SYW/HP: On Haunted Houses, Crowded Concerts, Bell Bottoms, Cockroaches and More…

I’m ready for another Share Your World Meets Harry Potter! The Harry Potter questions this week are inspired by The Goblet of Fire, but you don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to answer them. These questions come from another blogger, Roger Shipp, who is collaborating with Melanie and her Share Your World, which are the second set of questions.


Roger’s Magical, Mystical Questions:

  • Many local regions, especially rural areas where I live, have haunted houses. Have you ever spent the night in a house that was supposedly haunted? Anything ‘strange” happen?
    No, the closest I came was when my son was a little boy and we would take walks together. The route we usually took passed a 2- or 3-story, dark gray house on a large lot. It always seemed dark and that no one lived there. My son had already made up a monster, who plagued his dreams. So I told him that the monster was actually nice and wanted to make friends. Even so, he was spooky and so was that house. That house became the monster’s house!
  • The Quidditch Cup (riding broomsticks while chasing a small ball) was a huge sporting event in the land of Hogwarts. What is the largest sporting event (or concert, etc.) that you have ever attended?
    Not being a sports fan, I doubt the crowds were as big at the Packers games I attended as the concerts I went to.

    The biggest might have been when a friend and I went to see the Beatles in concert – we were in the 104th row of an old stadium in Chicago. From our vantage point, the Beatles were about an inch tall and we couldn’t hear anything they played because most of the girls (including my friend, but she tried to restrain herself for my benefit) were screaming. I think I heard later that the Beatles sometimes just pretended to sing because the screaming was so loud no one could hear them – so why waste their voices?

    The other times there have been huge crowds when I was attending were at Ravinia. Ravinia is an outdoor concert venue with a bandshell and stage in front located in the north suburbs of Chicago. They have a schedule of performers starting in June and ending in September, which they mail out to people. (Needless to say, there wasn’t a schedule this year.) People pay much less to sit on the lawn and it has become popular to bring snacks, wine, tables and chairs (Ravinia also rents these out) and share with one’s friends during the concert. The largest concert I ever attended there was last year, when Ringo Starr and his band were at Ravinia. We tried to go early but the crowd was already so huge that it was hard to find a patch of lawn for our folding chairs. If you wanted to get up for something, you could not help but step in other people’s set-ups. I ran across several friends there while I was walking around – they weren’t together nor did they know each other, and I didn’t know they were at Ravinia that night. I wanted to see Ringo and his band but anytime I lingered near the bandshell, guards shooed me away. At least no one screamed!
This is a fraction of the crowd we could see from our spot on the lawn.

This was the set up of the people next to us.
  • When you go for a swim, do you prefer an ocean, the seaside lakes, or a pool?
    I enjoy the ocean because it is warm, but prefer a bay where the water is calmer. Since I rarely go to a beach, except when on vacation, the rare times that I swim is in a pool. I don’t like it much because afterward my hair smells like chlorine.
  • Ron Weasley received a horrid robe to wear as formal wear to the Christmas dance at Hogwarts. Tell about the most ‘ghastly’ fashion statement that you have ever made.
    It was probably in the late 60s, when everyone (including me) wore inside-out sweatshirts, long strings of beads and huge bell bottoms. But I have to say, I still like bell bottoms better than straight-legged pants!

    Muggle Questions (from Melanie):

What is the last song you sang along to?
I’m not sure – there’s always music in my head, and sometimes it isn’t what I’d like to have repeating ad nauseum, but I think the last one I sang along with the recording was Old Man River a couple of days ago.
What was your scariest nightmare about?
I can’t remember it anymore, but I screamed out loud and it woke both me and Dale up.
What food do you crave most often?
ice cream, cookies, chocolate in general
What’s your grossest bug story?
The grossest and most horrible bug I’ve ever seen is a giant cockroach. Any cockroach, really. They usually appear where I least expect them and they run incredibly fast.

When I lived in northeastern Brazil with my first husband, we had all our personal effects shipped to us, and they arrived in these huge boxes, so we had large cartons sitting around the house for quite awhile. One day I was sitting on the couch in our living room and I heard a scratching noise. I went to look for the source and found a giant cockroach climbing up one of the boxes! These cockroaches lived in the grass in the surrounding area, which is why I never, ever, laid anything on the grass there. We also had a cesspit, and had to get it cleaned out occasionally – of course, that pit was crawling with them. It makes me shiver to think of even now. I thought of downloading a picture from Google and posting it here, but I can’t bear to even look at a picture of those horrible things!!

FOTD: Blue Netherlands: Cool Water in a Heat Wave

June 25, 2019 (Day 1 of Viking cruise)

I’ve been busy the last few days and unable to participate in Becky’s Square July Blues.
So to make up for it (just a little!) I’m posting three blue squares today -all taken in the Netherlands in late June of this year. Known for its Delft china (which is also blue), Holland is also a country very much connected to the water. This is where the Rhine River ends, and there are many canals, rivers and bogs. In fact, most of the Netherlands is below sea level, which is why they had to build dykes. Boating and river-based sports are naturally popular, and cities grow up around waterways.

The first blue square photo was taken on a private canal tour during our four days in Amsterdam. Sleek modern buildings are not what come to mind when one conjures up an image of this city of canals and bicycles, but there are many such buildings, especially on the far side of the river, like this one. The Rhine River widens here as it flows to the Atlantic Ocean.  Blue water, blue building, blue sky!
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Our 2-week Viking river cruise began in Amsterdam on June 25 and wound along the Rhine, the Main and the Danube rivers. The next photo is of Nijmegen, a city in the south of the country.
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There is a lot of boat and ship traffic on these rivers, not only popular for cruises but also to transport freight and leisure for the locals. This photo was taken on the cruise, somewhere between Amsterdam and Nijmegen. As a special touch, this photo has a blue square within a blue square! 😉
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Climate change was very much in evidence in Europe in June and July this year. Just a few days ago, a fierce heat wave sent temperatures soaring to record highs in many countries unused to extreme heat (Paris broke all-time records on July 26 with an afternoon high of 109ºF/43ºC!). Although places of business often have air conditioning, most people live in houses or apartments without air conditioning because they so seldom have needed it.

An earlier heat wave (not as extreme, but it lasted longer) hit while we were in Amsterdam. Our Airbnb didn’t even have a fan! However, usually it would be cool enough with a balcony in front and another one in back creating a cross draft. Fortunately, two days after the heat wave started, we were on a Viking river ship, where all inside areas have air conditioning.

What does one do when temperatures reach 90-95°F/32-35° in Holland? Go to the beach!
We saw many scenes like this as we cruised up the Rhine River. And it wasn’t just people!
Cows also know how to “chill” when it’s hot!

Now “chill out” with this golden oldie, Heatwave by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas!




Sunday Trees – Monterey Peninsula

First, congratulations to Becca on her 6th anniversary of Sunday Trees. Second, this is my first time participating in this challenge, although I am fascinated by trees and have a huge archive of pictures of trees!

But for today, I decided to feature the trees (and other sights) along the 17 mile drive on Monterey Peninsula, California, where we traveled in December 2015, to spend Christmas with Dale’s sister, nephew and family who live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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I hadn’t been to the Monterey Peninsula in many years, but remembered the 17-mile drive as one of the most beautiful in the country! Anytime I travel on the Pacific Coast Highway (which this drive is a small piece of), I have a particular piece of classical music that I always listen to, because it is so evocative of the nature of the Pacific coast: Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler. If you own this music or want to download it on YouTube, I invite you to listen to it while looking at these pictures (although it’s not the same as seeing the scenery for yourself). Here’s the link:

The wind blows constantly along this stretch of road and coast, so the trees and even rock formations are shaped by wind erosion, as well as by the constant motion of the waves breaking against the rocky shore. The trees take on windswept, sometimes gnarly shapes.

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Wildlife: Birds on rocks, sea lions basking on beach

As the sun began to go down in late afternoon, the landscape looked even more dramatic.








Finally, we stopped at the ritzy Pebble Beach Golf Course and Clubhouse. The trees in front of the clubhouse were covered in festive lights for Christmas.20151223_175151



Partial view of the golf course and sculpture “Just Like Dad” by Walt Horton, 1997.

Tuesday Photo Challenge: Sand

The sand of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is my entry for Frank Jansen’s Tuesday Photo Challenge.  These are photos from my most recent visit there, in late November of 2016.


Lots of sunbathers


Playing soccer in the sand


Feeling the water wash over me, causing the sand to sink beneath my feet






Maine Excursion

October 1, 2017

Today was Day 1 of our cruise from Boston to Montreal. We left Boston on Saturday in late afternoon and by the time we woke up this morning, we had anchored off Bar Harbor. People who weren’t taking tours could obtain tender tickets to go ashore, and the first numbers were called just after 7 a.m. I kind of wish we had done that, because we waited to go until our tour was called and didn’t get back until the last tender was going back to the ship, so we didn’t have time to walk around Bar Harbor on our own or use a local Wi-Fi.

We had signed up for a shore excursion called “The Best of Both Worlds.” The tour guide used a lot of humor and told us that by the end of the tour we should figure out which “3 things” were true among everything he told us!

First, we went by bus toward Acadia National Park, the guide narrating about what we were seeing along the way. There were many beautiful vistas but although he told the driver to slow down, we didn’t stop at many of them.

Our first stop was about 40 minutes, where there was a small nature center (mostly about how climate change will affect the area’s future), a wigwam, and the Acadia Wild Gardens. The gardens were divided into several ecosystems and I took a brochure to help me interpret what I was seeing. It was pretty but most of the flowers were already gone and many plants were dying or getting ready to hibernate for the winter.


Acadia celebrated 100 years last year (this was one of the true things the guide told us!), because it was also the national park system’s 100th birthday. Acadia was one of the first national parks to be established in 1916. Most of the land had been privately owned, mainly by the Rockefellers, and Rockefeller gave most of it to the federal government for the park. There were several stone bridges he’d had built. We also saw the “shacks” (as our guide called them – they were actually mansions) that were the summer homes of rich people such as J. P. Morgan, Martha Stewart and Rockefeller.


One place we slowed down, but didn’t stop, was a spot where beavers had dammed a pond and built their houses. On the other side of the road, a tree had fallen where beavers had been gnawing away at it! Our guide told us about a huge forest fire that spread through much of this area in 1947. Before that, these hills were all pine forests. After a forest fire, the first trees that grow back are deciduous trees, with the evergreens eventually crowding them out. This probably takes generations. Our guide said the way to see which areas were unaffected by the fire, within the park borders, is look for the areas that are covered with deciduous versus pine forests. In town, the way to tell is by looking at the thickness of the tree trunks. The trees that survived the fire have an extra 70 years growth, so they are quite a bit thicker.

Some of the hills within the park borders are still covered with fir trees, not touched by the fire. In addition, some of the hills are “bald” on the top, with only bare granite. This is due to ancient glacial activity. Maine has a lot of granite. (I thought maybe it was called the “Granite State”  but when I looked it up, I found out Maine’s nickname is the “Pine Tree State,” named for the white pine tree that grows here.)

Partially bald hill

Granite topped hill

Our next stop was 15 minutes, a “photo opp.” The bus pulled over to the side of the road but cars continued to go by so our guide placed himself in the middle of the road to stop cars when we wanted to cross. I took several pictures at this stop, but  I didn’t go down to the rocky beach, because I was afraid of negotiating the rocky descent to get there.SONY DSC

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Just outside the park border, we came upon this rural scene, which the guide said looked like a “Rockwell painting.”
20171001_124757_001Next we went to the Maine Lobster Museum. Mostly it was some live lobsters in tanks and a place where we could buy snacks, water and a few souvenirs. It was noon and no lunch was included on the tour, so Dale got Oreo cookies and I bought a bag of popcorn and a bottle of water.


We crowded into a room set up with metal folding chairs in long rows to listen to an old former lobsterman tell us about lobsters. Lobster traps have a hole in them big enough to let small lobsters (not fully grown) escape. The best bait for catching lobsters is herring. Someone asked why all the lobsters on display have bands around their claws. This, he said, isn’t because they could pinch humans, it’s to prevent them from pinching each other! In a confined tank, they can become cannibalistic, although they do not each other in their natural environment.

Lobsters can live up to 100 years!  I wondered how old the big lobster in the tank we saw as we were coming in was. Lobster eggs take two years to hatch. They store up to 100,000 eggs, which are the size of the head of a pin. The first year, the female has the eggs inside of her body, and the second year, they are down near the tail on the outside. Therefore, she can have two batches of eggs developing at the same time!

Normally, lobsters are brown or green in color.  (They become red when they are cooked.) Their shells make pigments in the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). Occasionally, though, one might come across a blue lobster – and the old lobsterman held a blue lobster up for us to see; this is the result of a genetic mutation in which the lobster is unable to produce the red and yellow pigment which make its normal color. Other than its color, this lobster is like any other.

When we returned to Bar Harbor, we went to the campus of College of the Atlantic, which our guide said has only one major – human ecology! (This is true – I looked it up. It’s one of those experimental, “design your own curriculum” colleges.) Graduates typically earn less than high school graduates, according to him. About 200-300 students attend the college. It is notable for being completely carbon neutral – they literally recycle or compost everything they use.

We went into a building called the “Turrets” (the administration building), because of its castle-like turrets or towers. We were allowed to look around the first floor of this strong stone building, built in 1895 and because of its construction of stone, it was the only building not damaged in the 1947 fire that ravaged this area.


Decorative railing, stairwell and ceiling.

Lovely flowers and views on the back porch.



Finally, animal curiosities: jawbone of a whale leaning against a building, and the typical tourist picture of Dale and me staring out the belly of the sculpture of a buck!

I will have to return to Bar Harbor someday, as we were told about several interesting things about the town but there was no time left to stop. When we returned to the pier, there was only enough time to line up in a very long queue to take the last tender back to our ship.


I was amazed at how many beautiful flowers were blooming this late in Bar Harbor.


Note the shadows of all the people standing in line!




Primary Colors Around the World

This is my first time entering Ailsa’s Travel Theme Challenge! This week’s theme is Primary Colors. Here are some previously posted* travel photos as well as some new ones:


Las Bovedas, Cartagena, Colombia

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 Cartagena, Colombia

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas


Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Lower Kaubashine Lake, Hazelhurst, Wisconsin



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Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia


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Store Window, Lubeck, Germany


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St. Isaac Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia



*Check out my previous travel posts! 😀


Panama Canal Cruise, Part 1: Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

From March 22 to April 6, my husband Dale and I along with both of my sisters and brother-in-law, took a cruise to traverse the Panama Canal. Of course, we stopped in other places along the way. We were on Holland America Line’s ship, the Veendam, one of their smaller ships. Our first stop was at Half Moon Cay, an island in the Bahamas owned by Holland America Line.

The ship didn’t actually dock at the island. Tenders, or shuttles, approached and came alongside the ship, where a ramp was put out for people to get on the boat. These tenders came and went, taking on and dropping off passengers at either end. They pulled up alongside right below our veranda so I could see how quickly they filled up. We were due at the Information Hut on the island at 8:45 a.m. for our walking tour, and I wasn’t sure we’d make it.


From our stateroom, we could see that this elongated piece of land has an almost continuous stretch of white sand beach along its shore, where the water fades into turquoise with some dark patches where the reefs are. It’s bigger than it looks, but most of the activity takes place along a curved spit of land.

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The tenders enter this canal and pull up to a small docking area.

By the time Dale, Elmer (my brother-in-law) and I (my sisters were scheduled to go later)  actually arrived at the island, it was 9:05, so we were supposedly late. The woman at the Information Hut at first said the nature walk had already left. I said, “Oh” and wondered what to do. However, then she called out to someone and we were sent across the plaza with another guide who led us to our group, which had not left and we sat down with about 25 other people to wait.

An open truck came along with seating for all of us. We filed on and the truck rumbled along a road to the beginning of the walking tour.

Our guide’s name was Shakeena; I don’t remember the name of her companion, whose main job was to bring up the rear. Shakeena was the one leading the tour. Shakeena and the other employees don’t actually live on this island; they travel 90 minutes by boat one way each day from their home on the island of Eleuthera, and return home again in the evening. So three hours of their day are spent traveling to and from work, a distance of 24 miles each way!20170323_142758

Shakeena first took us up a rocky path to see some ruins of houses from the 17th century that were now either rubble or merely standing walls. These had belonged to European settlers who arrived here often by being shipwrecked! With no means of escape, the settlers learned how to live on this land. They had no natives to teach them because the Indians of that area had already been wiped out by earlier settlers who had tried to use them for slaves and either killed them or brought European diseases which finished them off.

We came back down the rocky path and continued along a sandy path, where Shakeena stopped periodically to show us plants and what they were used for.
The 7-year apple is inedible,


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The 7-year apple tree



but sea grapes, smaller than regular grapes, taste OK but they are fibrous. Shakeena picked a few for us to try if we wanted.

There is a vine that grows on other trees, called the “love vine” (above right). Girls wrap it around their waists to attract the guy they love.


Tree covered with the “love vine.”

One tree is called “Farting Joe” because it has an edible fruit that looks like a bean pod and if you eat too many of them, you fart!




The silver buttonwood is used for carving.


She also showed us a sage bush. You boil the leaves 3 times to cure chicken pox. It only takes three days to cure it completely! She speaks from personal experience, having used it on her own son. The sage that grows in the Midwest, however, will not work for this.

Having forgotten my water bottle, I was grateful and relieved when we stopped at a shack for cold soda or water. We had to wait for a group of kayakers to leave, so we stood around the beach, where I saw some curious objects in the water. They looked like white blooms on the sandy bottom.


Shakeena told us that these were actually a type of jellyfish – not the stinging kind! They lie bottoms up on the sand. She reached in and took one out to show us.


This is the jellyfish right side up!


When it was returned to the water, the jellyfish flipped over before joining its companions on the sandy bottom.



Finally the kayakers took off and we sipped our cold drinks and watched them paddle away.



We also stopped at the Stingray Adventure area where people were snorkeling in a shallow cordoned off area full of these flat, shark-related fish. We watched them gliding along under the water, their long stingers trailing behind, except one – aa female they called “Stumpy” because her tail had been bitten off in a close encounter with a shark! Having lost her means of defense, she was brought to this safe area.




Snorkelers reach down to try to touch “Stumpy.”

We also saw sea stars and sea cucumbers.


Our last stop was at a farm, where a variety of crops and flowers are grown, including a local watermelon (smaller and oblong) as well as the type of watermelon we have in the U.S. It being only March, most of the food crops and flowers hadn’t grown much yet. I imagine it would have been more spectacular a sight if we were here in June. Even so, Shakeena and the farm’s proprietor showed us each plot and explained how the crops were grown (no chemicals!) and what they were used for. For example, some of the flowers are shipped abroad.


Below, a local watermelon on the left, the American watermelon on the right. Of course, the American watermelon will get much bigger, but the local watermelon is fully grown.





When we got back to the starting point of the tour, we were told that it was a five-minute walk to either the left, for a barbecue lunch ($20/person) or to the right to return to the ship. We chose to return to the ship, but first I took a few pictures on the beach.



After snorkeling in the afternoon at a reef offshore, there was time for shopping!


Main plaza and shopping area







Rio: Hanging out in Leme Before Departure


The front of ‘our’ apartment building is flanked by a swanky restaurant. The entrance to the apt. building is in the middle.

November 28, 2016


We didn’t do much today as far as sightseeing. We started our day like every day here: Making coffee, then sitting in the living room reading and feeling the cool breeze off the ocean. I was very nostalgic and couldn’t stop wishing that we had extended our visas. We’re going home to Midwestern winter and Donald Trump! Not anything to really look forward to…well, there was spending the holidays with our family, which is the best way to celebrate the holidays.

We went to a small café nearby for breakfast.

We also packed and texted Carlenia about transport to the airport. We had flown into the smaller of Rio’s two main airports, Santos Dumont; but for the trip back to the states we had to go to Galeão, the international airport much further away.  Carlenia had made some kind of deal with a taxi driver who was the friend of another driver she knew.

Not being in a hotel, we didn’t need to worry about check out times, so leaving our suitcases in the apartment, we went out to enjoy the beautiful, sunny day at Leme Beach. We didn’t wear our bathing suits, which would not have time to dry before we had to pack them. We didn’t plan to swim anyway, just walk along the edge of the water.


Instead of walking on the beach toward Copacabana, we walked toward the eastern end of the beach and walked along the edge of the rock that divides Leme/Copacabana from Praia Vermelha. You can’t walk very far on this rock.  If you did, you would find yourself on a rocky peninsula called Arpoador.  Some surfers like to go there because the waves are very strong, but it is also considered very dangerous and there have been several accidents there.


Surfers at Leme waiting for a wave.











We watched surfers and sunbathers and soccer players.



View of Leme (which ends at the tall black and white hotel, then it’s Copacabana) from the rock wall.

Finally it was time to leave and we had to cram ourselves and our luggage into the tiny service elevator for the last time.  When we got to the front, one of the doormen carried our suitcases down the stairs.  We then sat and waited for the taxi driver, which didn’t take long.  On the way to the airport, the taxi driver said he hated Uber (naturally, they were taking away his business). It wasn’t that, he said, it was because Uber is not regulated here in Brazil, so they are not compensated very well and get no benefits. So now there is pressure for taxi drivers to accept similar working conditions.

The traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it to Galeão sooner than expected. We paid the driver the agreed upon price plus tip.

I could relate to this sign we saw in the airport:


But we didn’t have caipirinhas. Instead, I spied a Ben & Jerry’s – Ben & Jerry’s!! – and I spent exactly every remaining Brazilian real I had buying us two dishes of ice cream, complete with toppings! The server actually gave me a discount because I literally had no more money.


So our farewell to Brazil was eating ice cream from the best (in my opinion) American ice cream franchise!



A walk in Rio’s Flamengo neighborhood

November 24, 2016

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and since Carlênia, my sister-in-law, has dual citizenship, I had promised her we’d take her to a nice restaurant of her choice for “Thanksgiving” dinner. She chose a famous Italian restaurant, La Fiorentina, conveniently located in Leme* just a couple of blocks from the apartment where we were staying.


Carlenia at La Fiorentina


Later that afternoon, we took some of our clothes to Carlênia’s apartment in Flamengo to wash, since she has a new washing machine and the apartment where we are staying doesn’t have one.  To escape that confined, crowded space, Dale and I decided to take a walk to Flamengo Beach. Before we left, Carlênia told us the best (safest) way to get across the busy streets to the aterro (area that has been filled in with land) and the beach, but Dale insisted we cross the busy streets right away – I was afraid we’d get run over because the cars come around curves without even slowing down. Well, we made it across – barely! – and went through an underground passage below the busiest street, which was essentially an urban highway. Once safely across, I worried about getting back safely!

We went through a little park honoring Mexico and its relationship with Brazil before we got to the underground passage.

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A park on the beach side contained a fairly large building with undulating arch roofs – it seemed to me that it had to be the modern art museum, although people were hanging around it and no one was going in; also there was no sign. I later found out from Carlênia that it was O Porcão, a churrascaria that had gone bankrupt and closed.


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Defunct restaurant O Porcão


We took our shoes off and walked on Flamengo Beach.


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Sugarloaf Mountain, as seen from the Flamengo aterro



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When we left the beach and put our shoes back on, we were near “Posto 2” and a bridge over the highway. The bridge ended right next to a crosswalk, to my relief! We crossed and followed that street all the way back to Carlênia’s street, Oswaldo Cruz.

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One of the few remaining houses in the beach neighborhoods of Rio – a historic house with beautiful gardens around it.

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I never did see the bar Bel Monte that she had told us to use as a landmark, although a few days later, we passed it by car and she pointed it out.

The names of the streets in Brazilian cities are mostly of people significant to the history or culture of that city. Walking around Rio, I noticed something I’d never noticed before during all the times I have been in this city: the street signs have a short, one-sentence, bio of what that person was known for. If the street is named after something other than a well-known person, that is explained too, except maybe for obvious ones like XV de novembro (Nov. 15 – Proclamation of the Republic, which every Brazilian schoolchild has learned in elementary school).


*Leme (which means “rudder”) is a neighborhood located on the far eastern end of Copacabana Beach. From our apartment there, you can see the whole curve of Copacabana Beach to the west.


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View of Copacabana from “our” apartment in Leme