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Category Archives: Traveling with Children

Our Rio Trip– or lessons learned

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Last weekend we decided last minute to head to Rio.  Since we have kids, we thought we’d break up the drive and sleep in Paraty for the night.  We stayed at the Pousada Eclipse in Paraty, which is farthest from the town, and right off the freeway.  With free wi-fi, 2 beds, and a clean room for R$160 a night, I was fine with having to park in town.  So no photos of this VERY VERY beautiful city, as we basically drove in and thought we’d grab lunch… so I left the camera in the car.  Then we started to walk, as we didn’t realize that half the town is foot access/ cobble stone only. Of course this meant I had to stop and by Haviannas, as I was wearing heels, and you can’t walk these streets in anything but flats.

From Wikipedia– since I left the freaking camera in the car

Paraty is a MUST MUST MUST.  The streets are quaint, and all the restaurants looked great.  They have little cultural events all the time, as they need something to attract people.  When we were there it was a big dance showcase.  We didn’t go in, but in the jeito of Brasil, we passed off our squirmy 2 year old to the waiter (we ate at 7 so no one was in the restaurant), and he took him into the show across the street since he had access to it.  SOO wrong right? I would never do that in the US, but this is Brasil.  For R$30 we went on a buggy ride of the city, I recommend it, as you get a real quick look at all the shops etc, and then can decided where you want to go, versus walking the whole thing.  And you hear a bit of the history.  If we had actually planned to stay in Paraty, I would have loved to go on one of the many day trips on a boat, or taken a class at the cooking school they have there (classes in English too).  Paraty is known for the art/culture, and there were some unique shops and art galleries.  Alas, we were only “resting” here, and didn’t do much other than look and kick ourselves for not visiting sooner.

Sooo Rio… I have to say, it was nice to be somewhere warm instead of cold like Sao Paulo is right now.

taken prior to the “accident”

My initial observations on Rio, are the following:

  1. Architecture in Rio is older and more ornate, there are a lot more buildings and churches here to enjoy
  2. The graffiti style in Rio is different- first there is more art graffiti, second the tagging is more curvy than the spiky styles of Sao Paulo
  3. The beach fairs they have at night, probably have the best touristy chotchky crap I’ve seen yet, I actually wanted to buy a lot of it

So lessons learned on this trip:

  1. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS check the camera battery before leaving the hotel room to Pao de Acucar– hubby pointed out each and every “photo moment” that I missed
  2. Check the weather at Corcovado before you go.  It seemed sunny until we got to the top
  3. Carry and extra shirt, and bring a second baby carrier- just in case you’re on top of a big mountain and your kid decides to kill both the Moby and your shirt.
  4. Set up a baby changing area on the counter in the bathroom, before you go to bed, so that when your kid poops at 4am, you don’t wake up the 2 year old too.
  5. Bring a point and shoot camera, not just your fancy Cannon, as your husband will expressly forbid it to be taken to just walk around Rio with. It’s the shark rule- it’s okay to swim in shark infested waters if everyone else is a target too (major tourist areas– not the beach)

We stayed at the Windsor Palace for R$360 for a King + twin.  It was a great deal for Rio, and the room and hotel was clean and 2 blocks from the beach.  They recommended a Churrascuria in Copacabana called the Palace for dinner.  I think it’s the first one I’ve gone to that I really really liked.  Again a list.

  1. The meat was delicious, AND varied, they had shrimp, squid, bbq pork ribs, and the best picanha I’ve had (better than Fogo de Chao)
  2. The appetizers on the table were good- garlic fried shrimp, onion rings, farofa
  3. There was a sushi bar, where you could order any roll you wanted or just slices of sashimi– and it was a welcome break from the usual meat fest
  4. The salad bar had a hot bar- paella, grilled salmon, pasta — again a nice change from just red meat
  5. For all of that the price was only R$70

The 2 year old was of course free, but he pounded down food like I’ve never seen him do before, he thought it was all delicious too.  He also polished off an entire cup of watermelon juice (which is just weird to type in English.  Suco de Melancia just seems right).

All in all, Rio was lovely, warm and I enjoyed our quick drop in, and right now as I snuggle my 2 month old to steal his body heat as Sao Paulo is cold as usual, I miss the sunny beaches.


Hubby has broken up with the GPS

So on Saturday we had our carefully planned sightseeing trip.  We’ve been stuck in the city the last few weekends, and we wanted to get out and see some more of Brazil!  Hubby found Paranápiacaba on Wikiloc  and it looked perfect.  Beautiful misty green city, with hiking, and trains! for the wee one.  It was a prefect day drive, so off we went after our son woke up from his nap.

And  then we missed the free way “split”  Things get tricky with the GPS when on freeways, and it’s a common occurrence.  Unfortunately, the way back according to the GPS took us through traffic ridden side streets. No biggie, just a slight detour!

I nodded off, and the next time I woke up we were bouncing along a dirt road. Yes, a dirt road.   Hubby assured me just 10 more kilometers… and round and round we went along these little dirt roads and through the jungle.  When we were “1 kilometer” away and driving through a dirt road through lush jungle, I pulled my kid out of the car seat and he got to drive with daddy. He was getting pretty angry, so we figured it was fairly safe… since there seemed to be NO ONE around.  I think this may have been the highlight of his day.

And then we arrived!

Isn’t it beautiful??  We let the monkey get out and run around for a bit, and then I turned to my husband and asked him where in the world he had driven us to!! The son loved it, as we also let him drive the car..

It wasn’t like there were other cars around . . .

Yeah, in case you are wondering, someone (ahem) decided to just type in the city name and GPS it. With the assumption that the GPS would take us to the center of the city… oh it took us somewhere.

The road it took us to was now covered in tall green grass, a dead end.  We were lost. And we were lost in the middle of nowhere.  Yes, there were cows wandering the roads!

I decided the kid wasn’t gonna take much more driving, so we might as well let him get the wiggles out and head back to Sao Paulo, and just try next weekend.

… next weekend is probably going to be a few months out, as when we got home my husband exclaimed while turning on the TV.

“I have whole Saturday’s full of fun for the next 4 months!!! “

Followed by a reverent sigh of

“College Football”

Day 5: Jericoacoara… paradise

So we basically drove to Vegas for a day.  Four hours into the desert of Fortaleza is a tiny town called Jericoacoara, and old fishing village, turned Pousada town.  If you take a bus it’s 6 hours, as they drive slower.  We’re pros at driving long distances with our kid, and so is our kid.  He figured out how to take his snack ball, and “pimp” his binky as a way of entertainment.

Once you’re “there” you actually aren’t yet. As you can’t just drive your car in… well unless you pick up one of the guys standing on the side of the street that will let air out of your tires, and drive the car down the beach for you… best R$30 we spent. It’s a long sandy beach drive into Jeri.

You park your car at the parking lot, as cars aren’t allowed into the city (unless you live there).  The city is really quaint, the streets are made with sand, and there are tons of cutesy shops everywhere.

The Pousada we stayed  at, Surfing Jeri, had a giant caju tree in the courtyard.  There were tons of caju trees everywhere we went up here by the way.  I’m glad I didn’t pay the R$18 in Sao Paulo for a small pack of caju fruit, as it’s everywhere here.  We picked up a few and ate them when we arrived.  You don’t really eat caju, as much as suck the juice from the fruits flesh– perfect for my son who loves to do just that with his fruit.  Those are a bunch of Caju fruit piled up.

We had lunch at Pimenta Verde, which was amazing and fresh.  There was an Italian guy behind the counter, so maybe the owner and the reason why the Risotto was sooo good.

View from Pimenta Verde to our Pousada

Now I preface the activity for our first day with the statement, “We are bad parents.” There it’s been said, you don’t need to say more.  My husband visited one of the ATV rentals and negotiated down with the owner for an ATV for 2 hours. And then we were off, with our 1 year old smooshed between us. It was soo relaxing he fell asleep.  We could tell the foreigners from the Brazilians as well by the looks of shock and panic on the foreigners faces as we passed them.

The reason we took the ATV was to get to this rock arch in the ocean – Pedra Furada. It’s an easy hike in once you get there, and really pretty.  At the right time of year you can time it so the sun is right between the arch.

We generally let the little guy run around, the photo below was taken before he decided to run straight for the crashing waves in the arch.  I guess it looked like fun.

When we got back, our plan was to hike up the huge sand dune outside of the town.  Everyone climbs it at sunset to watch, unfortunately we have a kid, so by the time he was fed and cleaned and we walked out to the beach this is about as far as we got.  It was still beautiful.

Jeri really comes to life at night, when street vendors and food stands set up, and everyone seems to come out.  Since it’s so hot, it seems like the city wakes up early, then everyone retires to their bed for the afternoon, and then comes out at night.For dinner we ate at Cafe Brasil.  Their bread is home made and their sandwiches are delish.  Not to mention the waitress totally took our kid off our hands for the meal to play with him. Score!  We found our front porch also came to life at night to the trill of our son.  A cat, a large frog, and a small frog were all waiting for us.

The large frog then proceeded to attempt to eat the small frog to the shock of my son and delight of his father.

And then it was off to bed, as we had a big day of buggy adventures planned for the following day.

The Parrot Farm

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So I had to break this into a separate post.  During last weekend’s visit to the sitio, during the day some of the fun my son got into, was a visit to a parrot farm.  The sitio is right next door to a parrot farm. Really cool for us visiting American’s, probably not so fun for the neighbors.  I had my concerns about the permanent hearing damage I was possibly inflicting on my son, but figured how often would any kid get such an awesome experience.  It wasn’t until we were in the first room full of screaming parrots, that the owner exclaimed how shocked she was our son wasn’t crying like every child before him (umm thanks for the pre-warning?).  He actually didn’t cry at all, although he held onto us a little tighter, and was quiet and wide eyed.

We saw soooo many different types of parrots, parrots who spoke, tiny parrots, giant squawking parrots that we were told attack each other. Parrots building their nests, so their feathers were all plucked out.  It was crazy, and really fun.

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In the nursery room, which was a ton quieter, my son was more interactive and got to pet a parrot, while my husband and I got to hold one.  When the Hyacinth Macaw was put on my arm, it slowly began to inch up my arm– which was the first clue to me that my eyes were going to be gauged out– and as I got warier and warier, it began to pick at my hair. Yes the dang thing ate my hair! The owner also had it flap it’s wings, and man is that bird strong!!

A European Vacation— in Brasil

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Now that it’s getting cold, like the rest of São Paulo we have curtailed our beach visits and headed to the mountains.  My husband and I couldn’t help wonder why we didn’t head up during the heat of summer, but oh well.  Now is the time to head up to Campos do Jordão, as it is Pinhão season.

What are Pinhão? Well they are GIGANTIC pine nuts.  Needless to say, my husband was in heaven.

Like all trips we jumped in the car and figured we would just happen on a Pousada.  We had heard Campos do Jordão really doesn’t look like São Paulo, and we were not disappointed. It was like entering a semi-tropical Switzerland.   The pine trees were a bit different, tropical vines mingled amidst the conifers, and behind all of the lovely European styled homes and hotesl, you could catch glimpses of the atypical Brazilian home.  It was a beautiful mix, and it made you feel like you were not in Brazil at all.

We drove around, my husband jumped out and asked if the hotel had vacancies, and what the rate would be.  We stopped at the Quatro Saisons and Home Green Home as both looked very pretty and overlooked the green valley below–both were very booked, and probably out of our price range.  There were so many lovely pousadas.

As we drove around to various hotels, chalets, and pousadas that looked nice on the outside, we found we were not the only ones.  We watched one woman jump out of her car, run in, and run back out.

“They do not have any sport channels.”

Yes, it was the São Paulo versus Santos game… there was no respectable Paulista that would miss this!  In fact, as we drove around we happened upon a bar fight at BadenBaden (the restaurant of choice it seems for the area as it was ALWAYS packed).  There were about 15 BadenBaden guys surrounding 2 guys, a woman, and a 10 year old kid hugging on to one of the guys.  There was yelling and you could see the kid was kinda freaked out.  Since they were pretty much blocking the street and all traffic, my husband pulled over with everyone else to see what all the fuss was about.  Turns out one of the guys had pulled a gun out in BadenBaden, and all of the staff were trying to detain him until the cops arrived.  We were pretty sure that it had something to do with the second goal that Santos just scored.

We ended up staying at the Leão da Montanha.  It was I am sure pretty nice in the 80s, but seems to have not been updated for a bit.  It was great for families.  There was a large TV and game room, as well as an indoor pool. Not only did you get breakfast, but you also got a free dinner at their restaurant, which placards noted had won awards. I am wondering who was paid off, as dinner was horribly lacking in any flavor and just tasted old.  The rooms as I mentioned were old, but there were actually two rooms, one with two twins for the kiddies, and then the parents room. So that was nice.  We paid R$250 a night on a Promocão. There was also an indoor and outdoor play area for kids.  We got some slide time in with our son… cept he didn’t quite know the proper way, so while it was not the best hotel, I still liked it for the family nature of it.

We headed downtown to the main area as there was an orchestra playing.  Campos do Jordão seems to be pretty much a tourist town, so they seem to have a lot of festivals to lure folks up.  While we waited for the orchestra, we also decided to grab some Fondue.  It has been a good 10 years since I have had fondue, and why not in Campos do Jordão.  My husband was reminded why he hates it, and I was reminded at 2 am, 3am, 4am, and the rest of the day the reason the Swiss recommend drinking it with hot tea.  Stomach did not settle until breakfast and a hot cup of water.  Either way, for about R$100 it was not worth it.

The orchestra concert was fun, and we had a front row seat. Our son really really loves music and dancing, so we were curious to see what his reaction would be to a full orchestra.  He did not let us down.

We also went on a nice scenic drive through Camos do Jordão.  We stopped at the tourist informacões center, got a free map, and some “touristy” photos. Before heading to Duche do Preto.

The falls are completely man made, so you can get right up on them.  Flowing water loudly splashing everywhere was definitely a must do for a family with a 1 year old kid.  At one point you can actually get right under the water flowing out of the hose if you really wanted to

We then heard Horto Florestal was a must see, so began the 12km trek to it.  A long the way saw all of these folks with bags picking up things from the ground.  That is when we realized the R$10 bag of Pinhões we had purchased can be had for free if you are willing to pick them up underneath any of the thousands of trees!  We hucked one to see what it would look like.. and they really are huge.

When we got home, my husband quickly microwaved a bunch in water for about 5 minutes. I think I would prefer them roasted in the oven, but whatever.  Most of them were bug riddled as well, so keep that in mind when buying them.

We also got to see some of the local wildlife.  We almost got suckered into the Borboletaria *butterfly thingy* but for R$20 each, we don’t love our son that much.  So we opted for some free squirrels.


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We have decided that Maresias is our favorite destination. Maybe it’s our love of Kauai and Maresias’ beachy similarities, maybe it’s that it is only 2 hours away, but feels like another world to São Paulo.  This time we showed up and then tried to find a Pousada and negotiate the price.  Vacation season is over, it was a rainy weekend, and it’s getting cold now, so we figured we had more wiggle room.  As Maresias Hotel is on the beach, we tried them first.  Their lowest rate they told us was R$290.

So we stoped at Pura Vida, a Pousada on the back street of Maresias.  From the outside it looked nice, and it had the typical electric security wires seen on most wealthy homes– we figured that was a good sign as they are obviously catering to the wealthier Brasilians… or skitish tourists right?  Also, being just one street back, it was still close enough to walk to the beach, and actually closer to more restaurants, which are not located on the main beach street.  They gave us a rate of R$200 + a 10% service fee, and came with a full kitchen with a large fridge, stove, sink etc.

We got a basic room, but some of the suites come with jetted tubs.

This is my favorite Pousada so far. Yes we have only stayed at 2 others, but still, favorite Pousada.  Since we all know most of my decisions are influenced by food, I won’t disappoint. Best breakfast by far!  They had mango, mullberry, and grape juice, as well as tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.  Standard Cafe de Manha fair, fresh made rolls, cheese and meat. But you could also order from the kitchen filled pancakes or fresh made omelets . Their pão de queijo was very good. And they had corn cake and chocolate frosted carrot cake. I don’t call it corn bread as it isn’t the same as the stuff in the US.  Nor is the carrot cake the same for that matter, it looks and tastes more like standard yellow cake.

This place allows dogs. In fact the owners had a yellow lab, and a rottie watched the cars. So bad information by Mibamar, they are not the only place to accept pets! The beds were comfortable, the hotel we stayed at in Ilhabela had a crappy mattress. The pool was beautiful and clean (unlike Ilhabela),  as was the room (unlike the Mibamar). It seemed liked they had a baby pool but it was empty, and when I look at the photos on their website it seems it is alway empty. Too bad !  Ambiance of  the hotel was a Bali theme, so it was decorated nicely.   In fact there is  a koi pond along side the walk way to the rooms, which my son just loved. In fact, he tried with all his baby might to get my husband to drop him into the water to grab the fishes.  And when it rained, there was a gentle sound of rain hitting water, which was super relaxing.  We took a nice, much needed, super long nap.

What made this place stand out was the extra amenities. There is a billards room, so after a day at the beach there was something to do. A hot tub, sauna, work out room, and a movie room with DVDs. With a wee one this is nice as we could leave him in the room sleeping and just take our baby monitor, without feeling like we were too far away.  There are photos of all of these on their site, and all pretty accurate (unlike most hotel photos right!) Although the hotel is all 220 volt, so we could only charge our laptops.  They have an iron and a blowdryer you can ask to use.  And as it was 220V we ended up using our android phone app Nanny (free) to keep tabs on our sleeping son. Love the Nanny app by the way.

On my last visit to the US I picked up the PeaPod. It is a nifty little pop up tent. It is super light and comes with a blow up bad if you are going to use it on a hard surface and what your child to have some padding.  We took the PeaPod to the beach, and after letting our son crawl back and forth throwing sand everywhere, he finally wore down and we were able to stick him in the tent and relax ourselves for the first time at the beach with a kid ever!  I think if the waves were a bit less rough we could have taken him swimming, but it seemed more like a surfing day, so he pretty much stayed out of the water.

A vist to the States

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I had to head up to Beverly Hills… and as I have a kid, I had to take him with me. Since this trip was not paid for by my husband’s company this time, I didn’t have the luxury of traveling with an extra seat… just me, the baby carrier, and the wild little monkey.  Oh how I missed my beautiful, lovely Sao Paulo.  Yes, that’s right, after a week in LA, I wanted to come home.

The trip to LA, wasn’t too bad.  I was lucky enough to have a bulk head seat, so I laid down a quilt and down went my son.  The mid-flight turbuelence  required that I pick him up and that did not sit well.  But seriously, bulkheads are the way to travel.  The trip back, I also got a bulkhead seat, and no turbuelence, and he slept like a dream.  But you don’t care about the ease of bulk head seats do you right?

So let’s see, all of the things I love and hate about America.

  1. Chicago has those new sanitary toilets that automatically change a plastic liner and those were pretty cool.  LAX is a big, ugly, dirty mess and doesn’t have any such pretty toilets, so -1 LA

Am I lame because I took a photo of it?

  1. United Airlines flight attendedants were pretty rude about letting me on the plane when boarding all of the mediallion/business class passengers.  Whatever happened to letting women with children on first.  I even explained that I was traveling alone, had a really heavy backpack, and was suffering from a case of food poisoning– still no go… in fact no-go rather rudely – 1 America – 10 United
  2. The lack of a culture who appreciate babies – 1 LA + 10 Brazil The old gma on the plane from LAX was so cold to my son, and I could hear her grumbling to her husband about how annoyed she was we blocked the “natural light” from the window whenever I breastfed him. My son cried for the first time ever on a plane -repeatedly.  The super nice Brasilian woman on the way home, smiled and made my son laugh and he was a dream. Shoot, even the German director who we flew up with from Sao Paulo was nicer than this old lady…and he’s a guy! She just gave that “I don’t like that you have a kid” vibe and my son was very perplexed by it.
  3. All the freaking stop signs in Beverly Hills -1 for each one of those things LA
  4. The lame LA driver who honked at me because I was turning left.  If you have such a problem with left turns, then get rid of them like Brasil has – 1 LA
  5. All the stupid people who want to turn left and make me have to try and guess if I should be in the right or left lane – 1 LA (irony I know)
  6. Cheap baby stuff, peanut butter, maple syrup, and BestBuy +10 LA
  7. The parking ticket I got in Beverly Hills for parking at 2am … so you know Beverly Hills is a no parking anywhere at night zone.. even if there aren’t any signs. I would give LA another minus, but Sao Paulo’s no parking signs aren’t much better. Zero
  8. LA Drivers, who think they’re good, but all have their knickers in a bunch – 1 LA Even if everyone says Sao Paulo drivers are crazy, they are just some how all at the same standard, no slow-poke, crazy drivers here.  If you are flying through the intersection, you offer a courtesy honk.  There’s no doubt should I stop for that pedestrian… they have to watch for you. There’s no doubt, will this car try and squeeze in even though I have the right away… they know you have the right away, there’s no false niceties here in Brasil. And I like it that way!
  9. I totally forgot how fancy the cars are here in LA.  I guess I’d gotten used to the fleet of grey hatchbacks in Sao Paulo that I was finally awed by the fleet of porches and mercedes. +1 LA
  10. My husband was in Brasil -1000 LA

On a separate note, only slightly related. Our flight from Brasil and on to LA was filled with Germany’s Next Top Model cycle 6 contestants.  You know how they say babies like perfect faces…it’s true. My son seriously stared them down.   Then again, my kid likes women 😉 On the flight from Chicago to LA I actually got an empty seat next to me, but again we were on the flight with models, and the one next to us was bringing back a head dress.  They had done their shoot for Carnival in Brasil, and she said she just bought it and wasn’t the winner.  I guess the winner got to ride one of the floats and wear the whole outfit.  It hasn’t aired yet, so I couldn’t see who it was.  She just slept the whole time, and my son may or may not have broken off a few beads.  The model across the isle was much nicer, and kept smiling and my son… why couldn’t she have sat next to me? All she had was a book!  Hope she wins, just for her being the nicer one, without the big headdress 😉

Beverly Hills Parking Tip

I stayed at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills. It’s one of those boutique hotels.  All modern and trendy (the crib was completely made of metal… yeah clink, clink, clink is what I heard as the little beaver chipped away at the metal rails) and recently renovated.  Recent renovations means your room smells like new carpet, paint and resin.  Parking was $30 a night, so I opted to park on the street. I was usually out of the hotel by 6 am, and not home till after 11pm anyway.  However, as I mentioned above, if you park between 2am and 5am, you will get a ticket. I managed to avoid a ticket the first night, because it turns out the Avalon hotel is right on the border of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.  My first night, I had parked down Beverly between Pico and Olympic.  I didn’t get a ticket, as I guess I was on the “Los Angeles” side of Beverly (the street signs turn blue, and don’t have “Beverly Hills” on them).  So that’s my tip, if you don’t mind walking a block.

Also don’t eat at Houston’s in Century City… I got food poisoning something wicked there… the worst sickness of my life ever.  My little sister had to pack my luggage for me. I paid the baggage claim guy at LAX (who by the way was not so subtle with his “If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you”) to check me in at the counter, got LAX security to let me in the front of the line, and chugged Pedialyte and ate my son’s teething biscuits.

**Update** The LA County Health Department called me (I reported the food poisoning, because I’m like that okay?!) to report that they inspected Houston’s and they failed the inspection on the handling of their primerib meat… so yeah, it was totally their fault.