The Girl from Ipanema and the Danish Viking
When I tell people I am half Brazilian and half Danish, their reaction is almost always “That is an interesting mix, how did that happen?” Well it’s actually quite a cute and interesting story how my parents met and also explains where my wanderlust comes from.
My mom was the girl from Ipanema, although her mum was British, she was born and raised in Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro. She isn’t your average looking Ipanema girl though and back in those days she definitely stood out of the crowd with her very long and slim figure, her freckled skin and her strawberry blonde hair. At the age of 14 she was spotted by a fashion photographer from the top fashion magazine in Rio. Her tall frame and baby-blue eyes were a success, as for the Brazilian market she looked “exotic”, so her mum would chaperone her to the studios after school and on weekends and she began her long and successful career in modeling. Excuse the blurriness of the pictures, they are taken of 35+ years old magazine clippings.
Growing up in Rio was fun and she was very interested in learning about other countries and cultures going to the British school and later the French Lycée. She would spend her weekends at leisure modeling or lounging on the beaches of Ipanema and sailing around the many islands with friends. At 18 wanderlust really kicked in and she decided that she needed to go see the world, that Rio was just too small and she wanted to discover Europe.
Her modeling career gave her the wonderful opportunity to travel and earn money along the way. She lived in London, Milan, Paris, Barcelona (and even became good friends with Salvador Dali and his wife while living there, but that’s a whole different story) in Ibiza and several other cities along the way. She learned to speak Spanish and Italian and she perfected her French.
Those years of traveling and living on her own taught her many things about life, people, being independent and adapting to new cultures, but she was also a hopeless romantic searching for her true love, but he was nowhere to be found, at least not in Europe.
She moved back to Rio after a few years of travel as her sister was going to get married and was happy and settled back in Ipanema, going about her life as usual with her modeling and spending her weekends at the yacht club with friends.
Meanwhile of the other side of the world in Copenhagen, Denmark, was my dad. He grew up with 6 siblings and an endless urge to explore, whether it was the backyard or the woods or other countries.
At an age of 15 he forged his mother’s signature and joined a merchant marine ship going to Greenland and back over the summer. He didn’t tell his mother until the same morning he was leaving. The poor lady must have had so many grey hairs from him. He learned how to sail and work on a ship during that trip, he got his captain’s license and has sailed ever since, professionally and as a hobby.
In his twenties he and worked as a tour guide for Danes in Venice and in Lago di Garda in Italy and later on in the Gran canaries, where he also started a windsurfing school. So living and fulfilling his adventurous dreams as a young and carefree bachelor and a true wanderers soul.
At some point he went back to Denmark for a few month’s visit, but started to get itchy feet and wanted some wind in his sails, which was exactly what he got, by coincidence. His sister was working in a restaurant in Nyhavn, the famous little harbor in the center of Copenhagen, he had stopped in to say hello and became friends with an eccentric Swede, who owned a 2 mast schooner sailboat (big wooden sailboat) and was also lusting for adventure outside of the Nordic waters. They set up a tourist business chartering out the boat, in Sierra Leone!
I love hearing stories from those days, the boat was named “Smuggler” so you can already imagine the amount of attention they got from everyone, tourists and of course the police some times. But they were not smuggling anything, well except for the time my dad found a little chimpanzee at a market and decided to adopt it and incidentally smuggled it in to Brazil (also a story for another day). Because of political issues in the country they had to pack up and leave in the middle of the night with no set course or plan. A few weeks of open waters in the Atlantic Ocean and they found themselves in Rio de Janeiro, at the very same yacht club, which my mother would hang out at.
So this very tall (198 cm/6ft 5) blonde Viking was walking down at the pier and something caught his eye, a tall strawberry blonde, freckle faced, blue-eyed beauty. He walked up to her with the confidence of a total Adonis and introduced himself and invited her to come see the boat, which had been the talk of the yacht club that week. After chatting for a bit, his heart was set and he said ”You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Will you marry me?” He must have convinced her, cause they fell madly in love and went against all odds and they got married only a few months later on that very same schooner, before setting sails for another adventure together.
So it really is no wonder that I constantly have itchy feet and it seems that I can neither tame nor satisfy my endless wanderlust.