To be fair, I’m missing a number of shrimp skewers and a 12-pack of Skol beer, but otherwise, here’s a complete guide to everything I bought in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics. They may have packed up the pommel horse, dusted off any residual eye glitter from the gymnastics mats, and shipped the athletes back home, but the shops remain for travellers to come…
Tickets: Ok, these Olympic tickets are a once-in-a-lifetime find (unless you’re planning on going to Tokyo in 2020…). Over the course of a week, I picked up tix to a few track and field events (yes, Usain live is just as incredible as you’d imagine), a basketball game and a gold-medal boxing match.
Biscuits: On the beaches of Rio, Globo biscuits are about as ubiquitous as bikinis and grains of sand. Vendors wander the waterfront selling them for the equivalent of about a US dollar. As for their flavor, picture Cheeto puffs, but without the cheese powder – they’re not exactly a party in your mouth, but they do pair well with a can of Itaipava beer.
Blouse: This embroidered top comes from Farm Rio, a brand that began in 1997 as a modest clothing stand at a fair. Today, Farm has dozens of stores all over Brazil and collaborates with big-name brands like Adidas and Havaianas. When I visited the shop on Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema, I found gorgeous shirts, dresses and bags, plus roller skates and workout gear in tropical patterns, and even branded surfboard leashes.
Soap: I got this beautiful bar gratis with my room at boutique hotel La Maison by Dussol. But if you want to pick up extras, Granado has a store in the Centro neighbourhood, as well as a mini shop at Galeão Airport. The brand was founded in 1870 by a Portuguese chemist and is a go-to source for Brazil-nut shampoo.
Sunglasses: Not only do these shades by Zerezes have ‘Ipanema Beach’ written all over them, they’re actually handmade in Brazil with local wood. I bought them at artisanal hotspot Tucum in Santa Teresa. The shop also carries beaded jewellery, woven baskets and other irresistible handicrafts.
Cachaça: This tiny bottle of Brazil’s national spirit comes from Ipanema-based concept store Q Guai, which is part clothing store, part art gallery and part coffee shop. I grabbed a nip for each of my New York friends, figuring that tropical booze is the perfect antidote to subway stress.
Incense: These scented sticks also come from Tucum. My Portuguese is rusty so I had no idea what capim cidreira meant, but hoped it wasn’t code for burnt rubber. Fortunately, it means lemongrass and smells lovely.
Flip-flops: Are you allowed to leave Brazil without purchasing a pair of Havaianas? Not sure, but I didn’t want to find out the hard way. This pair pays homage to Posto 5, which is part of Copacabana Beach. Ironically, I bought mine in Ipanema, but there are shops all over the city.
Figurine: I’m a firm believer in the charm of old-school souvenirs – sparingly. For every batch of artisanal wares I buy, I’ll also take one shot glass or an oversized pencil. In this case, I got my tchotchke fix with a light-up Christ the Redeemer statue cast in plastic. I bought it for the equivalent of a dollar at a stand on Copacabana, and I will treasure it for a lifetime (or at least until it stops blinking).
Record: Vinyl collectors must stop by Toca do Vinícius, a record store in Ipanema that deals entirely in bossa nova. The day I was there, an American musician perused the vast collection with owner Carlos Alberto Afonso, who may be the friendliest shopkeeper in all of Brazil.
Sarong: In addition to Globo hawkers, you’ll be greeted by a parade of sarong salesmen on the beach. I clung to my cash for the first day, but on the second day folded and bought this Brazilian flag wrap. I look forward to wearing it at my local New York beach, when I’ll surely shake my fist at the sun and demand, ‘where are all the Globos?!’
Featured image by Anne White