Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Life's a Beach!

View of Rio's Sugar Loaf and Christ Statue from Praia do Imbui, Niteroi
"É a minha praia" literally means "it's my beach".  Figuratively, it means "that's just my cup of tea" which says something about the importance of tea and beaches to Anglo and Brazilian cultures respectively.  Anyway, language lesson over...

You know when you are roasting something in a hot oven, and you open the door and stick your head in too far by mistake and totally sear your eyeballs?  That's pretty much what the arrival of summer is like in Rio.  It hasn't happened yet, but that oven door is ajar and about to swing open any second.

At the weekend, for the first time this year, I had to put the air conditioning on in the TV room, which reminded me that our ancient air conditioning units are making a terrible noise and costing a fortune.  God, why didn't you grant me the wisdom to do something about that during the cold months?  Now I've almost left it too late -  apparently by early December all fans and air conditioning units in the city have sold out.

Anyway, the good news is that beach season has come around again, and this year I've got the routine down.  In an uncharacteristically anal-retentive moment, I cleared out a whole cupboard of random junk, dedicated it to beach paraphernalia and stuck a beach checklist on the inside of the door.   No more running this way and that for suncream, sunhats and snorkels.  Now I just take huge bag, throw it all in and I'm ready in ten seconds.

The only tricky thing is deciding which beach to go to...
"Which beach shall we go to darling?"
"Oh I don't know.  Life is so shitty."  
"Let's have a cuppa shall we, while we decide"

There are all sorts of factors that influence this decision.  Of course, safety-conscious Mr Becoming is all about the water quality.  He usually consults the environmental agency's map with its colour-coded classifications and their weekly water-quality bulletin.  INEA also offers general words of wisdom including "Don't swim in the sea 24 hours after rain because all the shit is flushed out of the city into the sea." (Bodes well for the rainy season then) and " Don't bathe on any beaches with rivers or canals" (That's Leblon and Ipanema out then)  and "Don't swim when the water is black" (I think I could figure that one out for myself, but it rules out our local sewer beach, Flamengo, which is within the polluted bay.).

If we stay on the city beaches, we usually end up on Praia Vermelha, with its demerara sand and view of the Sugar-Loaf, or Leme, because they have little paddling pools filled with 'fresh' water for the kids (although last time the fresh water smelled like something had freshly died in it.).  More often than not, though, we do the very un-done thing and head across the bridge to Niteroi, the neighbouring city that Carioca's scornfully say only has one thing going for it - the view (of Rio).

Mr Becoming did a hostile environment training at a military base over there (killing chickens with his bare hands and stuff.  He might be safe but oh he's deadly!) and he managed to wangle a pass to a great Ocean-side beach, Imbui, within the fort complex.  The coastline in Brazil belongs to the Navy, which means that there isn't really any such thing as a private beach here, but to get to this one you have to go past a million armed soldiers at various checkpoints.  I'd love to see someone try and assert their public access rights.

This beach is worth the 30 minute drive past the docks, over the bay and through the centre of Niteroi. A beautiful curl of fine white sand surrounded by forest and huge rocks that protect the shallow waters and make it the perfect place for young kids.  There are usually only a few other families on the beach, and the view across the mouth of the bay, of the backside of the Sugar-Loaf and the Corcovado is breathtaking.   It's very simple. There are no vendors of half-melted ice-lollies or jewelry or sarongs or fizzy drinks, no-one renting out chairs or parasols, just us and our buckets and spades, the sun, the sand and the open sea.   To me it is the absolute definition of "minha praia" and absolutely my cup of tea.


  1. I have lived during some years in Niteroi thus I can say I know all the beaches there (Itacoatiara being my fave). You are so lucky to access Imbui !

  2. Ahhhh.... Imbuí.... (did you get my "list" of CDs?)

  3. Well, I'm convinced our husbands would be best friends. I thought I had married the only Brazilian who refuses to touch the water on Ipanema.

    My husband's constant stories about the beaches of his childhood compared with their state today, have me convinced that my toes will rot off before my eyes if I stake a swim at Copacabana.

    I also read your post about security tips from your husband, and my husband thinks exactly the same way. (Seriously, they would be best friends.) Does your husband also approach getting into the car at night like a special ops mission? Mine goes all 007 on me checking for tails.

  4. @Brynn Ha Brynn, Yes, you have him down to a tee. In his dreams my husband is Jack Bauer. It's very exhausting...should we start a support group? ;)