Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Sea Escape" in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Sunday morning found us up early, packing the Envoy and hitting the road bound for the condo in Myrtle Beach, one of our favorite places! We hope to meet Marcia and Joe for a few days and then my sister and brother-in-law will join us later in the week. Should be a relaxing and fun kind of "laid back" week. We hope to play some Dominoes and have some "Hand and Foot" contests!! (Mary K...come on up...we need you!)

"Sea Escape", the condo, is in North Myrtle Beach, right on the ocean just one block up from Main Street on Ocean Drive. It is a little more relaxed than further south on the Strand, but is just one block from most of the shaggin' clubs (Fat Harold's, Ducks, Pavillion, etc) so we can walk up the street to go dancin' or for dinner or ice cream or hot dogs or whatever.... Stuart and Bob enjoy ice cream & milkshakes!

And it's not in a "high rise" like so many of the newer places, so it's a little more "homey".

There's lots of "green space" with sand dunes all around the pool and hot tub area, so the feel and the roar of the ocean is all around you. We especially enjoy the dunes and walking on the beach in this area.

There is a small screened in porch on the front of the living room which becomes the favorite spot of most who find respite in the "Sea Escape". Early mornings, watching the sun rise out there, are almost sacred rituals!!

So, ya'll come on down!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Heading back to the states...

Thursday we went to the beach in the morning and warmed our bones for a few hours.
Mary K prepared a delicious mushroom risotto with a fresh salad for a late luncheon before heading out to the airport.
We were hoping to get in one more cut throat game of Hand and Foot before departing, but we tarried over our lunch so there was no rematch! I think Bob and Paul may be "one up" (or more) on the girls, so there are more playoffs to come!!
Much fun was had playing cards, many evenings until the wee hours.

We headed to the airport around 3 pm for our flight to Sao Paulo, then for the 9 hour flight to Miami. The flights were uneventful and we had no difficulties....they're just very loonngg!!! Most of us slept several hours inflight, so we felt somewhat rested and no worse for the wear. We arrived in Miami around 7 AM, cleared customs promptly and then waited for our noon time flight to Richmond.

It was great to be on the ground in the good ol' USA and on our way back to Warsaw.
Minkie seemed glad to see us...she meowed for hours and demanded constant brushing at her position on the sunroom sofa. She gets lonely when we're gone, although our neighbor, Sue, takes very good care of her for us!! We missed her, too!! (Minkie and Sue)
Springtime has arrived in Virginia and we are sure glad to see it!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Jockey Club, shopping in Copacabana

Many of you know that Katie is a horse "princess".... her own horse is named "Heaven" and she and Paul will be moving onto their horse farm in Montpelier around the end of April. She loves horses, and even the things that smell like horses!
So, of course, we wanted to make a visit to the Jockey Club here in Rio.

When King Joao and the royals fled to Brazil, they also brought a bit of high culture with them. They transformed the city of Rio with ornate palaces and buildings, landscaped parks and other diversions, and much later came the lovely Jockey Club.

Now, having never been to a Jockey club or to the horse races, this was a real treat for me! The Club is truly beautiful, with white marble used extensively and mosaic tile floors over much of the interior. With carved marble balustrades flanking dramatic stairways, it is a very impressive structure.

Katie enlightened us in the art of "betting on the horses" and we had alot of fun, selecting our steeds and placing our bets. We all bet a few reals(Brazilian $$$)and only Bob came out ahead at the end of the night! Of course, we're not big gamblers, so we neither made nor lost much money!!! But it was a really lovely evening under the stars in Rio!!
We all await the running of the horses

The next day we set out for Copacabana and a little shopping. Paul and Katie wanted to buy some Haviana's, which are the famous Brazilian flip-flops. So we went to the Haviana store and they got several pairs of cute flippies.

The we went on to a local co-op store in search of some brazil wood implements and fun-type serving utensils...

think beverage stirrers with colorful parrots on top, hand woven baskets and brightly colored placemats, etc.

We also managed to enjoy another great dinner at the pizzaria rondele.... an unlimited serving of the best pizzas! They just keep bringing it until you can eat no more!! It is prepared with a very light and crispy crust and comes in Tomato and Basil, Roasted Garlic with olive oil, Shrimp and cheese, Greek style with feta, Hawaiian with pineapple and canadian bacon, arugula and herbs and many more that I have since forgotten.
Just when you think you can't eat another bite, they bring out the chocolate, chocolate pizza,
and the cinnamon banana pizza for dessert!! Last year they served us vanilla ice cream with the pizza, but they were out of ice cream this year!!! Chocolate pizza is truly heaven on earth!!! It was Yum Yum again!!!

So, lots of fun at the Jockey Club and shopping and another great meal before heading back to the states!! It has been a lovely trip with the kids!!
See everyone soon!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Funghi d'Oro (the Mushroom Restaurant), Orchid Farm, and Pottery Factory

Part of our Saturday travel included stops at a lovely Orchid Farm and the Luiz Salvador Pottery factory, then dinner at the amazing Funghi d'Oro mushroom restaurant and farm.
The Orchid Farm lies on the mountain, just outside of Petropolis, and just as you would guess, boasts thousands of orchids in sizes and colors that are difficult to even imagine. The warm, humid climate is perfect for cultivating orchids.

Mary K always gets an orchid plant for her verandah; on Saturday she got two and we promptly named them "Paulina" and "Katerina", nicknames for Paul and Katie. They occupy seats on the verandah bar. Sure hope Mary K keeps those orchids fertilized!!

Katerina on the left and Paulina on the right, residing on The Verandah bar

Driving on to the little town of Itaipava, just outside of Petropolis, we arrived at the Luiz Salvador pottery place. Unlike the USA, Brazil imposes very stiff import tariffs, thus it is unusual to turn over your dinner plate (or cup, silverware, linens etc) and see anything other than "Industria Brazil" or "Made in Brazil" identified as its place of origin. Everything at home says "Made in China" or Malaysia, Korea, VietNam...anyplace except the USA!
So, it is very refreshing to find most things in Brazil are actually manufactured in Brazil and therefore it is still possible to visit a small, local pottery and china manufacturer.
This factory shop will make every woman part with her money!!
Really lovely serving sets and accent pieces of tableware; lots of blue and white (Katie and Tiff's favorite), celadon, taupe and rich red hues. Pineapple, rooster, palm tree, etc motiffs. Something for everyone! Well, maybe not for the guys; there were no tools for sale:)
Katie found several tiny blue teacups that she fancied and I purchased several small plates and bowl; matching my favorite pineapple serving plate which Mary K had kindly given to me when she visited the states last year.

So after our fun shopping, we motored on over to the Funghi d'Oro, on a road less traveled for sure!!
Traveling over 5 miles off the main mountain highway, down an old paver stone road (which was in incredibly good shape), up and down thru a twisting mountain lane, deep into the rain forest, where the road signs say "Caution: Jungle animal crossing" with a monkey sketch on it (no deer crossings in the rain forest!), we finally arrived at the end of a moss covered lane that belonged on the facing of a jigsaw puzzle, such was its beauty.
Here they cultivate and distribute mushrooms of many varieties, in a pleasant, green grottoe sort-of-place. There are flowing streams and ponds surrounded by flowering trees, shrubs,orchids, and abundant other flora and fauna, including a rose hedge.

Entering the dining room, you are greeted by dainty orchids growing down from the portico roof top. There are small logs with many varieties of mushrooms growing on them.

Inside, there are small wood burning fireplaces, glowing with small logs, to ward off the not-quite-yet-present evening chill in the mountains.
We were warmly greeted by the proprietor and promptly served yummy mushroom morsels marinated in olive oil and herbs with bits of warm brioche and cheese breads.

For several hours we enjoyed charming service and a most delicious and different meal! Cream of Mushroom Soup with a poached egg (you all know I did NOT eat the egg) was so incredibly delicious! Campbell's sure can take a lesson from these folks!
Then main courses of Frango (chicken) stuffed with mushrooms, Filet Mignon with roasted, toasted garlic cooked over wood flames and, for the more adventurous, Javelina or Wild Boar (Free range pork to Tiff:)!)

For desert, homemade Gelato--banana, cherry, chocolate, mint, mango, and more that I cannot name!
It was an evening to remember for certain; one of those special kinds of memorable meals that we are grateful for and will not soon be forgotten!

Ahead, a trip to the Jockey Club and shopping in Copacabana!

Tchau and hugs to everyone!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tidbits about Rio , Brazil, and family......

A joke that Brazilians like to tell goes something like this:

When the world was created, one of the archangels looked over God's shoulder at the work in progress and couldn't help but notice that one country in particular had been especially favored over the other countries. "You've given everything to Brazil," the archangel said. "It has the longest beaches, the largest river, the biggest forest, the best soil. The weather is always warm and sunny, with no floods, no hurricanes, no natural disasters at all. Don't you think that is a little unfair?"
And God replied, "Ahhhh"...."Just wait until you see the people I'm putting there!"

Often seen in Brazil... a fisherman mending his net, inviting harbors and sandy beaches..

Brazil boasts the world's fifth largest economy; has the largest rain forest in the world containing the Amazon, the world's largest river; has the longest continous shoreline in the world (over 4600 miles; much of it white sand beach with aquamarine waters!); is blessed with fertile soil and abundant natural resources; and most certainly could lay claim to having one of the most beautiful cities in the world--- Rio de Janiero ,the lovely tropical city wedged between striking mountains, on a narrow strip of land with crystal water and sparkling, crescent shaped beaches.

Additionally it claims a national people with a warm and sunny disposition, naturally inclined to be quite loving and cheerful. The helpfulness of clerks, waiters, and vendors is such that you will find yourself envying the treatment received upon your return to the good 'ol USA!
Even the poor, for the most part, seem to be a happy lot. Perhaps it is the warm tropical climate, or the inviting beaches which temper the personalities of the Brazilians, but it is most refreshing and fun to spend time in the company of such delightful people.

We are especially blessed to claim our own carioca, (as the debonair men of Rio are often known), Claudio--our special brother-in-law. As far as BIL's go, they don't come any finer! He spoils us by cooking delightful feijoada and arroz (beans and rice), pudim (flan), and frittatas with filet mignon,

acting as the world's best tour guide, instructing us in the language of Portuguese, and generally treating us as though we were much loved family while we invade his lovely home in Rio.
Claudio arranges the fruit bowl as a work of art....

...and he shaves just like my daddy did when I was a little girl. (Using the round bristle brush in a cup with a little, round concave soap cake to create the foamy suds, which Daddy would sometimes brush on our faces, for fun, when he shaved!)

He also happens to be married to my favorite SIL, Mary K, who exceeds Claudio only slightly in her abilities to love and spoil us.

Mary Katerina, as Claudio affectionately calls her, is indeed the finest sister (or -in-law), aunt(tia) or friend anyone could lay claim to. Over the years she has played aunt extrordinaire to "the kids", hosting them in her charming DC home and inviting them (and us) to her Rio home, teaching them to enjoy fine dining, playing serious cards and games, and allowing them (and us!) to soak up the character of a different lifestyle than that to which they were accustomed (she is a "city girl" in the truest sense and we have always lived in "the country", well, relatively speaking--the Town of Warsaw won't quite qualify for "the city"!))!
She taught us to love cream crackers with Queijo Minas (a farmers cheese)and Cereja (cherry) Jelly for breakfast, as well as how to dash to the closest padaria (bakery), just in time to get the brioche, freshly baked and still warm from the oven.
And I learned to love the café com leite (strong Brazilian coffee with warm milk and sugar) that they prepare, but it never tastes the same when Mary and Claudio are not present!

She has always been a terrific role model, showing great family love, charm, and success, and proving to all that true beauty (inside and out) does not need to come in a size 6 package!!
Tia Mary is a wonderful hostess and we are grateful that she has introduced us to the charm and intricacies that are Brazil (we also really just enjoy spending time with her!)
A tour of Mary K and Claudio's "bonita casa" (beautiful home) in and dining rooms, bedrooms, Sunroom and The Verandah ....

Tudo e bonito aqui!!! (Everything is beautiful here!)

Bob, and sister, Mary K, at Corcovado with Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) and Copacabana in the background

Obrigado (thank you) to Mary and Claudio for your wonderful hospitality in Rio! Tudo bem aqui!! (Everything is wonderful here!)

Stay tuned for more adventures!
Tchau and love to all!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Petropolis in the mountains of Brazil

To understand Petropolis, you must know a little of the history of Brazil. In the interest of brevity, we'll just mention a few "nuggets" to remind us of it's origins.
Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese explorers in 1500 and became known as Brazil because of the highly prized red wood, pau brazil or brazilwood, valued in Europe for its red dye properties. Later, in 1533, Portugal began to colonize Brazil. Slaves were imported from Africa; the French arrived in 1555 and departed within 2 years. The Portuguese colony grew and was rich with coffee, sugar cane, gold and minerals.
In 1807 Napoleon conquered Portugal and the royal family, Prince Regent Joao VI fled to Brazil and in this process made the Brazilian colony the seat of government for the mother country. The Regent Joao and his family remained exiled in Brazil until 1821, when he reluctantly returned to Portugal. (Portugal was a bit tired of having it's monarchy reside in the lovely tropical country and requested that the ruler come home)
Before returning to Portugal, Joao named his son Dom Pedro as regent and head of the Brazilian Government (Dom Pedro was under the tropical influence of Brazil and did not wish to go home!). Dom Pedro, recognizing that liberty for the Brazilian colony was iminent, declared independence from Portugal for Brazil on September 7, 1822, creating the Brazilian Empire and the first monarchy in the Americas.

It was Dom Pedro who originally purchased the land in the Serra Fluminense mountains to create his summer palace, but it was his son Pedro II who constructed the refuge from the intense summer heat of Rio, and the charming town surrounding it, thusly naming it Petropolis, honoring both Pedros. Temperatures in the mountains and Petropolis are refreshingly cool and pleasant; a welcome respite from Rio.

The town is distinctly Alpine and Bavarian flavored, with many rose-colored and Alemana influenced homes, which were once summer dwellings for members of the royal family, lining the quaint streets. Pedro's Summer Palace, now called the Imperial Museu, is open to the public for tours. It is a pleasant step back in time to wander through the residence and imagine the rulers of Portugal and Brazil enjoying their summer "cottage".
The Imperial Museum (Summer Palace of Pedro II)

As to the Bavarian influence; in the 1850's, after slavery was banned, the imperial government invited European immigration in order to help rebuild the labor force. The first arrivals were German and Swiss farmers who settled mostly in the areas where the soil and climate were most similar to their home country. Today you see many remnants of this influence: Alpine-style homes and buildings, knockwurst and bratwurst on menus, and cuckoo-clocks for sale.

Our first stop after climbing the mountain on the Petropolis Highway was the Cafe do Alamao, for, yes, you guessed it....bratwurst and knockwurst and horseradish mustard on brochen!! and of course, apple struedel for dessert! Yum Yum!!! (again!) It was almost as good as those that I loved so much, many years ago in Germany!!!

We had another delightful and interesting day touring Petropolis, then visiting a local "pottery factory", an Orchid Farm, and Funghi d Oro (The Mushroom Restaurant). More about these sidetrips later!

Sorry, if you find the background of Petropolis boring, but this is my diary, and you know that I like to know the "why" and the "how" 'bout most everything, soooo it's all in here!!
Tchau and love to all!