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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Winter Weekend in Rio: Biking the City

Hearing all my friends and family complain about the heat in the States, I started to think how enjoyable the weather was here. Then it hit me–this is WINTER in Rio!

I have never been one to follow the weather and even after years living abroad, Celsius still doesn’t quite register with me. Instead I try to gauge the weather by watching people pass by my apartment. But here it is impossible. One person will pass by in shorts and a tank top, the next with jeans, boots, and a jacket.

Some days I leave in jeans and a t-shirt and by the time I get to the bottom of the hill, I realize it is too much. Other days it is just the opposite.

This weekend wasn’t hot or cold, but chilly enough that we knew that the beach wasn’t really going to be an option (for us–nothing seems to deter Cariocas from going to the beach). So we finally had the push we needed to get our bikes ready to ride.

We found a bike shop a few blocks away, filled our tires with air and continued to the beach. Biking the city is less than ideal. With no bike lanes we had to weave between pedestrians, parked cars, and newspaper stands on the sidewalks to get to the bike path along the beach. Once there, it was lovely.

On Saturday, we rode to Ipanema and stopped for lunch at Manoel & Juaquim. While the food looked good, the fish was dry and the broccoli and rice were greasy. We were less than impressed. From there we biked to Lagoa and up the mountain to the house. I had been dreading that incline alone, let alone with an extra 40 pounds (L plus the bike seat) on the back of my bike, but I made it, and I feel it today!

On Sundays the city closes Avenida Atlantica during the day and people pour out to run, bike, skateboard and walk. But mostly people come out to stroll along the waterfront, which just gave us more room to weave in and out of a pedestrian maze. While somewhat annoying, it provided the perfect venue for people watching and a game of I Spy.

We rode to the edge of Leblon and took a break on the beach where we could watch the parasailers land in the distance and tractors move sand. Biking home we found a street leading home with an actual bike lane. It was hard to tell if it is actually respected, but we took our chances and enjoyed a few blocks of uninterrupted riding.

Now that L and I have the bike, I am ready to take on our mission to visit every park in Zona Sul, provided my successful trip up the mountain wasn’t just beginners luck!

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