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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.

Police Jeito

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So this weekend we headed off to Maresias. There was a 40% chance of thunderstorms, but weather prediction in Brazil is pretty fickle… as you can see from this lovely photo.

As we pulled out of Sao Paulo city, my husband mentions he forgot to grab his passport, and how he’s essentially driving illegally. I was confused as he’s never brought this up before. So he explains, that a cop could pull us over randomly (um ok paranoid much hon?) and we’ve been here long enough that he should have got a Brasilian license. With the passport he could weave a story about how he just got here (since he was recently in the US). Then I start thinking about how in Brasil you have to have some kind of documentation to travel with your kid, to show that they’re not kidnapped. Then I realized this is just crazy think that we’d get pulled over, and went back to sleep for the long drive.

That was until my husband was waived off to the side by a cop? WTF?!! Yeah, at one of the roadside police stations, a cop was just standing in the middle partition of the the road and decided to wave US over. My husband immediately turned on his charm (he can seriously talk his way through any ticket), but then the cop asked him to get out of the car and step away from it. Crap right?

No this is my weasley husband here…he’s good at weasling.  When he got back to the car, he let me know that the cop was enjoying the conversation about California and the tv show C.H.I.P.S.  so much, that he asked my husband to step into the police station for a “cafe”… yeah okay that makes sense. My wife and children are sitting in a tiny hatchback in the “pull off area” on the side of a small freeway, and we’re going to go inside and drink some coffee and talk about C.H.I.P.S.  He actually had to explain to the cop why he couldn’t.. the fact that we were clearly on our way somewhere before we were waived over seemed to slip through the logic that was being used.

Otherwise, Maresias was as lovely as ever. I did get eaten alive by these tiny vampire mosquitos.  You can see the little bits of blood they left all over my ankle.  It actually hurts to walk on my right foot due to the sheer numbers of bites.. and that’s just my right ankle (9 on just the right side of my right ankle).

The interior.. interior. Altos and Floriano

My son’s favorite person in the world- “Inha” is from Altos, and is spending the next 3 weeks on vacation with her family, which coincides with our trip.  This was great, because after about a week without Inha, he was picking up the TV remote and saying “hello Inha” “hello?”

We got Inha’s address and googled it, only to discover that the town is so small it is only on Google Maps by name, none of the streets are viewable.  Heck, some of the streets were all dirt and grass.

Most of the houses are simple brick with concrete floors, the yards are usually large, swept, fenced-in dirt.  Everyone has fruit trees, the types of fruits that are rare in Sao Paulo, like acerola, caju, rose mango and one’s I don’t even know! It was a fun taste fest.  There were also chickens roaming the streets, but I was told everyone knows which chickens are theirs, and they always come home.  And they did, even after my son chased them all out of the backyard.

We visited several of my husband’s friends in Altos, and my son visited the water hose.  As the extreme heat was getting to him…even though he was only running around in slippers an a diaper

 The next morning we drove into Floriano.  Floriano was a bit more city and a lot more hot.  These streets were mostly paved or stone, and the houses had tile flooring, but I was still amazed that the roofs were the tile roofs you see in Brazil, with the red stone tile. I guess it doesn’t rain up here like it does in Sao Paulo, otherwise life would be very wet for them.

We spent hours just visiting with Brazilians, me and my pathetic Portuguese.  By the end of the day, I found that I was actually understanding a lot better than I did before, and I was more apt to say something in Portuguese than in English… like “hey hon there are cars ahead” came out as “temos carros aquele” … I didn’t say that my Portuguese was good.

Fortaleza/Teresina & Vacation Food

So our last night in Fortaleza we hit up Aztec de Oro. It was really good Mexican food, so good that my son who has been spitting out almost everything lately (to be honest I feel like that lately too), ate up everything. The guacomole for R$10 came in a big plate, with a small plate of chips. So no slight dipping, you could scoop the goodness up.

The tacos are the fried crispy yellow corn tacos (American style), but were still good.  I do miss authentic Mexican tacos though.  We also got a Yucaton Taco, which was battered chicken served with onions and tons of purple cabbage, in a very delicious chewy flour tortilla.  You couldn’t eat it with your hands, it was more of a fork and knife dish.

We headed to Teresina on Saturday morning.  Teresina is in Piaui, one of, if not the poorest state in Brazil.  Our once 4 star hotel (Rio Poty) is rather pathetic, although the mini bar still charges 4 star prices… ironically.  I do have to say having 110V outlets however is nice, and the room comes with a blow dryer.  And I guess it’s kinda.

Anyway, I digress.  Because our son was exhausted we decided to grab a quick bite to eat. We made the mistake of a quick bite at Bebalu a burger place the other day…. I still throw up in my mouth thinking about it.  So we decided to try Subway. Subway is always fresh and yummy, and while I really hate the luncheon meat in Brazil, I thought we’d give it a shot. For the record, Subway in Brazil is definitely not the same.. except for the bread *yummmm* and the sauces.  Otherwise, the fresh veggies are very wilty and sad looking, the bell peppers are sliced very tiny, and are not very plentiful.  And the cheese, don’t get me started on the cheese.  You can see from the photo, it looks like the cheese you put in your 5 year olds lunch.

For dinner in Teresina we got together with some friends of my husbands.  Restaurants here are mostly outdoor it seemed, with large seating areas in front of the restaurants.. and these seemed to be nicer restaurants. We ate at Mallagueta, where you order meat dishes, and they come out churrascaria style.  Services was awful, like 3 hour dinner awful, but the food was delicious.  They served a bean dish, with bacon and farofa and green onions, that was sooo flavorful. And the Picanha was well perfectly grilled.

The next day we ate at Favorito, where they had cinnamon grilled pineapple… mmmm.

I also realized I need to buy a pair of the churrascaria tongs… my son was an “angel” relative to his normal self at the restaurant, simply because he had them.  He hate lots of meat with his dad. You can see they licked the plate clean.

Another interesting phenomenon here is the play areas.  All of the restaurants seem to have them, and they’re HUGE.  Usually the baba’s are there with the kids, so I think all the parents thought I was a baba.

The fact, that I love wearing my slippers (I really don’t care that the rich folks in Brazil don’t wear them everywhere, I’m from Hawaii and we wear slippers!), probably made everyone think I was a baba.

Even though we were right next to the indoor playroom, we also couldn’t just let the monkey go wild…as he figured out how to climb up the rock climbing walls all by himself. Overall Teresina is an interesting place. It’s city enough that I can see skyscrapers from our hotel, but country enough that horses were grazing a few blocks from us, and there are still several houses made from mud and sticks in the city.

Day 7… final day in Fortaleza

So Day 7 in Fortaleza, we decided to pick up on one of our family’s favorite vacation pastimes… visiting Costco. Except they don’t have Costco here, so we hit up Sam’s Club.  We always find in interesting what they have in the store, as most times it is highly regional.

After visiting Sam’s Club we realized what huge morons we’ve been. We live in Sao Paulo.  We’ve lived here for 8 months, and we never once went to Sam’s Club.  The prices were quite reasonable, especially for the meat and dry goods. Man I feel like a schmuck.  I did notice that unlike the Sam’s Clubs in the US, they actually sell BULK BULK items, as a lot of businesses (not just hungry families) hit up Sam’s Club.

The best find for us, was our beloved Tim Tams.  These were not the same as the creamy Tim Tams we love so much, but a wafer Tim Tam.  However, we figured a Tim Tam is a Tim Tam is a Tim Tam. And if you are asking yourself, what’s a Tim Tam, well go out and buy yourself one… they are Australia’s favorite cookie for good reason. mmmmm

For those in the US, you can find Tim Tams at Target…mmm yummy yummy Tim Tam goodness.

Day 6: Jeri Day 2!!

So day 2 was great.  The little guy slept in until 7am… something about the wood shutters I’m sure.  Breakfast was great, I love how Pousada’s serve free breakfast.  This one had crepes and tapioca (beijus), hubby got the crepe and I the soft and chewy tapioca.  And the little guy was entertained by spitting his food, well more like sticking his tongue out and letting the food roll off onto the floor, where three little cats sat expectantly waiting to eat his mess.

Today the plan was to get a dune buggy, which they pronounce “boogie” with a bit more accent on the “oo.”   I kept thinking my husband was arranging for us to go boogie boarding, which I just couldn’t see my son doing.  The buggy was needed to take us into the dunes, where there are some freshwater lakes.  Yes lakes, not ponds.

We drove in, and I thought we had reached the ocean. It was blue and beautiful and large.   My son absolutely loved that when he got splashed with waves it was just plain ole drinking water, no salty/chlorine taste to spit out.

The teeny beach was lined with hammocks resting in the water, and the water was warm and had waves lapping up on shore due to the strong winds.

They even had a little plank that you could jump off into deeper water.  We obviously didn’t trust the wee one to be able to jump on his own, but with a little help from dad, he loved it.

We then headed up to Sitio Verde, where we got lunch.  It was a bit pricey for middle of nowhere,but really good.  They also had a small beach, not as crowded, and only a few hammocks.  Dad decided to go “fishing,” and caught himself a rather unique fish…. wouldn’t stop squirming though . . .

The net hammock was great for our son, as he was able to stick his legs and arms through the holes in the net and play in the water like he wanted to, without us having to worry about him trying to stick his head in too!

We were supposed to head off to a smaller body of water near a dune for some sand surfing, but our driver disappeared, and by the time he popped his weasley head up, we needed to get home.

The unfortunate side affect of all of the dune buggying was the sand… my poor son woke up with conjunctivitis the next day… but I still think he thinks it was worth it.

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.