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A day at the beach

With temperatures in Rio getting over 40°C (104°F) in recent days, I’ve been spending as much time as possible at the beach. As a kid, I always felt that empty beaches were good – the emptier the better! However, during my time in Rio my attitude has changed a bit. I do still enjoy a nice deserted beach (more on this soon), but when I’m in the centre of Rio, I actually enjoy being around lots of people at the beach.

I always take my camera to the beach because there is almost always something photo-worthy going on. It might be some kids kicking a ball around, a vendor selling something interesting or someone just plain showing off!

I know that some of you in the northern hemisphere are suffering from extreme weather of a different kind right now, so I hope you take the following as a reminder of the sun, rather than gloating! Here’s to warmer times…

Copacabana-crowds

Copacabana on a hot, sunny, Saturday afternoon. Don’t expect to have a lot of space to yourself!

 

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Ipanema

A day at the beach, farofeiro style!

For me, spending a sunny day on the beach is one of the great pleasures of life in Rio. I’m not one of those people who wants to spend their holidays slavishly tanning from 10 in the morning until the sun goes down, but a day at the beach in Rio can be whatever you want it to be. Some people go to exercise (jogging, volleyball, futevôlei, etc), others go to socialise, relax and watch the world go by (I fall into this second category).

Ipanema

The end of a long, relaxing day on Ipanema beach.

 

I’ve always thought that a day out at the beach is pretty good value for money. If you want to hire a chair and/or umbrella for the day it will cost you just R$5 ($2.50) per item. Snacks, beers and other cold drinks will also cost around the R$5 mark, meaning that two people can enjoy a full day on the beach for R$50 ($25). Not a bad when you compare it to the cost of restaurants, taxis and the like.

But what if you earn minimum wage (R$678/month) or you’re trying to save money?

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Toz and The Seller of Happiness

During my first 6 months in Rio, my journey to work took me past the long wall that runs opposite Jardim Botânico. This wall is covered with some of Rio’s finest graffiti and because I passed it every day I was soon familiar with every piece on the wall.

As well as recognising the individual works, after a while I started to recognise the characters and styles of the different artists too. One of my favourites was a guy called Toz (real name Tomaz Viana) and the collective he was part of, the Fleshbeck Crew.

Toz-Shimu

Toz calls these colourful characters “Shimu”. Their cheerful, mischievous faces pop up all over Rio.

 

Toz (sounds like ‘Toyzh’) has been in the news a lot recently – his enormous work in the port area of Rio deservedly gained a lot of attention.

But I wanted to tell you about another piece of Toz’s work. I was wandering through Gávea about 6 months ago when I saw this:

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An illicit beach treat

If you were to ask me about the beach vendors of Rio, I would tell you about good guys with cool-boxes full of icy cold beers slung over their shoulders and a sack of Biscoito Globo in hand. I would describe people dressed in Arab style clothes selling esfiha and kibe, and the vendors laden with beach-balls, bikinis and cangas. I’d tell you about the shouts of “Alô mate! Alô limão!” from the orange clad ice-tea sellers and the clanking of the ice cubes in their twin metal barrels.

Here’s another thing I’d mention: Queijo Coalho (sounds like: KAY-zho KWAH-lyo). “Queijo” is Portuguese for “cheese” and the word coalhado means something like curdled or clotted. The first time I tried this firm, white cheese I had no idea how best to eat it. I had bought it in a supermarket and when I got home I cut it into chunky slices and put it in a sandwich. The result was not good – it was very salty, dense and generally quite disappointing.

Some weeks later Mrs Eat Rio and I were at the beach and a guy wandered past with a small metal tripod suspended above a stout wooden handle. When I was told that he was selling grilled queijo coalho I decided it was time to give this cheese another chance.

queijo-coalho-na-brasa

Back in the good old days, queijo coalho na brasa (grilled queijo coalho) was a favourite beach treat!

 

When grilled over hot coals, this cheese is transformed! It is quite similar to halloumi – it has a salty bite and squeaks against your teeth as you eat it! Before getting started, the vendor asks if you’d like oregano which is optionally sprinkled over the cheese before the grilling. A block of cheese is then mounted on a skewer and turned slowly over the glowing coals until it is browned and crisp on all sides. The end result is perfect for the hunger that develops over the course of a day relaxing on the beach:

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Buzios: good blood and tiny hearts

Those of you who stay in touch through the Eat Rio Facebook Page will know that the Eat Rio team (erm, that’s Mrs Eat Rio and me) went to Búzios over the weekend. Búzios is a popular beach town located on a peninsula around 100 miles (170km) northeast of Rio. Apparently Brigitte Bardot loved Búzios so much she stayed for months and is now immortalised by a statue that sits (rather provocatively) on a bench along one of the main streets.

I had heard plenty about Búzios since I came to Rio, but until this weekend I hadn’t visited. So when some workmates suggested a weekend trip I jumped at the chance. It’s really rather nice:

Praia de Geribá, Búzios

This is Praia de Geribá, just 2 blocks from where we were staying.

 

That’s a fine looking scene isn’t it? I can only imagine how this must make you feel if you’re currently suffering sub-zero temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere (heh heh!). However, you should know that we didn’t spend the whole weekend lazing on the beach…

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Arabs in Brazil

People from the Arab world (particularly Lebanon and Syria) started coming to Brazil back in the late 19th Century due to overpopulation and persecution from the Ottoman Turks. Today most Arab Brazilians are fully integrated into Brazilian society, no longer speaking Arabic and playing a part in all aspects of society, from business and politics to football and acting.

One of the most obvious influences they have had on Brazil has been through their food. Here in Rio there are some great Syrian and Lebanese restaurants dotted around the place, but beyond that, there are a couple of snacks that are found almost everywhere.

Kibe

Back in the UK, I would see these on menus as ‘Kibbeh’, but here in Brazil they usually spell it ‘Kibe’ (I don’t think either spelling is really ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – just different ways of trying to spell out the original Arabic كبة). Regardless of how you spell it, these things are good! The outer shell is a mix of bulgur wheat and minced beef – inside is a spiced filling of minced beef, onions and pine nuts.

kibe kibbeh كبة

These little torpedo-shaped beauties are really good! In theory these should be made with lamb, but I think most places in Brazil use beef instead. Source

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Aaaaaaaaaaaah(bacaxí)!

When it comes to learning languages, there are enough similarities between Spanish and Portuguese that I’m never really impressed when a native Spanish speaker tells me they speak Portuguese (or vice versa). My attitude tends to be “big deal – compared to English, they’re practically the same language anyway”. But when there are so many similarities, I do rather sympathise when a Portuguese word comes along that is just nothing like its Spanish counterpart.

Take this prickly customer:

I love pineapple! You know the French almost call this fruit bananas... (they say "Ananas").

 

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