cool comfort throughout the city. It’s safe, clean, affordable and a great way to check out attractions further afield, such as the world-famous Maracana stadium.

3. Catch some live music – In Lapa, but also further afield, Rio has some great live music. If you’ve spent any time in the rest of Latin America before arriving here, you’ll be sick to the back teeth by now of salsa, cumbia, and Latin love songs by some middle-aged sap moaning about his bloody ‘ corazon’. With its diverse cultural influences, Rio has a more eclectic scene with anything from funk, jazz, rock to tourist-friendly samba all to be found all over town.

4. Stroll around Santa Teresa and the Selaron steps – Just up the hill from Lapa is the artsy and chilled Santa Teresa district, a tranquil spot for a relaxed wander through winding hillside streets, glimpsing views of the city through the gaps between some of Rio’s most attractive houses.

House in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

From Santa Teresa, walk down the hill to the top of the Escadaria Selaron. These colourfully tiled steps were a gift to the city by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron who lived here either side of the millennium , this is an amazing public artwork that you could spend ages exploring. As you descend, you’ll see that it was put together using tiles donated from around the world by admirers of his project. Selaron was found dead on these very steps in 2013, an end befitting Brazil’s potent mix of passion and tragedy.

The Escadaria Selaron

5. Eat prawn cupcakes – Alright, they’re not really called prawn cupcakes. But if you go out drinking in Rio’s bars, you’ll often see waiters circulate with trays full of delicious-looking snacks, such as bolinhos of cod and little cupcakey things with delicious fillings such as prawn or cheese. Or both. Not only are they tasty as hell but at 2am they’re a great way of keeping a lid on your drunkenness. If that’s what you want. Try Belmonte in Lapa or Copacabana for mouth-watering late-night snackage.

Food at Boteco Belmonte, Rio de Janeiro
6. Go for sushi – Not immediately obvious perhaps but Rio enjoys the winning combination of a large Japanese community and all the fish you could shake a stick at. At Azumi in Copacabana, we wolfed down some of the most succulent melt-in-the-mouth sushi of our lives. It isn’t cheap if you really intend to fill your belly but my word it’s tasty.

7. Watch planes take off from Sugar Loaf Mountain – Pao de Acucar, as it’s called in Portuguese, is one of the more obvious spots to visit during your time in Rio. The views of the city are incredible but one of the most mesmerising sights is the aeroplanes taking off and landing at Santos Dumont airport. Watch from above as they speed down the runway – the roar of the engines reaching you a second or two later. As they ascend, they glide past at eye level close enough that you can nearly see the passengers through the windows. Not just for planespotters.

Plane taking off from Santos Dumont airport, Rio de Janeiro