Stray Cat Park: Praça do Lido

Last year when we came with S on a business trip to Rio, we stayed in the Windsor Plaza Copacabana Hotel, right at the tip of Copacabana on Avenida Atlantica. Upon seeing us check in for a week with a toddler, the clerk upgraded us to a corner room that would be a bit bigger. The “crib” they provided was a death trap for sleeping given that L could have easily launched herself right over the side onto the marble floor, but it was the perfect lookout platform for watching everything she loved: the ocean, helicopters, sand, cars, buses, trucks, airplanes landing at the municipal airport, and “Cristo”.

The area itself around the hotel left much to be desired. Not the best restaurants. Not the cleanest area. Lots of prostitutes. But walking up the beach hides most of that, so we mostly stuck ocean side.

During the day we used to visit a park a few blocks away. It wasn’t the best park, but it had everything L needed and it was the very first place she ever really went on a “big girl swing.”

Fast forward.

On Thursday L and I visited a school up the street and afterward decided to stop by the market and pick up stuff for a picnic and then hit a park. Why not take a walk down memory lane?   Unfortunately, I completely misjudged the distance (it was a good mile and a half away).

L and I bought food and started our trek. It took us over an hour to arrive as L decided that she wanted to ditch the stroller and take a stroll for herself. By the time we arrived, my stomach was grumbling and our stroller was filled with a collection of leaves of all shapes and sizes.

I remembered that the park wasn’t the best, but I definitely forgot just how rundown it actually was.  Apparently it has come a long way from the 1920’s when it used to be the place to go to eat, dance, and listen to the symphony.   From the front it isn’t so bad, looking out over the beach across the street. They have a collection of public workout equipment that is in good shape and that people actually use.   In the very back, neighboring a grade school, is the playground equipment, right next to men sleeping on benches and just across from the public bathrooms.

I noticed the smell of the bathrooms immediately. L could have cared less. She hopped on the slide and climbed on the monkey bars and then we saw them . . . the cats!

L is obsessed with any and all animals. She gravitated across the park, shadowing the cat woman who was pouring mixed up powdered milk into cut up bottles and caressing the heads of all the critters.

L stuck out her hand and found one that stuck his paw back. I reminded her what happened to our friend in Egypt when he stuck out his hand for a street cat and she pulled hers back as we approached a bench full of cats.  Black, white, brown, striped–every kind of cat.   L was totally enthralled.   I thought we would never get out.   Finally we broke free of the cats when I told L that I would let her play on the workout equipment, just like papai does at the gym.

When we finished we worked our way back home with L insisting on walking most of the way again.   We tamed a temper and stopped for a coffee.   L refused to nap, not in the stroller, not at the house.

By the time S got home, I was exhausted and other than the school visit and the park, really didn’t have all that much to show for the day, other than sad pictures of cats.

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