Travelling to South America had been on the bucket list for some time and as my trip approached, I was both excited and intrigued. Not only would we cruise between two of the world’s most remarkable, iconic cities, but we would also spend quality time in each. Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro – we were on our way.
These outstanding cities were book-ending a seven-day cruise, so we knew we’d have time to immerse ourselves in the culture and sights of each. Our thoughts ran to sultry tango shows, strolling on Copacabana beach, visiting Rio’s renowned statue of Christ the Redeemer, and exploring the colourful markets and neighborhoods of Argentina’s lovely capital, Buenos Aires – or BA as we came to call it.
Great planning was essential as we only had a short time, so we called upon the experts and put ourselves in the hands of knowledgeable local guides. Having done our homework, we chose the Monograms program from the Globus Family of Brands, which included an on-site host and driver and lovely hotel accommodations in each city. From our airport or ship pick up until they saw us safely off home, our guides/hosts – Analia and Fernando – were invaluable. Both were extremely knowledgeable and each shared the stories and backgrounds of their respective cities in fascinating ways.
La Recoleta Cemetery. Photo credit: Diego Grandi / iStock
Called the ‘Paris of South America’ for very good reason, Buenos Aires charmed us with well-preserved Spanish/European style buildings, large squares such as Plaza de Mayo and grand, imposing boulevards. As we toured the city (with our host and our own mini-van), we were able to stop along the way and absorb the sights and sounds.
It was spring and the colours and perfume of the jacaranda trees permeated the air. The passionate side of the city was on display – most particularly so when we joined an after-dinner tango show on our first night. A fascinating taste of local culture, it showed us the intensity and obsession that Argentina feels for its most famous dance. We tasted beef empanadas and Argentine wine in a local market, walked in the cemetery of La Recoleta, practically a small, fascinating town in itself, visiting the grave site of the famed Eva (Evita) Peron among many others. This is where the elite of BA spend eternity.
Every neighborhood seemed unique – albeit with soccer balls, team colours and displays everywhere – but we particularly loved colourful and intriguing La Boca in the old port area and the Caminito walk with its local artists. Our greatest highlight – a pop-up pair of tango dancers appeared on the street – much to our delight!
Sugar Loaf Mountain (in distance) and statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Photo credit: Marchello 74 / Shutterstock
Sailing into Rio or flying out of it, both of which we did, provides such impressive and captivating views that they almost defy description. Set amidst mountains and on an ocean bay full of inlets, the city is legendary. Her spectacular beaches, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer are known the world over.
Our local guide was a Carioca – a native Brazilian born in Rio – and Fernando was able to guide us both beautifully and safely (one has to be very careful here) through many crowds. Thanks to his expertise, we were able to travel up Corcovado to the statue with almost no wait time – something that could have taken hours had we been on our own. He was full of captivating stories and charming tales and he made us feel completely at home in his remarkable city.
Rio's famous Ipanema Beach. Photo credit: R.M. Nunes / Shutterstock
Rio is sensual, with the sounds of samba and bossa nova conjuring up beautiful girls on Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. There’s a buzz and an electricity in the air and we basked in every minute – taking a cable car up to Sugar Loaf for the views, strolling the high-end shopping areas, tasting a Caipirinha cocktail (a Brazilian favourite) and enjoying a huge lunch at a churrascaria with an all-you-can-eat array of meats served from long kabobs and cut to one’s appetite. Such a feast is an important part of the culture – and very enjoyable.
Even more important however was our wise decision to have our local guides in each city; Analia and Fernando were so capable and best of all, taught us so much about the vibrancy and excitement of these iconic cities.
IF YOU GO Monograms offers city-stays in many cities in South America and around the world (perfect for pre and post-cruise), all of which include a choice of hotels, local sightseeing and the services of their excellent Local Hosts. Monograms also offers longer independent tours which include all transfers between destinations. Call your travel advisor or visit www.monogramstravel.ca.
Written by Vanessa Lee. Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Fall/Winter 2018 issue. Main photo: Tango dancers (Holgs / iStock).