Saturday, 30 April 2011

What No Beach? Phew for Playgrounds in Rio

Little Bear Scoots the 'real roads' in Peter Pan Park
So, it's not beach season anymore here.  Not because it isn't still hot and sunny here in Rio, but because my patience for sand in every nook and cranny of the house has been exasperated.  We're back to weekend plan B - the parks and playgrounds routine.  I thought I'd share our top three (or so).

Playgrounds in Rio are pretty underwhelming.  Antiquated designs for metal, finger-chopping slides and roundabouts, the likes of which I haven't seen since my own childhood, are still the norm.  There are no fences around the playgrounds or swings so you have to be aware at all times about where your kids are.  That bouncy ground covering I've seen elsewhere also hasn't been adopted here so usually you have sand under the toys.  It's a soft but grubby landing, and probably the reason we have to 'de-worm' our kids on a regular basis.  Despite this, there are a few gems.

Our default stomping ground, because it's so close to home, is the leafy park behind the Palacio de Catete.  It's a gorgeous, tranquil park with sculptures, fountains, lakes, a grotto and a playground in the shade of the tall, knotted-trunk figueira trees.  We throw broken biscuits at the ducks and geese, watch the elegant white egrets catch fish, laugh at the little mico monkeys and play on the swings and climbing frames.  Fenced on two sides by the park wall, the playground feels relatively 'safe'.  There's a cafe by the art-house cinema that sells great pao de queijo and ice lollies.  The only drawback is that you can't play with balls or ride bikes or go on the grass anywhere in the park.

If we are in the mood for bikes and scooters, we usually go to the Aterro de Flamengo, the most amazing park that runs the length of the beach from the domestic airport, past the Marina in Gloria to the beginning of the Botafogo bay.  It deserves a post of its own so I won't dwell here, but we have another option for bikes which is also really fun:  Parque Peter Pan is a tiny park that takes up a block of space in Copacabana where Rua Francisco Sá meets Raul Pompéia.  It's been around since Mr Becoming was a lad and has real roads with road signs and traffic lights which makes little cyclists feel very grown up.  It also has big stone castles and toadstool-shaped kiddie loos.  Love it.

Finally there's the obvious one - the children's playground in the Jardim Botanico.  It's to be avoided on sunny weekends when it is over-run with birthday parties, but during the week or on cloudy days it is magic.  Surrounded by rain forest, you can sometimes see quite big monkeys playing in the trees outside the playground while the kids monkey around on their own toys in a safe, walled-off area.  The snack bar is right beside the playground and there are, in typically hygienic Brazilian style, bathroom facilities that extend to a shower where you can clean your kids before you leave the park.

I should think that in a couple of weeks I'll be exasperated with pushing my kids on the swings and by then it really will be too cool for the beach...plan C is the indoor activities in Rio itinerary.  Coming to a blog post near you soon.


  1. Tasha, do you the poet Elizabeth Bishop ? I read recently it was her brazilian lover Lota de Macedo Soares that designed the Flamengo Park...

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