“April showers bring May flowers”. This English idiom refers to the April showers, called “giboulées de Mars” in France (March soakers) that bluster in the Northern Hemisphere during spring. People wear their rubber boots, and brandish umbrellas against the heavy downpours. Goodbye sunny terraces, walks in the moonlight, picnics in parks, and the outdoor cinema…How to enjoy your travels when it turns into a rainy trip?
- Soundtrack of the report
- Rainy Days Travel Mixtape
Crazy rainstorms can strike everywhere: In Brazil, the Rio Carnival is also a way to celebrate the end of the sunny days before the beginning of the wet season. I was there a year ago, in February and March. After having enjoyed the sun, I had to enjoy the rain. In a country where you only imagine yourself under a blue sky, with the sun warming your skin … and maybe you won’t believe me, but it was wonderful! The rain allowed me to experience my trip in another way, to feel special sensations, and to discover new experiences and people.
Here is how I enjoyed my days under the rain, hoping that my experience will help you during your future rainy travels.
1. Visit museums
I’ll start with the most obvious thing to do when you’re abroad and the rain begins to fall: visit museums.
I had in my mind the idea that my trip in Brazil would be a trip to live outside. There are the sunny Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the Tijuca forest and the colourful streets. Art is everywhere, and I couldn’t imagine setting foot in a museum. But when it started raining at the end of my trip, I decided to slightly alter my plans. I visited the CCBB and the MAM, and it became another way to discover local culture, and to see how local and foreign artists view Brazilian society.
TIP: Depending on where you are travelling, if the weather is rainy, go visit the museums, the castles, the churches, and the historical monuments – in short, all the indoor places that will enable you to discover the cultural and historical patrimony of the country.
2. Watch local television
On another rainy day, I decided to have a manicure in a carioca nail salon with a friend who was living in Rio. When we arrived at the salon, the television was turned on, showing a romantic and mushy TV show. Brazilians call this kind of TV show a “telenovela”. It’s a custom for them to watch these types of shows, and it’s a custom for Brazilian women to watch the telenovelas while they are having a manicure! It was very pleasant and interesting to be there, with all these Brazilian women gossiping in Portuguese about the romantic adventures of their local heroes.
I tried to understand what was happening on the Brazilian TV show, but it was a little bit difficult. I observed the gestures of the actors, how they were dressed, and where they lived. I compared all these elements with what I could see in the streets, with the people I met … and it was so different! It was a kind of social ideal, where people were rich and lived in big houses. However, something reflected a little bit more about Brazilian culture: a Christian morality background, as religion there is important to everybody.
Watching local television was a way to soak up all the cultural references: the celebrities, products, songs, fashions – through the telenovelas and also the advertising.
TIP: If you are abroad and it starts to rain, don’t hesitate to stop somewhere where the locals are watching television, or go to the cinema, watch the football games in pubs, etc. It’s a way to learn the local culture a little bit better, to soak up local language, and to compare the image that the media transmits to the reality you can observe in the streets.
3. Take time to get lost in the sights, sounds and smells that surround you
During my journey, I spent some days alone, when my friends were at work. And sometimes, it was pleasant to go to the “Jardim Botânico” (botanical garden) – which is a wonderful big garden in the south of Rio with millions of trees – just to walk, appreciate the solitude and the landscapes, or to read a book.
One day, when the rain started to fall, I took shelter under a kiosk, sat down, and felt everything around me. I hadn’t any aim; I only wanted to feel. Smelling the humid air, hearing the muffled sounds, seeing the landscapes as watercolors, with blurred contours. I felt alive, and saw everything with different eyes. It’s one of my favourite souvenirs from Rio.
Another good souvenir was during the Carnival. It was a rainy festive night, the streets were crowded, and the make-up trickled down my face. But I loved this feeling, I loved seeing people still enjoying the street parties, the musician continuing to play music, and singing in the rain…
TIP: Wherever you are, when it’s raining (and even if it is not), take time to observe and feel your environment. It can be sheltered in a porch, at a bus station, a bar terrace, near to a window in a cafe… or directly outside, singing in the rain!
4. Take possession of a place and meet the people who pass there
During my 3 weeks journey, I left Rio only once to visit another place (trips inside the country were very expensive). I went to Ilha Grande, this beautiful island about four hours from Rio by bus and by boat. I was with my friend Caroline – we stayed there for four days camping near to the beach, and it was a paradise.
But the last day, there was a huge downpour, and we were scared to not be able to appreciate our last minutes on the island. Fortunately, we met local people in the days before, and one of the bars on the beach gave us a warm welcome. We sat at a table outside the bar, and stayed there all day long.
First, Gilmar, one of the waiters who was on a day off, sat with us. We talked a lot, he told us his life on Ilha Grande – he had lived there for 17 years and did want to travel and leave his island! He gave us the name of his favourite Brazilian singers, drew a picture representing the island in our souvenir notebook, and offered us some beers.
When Gilmar left us, two guys, met two days before on the beach, arrived. They were from Berlin – Raphael lived in Sao Paulo for 10 months and his cousin Johannes was there to visit him during Carnival. We talked a lot, swapped phone numbers, and saw them again a few days after at Rio Carnival!
They left us to buy their boat tickets, and then, Eduardo arrived. He just finished his day of work, as a “captain”. We had already met him the day before, when he was our captain and guide during an excursion to some of the different beaches and waterfalls on the island. We were very happy he came to say goodbye! He bought us our last beer, and came to the boat station with us.
All these encounters were very beautiful and interesting, and I think if it weren’t a rainy day, this would have never happened! Rain sometimes forces you to stay in the same place for several hours, so why not take advantage of the situation?
TIP: when the rain forces you to stay somewhere, take advantage of the situation. Take possession of the place, and meet all the people who pass by, or who are there for the same reason as you – you can have wonderful encounters.