Brazil

TEN THINGS ABOUT BRAZIL

1. There are lots of really nice Brazilian made clothes and shoes. Yay!

2. I had the the best wax ever in Rio. They just do it differently (and it was not a 'Brazilian').

3. New fruit we tasted: cashew apple, acerola cherries. Both are great when juiced too.

4. Rio is not a great city to swim in - the sea can be wavy and polluted and there are no public pools.

5. There are about 200 million people in Brazil. One half of the wealth of the entire country is in the hands of 1000 people. Yikes. (Personally, I think Nestle owns the other half - as about half of all the items in supermarkets are by Nestle. Whoa.)

6. If it rains, it rains a lot. The streets turn to rivers and most people just wait it out.

7. Almost no one speaks English.

8. Brazil has more species of animals than any other country on earth.

9. People really like their pets - there is a vet at almost every block.

10. The Carnaval takes place in the middle of the night.

This is Monica, the lovely owner of the house we rented. We look forward to seeing her again. 

This is Monica, the lovely owner of the house we rented. We look forward to seeing her again. 

DINNER WITH FRIENDS!

A super great evening with our friends and neighbours in Rio. We had pasta with Gorgonzola cooked to perfection by Dante. We just ate and chatted and ate and had some dessert and suddenly it was one in the morning!

 

Isabela in full form. O her right, Lili in Moroccan gear, Laura (Isabela's mom) behind her, then TT (Jose) Isabela's uncle. 

Isabela in full form. O her right, Lili in Moroccan gear, Laura (Isabela's mom) behind her, then TT (Jose) Isabela's uncle. 

Isabela, Lili, TT, Lais, Laura and Dante. Lais (TT's wife) and Laura are sisters.

Isabela, Lili, TT, Lais, Laura and Dante. Lais (TT's wife) and Laura are sisters.

Then Luiz and his partner joined us. They brought desserts - and bubbles! Later in the course of the evening Luiz told us the story of his family...  which I am telling in another post.

Then Luiz and his partner joined us. They brought desserts - and bubbles! Later in the course of the evening Luiz told us the story of his family...  which I am telling in another post.

 

 

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THE NATIONAL LIBRARY IN RIO

To continue on the topic of doing things that are free (and there are lots) we went to the Brazil National Library - a couple of metro stations away from us in Rio centre. The Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil is the depository of the bibliographic and documentary heritage of Brazil.

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We got ourselves there right on time for the daily 2 pm guided tour in English just to find - following some natural Latin American logic - that there was in fact no such tour at all never mind today but all week: 'No English. English next week'.

We generally just roll with things on this trip so we decided to tag along on a Portuguese tour that was already underway and got a pretty good hang of the place anyways.

The building is beautiful - like an old palace. I love buildings that get light from the above and have beautiful detailing - I hope the photos give some idea of the grandeur of this space. It is so fitting that old libraries have big and grand surroundings, the University Library in Helsinki also has a stunningly beautiful interior - I will post pictures of it when we go to Helsinki in the summer.

The main stair / lobby space. The images between the columns are part of the Guimaraes exhibit.

The main stair / lobby space. The images between the columns are part of the Guimaraes exhibit.

The National Library also had two exhibitions - one in the Lobby was about Ulysses Guimaraes, a well known Brazilian politician and labour leader who died in a helicopter crash in 1992.

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The other exhibit was about Brazilian landscapes and nature through the eyes of French botanist Auguste Saint Hilaire. We had a nice time at this exhibit looking at some of the very fine graphic etchings and watercolours of the time. Some of the botanical analytical drawings were superb, and Dante and Lili looked at the brushwork very carefully. In those days books were all made and illustrated by hand, and there may have only been one or two copies of a book that ever got made.

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Beautiful botanical watercolor. A good example of an analytical drawing. 

Beautiful botanical watercolor. A good example of an analytical drawing. 

SWIMMING IN RIO

I think I may have mentioned that it is not actually that easy to swim in Rio - there are no public pools at all. The wave can be pretty strong in the ocean, and the water quality varies. 

So we were very grateful for two invitations we got for swimming - one to the members only Rio Military Club by our excellent guide Luis Darin, and one to Isabela's uncle TT's house in Itanhanga near Barra. Needless to say, we spent the whole day in both places and at the end of the day took home a wet, tired, happy prune-fingered little girl! 

 

Isabela, Lili and Daniel in Itanhanga. 

Isabela, Lili and Daniel in Itanhanga. 

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At Clube Militar

At Clube Militar

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RIO ZOO

Obviously, we visited the Rio Zoo. And what is there right by the gate, if not the bird enclosure that hosts the macaws and many other beautiful birds! To our absolute delight, they allow people in - about ten at a time - and we happened to get there right at feeding time. So here are some happy pics with the birds. (And if you haven't seen the movie Rio - you should).

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Lili was also able to interact with an African Python. The Zoo staff were super excellent with the children. 

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This was a happy penguin. A bit surprisingly, Lili said: Mommy it looks pregnant! But a moment later we both laughed, because... 

This was a happy penguin. A bit surprisingly, Lili said: Mommy it looks pregnant! But a moment later we both laughed, because... 

We thought this bird was sick. It just lay there motionless with the wing a bit crooked. I sat by it a long time to see how it would do. And then, quite a bit later it shifted position, and I saw it had too large eggs that it was hatching. We wish it well! 

We thought this bird was sick. It just lay there motionless with the wing a bit crooked. I sat by it a long time to see how it would do. And then, quite a bit later it shifted position, and I saw it had too large eggs that it was hatching. We wish it well! 

There is also a petting zoo where Lili had a pony ride. 

There is also a petting zoo where Lili had a pony ride. 

We really enjoyed this zoo. Lili also visited a zoo in Morocco which was great, and we are looking forward to at least the Paris zoo as well.

PRESIDENTIAL DIGS

Now it so happens that we live right close to where the President of Brazil used to live. At the Catete metro station is a building that we call 'the Eagle Building' - the photo below explains why. 

Catete Palace, originating from the 1860's. 

Catete Palace, originating from the 1860's. 

This very cool old photo shows the building they way it  was it as in the Rio landscape in 1895. We are staying on the very right of this picture at the base of the hill.

This very cool old photo shows the building they way it  was it as in the Rio landscape in 1895. We are staying on the very right of this picture at the base of the hill.

The 'Palace of Eagles' as it is more officially known, was the presidential residence in Brazil for 63 years ending in 1960, when the presidential office was moved to capital Brasilia.  Now the building has been restored as a museum and it it makes for a wonderful visit.

We were almost the only people there. Lili and Dante studying details of the stairwell frieze in the Noble Room.   

We were almost the only people there. Lili and Dante studying details of the stairwell frieze in the Noble Room.

 

In the Pompean room. 

In the Pompean room. 

The Venetian (yellow) room. We spent a long time looking at the beautiful painting in this room. 

The Venetian (yellow) room. We spent a long time looking at the beautiful painting in this room. 

There are two singers here - the serenader and the bird. 

There are two singers here - the serenader and the bird. 

Dante looking presidential in the French (blue) Room. 

Dante looking presidential in the French (blue) Room. 

I made a little collage of some beautiful details in the building. The red chandelier is from the Moorish room.    I got even a bit inspired to make different themed rooms in our little home when we get home! 

I made a little collage of some beautiful details in the building. The red chandelier is from the Moorish room.  

I got even a bit inspired to make different themed rooms in our little home when we get home! 

ONE OF THE BEST BRUNCHES

... in Rio or on this trip: we went to Parque Lage, at the base of Corcovado Mountain and treated ourselves: 

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We do not eat out on this trip very often - simply because it hurts our budget. But every now and then it is nice to have a good go of it, and Parque Lage was a perfect place to do it. In fact we set a new record - a portion of French Toast that was more than Lili could eat!

This park used to be the home of a wealthy industrialist and his singer wife. They built a beautiful mansion on a hill, and it now serves as an art school! Anyone can stroll in, admire the grounds and enjoy the great cafe in the inner courtyard.

 

We had a table right by the pool. 

We had a table right by the pool. 

You can see the Christ statue at the top of the mountain. Parque Lage is the starting point for those individuals who wish to hike up to the statue. It easily takes a couple of hours and according to sources is not a very easy hike. But, it provides a great experience and an intimate passage through that part of the Tijuca Forest.   Parque Lage has also been featured in a music video by Snoop Dogg. 

You can see the Christ statue at the top of the mountain. Parque Lage is the starting point for those individuals who wish to hike up to the statue. It easily takes a couple of hours and according to sources is not a very easy hike. But, it provides a great experience and an intimate passage through that part of the Tijuca Forest. 

Parque Lage has also been featured in a music video by Snoop Dogg. 

A tree in bloom in the park. 

A tree in bloom in the park. 

CARNAVAL CARNAVAL!

Did you know that the word Carnaval comes from Latin (Carnis Levale) which means 'farewell to meat'? The Carnaval culminates on 'Fat Tuesday' - this year February 28th - which is the day immediately prior to beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. So the Carnaval is always about 40 days before Easter, and this applies to Rio, Venice, Recife and pretty much everywhere.

Here in Rio things are of course in a bit of overdrive. It's great - what most people don't know is that the Carnaval mostly happens in the streets. The street parties, called blocos, happen all over the city and there are probably about 300 of them in Rio over the Carnaval week. We have lots of choice!  

This is from a bloco by Gigantes da Lira dance group. They cater specifically to children. 

This is from a bloco by Gigantes da Lira dance group. They cater specifically to children. 

The street parties are for everyone, and many small local dance and music groups get to show their chops in them. Some are small  and some are big, but all of them are loud. 

Lili dressed up for the bloco - her best new dress is a gift from Abdou and Carey in Morocco. Throwing confetti was fun - if you look at the ground you can see it is covered in round confetti - here they use the stuff you get when you empty a hole punch.

Lili dressed up for the bloco - her best new dress is a gift from Abdou and Carey in Morocco. Throwing confetti was fun - if you look at the ground you can see it is covered in round confetti - here they use the stuff you get when you empty a hole punch.

February is the hottest month of the year in Rio and every day we have been here it has been over +30C. this is why the Carnaval mostly happens at night. The block parties tend to be at 7 or 8 in the morning or at 8 at night. No one does samba at midday! 

These costumes were so cool. I said they would work great in anatomy class! 

These costumes were so cool. I said they would work great in anatomy class! 

The official samba competition takes place at the Rio Sambodromo. There are four nights of competition and then the winners parade the following weekend. The competitions start at around 8 pm and go on until about 5 in the morning. Yikes!

Isabela, Daniel and Lili having fun. A huge bloco just passed by in the street. 

Isabela, Daniel and Lili having fun. A huge bloco just passed by in the street. 

MUSEUM OF TOMORROW

How great is that? Museums by definition tend to look back, but why not look forward? The Rio Museum of Tomorrow is a legacy project of the Rio Olympics and it has a superb location right downtown at the waterfront, part of the port area rehabilitation. It is actually billed as a science museum, but it is really an overarching commentary of the world type of thing.

The architect is one of my favorites - Santiago Calatrava from Spain. Calatrava's buildings tend to be signature buildings, and as a structural engineer he has also designed some amazing bridges.

Here is the setting - the plaza in front is great for waveboarding, and we have been there several times already. The light rail system was also put in for the Olympics and more lines are still under construction.

Here is the setting - the plaza in front is great for waveboarding, and we have been there several times already. The light rail system was also put in for the Olympics and more lines are still under construction.

Lili's style sample.

Lili's style sample.

Pretty cool entrance! 

Pretty cool entrance! 

We had read reviews online that said that the museum is all building and little content. Well just shows how dumb it can be to rely on the internet for your choices - we thought this museum was super interesting. Right at the start of the exhibit there is a 10 minute Imax movie that you can watch lying on your back on the floor - I enjoyed especially the underwater nature bits where there were lots and lots of jellyfish floating over us. 

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 Some other exhibits utilized gigantic video screens to create a huge multimedia show. Again, you could lie on your back if you chose.

 

A panorama pic of one of the displays. (No idea how it loads on this blog app. )   

A panorama pic of one of the displays. (No idea how it loads on this blog app. )

 

Another panorama of the multimedia screens.    We got swipe cards at the entrance that we could place on exhibits and then the text all switched to English. You could type in your name and email address and then the museum would remember which exhibits you had seen (and they can of course track what people view). It is a really high tech place.   We visited on the day of free admission (another benefit of an unhurried sabbatical) so there were quite a few people but we looked in detail into some screens that talked about the future of DNA modification, artificial body parts, individualized medicine and the ethical questions around scientific advances. We have also watched our favorite vet program on the iPad and learned about harvesting stem cells to treat illnesses - in that case for kidney failure in a cat. I love how the stuff we see starts to have connotations for Lili. This makes for great conversations.

Another panorama of the multimedia screens.  

We got swipe cards at the entrance that we could place on exhibits and then the text all switched to English. You could type in your name and email address and then the museum would remember which exhibits you had seen (and they can of course track what people view). It is a really high tech place.

We visited on the day of free admission (another benefit of an unhurried sabbatical) so there were quite a few people but we looked in detail into some screens that talked about the future of DNA modification, artificial body parts, individualized medicine and the ethical questions around scientific advances. We have also watched our favorite vet program on the iPad and learned about harvesting stem cells to treat illnesses - in that case for kidney failure in a cat. I love how the stuff we see starts to have connotations for Lili. This makes for great conversations.

This was in the ecosystem exhibits.  

This was in the ecosystem exhibits.  

One night we had a new type of animal visit our patio. It looked bigger than a rat, and had a long nose. It sat on top of the fence for quite a while and was super cute. We thought it might be a coati but it did not have a hairy tail. Then Isabela told us that it must have been a 'gamba'. And here it was! In English it is called a Big Eared Opossum. 

One night we had a new type of animal visit our patio. It looked bigger than a rat, and had a long nose. It sat on top of the fence for quite a while and was super cute. We thought it might be a coati but it did not have a hairy tail. Then Isabela told us that it must have been a 'gamba'. And here it was! In English it is called a Big Eared Opossum. 

Very funky design on the interior as well.  We are getting ready to leave here.

Very funky design on the interior as well.  We are getting ready to leave here.

Lili showing her power! Yes! 

Lili showing her power! Yes! 

Father and daughter. This area is at the end of the museum, an aboriginal style house of learning, sharing and storytelling.

Father and daughter. This area is at the end of the museum, an aboriginal style house of learning, sharing and storytelling.

...and back onto the board right outside the exit door! 

...and back onto the board right outside the exit door! 

BLENDING IN

This may sound like an odd post but here goes: Rio is the first place on our trip where we are constantly mistaken for locals. 

Dante and Lili walking home from the grocery store. 

Dante and Lili walking home from the grocery store. 

I have to say it is really nice, and it also makes me feel safer (not that we feel unsafe to begin with). I cannot say how many times I have been asked for directions on the metro on in the street. Of course, the illusion disappears the minute I start speaking - my Portuguese is atrocious, and limited to about three sentences!

Having cheap lunch at a side street - eating where the locals eat. 

Having cheap lunch at a side street - eating where the locals eat. 

Brazil is such a melting pot of ethnicities, and it really is a truly multicultural society. Rio has no ethnic neighborhoods at all, people just mix. It is very cool. (Now I hear someone saying hey wait a minute what about the favelas - and that is a good question. The favelas are more defined by economic status than ethnicity - they are poor neighborhoods.)

And of course there are rich neighborhoods as well - every big city has those. In Rio the rich areas are mostly by the water - along the beaches and by the big lagoon. The favelas are on the slopes, with great views across the city and towards the sea - locations that would be super prime real estate in many other cities. 

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Rocinha favela, between Barra de Tijuca and Ipanema. You can see how the structure of the city changes as soon as the buildings start climbing the slope - that is the favela.  Dante asked for public photo credit for these two pics that he expertly took from the car window:  Photos Dante Comoglio

Rocinha favela, between Barra de Tijuca and Ipanema. You can see how the structure of the city changes as soon as the buildings start climbing the slope - that is the favela.  Dante asked for public photo credit for these two pics that he expertly took from the car window:

Photos Dante Comoglio

TIJUCA FOREST AND SWIMMING IN A WATERFALL

The Tijuca Forest is an enormous nature reserve in the City of Rio - at thirty two square kilometers it covers 7% of the city's area. It's huge.

There are several sights in the forest, the most notable of course being the Christ statue. There are also many viewpoints on the mountain and this composite image is from one called Vista Chinesa. (Please also note the clear blue skies in all photos!)

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 Tijuca Forest also has several little waterfalls around the Corcovado Mountain. We stopped at one, and Lili and Julia had a great time cooling off in the clear water.  

It should be noted that it is not actually that easy to swim in Rio. The water quality at the beaches varies, and some of the better beaches have pretty big waves - good for surfing but not that great for with ght year olds. There are no public pools in the Rio at all, and we do not have access to the upscale hotels' rooftop pools. So it was all the more pleasant to be able to have a quick splash in nature. 

 

Woo hoo! Cold water! 

Woo hoo! Cold water! 

The water was full of little fish - the girls would catch them with their hands and then let them go again. 

The water was full of little fish - the girls would catch them with their hands and then let them go again. 

Lili getting ready to jump. 

Lili getting ready to jump. 

NIEMEYER IN NITEROI

In Japan, I refrained masterfully from any 'architectural tourism'. We saw a lot, but I did not drag the family out of town to see this or that absolutely-must-see building. Maybe on another trip.

So I completely gave myself permission to go to Niteroi today to see the uber funky, iconic Contemporary Art Museum by Oscar Niemeyer. 

 

The setting is epic - it sits on a cliff across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. (That is the Sugar Loaf mountain in the background).

The setting is epic - it sits on a cliff across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. (That is the Sugar Loaf mountain in the background).

I love this photo. 

I love this photo. 

Happy tourist family for Canada. Lili kept thinking how great the ramps would be for her waveboard! 

Happy tourist family for Canada. Lili kept thinking how great the ramps would be for her waveboard! 

Oh yeah. 

Oh yeah. 

We had a lovely and well respected professor for Design of Public Buildings at university. He often said: 'It is good practice for every architect to design a perfectly round building once. And it would be best for everyone if you did that while at school.'

We had a lovely and well respected professor for Design of Public Buildings at university. He often said: 'It is good practice for every architect to design a perfectly round building once. And it would be best for everyone if you did that while at school.'

Lili with a 'museum-hat'. This is a silly game we have - photographing buildings on our heads. You may remember similar images of the Matrimandir in India... 

Lili with a 'museum-hat'. This is a silly game we have - photographing buildings on our heads. You may remember similar images of the Matrimandir in India... 

Lili's picture of me.  

Lili's picture of me.  

Lili at a Niemeyer staircase. 

Lili at a Niemeyer staircase. 

This building is so refreshing, with clean lines and a great majestic entry sequence with the ramps. The galleries are simple and let the art talk. We had a great day.

CHRISTO REDENTOR

Here is some super-tourism: the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. It is on top of Corcovado mountain, this huge figure with arms outstretched, looking over the entire Rio valley with a quiet benevolent gaze.

It is breathtaking.  

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View towards 'centro'. The bridge in the background goes to Niteroi.  

View towards 'centro'. The bridge in the background goes to Niteroi.  

This view is towards De Freitas Lagoon and Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. 

This view is towards De Freitas Lagoon and Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. 

We got there early, it opens at 8 am. The peak soon becomes a mess of people jumbling over each other, selfie sticks everywhere and tour guides trying to keep their flocks in order and within earshot. The thing to do of course is to take a picture with arms outstretched in front of the statue! 

We got there early, it opens at 8 am. The peak soon becomes a mess of people jumbling over each other, selfie sticks everywhere and tour guides trying to keep their flocks in order and within earshot. The thing to do of course is to take a picture with arms outstretched in front of the statue! 

And we did it too. 

And we did it too. 

Absolutely. 

Absolutely. 

COPACABANA

There is something incredibly enlivening in going to a place like Copacabana beach. It is so epic, and here we are. I love it! The weather is great, the beach is great, the people are great and we feel great! 

 

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Like a fish in water! 

Like a fish in water! 

This type of sidewalk mosaic is a Rio specialty. The stone is called 'Portuguese stone' .

This type of sidewalk mosaic is a Rio specialty. The stone is called 'Portuguese stone' .

This is the Rio Museum of Image and Sound, also called the Carmen Miranda Museum. Or more accurately, this is their new building, under construction. The opening is scheduled for April or September 2016 (oops, isn't that past already??) haha. The architects are Diller & Scofidio from New York. 

This is the Rio Museum of Image and Sound, also called the Carmen Miranda Museum. Or more accurately, this is their new building, under construction. The opening is scheduled for April or September 2016 (oops, isn't that past already??) haha. The architects are Diller & Scofidio from New York. 

MAKING FRIENDS IN RIO

One of the objectives of this trip has been for Lili to engage with children around the world and maybe even make new friends. In Rio this took off right away as we are staying in a little co-op and there happens to be a couple of girls around Lili's age in the compound. So probably on day two we met Isabela, who is now Lili's best friend here. 

 

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Isabela and Lili playing in our hanging chair.    

Isabela and Lili playing in our hanging chair. 

 

It is very cool to see how well th kids play even though they have no common language. Isabela knows a tiny bit of English and Lili has been learning the odd word of a Portuguese. And somehow it all works just perfectly. 

This photo is from today - it has Lili, Melinda, Isabela and Cecilia. And there were two dogs running around: Michael Jackson (Isabela's dog - under the table) and Tobique (Melinda's dog - in Lili's arms). 

This photo is from today - it has Lili, Melinda, Isabela and Cecilia. And there were two dogs running around: Michael Jackson (Isabela's dog - under the table) and Tobique (Melinda's dog - in Lili's arms). 

Marina (R) and family will be moving out of Rio tomorrow. We are glad we met her and hope to see her again - maybe in Canada one day! 

Marina (R) and family will be moving out of Rio tomorrow. We are glad we met her and hope to see her again - maybe in Canada one day! 

COOL ART IN RIO

Here we are in Rio and we have already gone to a couple of museums. Yesterday we visited the CCBB - old headquarters of Banco de Brazil and next door an Art Centre of the Brazilian post. Both of these are totally free and we had a great time. 

 

At the exhibit of Jabim Nunes. We loved the colourful works, and also the story of his success: he was working away in relative obscurity and posted some of his works on social media. Then a gallery owner spotted him in 2015 and invitations to Paris, USA and Finland ensued! The rest is history...

At the exhibit of Jabim Nunes. We loved the colourful works, and also the story of his success: he was working away in relative obscurity and posted some of his works on social media. Then a gallery owner spotted him in 2015 and invitations to Paris, USA and Finland ensued! The rest is history...

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This is from another floor. Lili wanted to take a selfie of this piece close by to see all the bits glued onto it. This exhibit was by Sandra Felzen and it was inspired by the Brazilian coastal ecosystems.

This is from another floor. Lili wanted to take a selfie of this piece close by to see all the bits glued onto it. This exhibit was by Sandra Felzen and it was inspired by the Brazilian coastal ecosystems.

This piece was so cool. 

This piece was so cool. 

This one almost looked Finnish to me. 

This one almost looked Finnish to me.