Magnums after Midnight!


We are in the departure lounge in Sao Luis, Brazil. It’s 2.45am, Ben and Zoe are playing cards and we’re eating Magnums!


At Salvador and Fortaleza, Ben’s football and rock aroused some suspicion and there were fears the football would be confiscated or cut open! Ben with his suspicious looking stash, maybe it looks like crack?


Will we still be this lively when we arrive in Belem at 5.15am?! I hope so as we have to head down to the docks, find our boat and load up then head off to buy hammocks and provisions for our 5 day journey. It’s highly recommended to stock up on snacks and aside from having some goodies for us, it would be nice to have some spare for the young kids who apparently perform death defying leaps from their canoes to the boat in order to peddle some local snack or other but apparently are so poor they are grateful for anything the crew or passengers give them. It’s going to be an interesting journey…

Brasilia and Salvador – City hopping with kids

We’re in the idyllic island gem of Boipeba. Mum and Lara, age 4, are swinging in the hammock… its a far cry from the two cities we’ve just spent the last 5 nights in…

Lara : Mummy I want to do a blog

Mum : Ok, let’s see of you can remember about Brasilia? Tell me about losing your hat?

Lara : I losed it at that church and it was really nice it was the dark pink one that I always took to school on a sunny day

Mum : What was the church like?

Lara : Don’t know

Mum : Remember what the walls were like?

Lara : No?

Mum : They were all made of blue glass

Lara : Oh!

Mum : Don’t you remember? it was huge, square and really beautiful with the giant light with hundreds of crystals in the middle that Daddy paid R$10 to light for 1 minute!!

Ben :Mum  – it was two minutes. They said one minute but we got two, remember?

Santurio Dom Bosco lit for two minutes by the 2.5 tonne chandelier with 435 crystal lightbulbs!

Lara : Oh yes – I really liked it though. It was a lovely hat – why didn’t you tell me to pick it up?

With Billy Deeter our Brasilia tour guide

Mum : Lara,  do you remember going on that tour with Billy who drove us round?  What would you like to tell your friends about it?

Lara : Nothing, can’t remember anything!

Mum : What about the little church that was the first one in the city. Billy told you the first time you go in a church you can make 3 wishes so we all did

Lara : Oh yes!

Mum : And that little church was 50 years old which is really old for Brasilia and we said that’s funny because our house is nearly 100 years old back home… !

Kicking up leaves outside the oldest church in Brasilia – last recorded sighting of Lara’s hat!

Brasilia is a fascinating capital for a short visit, just maybe not for a 4 year old! I’d compare it to Canberra – a purpose built  seat of government but with better architecture. Built up from nothing in the central plateau of Brasil, it was only founded in 1960 by President Kubitschek, having been built in just 41 months – by architects, city planners and landscape designers according to the winning entry of a competition for best design! It’s shaped like a bird or an aeroplane body and is organised into living sectors along the wings and government, banking, hotel and entertainment sectors through the central body.

The winning design

There are no street names as the locals are proud to tell you, instead there are futuristic codes that indicate different sectors, South or North, that takes some getting used to and apparently confounds Sat Nav!

Brasilia Model City

Brasilia is, apparently, the only city in the world built in the 20th century that  has Unesco World Heritage designation, but it was planned since the early 19th century and its location fixed after Italian priest Dom Bosco prophesied that a new civilisation would emerge in Brazil between the 15th and 20th parallels!

There is a huge beautiful lake hugging the nose and the front of the wings! We had a brilliant half day tour with Brasilia tour guide Billy Deeter, who moved from the US as a boy and has seen the city develop from it’s early days. He told interesting stories of the city and showed us the best sights, making it great for the kids as well as us – well…maybe not quite for our 4 year old, who was pretty eager to stop for ice cream and nothing else really mattered to her that afternoon. But Ben and Zoe were fascinated.  Between visits to different parts of the city, the kids had a fab time in the hotel pool.

Had the Manhatten Plaza pool to ourselves, fantastic view of central Brasilia

We stayed in the North Hotel Sector after a complex negociation in the hotel originally booked in the South Hotel Sector decided it was against the rules to let us stay in a 3 bed room and we must be moved to another hotel. Since the girls have become accomplished at sleeping ‘top and tail’ and we are equipped with a couple of sleeping bags and mats, we would have been fine but we ended up in a lovely suite at a 4 star hotel with a significant discount so no complaints about the rules! We had a brilliant view from our balcony along the ‘centre’ of the city.

Brasilia night fall from our hotel balcony
Brasilia night fall from our hotel balcony

The Cathedral, Palace of Justice,  National Congress and various memorials are all carefully positioned and designed in spacious contemporary styles.

Exhibition Centre with Cathedral Metropolitano to the left
inside the beautiful Cathedral Metropolitana

On our second day, we headed to the Banco Centro Do Brasil housing the money museum which we all loved! Great displays showing the origination of money in Brazil and worldwide, with English transation leaflets, a display of currencies from every country in the world and alot of gold bars!

So much Gold!
At the Money Museum, Banco Central do Brasil

Ben : Oh yes! Mum, I really wanted some of that shredded money. Billy said they gave it out in a little bag when he visited…but we did get some coins!

There is a display of shredded notes, each denomination separated in different glass cabinets,so you see all the different colours. It represented   a fortune of money. Again the kids were facinated!  Our day ended with a trip up the tv tower to the viewing platform right in the city centre where we watched the sun set, then headed down to the huge water fountains where the kids raced around and got drenched!

With the Kubitscheks – beside the tomb of President JK
National Congress – the ‘dishes’ are the Senate and House of Representatives
Looking towards the Government Sector from the TV tower

We had read that Brasilia is a bit of a foodie’s delight and quickly checked out the best reviews on Trip Adviser. In the end we stuck  with the simpler dining options in the shiny shopping mall nearby, as an expensive cab rides out to the lake for a la carte dining on the shores seemed over optimistic with 3 kids under 10 after a day in a hot city and all dressed in our hippy traveller attire!

On the way to dinner at the Mall, Brasilia!

Mum ; Ok, so what do you want to talk about for the blog then ?

Lara : Don’t know! Mum where are my Barbies?

A little later….

Mum : who remembers where we went after Brasilia and how we got there?

Zoe : We went to Salvador and we stayed for one day. The first night we looked for a sushi restaurant but it had turned into a different
restaurant so we had pizza there!

Ben : we went to the city – I remember we went in this huge elevator from the old high town to the port and then straight back up! And the town was all cobbled streets and really old – its one of the oldest cities built by the Portuguese. We got a bus to the old city and a taxi back – the man said 20 Real but Dad asked him to use the meter thingy. It came to 18 real and Dad gave him 20 Real with the tip!

I watched the meter going up  the whole time and I thought we would have to pay more – in the end Dad said it was still better because he would have to pay him a tip on top of the 20….!

Mum – Lara do you remember in Salvador ?

Lara – Can I go swimming?

[Salvador is a huge city. We flew in late afternoon – an easy 1 hour flight from Brasilia.  We immediately noticed that we were in a warmer climate, each stop we’ve made since Rio, it gets a bit warmer, we took a £35 taxi through the sprawling city to the smaller city beach resort of Barra, said to be one of the few ‘safe’ districts in Salvador and to a small simple pousada tucked away and securely gated.

We had just two nights before we had arranged to head south to Boipeba so the following day decided we should look at the city. The obvious destination was Pelourinho, the colourful, cultural, centre,  another Unesco declared World Heritage sight. Very different from Brasilia. Lonely Planet describes Salvador and Pelourinho as having an energy and unadorned beauty that few cities can match.  It also lists under ‘Dangers and Annoyances’ the city’s reputation for theft, mugging and pickpocketing, so we were a little paranoid and after leaving everything bar a little cash back at the pousada we set off somewhat nervously to catch a bus to the ‘Pelo’.

From what I’d read, I expected music & dancing on every street corner, huge bustling noisy, colourful crowds. But it was deserted – turned out it’s quieter on Sunday’s but it was also Fathers day!  Police presence still quite high, perhaps more noticeable due to lack of crowds and after a wrong turn that look us into some too quiet streets and rapid u turn, we felt much more comfortable wandering around, but like we missed out on the real experience.

The highlight was looking around the Igreja e Convento Sao Francisco, completed in 1723, simply dripping inside with gold and with a simple convent courtyard with a series of fresco where Martin, Ben, Zoe and I spent a while working out the proverbs and wise sayings  and searching for the distorted faces of cherubs and angels with dubiously large ‘organs’ painted by disgrunted African slaves who were prohibited from practicing their own religions.

This is a city that needs more time or might be easier to get to know without kids. We didn’t give it that much of a chance, although chatting and emailing with new friends with young children who we met in Boipeba who stayed in and around the Pelo before and after their island getaway, its possible to enjoy alot more!

After that R$20 ride back to Barra, we wandered along the unbelievably crowded city beach – I think many of the folk normally in Pelo might have come out for Fathers day! We went into the oldest fort and lighthouse in Brazil containing a small museum of Brazil’s nautical and lighthouse history – Ben fascinated and eager to look at everything and the girls happy to run around and play hide and seek. Another brief paranoid moment for Mum and Dad when they strayed briefly out of sight!]

Mum: The next day we had a long  journey – who remembers that?

Ben – taxi – then ferry – then car –

Leaving Salvador on the ferry to Bom Depacho and on to Valenca and Boipeba

Zoe – Mum! Remember when we saw that cow and you said ‘I think it’s actually buffalo’ and Lara sat up and said  ‘Where’s the Gruffalo?!’

Mum – and the lovely speedboat ride was after that?

Lara – yes, I was standing right at the front!! Mum pleeeeeease can we go swimming now?

Speedboat from Valenca to Boipeba through the Mangroves

Get Jealous

I happened upon the blog of another family gap year on the travel blogging site Get Jealous today. The Bremners have an 8 and a 9 year old, are starting in Africa and will be heading to South America as well. Very impressed with their morning PE, looks a lot more strenuous than our aqua-gymnastics earlier today.

I have been wowed with Mo keeping up her running, barefoot on the beach most of the time. I am thinking I need to use or lose my running shoes (luxury item!). That said I beat Mo in our Heart Olympics on the beach this afternoon much to Mo’s surprise, I’ll probably need a week to recover. Our running track was pretty cool with MMBZL branding even if the construction was accidental.

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Get Jealous, what a great name for a web site! I may have to read to get some ideas?!?

Pescador – Fishing on Boipeba

I’ve always wanted to fish and any time I see a fishing trip on a board I ask my parents but they just say ‘No, we’ve already booked a snorkelling trip’ or something like that!

I had a brief chance at fishing in Ilha Grande but it was off a boat and I didn’t catch anything. On Boipeba we met some Americans and some Brits and before the snorkelling trip the manager of our Pousada gave us fishing line and hooks so we tried but lost a weight.

Then a local fisherman helped us and brought us prawns as bait but that didn’t work. After saying goodbye to our new friends there was a man standing on the rocks who had a big net!!! He threw the net in and pulled it up with thousands of little fish. Me and Zoe grabbed lots of them and we talked to the fisherman in sign language.

After that there was another local fisherman who we followed to his fishing spot. We stood about 3 metres apart. He showed me how to throw it in. You spin it round your head and then you let go in the direction that you want it to go. It goes pretty far as it has a weight on the end.

Ben fishing with line

Me fishing


Drowned Rats – Boipeba to Morro de Sao Paulo

We expected our gap year to feature some excitement but as so often with these things it can come at unexpected times. Super relaxed after a week on peaceful Boipeba staying at what could easily be the best pousada in Brazil and looking forward to our next stop in Morro de Sao Paulo we boarded our speedboat and waved goodbye.

Waving goodbye to Boipeba

Bye Bye Boipeba

The weather was overcast but this often clears quickly and we were impressed with the speedboat. Bigger than the normal motor launches it looked the business and we were sure Charles was right and it was the most comfortable boat around and at R$200 a bargain as they were picking up more guests in Morro!

On the way down to Boipeba we took the route through the mangroves from Valenca and expected to go this way again as most boats arrive this way. It is lovely and calm but about twice as long as the sea route if you look at the map. As often is the case ‘assume’ makes an ass out of you and me and our skipper headed straight out to sea. More

Lara loves Boipeba

It’s 8.30am. We’re in Boipeba. Mum and Dad are upstairs and there are no children in their bed because there’s a little spiral staircase leading from the kid’s bedroom up to theirs which could be quite dangerous in the dark so it’s out of bounds. All being tucked in under our mossie nets helps! Zoe wakes first and is allowed to come up for a cuddle, then Lara…..

Windy stairs to Mum & Dad’s room!

It’s like we’re snuggled in a big bed in a lovely wooden tree house in the jungle.


Family Gap Year – 1 Month In

I awoke today to the sound of rain. Coming from the UK this is something that I should be used to but it felt different, maybe in the way that a holiday cocktail tastes great on the beach but when you try and recreate it at home it is just not the same but more likely it is because for the first time in a month on our gap year we can really relax.

South America, Brazil and especially some of cities we have visited have a reputation for KRE (A joyful new TLA we recently discovered for ‘kidnap, ransom and extortion’!) as well as petty everyday crime like mugging, pick pocketing etc. While I am sure there is an increased threat and these things do happen only bad news sells newspapers (maybe it is our fault in wanting to read about other people’s misfortunes as apparently only 30% of reporting is good news!) and you don’t hear about the many fantastic, friendly, helpful people you meet.

Zoe running

Run Zoe!


Zoe’s First Chilli

I tried to eat this chilli because I was trying to be brave and was very scared.

Zoe ready to eat a Chilli

Looking Confident?


From Ilha Grande to Paraty and back to Rio

We’ve just taken off on a flight out of Rio, on our way to Brasilia, with fabulous views over Sugarloaf and the many bays and islands of the city. It’s exactly 4 weeks since we arrived in Rio and began our family gap year! The time has flown!

Copacabana beach, Sugarloaf to the right of the wing and Christ the Redeemer sits atop the peak on the right of the pic with his head in the clouds!

We didn’t expect to stay in Rio de Janeiro state for a month. To be truthful, (and to the horror of many of our friends) we didn’t have much planned for Brazil at all


First Casualty

And the winner is…


A few weeks into our family gap year she has managed to break:

  • A shelf climbing on it
  • A toilet seat by jumping off it
  • An iPad by dropping it off the bed – luckily just a small crack on the edge of the screen and still usable

Dad managed to fix everything apart from the iPad with a spoon and swiss army knife.

Lara swinging on lamp post

Metal Tree Climbing

She has also had a few scrapes: More

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