Final Morning on the Beach.

Our final morning in Rio called for a quick trip to the beach. Earlier in the trip, we had an opportunity to walk Ipanema, but we wanted to take a moment, relax, and really take in the beach. A trip to Rio is not complete without some beach time. Winter thins the crowds, which makes for a quiet and peaceful visit. A dear friend, Bernardo, also joined us.

When I wrote about the National Library, I mentioned that they did not capitalize on library merchandise like we do in the United States. The beach vendors make up for it. You can buy almost anything on the beach here: jewelry, bikinis, clothing, food, drink, toys… The list is nearly endless. One of my favorite treats is the fresh coconut water straight from the coconut itself. Rio’s beaches are a culture in themselves, and not to be missed. Bon Gia, my friends.


Petrópolis: The Imperial City

2018-06-10 13.14.01    As mentioned in my previous post, we spent this past weekend visiting Petrópolis. During the Napoleanic wars, the royal family of Portugual fled to Brazil (basically to save their lives), and settled in Rio. However, the climate in Rio can be a bit brutal for anyone not so accustomed to the heat. Somehow, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how some of these groups made it up these hills surrounding Rio, they found their way to Petrópolis. The elevation provides a much milder climate than Rio – especially in summer, and the royal family had a summer palace built. As a result of the royal family stationing itself in Petrópolis, other high ranking persons (Dukes, Baron’s, etc.) also made their way to Petrópolis and had homes established. Their is a street in this city with some amazing old homes. Many of them are no longer single dwelling homes, but their beauty certainly remains.

We did visit the Imperial Museum. I don’t have much to share in the way of photo, as none are allowed. Probably best, as many of them would have boring photos of crowns, jewels, and royal robes. It is a shame I cannot share an image of the golden cradle. This was the most impractical, dear Lord I cannot believe they actually placed a baby in that thing, contraption Carolina and I had ever seen. We both stood in amazement for several miutes. Truly and indication of more wealth than sense! I was able to take a few photos of the grounds, which are beautiful.

I also could not resist sneaking a photo of the shoe protectors they require all visitors to wear. These giant slippers went over your shoes, and made it impossible to pick up your feet and walk normally. Instead, you simply had to slide your feet, as if you were skating. All of the floors in the palace are either wood or tile, so this was not difficult, and actually was kind of fun. It also created some comical observations involving children, and I am sure a few headaches for the parents involved!

2018-06-10 13.11.08

We also made a brief visit to the Cathedral, which was commissioned by Princess Isabel, of the royal family. It was beautiful and had quite a presence within the city.

When were not exploring Petrópolis, we were spending time at the darling home of Marta, Bernardo’s mother. As mentioned, her home is actually in Iataipava, which is a small town outside of Petrópolis. The grounds of her home are stunning, and the views are amazing. The home was bought by her parents, so Bernardo has been visiting the area his entire life His memories and stories were heart warming. The area itself is beautiful – absolutely breath taking. I can see why so many folks from Rio head to the hills for their weekend holidays It is quiet, milder climate, provides a little bit of space, and lush with nature. We saw so many birds that I’ve never seen in Rio – such as the Japu. 

I will say that the trip itself was a little nail biting for me, as the roads up this hill are intense! They are rough, narrow, and extremely curvy. It took a great deal of concentration to control the motion sickness, but I am happy we finally made this trip. So much history wrapped into a small package.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

2018-06-09 15.02.27   Our final weekend in Brazil has been full and busy. Every time we have visited Brazil, Mauro has planned to make a trip to the mountains to see Petrópolis, and every visit this plan has been pushed aside due to a schedule crammed too full to possibly manage every item. The trip to Petrópolis is a solid hour’s drive, and often longer due to heavy traffic and the road conditions. The roads in Brazil are not stellar. They are rough, narrow, and tedious. This year, Bernardo’s mother, Marta, offered a visit to her mountain home located in Iataipava. Mauro jumped on this, and so the trip to Petrópolis finally took place.

The trip was full of new discoveries (at least for me and Olivia), and so I have decided to write at least two posts to cover them. The first post will be dedicated to a person Mauro is passionate about, Alberto Santos-Dumont. Mauro and Carolina were both appalled that the United States seems to skim completely over the accomplishments of Santos-Dumont and only give credit for the first flight to Orville and Wilbur Wright. Mauro has made it a point to highlight the inventions, successes, and accomplishments of Santos-Dumont at every given opportunity. We have watched documentaries, he brought a book back to me covering the life of Santos-Dumont, and any time we see a North Carolina (the home of the Wright Brothers) license plate, he makes it his mission to compare Santos-Dumont’s flight successes with that of the Wright Brothers – the biggest emphasis being given to the fact that Santos-Dumont’s took off using it’s own power, AND there were actual witnesses to this flight that were not immediate friends or family!

Petrópolis just happens to be the location of Santos-Dumont’s Brazilian home; a charming little Chalet he helped design and named Encantada (Enchanted). The home is now a museum honoring this Brazilian inventor, engineer, and pioneer of aviation. It was a fun visit, and the home truly provided a brief glimpse in to the personality of this eccentric man. For instance, he apparently had many superstitions, and one of them involved stairs. He had all of home stairs designed to force a person to start off using their right foot. Also, you’ll notice in the photos of his home, that there is no kitchen at all. He did not feel the need to have a kitchen, as the hotel across the street would deliver meals to him on a daily basis. I encourage you to explore and find out more about Alberto Santos-Dumont, as he led an interesting life, and certainly was ahead of his time with his thinking and creative approach to life’s every day trials, as well as the bigger puzzles of the world.

We will board a plane back to the United States tomorrow evening, and I am hoping to have time to write the post detailing Petrópolis and our trip to the mountains before we leave. We’ll see if this plan actually manifests itself successfully…

Escadaria Selarón: Selarón’s Steps

2018-06-08 15.15.50    From 1990-2013, Chilean-born artist, Jorge Selarón, created what he called, “my tribute to the Brazilian people.” The steps straddle the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. They’ve been the subject of many photos, commercials, music videos, and other forms of media, and they have become a major tourist attraction for the city. Olivia has been wanting to visit the Escadaria Selarón for years, and today we finally managed to work them in.

The steps and surrounding areas are covered in random tiles. Originally, Selarón used salvaged tile that he found, but later, folks began donating tiles for the project. Selarón considered the steps an evolving and living work of art, that would never be finished. Tragically, in 2013, he was found dead on the steps he loved.

The randomness of the tiles is astonishing. We just happened to find two Georgia tiles in the mix!

I think you could visit these steps 100 times and find something new each visit. We even saw some random ceramic roof tiles worked in to various areas of the steps and surrounding walls. If you can zoom in on these photos, take a look at the dates on them!


The persons living in the area have capitalized on the attraction, and some eateries and gift shops have popped up near the bottom. Some of the families living along the stair way have also started selling goods – everything from drinks to photo tiles of your visit to the steps.

The alleyway leading up to the steps is equally visually stimulating, with amazing graffiti paintings gracing your journey to the actual steps.

I think Selarón would be pleased at how much people seem to enjoy his gift to Brazil. The atmosphere on the steps is happy and jovial. They certainly bring joy to those who visit, and I’m happy we were able to work them in to this visit. Tomorrow, we head up to the mountains to visit Petropolis.


School Notes

Our apartment building sits beside a school, and there is another on the other side a couple buildings down. Actually, there appears to be quite a few schools in this Botafogo area. It could be because we are in the city, or it could be the norm for Brazil, I am not sure, but the schools are just here. As in, right here, sandwiched between other buildings, in the midst of everything. In other words, there does not appear to be an actual school grounds like we are accustomed to in our area of the United States. The school next to us is in an old building that appears to have been an old house at some point in its previous life.

Also, unlike our students, kids here only attend a school for half-days. There is a morning shift of kids that begins their school day around 7:30 a.m. They release, and while they release, the second shift of kids is making their way to school from 1:00 to about 5:00 p.m. I think the teachers change shifts too, but I cannot be certain of that fact.

I have to tell you, the noise level coming from this little building is unreal! I wish I could post a video or audio, because it is deafening. There is not one moment of the time kids are in this building that it is quiet. It has been amazing. What is also amazing is the chaos surrounding release time – whether it is the mid-day dismissal or the second shift dismissal makes no difference. I have now watched this ritual several days from my veranda, and it cracks me up every time. Our street is a one way street, and streets here are narrow, so whoa be it to you if you need to travel this way during school dismissal. You’ll have a better chance of navigating the Bering Straight in an inner tube than making it down this street in a vehicle during school dismissal time.

The photos below show one such moment. Note the school buses on the curb, and the traffic backed up behind and down the street. The woman in the photos, who is seen first speaking to the driver of one of the buses, and then to the driver in a car, does not even have a kid at this school. She was simply walking down the street with her shopping, and took it upon herself to let the bus driver know that he needed to pull forward so folks behind him could get by. He then proceeded to tell her that he could not pull forward because of the position of the car, so naturally, she went to speak to the driver of the car. Sometimes, you don’t need to understand the words being spoken to know exactly what is transpiring. The hand gestures, body language, and tones tell you everything!

All of this occurred in the midst of screaming children, yelling adults, and car horns honking non-stop. And as mentioned before, there was also the group of buses, cars, and walkers dropping off kids for the second school shift! More entertainment than should be allowed…


Our Architectural Tour?

2018-06-06 10.48.43I’m not sure how to describe our adventure for today. We were supposed to go on an Architectural Tour of Rio to explore, we thought, the various architecture of the city. It started out promising enough. We met our guide at the Copacabana Palace , where she proceeded to tell us some of the history of the hotel and its architectural history. So far so good, but then it kind of went south from here – at least as far as what we were expecting from the tour.

High points of the day, we took the Ferry from Rio over to Niterói, which Olivia and I had never visited before this trip. Our guide turned out to be a fan of Oscar Niemeyer, so this is who she focused on. Unfortunately, he did not design a great deal of buildings in this area (he is best known for his buildings in Brasília (the capital of Brasil), so our options were small. The first set of buildings were a little sad to me, as none were finished before Niemeyer’s death, and none are truly being used right now. They’re just empty. Not totally abandoned, as they are guarded and you cannot go see the buildings without a guide, but they’re empty and unused and it was kind of depressing. I have to admit, his style is not my favorite, but I can appreciate his gift. I do love one of the cathedrals he designed in Brasília – especially the inside, but alas, nothing was that spectacular today.

After this set of buildings, we went further in to the interior of Niterói to see Niemeyer’s museum. First thought – Flying Saucer. It does have a delightful Bistro on the lower level, where we had a light snack of pastels and juice.

The best part of the day: The view! Niterói has a beautiful view – of the bay, of Rio across the bay – it’s just stunning. Also, there was an old church up on one of the hills ( from the 1700s based on what Mauro was able to find on the internet  ). Olivia was upset to learn that the little island it sits on is open for visitors only one Sunday out of each month, because it looked far more architecturally interesting to her than the flying saucer. To be precise, the island is open on the fourth Sunday of each month at 10:00 a.m., because that is when they hold mass in the church! She and Mauro did trek down a little stone path to briefly walk on the beach below the island, so she was happy about that.  Though our tour was nothing like we were anticipating, the day still held many worthwhile moments, and it was a beautiful day to be out and exploring.


Biblioteca Nacional: National Library!

2018-06-04 14.41.46

June 4, 2018. This is a day that finally ends a three year wait to see Brazil’s Biblioteca Nacional (National Library). The last time we visited Rio, this was on our agenda, and the day we arrived in Rio, the government workers went on strike. I hoped that it would end before our visit was finished, but alas, it was not meant to be. I was crushed. This year we received word that the building was undergoing a restoration project, and I was worried that they would not allow visitors yet again, but fortunately, operations are proceeding as normal in conjunction with the restoration. So naturally, the librarian is visiting a library – not just a library – THE Library – while on vacation!

The Brazilian National Library is the largest library in Latin America, and Fifth largest in the world. It is the country’s oldest cultural institution and has a multidisciplinary collection comprising nearly nine million pieces. Like the Library of Congress, in the United States, they deal with copyright and assign ISBN numbers to newly published materials.

The library offers a guided tour every day at 2:00 pm, and an English language version is available upon request. Our delightful tour guide was giving her first ever English Language guided tour to us! She was so concerned about her ability to speak English for an extended period of time, but her worries were completely unfounded. Her English was beautiful, and her  personality and enthusiasm was so charming we made sure to speak a good word for her when we finished.

We learned from our guide that the original collection was brought to Brazil from Portugal by D. Joã when the royal Portuguese family fled the country during the Napoleonic wars. That original collection was moved from location to location until 1910, when the current building was inaugurated. I was amazed that this vitally important collection to the history of Portugal was never returned to its home country, but apparently one of the sons of D. Joã bought it from the government, so it has stayed in Brazil. Some of the manuscripts in the collection date back to the 1400s.

The public has access through the following areas: Reference, Serial Publications, General Collections, Documental Information, Iconography, Manuscripts, Rare Collections, Cartography, and Music and Sound Archives. (*pamphlet for National Library), and of course, the digital collection. These rooms are housed on the second and third floors, and these are the only floors open to the public, and therefore the only floors covered during the tour. We were not allowed into the actual rooms, as we did not have a specific research agenda, but instead were able to peek in as our guide discussed the various collections and functions. This is very much on par with what we experienced during our tour of the Library of Congress, so not surprising. Photos are allowed, without flash, and many are through glass, as we were not allowed to enter the rooms entirely, so I apologize for the graininess of the images.

The building itself, is spectacular – beautiful, grand, breathtaking. The architectural design is completely symmetrical, so if there is a column on one side, you’ll find an identical column on the other. They held to this so firmly, that we actually saw a fake door created specifically to keep the design symmetrical.

Fake door in biblioteca nacional of Brazil

The Fake Door!

As mentioned, only the second and third floors are available for exploring. The first floor, which is below ground level, houses their extensive labs geared for conservation, restoration, binding, digitalization, and microfilming. The fourth and fifth floors are all administrative offices, and also off limits.

Some things that surprised me:  The collection is classified using the Dewey Decimal System. I’m not sure why, but I expected a system different and unique. They do exhibits and programs, which was not surprising, but the lack of space designated specifically for this surprised me. They appear to work exhibits into what ever space they can find that will work. At times, we would be looking at part of an exhibit and not really aware that it was part of a larger exhibit until we stumbled on another part of it. This issue could also be more because I do not read Portuguese well, and perhaps was not keying into the signage properly. I was also surprised that they do not capitalize on the building and library itself like the Library of Congress does. Their book and gift shop held no totes, coffee mugs, shirts, pins, etc. with the image of the library. I did buy a beautiful book of photography, but it seemed more the exception than the norm. Overall, though, the visit was all I had hoped, and my geeky librarian self was as giddy as a child in a candy store!



Catarina’s First Birthday Celebration

…and Bernardo’s too!

Yesterday evening we went to Marcia’s (Carolina’s Mother) home to celebrate the first birthday of Catarina. Her Birthday is actually Tuesday, and she shares it with her Pai (Father), Bernardo. So technically it was a double celebration, but I am sure you can guess where most of the attention was focused. It was a small gathering of mostly family. All of her Grandparents, except Bernardo’s father, were present, her two maternal Aunt’s were present, her Great-Grandmother (maternal), her God Father, and of course me and Olivia.

The decorations were minimal with just a few balloons and some Peppa Pig cups and containers. Yes, Peppa has made her way all the way to Brazil! There were two cakes, Brigadero, and cake pops. Most of the evening was spent passing Catarina from person to person. She is the most easy going baby I have ever seen. Even though she was obviously exhausted (only one nap had occurred), she was pleasant and smiled the whole evening. She is cuddly, and that little crinkly nosed grin melts us all. I am also in love with the way she holds her big toe up and away from the rest of her toes. It cracks me up!

She wasn’t sure what was happening when this loud and boisterous group began to sing Parabéns para você (the Happy Birthday Song), but she soon figured out that it was a happy occasion. If you are from the United States, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that sometimes our Happy Birthday song can sound a bit depressing. It really depends on the group singing, but many folks slow it down and make it drag to the point that is sounds sad instead of like a celebration. Let me assure you, this is not the case in Rio. The birthday song is happy, upbeat, and there is no doubt that you are celebrating something special. I love it! I would add a video, but WordPress wants me to pay in order to support video files, and that is really not my preference right now. We’re about to head out on our next adventure, so I will leave with a selection of photos from the evening. It was a joyful birthday celebration, and I’m so thankful we were here to share this day with Catarina and her family! Beijos…

Feira Hippie De Ipanema! (Hippie Fair)

2018-06-03 07.58.57       Sunday! The most glorious day of the week when visiting Rio, because Sunday is the day you can travel to Ipanema and go through the Feira Hippie! Olivia has been counting down and reminding us since we landed on Brazilian soil that Sunday was only “x”days away. Today has also been the first day, since our arrival, with a chance of rain, so we were a little concerned. However, so far it has only been overcast, which has caused the temperature to drop a few degrees accompanied by a refreshing breeze. It is perfect!

We started the morning with a leisurely breakfast at a local café, and then cabified our way to Ipanema. The Feira Hippie happens every Sunday, and it is set up in one of the large park areas of Ipanema. Vendors set up their booths and sell every kind of goods and products you can imagine – jewelry, wood workings, leather goods, gemstone art, carvings, toys, trinkets, clothing, household items, craft items, and food. It is always a highlight of our trip, and now we have fond memories of several visits. We arrived super early today. In fact, we had to make the rounds several times because vendors were still setting up. The starting time is stated as 8:30, but you know our lovely Carioca’s run on their own schedule and time is relative. I think most folks were set up by 10:30 or so….

We made several vendors happy today, and I have to say, the current exchange rate is very much in our favor! This evening we are heading over to celebrate the birthdays of Bernardo and Catarina (#1)! It’s going to be another full day. Bom Dia!


Fábrica Bhering – A Celebration of Art

fabrica bhering, rio brazil

Roof top area of Fabrica Bhering

At Carolina’s suggestion, we all participated in a somewhat new event today. Down in the old port region of Rio, is the old Fábrica (Factory) Bhering, where Bala Toffee used to be made. The toffee company shut down its facilities in this building years ago, and for many years the building stood empty and abandoned. Recently, a group has come in and refurbished it (a little). They did not spend the money to completely redo it, because that would cost a fortune, but they went in and cleaned it up enough to make it safe for much of the space to be used. A trip to Europe, and introduction to some of the art and artists movements  of different areas inspired them to open the spaces to artists needing areas to work and produce their goods. On the first Saturday of each month, they now open the building to the public and host a tour – of the building and of participating artists and their works. They’ve added some eating areas, have live music, and basically just throw down with a big art party. The people, the flow, the conversations (even in Portuguese), posturing, and overall atmosphere prompted Olivia to say, “Artsy people. They are cut from the same mold no matter where you are.”

The old factory building is in an interesting area of Rio, that I certainly have never visited before this day. It’s a little rough around the edges, but the function itself had a wonderful celebratory vibe of hope and renewal. The building itself was stunning, even in as rough shape as some areas have been left. Just like Rio, it had that dirty, rough, yet beautiful at the core feeling to it.