Yesterday L and I were out the door early on the way to the airport to pick up my friend M. As we rounded the Lagoa, L told me, “I like it at Brazil.”
I like it too. But, it is so good to have our friends come, to have the chance to share with them what our life is like here, to make our house feel more like home. It isn’t just because they shower us with housewarming gifts and things we can’t get here like garam masala, tinker bell fruit snacks, Altoids, and tortillas. It is because they bring the comfort of old friendship.
M arrived on an unimpressive day in Rio. The kind of gray days that don’t turn to rain and make you want to wear jeans and a sweater, though it is too hot to do so. As we drove back to the city, I found it hard to convince her there were mountains jutting up here and there. She managed to get a glimpse of rising above the clouds and a faint outline of the Sugar Loaf. It was immediately clear that we wouldn’t be hitting the beach or the lookout points.
So after getting settled and showered we headed off to my new favorite place in the city, Parque Lage. Situated under the Corcovado, Parque Lage was designed in the 1840’s. For years it was under private ownership and well-maintained, preserving a remaining section of Mata Atlantica. Dirt paths weave through gardens and open up to a palatial house in the center that now hosts Café Du Lage and the School of Visual Arts (Escola de Artes Visuais). There is a also a two to three hour trail that leads up the steep mountain slope to the Christ statue that I have not yet explored.
Café Du Lage serves coffee, pastries, and a simple menu of sandwiches, salads, and pizza. They recently started offering lunch specials with a main dish, salad, rice and beans (R$19). Our cappuccinos were perfect. They also offer brunch with fruit, coffee, assorted breads, cheese and meat on the weekends, but it gets full fast.
I first found Parque Lage when our friends were visiting a couple of weeks ago and we had lunch. It was nice. It was nearly empty and we felt like we had discovered a hidden gem in the middle of the city. I took S back the following weekend and it was packed with families and couples walking the paths and picnicking in open spaces.
L fell asleep on our way to the park and napped on the bench at the cafe for 45 minutes, allowing M and I just the time we needed to catch up without a toddler interrupting us every few minutes.
When she woke up we started our “adventure.” We climbed on the fallen tree trunks, played in the artificial caves and watched the fish, and then found a castle on the side of the mountain. We looked for monkeys and bugs and on our way at we swung by the playground. I was excited to see that it looked like they were cleaning up the water areas that have been more filled with mud and leaves than actual water.
On the weekdays in particular, this is the perfect get away. Parking is easy (during the week) and free. When we went with S last weekend, we rode our bikes around the Lagoa and parked them in the bike racks just inside the main entry. I would still go on the weekends, but if you are going for brunch and want a seat, I would get there right at 9 a.m. when the cafe opens. Otherwise, be prepared for a wait.