24 May, 2011

Beach Snacks in Rio de Janeiro

In the next instalment in our series of blog entries on eating and drinking in Rio de Janeiro, we bring you a run-down of the outdoor treats to be found on and around the South Zone beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. The beaches are awash with food and drink vendors touting their wares, and at just four or five Brazilian real a piece, they’ll keep you going from morning to sundown. So, pick a spot, rent yourself a deckchair and parasol and settle in for the day safe in the knowledge that there will be no shortage of snacks coming your way.

Acai: This rainforest berry, frozen and blended and often served with honey, granola and fruits is a Brazilian, body- conscious staple. It is packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals and is deliciously refreshing on a hot day. Vendors run in with trays and sell it fast before it melts!

Coconut Milk: Fresh juice straight from the coconut, it doesn’t get much more tropical than that. Be sure to ask them to cut it open for you when you’re done so you can scoop out the soft white coconut flesh afterwards.

Globo Biscuits: Freshly cooked every day, these light and crispy, donut-shaped snacks are a Rio institution. They come in sweet or savoury flavours and are quite addictive.

Toasted cheese (Qeijo quenche): With their ingenious portable bbqs, once these guys stoke up the embers and the smell of slowly toasting cheese with olive oil and oregano starts to come your way you’ll probably be helpless to refuse.

Mate & Limon: The Mate and Limon vendors might just have the heaviest load of the lot. Usually dressed in Leon Mate orange outfits with two large silver barrels slung on each shoulder they serve up large cups of ice cold mate and lemon. You get to choose one or the other or a blend of the two.

Empadas: These delicious, buttery little pastries come in various flavours, including shrimp (camarao), chicken (frango) and meat (carne).

Kibis: This Arabic snack is a blend of spiced meat covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Another Rio favourite - vendors walk the sands dressed all in white, complete with headgear.

Tapioca pancakes: You’ll have to stroll up to the beach-front walkway for this one, but it’s worth the effort. Vendors offer a range of flavours, and you can choose from cheese, meat, vegetables, banana and cinnamon or cheese with guava paste.

Corn on the cob: Another beach-front walkway treat, hot and buttery corn on the cob, perfect at dusk with a beer to wash it down.

17 May, 2011

Children are welcome in the City of God

(PHOTO: City of God, 2002)

Never thought you´d consider taking your kids to the city made infamous by the 2002 Brazilian cult film City of God? Well now’s the time to think again. A far cry from the city of dust, drugs and death where Rocket, Benny, Lil Dice and Lil Ze grew up, Rio de Janeiro is a friendly, welcoming place where kids are worshiped and treated as though they were little gods.

So when you’re strolling along Copacabana beach, chugging on the train up to the statue of Christ or floating above the city on the cable car to Sugar Loaf mountain and a stranger comes bounding towards you... don’t run! They’re not trying to mug you, they just want to show their adoration for your little one by stroking his arm or tickling her toes and saying things like ‘Que fofinho’ (How cute), ‘Ola princessa’ (Hello princess) or ‘Como vai nene?’ (How’s it going baby?).

(PHOTO: Casa 579 Receptionist and daughter exploring Rio)

The respect and love that Brazilians show for children is reason alone to bring the family to Brazil, as a parent it’s lovely to experience sympathetic smiles and gracious offers of help instead of looks of disdain and silent reproaches when your child cries in public. Coupled with the fact that you don’t have to wait in queues for the Metro or in the bank if you have a child under 2, makes Brazil the perfect destination for a family with young children. And the wealth of beautiful, calm beaches within a few hours bus ride of Rio itself, where you can let the youngsters run riot, eating sand and splashing in the warm waters, whilst you sip on a cold caipirinha and swallow down some tasty prawns, is an absolute bonus.

So don’t let the frightening image of Rio portrayed in the movies or written about in the guidebooks deter you from bringing your tribe to Brazil, a wave of warm smiles and animated hellos await all of you in Rio de Janeiro, the city of kids.

(PHOTO: Preferential and Priority service by law for those over 60, pregnant women, disabled people, and women with babies)


CAPOEIRA: Kids in Brazil start Capoeira as soon as they can walk and yours can give it a go too with professor Falcao (Falcon) at Pequininos Creche e Escola in Laranjeiras (a short kombi van ride from Casa 579). Falcao is fantastic with kids and ensures that everyone gets a go regardless of their experience or level. Classes run on Wednesday and Friday mornings with the youngest ones starting at 1000am.

QUILO (KILO) RESTAURANTS: Travelling with kids can be stressful as they get hungry and irritated and you don’t have anything to feed them. Kilo restaurants (as in pay by the kilo for what you put on your plate) offer food that is healthy, reasonably priced and ready immediately with something to please even the fussiest of eaters. Walk in, each of you piles what you want on your plates, weigh them and you’ve got the whole family fed and watered within minutes.

THE BOTANICAL GARDENS: Wide open spaces, grass, plants, water and the occasional animal, plus a great play area with sand and slides makes this a great day out with children. Kids under 7 are free and the rest of the family pays just $R5 per person leaving money over for an ice cream outside the playground.

THE BONDE: Santa Teresa’s famous train is a winner with kids. It’s bumpy, stop-start motion makes it more like a theme park ride than a serious mode of transport. Not to mention the amazing views and the thrill of going over the famous Lapa arches, making it fun for all the family.

(PHOTO: Casa 579 guest Lydia enjoying Acai)

ACAI: To try Acai (an incredibly yummy, protein packed Brazilian slush puppy-like snack) take your kids to Cultivate Brasil just down the road from Casa 579 in Largo dos Guimaraes, the centre of Santa Teresa. Kids can make all the mess they want with this sweet, black slush and the staff will happily clean up after them. They also have a high chair for babies.

BUZIOS: A 2 hour and 40 minute bus ride north of Rio with 23 beaches at your disposal. Try Turtle beach (Praia Tartaruga) if you’ve got little ones. Its tranquil, clear and tepid waters make it a stress free beach day. Food and drinks are sold on the beach so you don’t have to worry about packing a picnic.

PARATY: A half day boat trip in calm waters won’t upset small stomachs and a couple of stops at pristine beaches will give the bucket and spade a good workout. As Paraty is four and a half hours south of Rio a side trip here can be combined with a visit to Ilha Grande.

ILHA GRANDE: On Ilha Grande get the baby carrier out and hike to Lopez Mendez. Although the waves can often be big they break quite a way off shore and the beach’s abundant shade, luke-warm water and friendly surf instructors make it worth the walk. Kids can start surf lessons from 4 years old (on the shore not in the water) for just R$20 per hour.