Saturday, January 3, 2009


As a travel consultant and agent in the tourism industry for many years, I am always looking for “that special something” to recommend to clients. I found that “special something” in the form of a Brazilian tour guide and planner, named Rafael Torres Lopes!

Rafa and I corresponded by email for a number of months, discussing various options for the best use of time to see some of his beloved Brazil during our week long trip there.

He was very professional and informative about possible itinerary suggestions, and told me exactly what the charges would be for his various, detailed tour services.

He emailed me many pictures of the places of interests, of himself, and of his SUV, etc.
These revealed what a great photographer he is.

I soon realized through his contagious enthusiasm and expertise that he was a treasure and that he would not only be an accomplished and invaluable guide to me and to my husband, but would also become our friend.

I admire his knowledge of all things Brazilian, his ability to arrange delightful accommodations and good restaurants, his diplomacy, his resourcefulness in advising & planning itineraries, his great sense of humor, his promptness at all times, his expert planning in taking us to places all tourists must see & to places where we were the only tourists among the cariocas, and his command of three (maybe more) languages. Did I mention his chauffeur skills and singing ability - plus more attributes.

On our arrival at the Rio airport, Rafa welcomed us with warmth and a huge smile. We felt at home immediately.

He whisked us off to a delightful guesthouse apartment he had suggested for its location and its fabulous terraced view of Copacabana Beach. The owner was such fun, and was the epitome of the typical upbeat Brazilian personality - like Rafa.

He had a definite plan for us to make the most of our stay in Rio and told us when and where to be ready and what we would be doing on our day and night tours with him.

Some of the adventures he so expertly planned were these:

He drove us through the beautiful, expansive Tijuca Forest to the top of Corcovado Mountain to see the magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue, with its commanding view of Rio. He had some delightful surprises for us to see along the way.

Our evening visit to Sugarloaf was unforgettable for its adventure to his secret overlook of Rio by night.

The botanical gardens were lovely; and there we saw our first South American toucans, as well as other birds and interesting fish and beautiful plants & trees.

He took us to the huge Brazilian market for a delicious and typical Brazilian dinner, followed by watching samba danced in a big open area and on side streets, to live music.

The samba watching did not stop there, by any means!!! One night, he took us across the bridge to Niteroi to an unforgettable midnight rehearsal at a samba school, getting ready for Carnival. This amazing adventure was preceded by dinner at one of his favorite cafes in the Santa Teresa hills of Rio.

We returned to Niteroi on another day for one of the most beautiful sunsets imaginable, looking back over Rio.

Rafa took us on a walk along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, where we had the proverbial coconut water to refresh us on a hot and humid day. We loved seeing the families and friends enjoying the beautiful beaches and inviting waves.

He had us experience the use of public transportation to explore the old, historic area of downtown, where we had a wonderful lunch at a sidewalk café.

There were many other adventures and delightful surprises.

Rio, by day and by night with Rafa was magical!

I had also asked him to suggest other areas out from Rio that we should see; and after email discussions of the possibilities, he arranged the ones that were absolutely perfect for us.

First, he drove us to the pedestrian ferry that we all took to the laid back, mountainous island of Ilha Grande for two nights. This was about a two hour trip from Rio. We will never forget our “Prime Minister’s” guidance in this unique and restful place. He found a chalet type pousada for us, complete with a hammock on our front porch. He took us to dine at tables on the sand by the harbor. He led us on a mini trek through the national park to see an aqueduct, lovely ponds, and views of the water and mountains. He introduced us to the wonderful Brazilian custom of travelers’ clapping at someone’s front gate to purchase refreshments. Ilha Grande will always have a special place in our hearts, thanks to Rafa.

The next place chosen was the charming, old colonial town of Paraty, with its picturesque setting, colorful Portuguese architecture, cobblestone streets, and colorful boats bobbing in the harbor. We loved every minute of the two days we had there! Rafa made reservations for us at a lovely pousada, near the water. He also found some small restaurants with delicious food and live music. He introduced us to another Brazilian custom that I really can’t adequately explain. On a special day of the year, there is a tradition that brings good luck which involves making wishes, standing and sitting seven times while eating gnocchi, and placing a $1.00 USD (which he supplied and we each still have) under our plates. Rafa and I enthusiastically enjoyed performing the ritual.

On the way back to Rio, Rafa intrigued us as he turned onto a dirt road, saying we were going to have a traditional Brazilian churrascaria meal. Again, we trusted him; and were certainly not sorry. We were the only tourists at what Robert says was one of his favorite meals in Brazil. It was a “production”. That place has a weird name: CHURRASCARIA DO BICÃO!!!!

So - you see - Rafa is truly that “SOMETHING SPECIAL” of a lifetime!

He is a professional, certified tour guide and planner. He speaks at least 3 languages fluently (English, Spanish, & Portuguese). He loves to share the history, traditions, and beauty of his country with others. He drives a nice SUV for his tours. He is intelligent, conscientious, prompt, resourceful and courteous. His planning skills, coupled with his knowledge, are invaluable to his clients. He has a great sense of humor, is always upbeat, and is tons of fun! He can arrange accommodations that are typically Brazilian and are charming. He has a network of other guides who can be used in Rio and in other locations. He is capable of leading tours in many other areas people might want to see, such as Iguassu Falls, the Brazilian Amazon, other beach locations like Buzios, and the Brazilian mountains, etc.. He also has contacts for tours in other South American countries. He is a fantastic photographer, and he can sing!!!

Thank you, Rafa, for all of the many magical moments you gave us!!!
Sincerely, Cappie Addison

Rafa’s contact information:

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