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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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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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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A Perfect Sunday: Brunch at Fort Copacabana

Now that Rio + 20 has wrapped up the city is clearing out. Still we were a bit leery to head to what had been the epicenter of much of the action, Fort Copacabana (Forte de Copacabana).    We got there at 10 a.m. feeling like we were quite late.  As it ends up, the restaurants don’t open until 10 a.m. so we were perfectly on time.    Note that for early toddler breakfasts we need to find a different location.

The line outside was long, but the best thing about having a toddler (or being old or pregnant for that matter) in Brazil is that you have access to preferential lines.  We buzzed past the crowd and were through the gates in a matter of minutes.   We settled into a table at Confectionaria Colombo that overlooked the beach, and the mountain that we see every morning when we look out our window (literally, you can touch it from our window).

On an attempt to have a day to just ourselves, we ended up without a camera or a phone.

Confectionaria Colombo at Fort Copacabana provides a perfect view of Copacabana beach and the Sugar Loaf in the distance on a clear day.

We ordered an omelet and a café da manhã light that came with yogurt, granola, a bread basket, fresh cheese and deli turkey, cream cheese and honey, a small plate of sweets, and fresh orange juice.  We ordered two cappuccinos.   As avid brunchers and spoiled by Chicago, I will try not to be too hard on the food.   The omelet was okay. The addition or oregano made it taste more like a pizza.  The bread included both white and whole grain.   L was happy with the yogurt and granola.   The sweets were a disappointment.   The cappuccinos were horrible, overly sweet and topped with two inches of whipped cream.   I have to learn that sweet is the default here so if I want a plain cap.  I need to make that explicit.     While I wasn’t impressed with the food, I would definitely go back.  Knowing brunch isn’t a thing here like it is in the States, I have adjusted my expectations, and the view and the company made it totally worth it.

We finished breakfast and walked to edge to look out over the ocean and up and down the coast and then headed to the beach.   And just like that, in a matter of ten minutes were were sprawled out on the beach with L running back and forth between us and the water.   We met a little girl who had the same birthday, whose mother was extremely generous in offering me advice on hospitals, pediatricians, and preschools.   Of course, with my Portuguese, I repeat everything she said in an effort to remember and consequently forget by the time it leaves my mouth.   Luckily she offered me her number and email before I even had to ask.

We walked up the beach and back home, stopping by the bike shop to pick up the stroller that got a flat tire last week on my way home.   The rest of the afternoon has been lazy, but napless, and now it is time to celebrate with a little taste of home by breaking into a coveted bag of chocolate chips to make cookies.