We feel it is time to dedicate a post to Amber. Given the amount of time we spend playing with her, cooking for her, talking about her, and worrying over her (the order of which changes regularly), a post about her is probably overdue.
She is at a exciting stage in life – less a baby, more of a toddler – her understanding of the world increasing by the day. We are in a privileged position to both be around for all her ‘firsts’ – the little things like her first ice cream and all the new words she keeps coming out with, as well as the big stuff (which make me cry) like her first hair cut and the first time she walked properly. As clichéd as it sounds, all of a sudden it feels like she is growing up unbelievably quickly. We did a double take in unison the other day when we realised how big she has become – suddenly before us was a little girl where I swear less than two months ago there had been a baby.
Amber’s first haircut – what a concerned little face
Puppetry is our new skill
We practice day to day,
Keeping Amber occupied
By making her toys play.
Her toys have unique talents
They are a gifted little group,
And their love of the spectacular
Makes them quite the circus troupe.
Bunny is our dancing man
He loves to rock and roll.
His very nifty footwork
Never fails to surprise us all.
Bunny busting out some moves
On Wednesday we went on an adventure. We left our house at the crack of dawn and drove over 200 miles. We walked through shrub and woodland, over sand dunes, and across a misty and deserted beach. We reached a remote and isolated village without roads, electricity or running water. We saw a herd of sea lions. And it was one of the best days of our trip so far.
Our destination was Cabo Polonio. Located on the east coast of Uruguay, the village sits on a small peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. With a year round population of 95 (according to a 2011 census) it is less a village, more a collection of huts and houses, a grocery store and as a result of increased popularity a handful of hostels.
The cape is named after the Spanish sailing ship ‘Polonio’ shipwrecked there in 1735. Following the wreck, it became a settlement for sailors and fishermen, and due to its particular geography, rocky shores and fierce seas, it was the site of many more sea disasters. Legend has it that it was renowned among sailors and pirates across the world who believed the cape was cursed, that death would come to those who ventured there, and when in the vicinity of the cape compasses would spin with no direction causing ships to crash into the rocks of the shoreline.
Map of the geography of Cabo Polonio showing its complete isolation and unique lay of the land. Picture taken in the visitors’ centre at the entrance of the national park
We left Brazil at the end of last week. In total we spent five weeks roaming around, arriving in Rio and travelling south via Barra da Lagoa (outside Florianopolis), onto Porto Alegre and then finishing in Gramado in the Sierra Gaucha mountains. We can by no means say we have ‘done’ Brazil – there are huge swathes of the country that we did not get to see (saved hopefully for a future trip – the Amazon in particular is a dream, albeit a much less baby friendly one) but what we did see we loved, and we had a pleasingly varied itinerary that included beaches, mountains, cities and a zoo.
We have covered our Brazilian adventures pretty extensively to date so not much more remains to be said. However, there are a couple of final overall observations and experiences that we would like to jot down.
We assumed upon arriving in Porto Alegre that following our stay we would write some sort of post along the lines of 5 best things to do in PA or How to spend a week in PA etc etc etc. The city is a major urban hub and has a population of nearly 4.5 million, and as such we assumed it would have more than enough to occupy us for our stay. But after a week of near constant rain so heavy that we were virtually housebound, an unexpected flat move mid-week due to a cockroach the size of a mouse, and two consecutive days spent killing time in the local shopping mall (we are not mall people), we started feeling like a post about what not to do in Porto Alegre would be more appropriate.
Amber loving the ball pit in the local shopping mall
Porto Alegre is not on most typical traveller routes. It is the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, and the region has more in common with Uruguay and northern Argentina – think cowboys, vinyards and rolling hills as opposed to the white sand beaches or Amazonian forays that are more often associated with Brazilian tourism. The state has a more temperate climate than its northern neighbours, and given it is still winter in these parts at the moment, it was pretty cold for a lot of our stay.
Upsy Daisy was a girl we once knew
Who understood just what to do
When Amber was sad
Or teething like mad
Daisy lifted her spirits anew
We knew before arriving in Rio that visiting with Amber in tow would be very different from the trip we would have had before becoming parents. For this visit at least, the city’s infamous nightlife would remain out of our reach.
But caiprinha fuelled samba parties are not all there is going on, and after two weeks in the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ we feel that we got a great taste of what it is about. Stunning, massive and fascinating, it had more than enough to occupy us, and despite thinking we were taking it relatively easy, we covered a lot of ground.
Rio is far more accessible than you would think given its reputation. Where we were staying in Barra Copacabana was safe and secure, and easy to get around by foot. The metro system is handy and linked us to various points of interest. Taxis are in abundance, and with Ubers as cheap as they are it often cost less to travel by taxi than by metro.
Here is a list of the things we did that we particularly enjoyed, and that we found to be either baby friendly, or at the very least baby accessible.
1. Parque Lage. The place we loved the most during our whole stay and the scene of Amber’s first official hike. Once the residence of a rich industrialist and now a public park, it has an abundance of fish ponds, woodland paths and, most enjoyably, grottos and caves to explore. As enthusiastic but novice spelunkers, we could barely contain ourselves.
Spelunking for beginners
An ode to vigilant parents everywhere (and kind taxi drivers)
The main reason we started this trip in Rio was because of the Olympics. Such a massive and daunting city, without any knowledge of Portuguese, would have otherwise probably not been the best starting point. But we committed to the Games and bought tickets to a morning athletics session before we even booked our flights.
It’s safe to say that we thought taking a 16 month old on a 3 hour car journey and 2 flights including one of 11 hours all on the same day was asking for trouble. However yet again Amber proved that she typically handles things far better than her parents do (see vaccinations, sleep and hot weather for further examples).