By Julia Melim
Ipanema has always been a synonym of sun, beach, hot weather and beautiful people. The neighborhood actually conforms to the stereotype, showing that Ipanema has a lot to offer. For the Brazilians who live outside of Brazil, it is a given that Ipanema Beach is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Rio.
“My love for Rio started in Ipanema,” says Tatiana Alves, Brazilian who lives in New York City but confesses she always misses Brazil. “In Ipanema I discovered a kind of happiness that I didn’t know before and changed my life.”
The famous neighborhood was turned into song and became one of the biggest inspirations for the Brazilian poets and musicians with the song “Girl from Ipanema,” that became an unofficial Brazilian national anthem around the world. Even when foreigners don’t know much about Brazil, they always know the lyrics and recognize the song.
“There’s no girl in Girl from Ipanema,” says Cláudio Torres Gonzaga, explaining that in an old television show they had to sing a song with the word “girl” and it wasn’t until the end they realized that Girl from Ipanema is one of the few songs that doesn’t carry it’s title in the lyrics. Cláudio jokes, “Ipanema is like Copacabana but with an attitude.”
The restaurant Girl from Ipanema was named after the song on the street named after the composer, because it was inside the bar that the composer Vinicius de Moraes wrote the lyrics to what would become his most well known song. Even the restaurant defines the neighborhood as a place that unites the best stories, people from all over the world, good food and an eclectic environment.
The neighborhood is home to the best bars, since I was a teenager; it was the favorite hangout spot, from Empório Bar and Shenanigans, to Barzin and Complex Esquina 111. It also has the best “juice houses” with fresh fruit juices made to order, Polis Sucos, Bibi Sucos, the traditional bakeries that offer cheese bread and natural guaraná. Adding to the magic, not to far from there, it’s where the all-nighters go after the nightlife for an early morning gourmet pizza on the way home at Pizzeria Guanabara.
The Feira Hippie de Ipanema, an arts & crafts street fair that happens every Sunday at Praça General Osório is a must see! One can be delighted to find anything at the fair, from crafty earrings and necklaces made by hand, to beautiful landscape paintings depicting Rio de Janeiro, and the traditional local foods, like tapioca.
Ipanema is the neighborhood that absorbed the “carioca” local culture incorporating elements from all the other neighborhoods and social classes. “Until today Ipanema still carries the Avant-guard instinct, from the gay spots to the potheads, from the country club to the millionaires on the rooftops at Viera Souto, Ipanema is always reinventing itself and creating the most democratic mixture in Rio de Janeiro,” says the photographer Bruno Padilha.
And the carioca is proud of being part of this scenery, “Ipanema is perhaps the neighborhood that represents Rio the most; it has always been a reference for art, lifestyle, fashion and sports for Rio e to the world: surfing, theater arts, music, many of those who are now a representative of Brazilian culture grew up on that very beach. Ipanema is the best portrait of Rio showcasing all that the city has to offer in a neighborhood. Ipanema is everything you can imagine and more, it’s exactly the ideal image of what anyone could expect of this exotic city going beyond all expectations.
*To know more about Julia Melim, a longtime Soul Brasil magazine writer contributor, actress, stand up comedian and Hollywood Report TV host check www.juliamelim.com