Take a nature break at Carnival

Weekend getaways and nature adventures in and around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Urban wildlife in Rio de Janeiro, seen near the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx. Please don’t feed the monkeys!

This weekend most of the Western world celebrates Carnaval, or Mardi Gras, and no place celebrates the holiday as enthusiastically as Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.

But even in the heartland of Carnaval, there are dissenters looking to get away from the city for a quiet and relaxing holiday break. Here are some ideas for a little nature time during the big weekend.

Take a stroll in the Jardim Botânico in the heart of Rio’s Zona Sul. This amazing place was founded by the Portuguese emperors in 1808 to develop useful plants discovered by the explorers funded by the crown. Today it is an outstanding biodiversity and study resource, and a quiet oasis in the bustling city. If you can’t get out of town this weekend, the Jardim Botânico will soothe your nerves. (Warning: there will be a lot of traffic this weekend with the various neighborhood Carnaval blocos on parade. Check the paper for schedules.)

Another awesome garden in metropolitan Rio is the home and garden of Roberto Burle Marx, the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx. Now a historical park on the far west side of Rio, the renowned landscape architect’s estate was his creative laboratory for gardening and architecture. (The park is temporarily closed due to heavy rains interfering with infrastructural projects. Be sure to check back with the park for re-opening!)

This might be the weekend to explore some of the hiking trails in Rio de Janeiro. You can hike to the top of Corcovado, Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf), Pedra da Gávea and the Dois Irmãos, to name the most famous mountains in the city.

Just outside of Rio is Petropolis, the historic imperial city in the Serra Orgão mountains. Long a favorite weekend getaway, Petropolis offers some great mountain hikes, including a challenging 35-km trek between the two cities of Petropolis and Teresopolis.

If you’re more of a water baby than a mountain goat, the Costa Verde, or Green Coast near Paraty makes for a refreshing escape from the big city. Try sea kayaking or paddle boarding for a fresh twist on this popular resort area.

Buzios, once a quiet fishing village, was “discovered” by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s and today is a buzzing resort town. It’s also one of the top windsurfing locations in Brazil. If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the crowds, Buzios is probably not the best place to go during holiday weekends–half of Rio has had the same idea, and they’re driving slowly around the town square, looking for that lost parking spot.

As always, do your research before booking, and if you’re traveling to Brazil from abroad, be sure to apply for your visa in plenty of time for the trip.

Groovy Link of the Month: Urban Sketchers, Brazil

Some of the Brazilian correspondents for the Urban Sketching site have formed their own group blog to showcase the urban sketching movement in Brazil. The new blog is written mostly in Brazilian Portuguese with some English translations, and is named Urban Sketchers Brasil. Blog co-op members are based in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and other major Brazilian cities.

I learned about the site from a blog post by co-founder Eduardo Bajzek, who maintains Perspectivas e Sketches, a blog of his own sketching and professional architectural rendering projects.

While I lived in Rio, I was very impressed with the huge numbers and amazing talents of the artists and designers working in Brazil today. While the country is justly famous for its contributions to world music, it deserves to be much better known for its visual arts and design. Beatriz Milhazes and Vik Muniz are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the contemporary art world in Brazil!



Botanical illustration extension courses at Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro

Botanical illustration course poster for Rio's Jardim Botânico

Poster courtesy of Paulo Ormindo and Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro

Paulo Ormindo has sent me the notice for the 2011 botanical illustration courses offered by the Escola Nacional de Botânica Tropical of the Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro. These are extension courses in classical botanical illustration aimed at artists, designers, scientists, and educators who work with botanical subject matter. Specimens are from the Jardim Botânico and its greenhouses. The school also offers a master’s course in environmental conservation and biodiversity research.

From 15-31 March the school offers a 2-week workshop in botanical illustration drawing techniques, using pencil and ink. Other courses run semi-weekly or on Saturdays only for about 3 months. All courses are held at the Escola Nacional de Botânica Tropical, in the renovated, historic Solar da Imperatriz. Some class sessions may also meet in the Jardim’s greenhouses. Malena Barreto and Paulo Ormindo are the course instructors. Both artists were awarded the Margaret Mee Fellowship to pursue botanical illustration studies and research at Kew Gardens in London, and have since enjoyed distinguished careers. Both instructors are fluent in English, for those students whose Portuguese is not advanced enough for discussing art techniques.

If you live in the Rio de Janeiro metropolis, what better way to learn how to transform the inspiring tropical flora around you into a beautiful botanical illustration!


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