Just Another Day With Grandma

For most moms it is hard to keep up with your own mom, but for me it is nearly impossible.  She is the most active person I know.   Other than spoiling me to death during her two month visit, cleaning my kitchen and doing all our laundry, she gets up every morning at 4:30 a.m., has walked nearly all of Rio, and has been volunteering twice a week at daycare and school in the nearby favela of Cantagalo called Meninos Solar da Luz.   And, to top it off, this is what a normal day with grandma looks like around here.

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Note: Christmas ornaments made of salt-based dough don’t work in Rio.  It is so humid that even after being baked they just get soft.   Too bad as they were so pretty.


The Planetarium: Stargazing and Running Ramps

We had a play date a couple of weeks ago with new friends.  I sent my parents on a friend dating mission while they were here and they aced it.   We now have one new set a of friends, a California couple with an adorable daughter that L likes to pretend is her little sister.  This works out well for all of us, especially given that we don’t have any plans for #2.

Despite mixed reviews we thought we would give the zoo a shot, but it was rainy and on the day we planned to go it poured.  And poured.

Given that neither of us moms relished the thought of being cooped up all afternoon with overly energetic toddlers we decided on an alternative:   The Planetarium (Planetário da Gávea).

It is a small museum, but engaging with a number of interactive displays.   But the most entertaining element was the three story ramp that the girls spent the afternoon running up and down.   They have films for children and adults on weekends and holidays and a small library.  They even host sleep overs for kids age 7-11. The cafe isn’t anything special but if you are looking for a way to buy some more time in the rain, it works.

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Fairs: Brasil Rural Contemporaneo 2012

Last week when we were at the Lagoa we saw the stilt dancers advertising for a large fair featuring products from rural areas across Brazil. We decided to go, in part hoping to see the performers again.

Brasil Rural Contemporaneo featured hundreds of associations and cooperatives from all over the country and while we didn’t find our stilt dancers, we were not disappointed. The products were amazing, handicrafts from every region, sweets, cheeses, cachacas, pastas, and meats. Each tent featured a region and they had special areas for cheeses and cachacas. The food court features typical food from each region and best of all they had a great kids area with playground equipment, a library and a performance area. They had not started  the concert line up when we were there but as we were leaving we could hear the music.

The fair was everything I ever hoped Ipanema’s hippie fair could be. The products were typical of each area but original in their designs. The vendors were friendly and the prices were great. I would go again just to get cheese. (L stopped eating cheese when we got to Brazil but when she tried some of the cheese featured at the fair she kept asking for more).

The fair is only this weekend at Marina da Glória. There isn’t any parking there so we opted for the metro to Glória and it was just a five minute walk, though they do have free transportation from some parking establishments.

We spent a long time there. We shopped the tents and exhausted our money. L read, played, made a collage, and found a new friend.

We left just in time to make it to Ipanema for Thanksgiving dinner. We didn’t really plan to celebrate given that we leave early tomorrow morning for Ilha Grande, but Gringo Cafe had turkey and dressing and even managed to whip up a vegetarian option for me.  Everyone was in the spirit of Thanksgiving and we met new friends while giving thanks for the old.   Not so bad for our first Thanksgiving abroad.  Best of all, we didn’t have to slave the day away in the kitchen and nobody asked us to do dishes.

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Saturday Hike: Morro do Leme

Yesteday was yet another cloudy day in which we didn’t hear the beach calling, at least not for us in our swimming suits.   Instead, we decided to bike up the beach and hike the Morro do Leme, which sits at the opposite end of the Copacabana beach.

The Fort of Duque de Caxias is an area that I have been wanting to visit for quite some time, but was unsure how exactly to tackle it with a toddler.  Rather than thinking it over, we just ended up there and it all turned out just fine.

There is a military installation at the foot of the hill so we parked our bikes and headed up the cobblestone path to the top.   The entrance fee is R$4 and the climb up is steep but not too strenuous.  It took us around a half hour to climb and that was with L walking most of the way herself.

The views from the top are incredible, even on a cloudy day.   You can look south over Copacabana and the beaches, the Corcovado looks down from a distance, the Pão de Açúcar stretches out beside it and Niteroi spans out across the bay.

We were totally unprepared to actually hike.  S had thrown an apple in his bag at the last minute and luckily they had a water fountain on the top.

After we made our way back down the mountain we stopped by one of our favorite coffee shops, La Fiducia Cafe.   It is a bit pricier but the coffee is usually done well. S’s sandwich was perfect, L requested two orders of pao de quejo and my mom and I split a bruschetta in which the tomatoes were actually flavorful (tomatoes don’t seem to be Brazil’s strong point).

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Lazy Day at the Lagoa

Thursday was a holiday here. Given that the last week has been full of rainy and overcast days, my mom and I decided to take L to the Lagoa just over the hill from our place rather than head to the beach. It is so close to our house, but we rarely ever spend a weekend there.

Thursday was the perfect kind of day to go to the Lagoa. There was warm, not hot, with a nice breeze. Despite the holiday, it was relatively empty because many Cariocas were trying to take advantage of a long weekend by taking Friday off and escaping the city for the weekend.

We rented a bike cart. L navigated our route, ringing the bell and waving at people. It was a perfect people watching and outfit observing experience. We biked too fast and laughed too much. Twenty minutes was the perfect amount of time for all of us and we treated L a bit of trampoline time before we headed off for our picnic.

Just as we were wrapping up with the bikes and trampoline we started to hear singing and percussion. We walked up the path a bit near Parque de Cantagalo and came upon a group of performers from Brasil Rural Contemporaneo who were playing the drums, singing, and dancing on stilts.   L was completely enthralled and was disappointed to learn she couldn’t go dance with them.   We ended our afternoon with a picnic at the park and a surprise visit from S who returned home from São Paulo.

On the weekends the beach usually calls, but I need to remember that there are all kinds of impromptu events at the Lagoa that are perfect for kids.  And if all else fails, we can settle for a swan paddle boat on the water.   Not so bad for a lazy day.

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Just Another Weekend on the Beach: Slacklining

Last weekend we were wandering along Copacabana beach and came along a slacklining competition. We camped out and watched for an hour while L played in the sand. Later she managed to convince the people there to let her walk along the line. They tried to convince me, but I knew better. I gave it a try in Egypt and knew the limits of my coordination.

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Shopping the Burbs: Guanabara

In Rio, the suburbs do not have the same connotation as they do in the States.   Here suburbs are poorer, less developed areas, many of which are considered favelas, or slums.

But there is an area south of Rio de Janeiro that fits the profile of an American suburb.  Barra de Tijuca feels like you are driving into Florida, an area of urban sprawl, condominiums, and single family homes littered with malls and elaborate shopping centers.  It is there you will find Walmart and Cosco.   It is cleaner and a bit safer than the city, but for what you get in safety you pay for in traffic.

When we moved to Rio we debated between living in Barra and living in the city.   We had three days to find an apartment and trying to choose between the two was like comparing apples and oranges.   In Barra we had cousins, the condos had swimming pools, fitness centers and play areas.   There it was quiet and we would have more space.  Looking in Zona Sul (Copacabana and Ipanema), we were looking at less space, more expensive apartments with none of the perks, in more crowded, dirty areas.

We went back and forth but in the end we went with our gut.   We knew it would always be easier to move to Barra than to move from there to the city.   Not having a job and looking at the prospect of having lots of visitors, I wanted the convenience of being in the city where L and I could explore.

We got lucky.  Really lucky.   We ended up finding a large apartment in the city near public transportation, a few blocks from the beach, and not far from the Lagoa.   Given that it is on the second floor and the traffic is loud (really loud), we got a reasonable price for it.

It has been perfect for visitors.   However, after a couple weeks here my parents were curious as to what we might be missing out on not living in Barra.  In Nebraska, people don’t really walk to the grocery store and after multiple trips per week to our corner stores, my mom wanted to see what the bigger stores were like.

So one afternoon we headed out to Barra to take a tour of the area and hit one of the biggest grocery stores, Guanabara.  I had only been there once after we had a long day at beach, but I remembered L loved it because they had a play area for kids where we could leave her while we shopped.   L was thrilled that we were finally going back.

I usually get overwhelmed with these kinds of places and when we got there I was immediately struck by how full it seemed.   As we made our way up the ramps I noticed that carts seemed especially packed full of ridiculous amounts of one product.   We checked L into the play area and realized we didn’t have a cart.   My dad went to find one and I decided to start getting things on the list.  That was when I entered the madness.    I didn’t realize at the time but it was Guanabara’s anniversary sale.   Of the 75 checkout lines, 70 were open and nearly all of them were 25 people deep.   People were camped in lawn chairs watching over their three packed and chained together carts.  It was at that point that I started feeling like I was going to hyperventilate.   My dad still wasn’t back from cart stalking downstairs.    I told my mom it wasn’t worth it.  People were elbowing their way into new inventory as it came out onto the floor.

L hadn’t yet finished her half hour play time so we intersected my dad as he came back from following people into the parking lot to score a grocery cart and suggested we get a coffee instead.   A man from Western Nebraska with a deep appreciation for the open range, he didn’t disagree.

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A Month on . . . a Month off

It is hard to believe that exactly one month ago my parents arrived. The past month is a blur of circling the city, hanging out, playing in parks, visiting the sites, and sitting in traffic.

L was completely spoiled by grandma and grandpa and I hope now to try to catch up on posting our adventures. Here is a picture from their arrival.

Exploring Catacomb Park

On Saturday, the world here was still cloudy and much to S’s disappointment, L did not want to go out. We spent the morning hanging out around the house. After we ate lunch, we all decided that a bike ride and ice cream sounded good. As we biked around the Lagoa I decided we should take a short detour to Parque da Catacumba (Catacomb Park).

Nestled between Copacabana and Humaitá right on the Lagoa, Parque da Catacumba climbs up Morro do Sacopã to a lookout.  We parked our bikes at the base of the park and started up the main trail.

Lagoa Adventures occupies the base of the park and offers a zip-line and canopying tours.  They even have a mini zip-line for smaller children, which was on tour but back should be now in October.

The park also serves as a sculpture garden, so we started out looking at “awt” (art).   Shortly up the hill, the paved path gives way to Catacomb trail.   The dirt path extends up the mountain through the forest and provides a nice escape from the city.

Hiking with a toddler, we only made it a short distance up the trail, but it still provided ample ant, bug, and spider–one very BIG spider–watching opportunities.  L already decided she is going to take grandma and grandpa exploring when they come, and given it is practically in our back yard, I can imagine she will more than once.  Next time we will see if she is brave (and tall) enough to do the mini zip-line.

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