Driving in Brazil: Recreio dos Bandeirantes

I did it! I took the plunge and drove. It isn’t that I have been scared to drive, just lazy. After spending a month and a half in Egypt, traffic here seems much more civilized, at least to my very compartmentalized American mind. I still hear my drivers’ education instructor telling me what and what not to do. Ask S, I often play the role when he drives in the States.

Anyway, given S’s travel schedule and all of our upcoming visitors, I needed to get my feet wet so I can start shuttling back and forth between our place and the airport. And so, on Sunday I decided to do it.

After a week of rain and relatively chillier weather (meaning I had to put on a long sleeve shirt), we welcomed the heat wave on Sunday and headed to spend the morning at the beach.

Instead of heading to the beach in Copacabana we packed up the car and drove south to Recreio dos Bandeirantes. The beach there is less crowded. Large waves attract surfers but a large sandbank allows them to break before they reach the shore, providing a calmer water front for kids than in Barra itself.

We spent the better part of the morning there before meeting up with friends for lunch on the Ilha dos Pescadores, which I will tell you more about some other day. It was a lovely relaxing afternoon with the best food i have had yet here.

The trip out to Recreio in the morning from Zona Sul took a half hour. The trip back in the evening at 6:30 p.m. took over an hour. But the trip gave me the chance to do a bit of everything and it went well (forget the man on a bike going wrong way on a one way who I almost took out). Now, I just have to build up the confidence to take on the city without my co-pilot.

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Escaping the City: Petropolis

On Saturday we decided to take a day trip to Petropolis with some friends and get out of the city for a bit. We took a round about way to get there in order to car pool and were not alone in our desire to escape so with the traffic it took us over an hour to go the 40 miles to get there.

Petropolis is high up in the Serra Fluminense and the last part of the trip is spent climbing steep inclines, looking down on the beautiful valley below.

We arrived late morning and stopped at Casa do Alemão on our way in to get something to tide us over until lunch. Perhaps my perception of German cuisine has been skewed by the fact that I have only visited my close friends in one city on two different occasions, one of whom is not even German, but I assumed that my cappuccino wouldn’t be loaded with sugar. Not true. This is still Brazil.

While Casa do Alemão has decent reviews, I was less than impressed. Partly, I am sure, because I am a vegetarian. I ordered a croquete de bacalhau (saltad cod) and a brioche de queijo for L and me.   L ate the croquete dripping with catchup but totally passed on the brioche. S ordered the chicken sausage sandwich. The place was absolutely packed and had our food arrived warm it might have been good, but overall it was pretty disappointing.

From there we made our way to Quitandinha Palace where we walked around, took the swan boats for a spin, and visited the palace, part of which has now been converted to a hotel and trade center.

Given that S and I both hate shopping, we drove by Rua Teresa while L squeezed in a nap before lunch. Petropolis has a number of factories and is literally a shopping attraction. Bus loads of people strolled along the street, their arms packed with purchases.

We drove back to downtown to have lunch and admired the quaint, if rundown, charm of the tree-lined streets and the European architecture. After lunch we walked through the garden leading to the Imperial Palace. The entrance line snaked around the building so we decided to pass on going through the museum (this time). We spent a lovely afternoon playing with L and avoiding what we probably should have been doing at home all weekend before packing up and heading back.

The final verdict is that it is definitely a place we will go back to. In the spring (October and November) they have a Jazz/Blues Festival and a food festival as well. I think if it had been earlier in the day, L would have actually liked the Imperial Palace and Museum. The city is also filled with a number of other historic buildings and churches that warrant a visit. Good thing it isn’t that far away.

We left later than we wanted, but it was well worth it as we wound our way down the mountain to catch the sunset. We stopped at a lookout and watched the sun disappear behind the mountain and then made our way back to Rio.

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