So we left Santiago to head to Brazil, for our first stop at the world famous Rio de Janeiro. We were pretty pumped for this part of the journey and were really looking forward to hitting the beach. We had heard a lot about Rio, and had been warned many times to take care in Brazil as petty crime is prevalent. Frank Drebin once said “Like a midget at a urinal, I’d need to be on my toes.” so I was prepared. We were met at the airport by friends of the family. It was Erica’s grandmother’s brother’s friend’s children (no seriously it was) who I had never met. Tony and Adriana picked us up from the airport and took us to upscale Ipanema (cue the song) to our apartment. For most of the car trip we thought Tony and Adriana were husband and wife before working out they were brother and sister. Our Airbnb apartment was excellent, in the best part of town, right next to a supermarket and two blocks from the beach. Piper loved it as we had a doorbell.
Well, day one in Rio we would have to get our priorities right. Hit the beach in the budgy smugglers (sorry ladies, that photo didn’t make the cut). Ipanema is a great beach with waves, warm water, volleyball and beach vendors in big supply. You can get anything you want – caipirinhas, sarongs, bikinis, drinks, or prawns sitting out in the sun. Unlike places like Bali, if you say no to what’s on offer the vendor just moves on. I was ready for a battle but it wasn’t forthcoming.
We had become increasingly comfortable with Spanish and were not looking forward to going back to square one with our extremely limited knowledge of Portuguese (the language spoken in Brazil). Day one I had a bit of a dumb tourist moment. Adriana had told me that beach umbrellas were approximately 10 Reals ($4AUD) to hire. When I asked the beach lady how much she came back with a number I was not familiar with (turns out it was the Portuguese number for 7). I gave her a stern “No” and said I was paying $10. She was a little confused, repeated her number and eventually held up 7 fingers. I sheepishly agreed to pay it. Ez gave me a bit of crap for it until she paid $17 for some breakfast cereal a couple days later.
The bodies (both male and female) on Brazilian beaches are something to behold. After seeing the swimmers being worn you definitely know where the term getting a Brazilian came from. Let’s just say that some of the bodies you wouldn’t kick out of bed if they were eating crackers, even if Crackers was the dog.
We were real tourists in Rio enjoying such sites as Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ The Redeemer statue, Copacabana Beach and the Museum of the Future. Rio is gearing up for the Olympics but if I was writing a report card it would read a ‘needs to work harder’. There is plenty still to do including key public transportation options so hopefully they’ll get there. Even if they don’t, I’m sure the party will be huge! The city is spectacular with green mountains rising up out of the ocean and high rise apartments built on all of the flat land between. The views are stunning.
Piper also added more songs to her repertoire. Prior to this is was “Don’t cry for me Argentina” (she would then change every city and replace Argentina, don’t cry for me Santiago, Bariloche, Salta – didn’t really work). She now knows When My Baby Smiles At Me I Go To Rio and practiced incessantly.
Pipes tackled the surf with vigour and was even ok when daddy misjudged a rather large wave we were meant to go over and had to push on through it. Beaches were a great mix of people, between tourists and locals, from little kids to fit 80 year old guys playing beach volleyball. Unfortunately the difference between social class in Rio is quite evident having the luxurious suburbs of Leblon and Ipanema bordered by the favelas (Brazilian slum for lack of a better term) which climb up the mountain.
We also tried to tuck in and try some local foods. Now back home, I normally embrace new food trends but I reached the point of cursing anything that had been dubbed a “superfood”. Ez loves them. All that chia, kale, coconut oil, flax seeds garbage was her idea of a nice meal. Finally though, in Brazil I jumped on the superfood bandwagon and ate my way through bowl after bowl of acai (does this mean I’m healthy now?) For those yet to try it’s this purple berry that is high in everything good made into a smoothie like consistency. Yes, please. Some people think it tastes like dirt, I found it surprisingly delicious.
Over the next few days the hospitality of our Brazilian friends was out of this world. We finally worked out Tony is married to Luciana and they have Guilherme 9 and Laura 4. Adriana is married to Felipe and they have Marianna who is 9. When Mariana was told we were from Australia she was happy as she had seen Finding Nemo. When told that we lived in Sydney and one day she could visit, she was less excited and said “the only thing to see in Sydney is a dentist!” (you need to have seen the movie!). Tony and Adrianna’s mother is Ivi. She’s also pretty amazing, aged 80 she’ll be heading off to Morocco in a couple months with some friends! We’ve been to Ivi’s house for family dinner, then weekend lunch.
We spent the best day with them at a beautiful beach about 50 mins from Ipanema followed by a seafood lunch the local way. There was not another tourist in sight and it was pretty awesome, it felt like the side of Rio that most foreigners don’t get to see. The next day it was also Tony’s birthday so we celebrated with the family their traditional way, by visiting the famous Aussie joint Outback Steakhouse (a little awkward as I first took as to the wrong Outback Steakhouse where we sat and waited for a while).
The best part of Rio has been spending time with our new friends and we can’t wait for them to visit down under in the next couple years. Piper and Evie have loved it playing with their new and gorgeous little friends. We declared we’ll be back to this amazing city, next time for Carnival!
After nearly just under 2 weeks in Rio it was time for our second Brazilian stop, the hustle and bustle of Sao Paulo. People had told us there wasn’t much to see in Sao Paulo but we were thoroughly looking forward to it as it was here we would see our first familiar faces of the trip. Erica has a 2nd cousin and family in Sao Paulo who we have met before in Australia. So we would stay with Ketty, Robbie, Stephanie, Felipe, Enzo and Eleni in the world’s largest apartment! Just walking from one end of the hallway to the other was a workout (I called for a lift). We were treated like Australian royalty (I’m a republican though).
First night we went out for a beautiful traditional Sao Paulo feast…Japanese. Evie was on fire this night and fell asleep on the way to the restaurant, then proceeded to sleep right through dinner. Ez put it down to being rundown from a cold she had, I thought it may have been jetlag from the 45min flight. She has actually adapted to various sleeping arrangements pretty well. Slept on the beach at Copacabana, various taxis, shoulders, aeroplanes, floors, you name it, she slept on it.
We explored (code for ate our way through) an amazing market in Sao Paulo and tried as many Brazilian delicacies as we could find, or our relatives could make for us. We tried feijoada, pao de quejo, caipirinhas, muqueca, brigadero and chocolate brownies (ok, the last one may not be quite so Brazilian). We at a huge family dinner at a churrasceria… Felipe owns a funky bar called Garrafas with live music so we hit that with the girls in tow and drank beers whilst they cut the rug with the locals. This bar has an awesome atmosphere in a really cool part of the city. Make sure you check it out if you are ever in SP.
Sao Paulo is huge. There are high rise apartments as far as the eye can see in every direction. With 11 million people 7 million cars it can get a big hectic and the traffic never ever stops. Sao Paulo was also hot, walking the streets with a 2 & a 4 year old I was sweating like a blind nun in a field of cucumbers.
It’s not all cars and high-rise and cars though. We found the best children’s playground in South America, enjoyed fresh coconut water straight from the source in Sao Paulo’s biggest park and there was even a beach to visit not far out of the city.
One of the highlights of our time was I got to chalk up another football game, check out my post on the game. Game Tres Palmeiras vs Corinthians
Our family lived in a great part of Sao Paulo with a massive Havaianas factory just around the corner, more thongs than a strip club. Robbie taught me the fine art of the Brazilian BBQ cooking Picanha…it was delicious and look forward to giving it a go once I’m home whilst Ketty and I traded pronunciation lessons – I never thought Wollongong and Woolloomooloo were so hard! Piper was upset because she didn’t know how to sing Happy Birthday in Portuguese. Evie was happy because she tried fruit loops for the first time (shh, don’t tell Ez). Amusingly, she didn’t actually know what they were called, she just said “the ones next to the cornflakes”- this was part of our extensive buffet breakfast laid out by our awesome hosts each morning.
Four nights wasn’t enough but it left us feeling like we will definitely have to come back some day. Evie also has a new nickname, Linda. Everywhere we have been in South America people just come up, rub her head and say linda, linda (meaning beautiful, cute).
Sao Paulo was where we would farewell South America after our 2 months and head to the bright lights of Europe.
For more photos from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, check out Erica’s Gallery