Friday, February 11, 2011


I have always believed that every DONALD is a good person since my FOREVER AND EVER FAVORITE CHILDHOOD'S CHARACTER was that one you see above!!! :) And I just had the honor to welcome in Rio de Janeiro MR. DON HILLIKER. A wonderful traveller full of curious and brave heart to see unique places in Rio!!!
We have been exchanging messages for a long time, planning every detail about his upcoming trip to Brazil. I hope to first of many trips!!!
And he came...first he was welcomed by my very best friend, dearest sister and great tour guide Vanessa Rodrigues, the most brazilian canadian person that I have ever met in my entire life, and Don had an introduction of our urban daily life walking around all over downtown. then we had our full days also going deep in our culture and endless beauties of Rio.
Don was a generous friend, he came here with his open heart and he is back in Chicago with his heart full of great brazilian memories!!!!

Nothing can be more culturally local than clapping in front of a house to buy a SACOLÉ, specially in these hot days....SACOLÉ is almost a national institution, it is a home made ice cream that has several names in many different regions in Brasil. In Rio it is SACOLÉ, in Maranhão it is called SUQUINHO; in Minas Gerais it has the name of CHUP CHUP and in São Paulo it is known as GELADINHO. My tours also gives you local wisdom and you can experience it.

Recently Don wrote a review and I want to publish his own words about his experiences in Rio and we are happy to share!!!

DON WROTE: "In early February, 2011 I had the extreme good fortune of spending two magnifcent days discovering Rio with Rafael Torres. I found Rafa on TripAdvisor. I contacted him and he promptly responded. I explained that I had only a short time in Rio and wanted to see the highlights, but also to see parts of the city which are not the usual tourist spots to get a feel for the life of the Cariocas. He outdid himself. In our whirlwind two days together we visited the Christ Redeemer statue, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches, the local beaches of Barra and Joa, Tijuca forest, Lapa and the Selaron Stairs in Rio and the beautiful and quiet wetlands of the Marapendi Channels. We drove across the seven kilometer bridge to visit Niteroi, where Rafa grew up, and experienced the beautiful views from that often missed perspective. While there we visited a secluded private beach and had a close up look at a fishing boat unloading its catch in a little village called Jurujuba. We also saw the fantastic Modern Art Museum designed by the iconic Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer
These were all wonderful experiences, but it was the serendipitous moments and Rafa's flexibility and enthusiasm himself for new experiences which were highlights. On our first morning, we visited Lapa to see this bohemian and music area, particularly the Selaron Staircase created by the artist Seleron over the past twenty years. It is a colorful kaleidoscope of tiles and should not be missed. While there we saw a group of people gathering and heard some singing, which occurs everywhere in Rio seemingly for no reason and at any time, and noticed a group gathering for a parade of sorts. It turns out the day was the day the Macumba or Candomble religion, with African roots I believe, celebrates Iemanja, the goddess of the sea. It seems that people parade to the sea with flowers and offerings to the goddess. Ladies were dressed in elaborate white costumes. With a sound truck following them they headed down the street. A great scene. We left them and went on our way. Later in the day when we visited Ipanema beach and Arpoador, a point overlooking Ipanema and Lebon beaches, to enjoy the sunset, we again saw people celebrating Iemanja on the beach with flowers much as we had seen that morning. It was great experience.
The next day, another spur of the moment occurrence was a highlight. I am a sports fan and wanted to see a soccer match if possible. One of the major Rio teams, Fluminense, had a match that night. Early in the morning, Rafa and I went to the club's headquarters to buy tickets. We could have gotten them at the game, but thought it wiser to get them ahead of time to avoid lines in the evening. We were right about that, but more importantly the opportunity to visit the home of the Fluminense Football Club, as it is known and the signs are in English, was a highlight. The person selling tickets wasn't available for a while so we walked around. The club is not simply a soccer facility, but a sprawling complex built probably in the 1930s with a grand old all white headquarters building complete with a large trophy room, of course, grand ballroom with a large chandelier and leaded glass windows. Beyond the headquarters is a soccer stadium that could probably hold 5000 people, tennis courts, diving pool, two Olympic size pools and a gymnasium with indoor soccer and basketball courts. On the morning we were there, the club was alive with men, women and children of all ages playing tennis, diving, learning to swim and snacking in several outdoor eating establishments. Our time there gave me a unique perspective on what life must have been like for Rio's elite many years ago and today. The people watching was great.
The match that night at Engenhao Stadium was fun, but talking with the neighborhood people on the way back to the metro was the best of the evening. We heard of the excitement and anxiety over the coming Olympic games in 2016. There was concern that homes might be sacrificed to upgrade the area around the stadium. We finished the evening at a typical Brazilian restaurant.

I could go on and on about Rafa. He was always concerned about trying to meet my needs and interests. He was prompt, reliable and, very importantly, simply fun to be with. He speaks excellent English, which was important to me, since I speak no Portuguese.

I could not recommend anyone more highly than Rafa. I have traveled for many years to a wide variety of destinations and have never had a better experience that I had in Rio, thanks to Rafa and his colleagues. In my mind, there can be no doubt that he is the No. 1 tour guide for Rio, particularly for anyone who wants not just to see the highlights, but is looking get a better sense of the fabric of life in one of the great cities, and maybe the most beautiful, of the world. Go with Rafa. I am sure you won't be disappointed.

Don Hilliker
Chicago, Illinois
Thank you my Friend...these words makes me sooooo you are able to tell to everyone in the States that Rio is a really great destination for holidays, you can tell that Rio has a lively vibe and once you know someone of your trust, this could be such a safe choice for you to spend great days in the tropics!!!
Now you know that Rio is not only a travel destination...Rio is the place where you are important, a place that you have real friends!!!
I am so grateful that now Rio belongs to your most special memories!
Rafael Torres Lopes
Don's Friend, Tour Guide and Travel Planner


Carrie Hilliker said...

I hope someday my husband and I can come down and visit you, Rafa! My Dad obviously had an incredible time. Great blog post :)

Best of luck to you!

Carrie Hilliker

Anonymous said...

I really love to go around Brazil, especially Rio. The culture and food is amazing. The whole place is just filled with colors and happy people. Of course, the beaches there are very beautiful too. I would love to go around the islands there. I will definitely go there after my corryvreckan boat trips this year.