My friends and I disembark from our Uber and exchange a boa noite with the driver. We’re left staring at the iconic aqueduct-like arches in the Lapa neighborhood in Rio. Our local friends were gracious enough to be our tour guide for our first night out in this incredible city, and by the end of the night, my fondness for Rio and the Brazilian culture had deepened to a whole new level.
We make our way to the plaza at the entrance of the Lapa neighborhood and are greeted with food and drink stands – the perfect way to prep partygoers for the incredibly fun and vibrant nightlife of Rio. We take in all that’s going on around us - expressive and happy conversations exchanged between friends; dancing in the streets; intermingling of pedestrian and car traffic in a kind of perfect chaos; music blaring through the doors of bars and clubs trying to lure us in. It’s sensory overload, for sure, but we are in the eye of the storm, happy to soak it all in.
With guidance from our Rio friends, we choose a local Samba bar playing live music. As we enter, one song is ending and a new one starting. The crowd begins dancing and shouting lyrics back at the band as if trying to amplify the already electric aura surging through the bar. We immediately hit the dance floor.
I must tell you - I am no Samba dancer. While I think I have some rhythm, I know I have a lot to learn to hold my own down here in Brazil. However, there was no exclusivity on the dance floor. There were people of all ages and all skill levels, including a woman in her 60s, tearing it up! Everyone was there to have a good time and share it with others. We stayed on the dance floor for a couple of sets before realizing the time and the full schedule we had the next day. We decided to make our exit, although if we wanted to, Rio would have kept us entertained until 6:00 a.m., when the bars close and send stragglers on their way.
Our crew returns to the plaza at the entrance of the Lapa neighborhood where our night began. We go back to the drink stand where the owner greets us as if she’s known us for years. With the arches of Lapa in the background, we talk about the band, the dancers, and my clumsy attempts at Samba. Then we share our final hugs and goodbyes and pile into Ubers to end the night. There’s just something about Rio.