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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Wasted Days

How is it, or why is it, everything here seems to take me twice as long to do?  Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that I am not always the most efficient person.  It isn’t necessarily the language.   We are busy trying to get thing settled for S and his mom to travel back to Egypt in December.   The other night, we spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to book tickets online only to get to the payment and have all of our cards be denied.   Three websites and four numbers later we got connected to the local Emirates Airline call center and they agreed to make a reservation, but would not lock in the price or accept payment.    I was going to go downtown earlier this week to their office to pay, but other things came up and on Wednesday, we got rained out.  I decided that traipsing around downtown with a toddler and a stroller just wasn’t worth it.
So yesterday I decided skip my volunteer gig to do it while L was at school.   I dropped her off and caught the metro.   Within an hour I was sitting in the Emirates Airlines office, drinking a cafezinho and figuring out how to strategically drag out their flights so their layover exceeded eight hours, which would entitle them to free accommodation at a hotel in Dubai (as opposed to the seven hour layover they already had, which would have left them roaming the terminal all night).  An hour later, all was settled and I went to pay, only to find out that our debit card has a limit.   Ugh.   So I pay for one ticket and get their bank information so I can go today and pay for the other one.

It would all be easier if I could just have my own bank account.   But since I don’t have a resident number, I cannot open an account.  So while, I use S’s debit card, I cannot actually call and do anything on the phone with the bank, like raise the debit limit when I find that it is capped.
After wrapping up the return leg of my MIL’s trip, I headed to Iberia, a 15 minute walk away  to figure out why her Rio-Cairo flight has been canceled.   I stop by the post office on the way to mail some official papers my MIL needs for the second time.    The post office has been on strike and my first package never arrived.  So we try again.

On Wednesday I was ready to embrace the cold, at least from my couch.  But when the weather changed all of a sudden and there I was stuck without an umbrella in a t-shirt, downtown in the rain, I started to have second thoughts.  I got to Iberia’s address only to find out that they moved THREE years ago and only have an office in Sao Paulo.   Fail Google Maps and

Walk to the metro.   Walk to pick up L.  Walk home.

We tried to spend the afternoon exploring Bairro Peixoto in Copacabana.  They actually have a fenced in park.   But by the time we got there the weather had made a turn for the worse and L and I were freezing.    L made a halfhearted effort of enjoying the swings and then asked if we could go home and have a girls’ night.

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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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Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

Because everyday needs and outing and today was to the park right by Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.  It was recently redone and offers one of the best views of the city.

It earned toddler bonus points for having funny animal cutouts by the shore, a dog park, hungry pigeons and two cranky parrots.

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