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Published: June 16th 2012
Rio - Lapa
On a sunny sunday morning
I wake up at 10am on Sunday morning feeling significantly better about life. I´m in Rio goddamn it! The sky is blue and the houses around Lapa are beautiful, it reminds me of Havana, pretty pastel shaded crumbling colonial facades.
Its hard to find a bar or traditional cafe here that does a morning breakfast, coffee is served in little plastic cups from the juice bars on every corner along with empanadas (meat filled pastries), every type of freshly pressed fruit juice you could imagine and a popular health alternative - Acai (pronounced a-sa-hi.) Acai is the wonder berry that hit Europe recently. Its dark red and turned into a syrupy gloop served in a bowl with your choice of granola, bananaas and nuts on top.
When I get back I meet Elmira and Juan from Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo has a population of 18m people and is the main money making city in Brazil.
"Oh..." I say ...
"I have a friend in Sao Paulo and a spare month in Argentina, would it be worth flying back to visit Sao Paulo when i´m there?"
"No!" they say unanimously.
"Don´t bother, Its a financial district
and nothing else!"
Aline offers to take us on a walking tour and then for lunch in Santa Teresa which is next to Lapa. Santa Teresa is the arty bohemian district of Rio. Its situated at the top of a very windy hill and along the way we stop to admire and then climb Selaron´s Stairway.
Selaron is a mad artist who decided one day to cover all of the stone steps of this particular bit of hillside with ceramic tiles. its a fantatic bright red zigzaggy design featuring tiles from all over the world. The best bit is as we get midway up, we see his tiles and paintbrushes outside, the artist still lives and works here. We walk into his studio and true to form he greets us with bristling beard and gleaming eyes, paintbrush in hand.
"You are from London!" he says, then promptly shows me lots of photos of him with celebrities such as Pharrel, Snoop Dogg and Ed Norton at the staircase.
"London!" he shouts triumphantly...oh well only a continent out...!
When we´ve climbed to the top we go up a viewing tower to admire Rio. The bright sunshine, crisp
air and sky set off the lovely lush greens of the Sugar Loaf mountain to our left, Corvocado to our right and a vista of scrapers of downtown Rio to our centre. We also get a great bird´s eye view of the crazy, futuristic pyramid design of Rio´s Cathedral which looks like a spaceship landed straight out of Dune or Mad Max and is situated in Aline´s neighbourhood.
Down below in the park a bunch of actors are rehearsing a play in the amphitheatre. We wander the cobblestoned streets and go for lunch in a little cafe. Aline is a vegetarian which i imagine must be a challenge in South America.
I have Feijoada - which is the traditional dish of Brazil. A salty black bean stew with porky bits in, chorizo, and other pig ends. The chef comes out to tell us he´s about to go to cooking camp in the Lebanon and to show off a particularly big garlic clove he´s proud of. He mimes throwing it at an invisible vampire to kill it. Then he goes in again and comes back out with a lettuce.
"What´s he saying?" i ask Aline.
just proud of it" she smiles ..."They are simple folk up here..."
In the afternoon i decide to go to Ipanema. The weather has moved from brilliant sunshine to a humid haze. But hey - its amazing how things like the weather or a bad night´s sleep don´t seem to matter any more now that I have a whole year to get a tan and some rest...! I watch the sunset over the twin hills that define the beach and paddle along the shoreline. This is my life now... It feels pretty good. A huge yellow cloudy moon floats up in the sky.
The next day I check out leaving Aline drawing a design of an eye with a skull at the centre. I donate her my copy of The Snow Child. I haven´t had time to read it and it seems inappropriate to be reading something chilly in 80 degrees heat. I´ve already decided to try and educate my self on the authors and poets of the cities that I visit on my travels.
In the morning i decide to venture into the Cathedral. Its a magnificent design with dark and sooty geometric walls with lateral
and some very pasty legs
entrances that circle its parameters. Inside gothic stainglassed windows slit through it from top to bottom culminating in a cross at its apex.
In the afternoon i visit Copacapana beach and true to form the weather darkens from brilliant sunshine to a damp and clinging mist. I navigate my way on local bus again. This time i have my rucksack with me...or "The Bastard" as i have already decided to (non) affectionately call it. I'm already struggling - first it gets stuck in the turnstile then it just sits blocking the entire passageway. A walnut brown old granny who must be 70 if she is a day gets out of her seat - takes one look at me - and casually heaves The Bastard onto her vacated seat and gestures me to sit down. They are made of sterner stuff these Cariocas.
She sits down near me and looks me up and down appraisingly. Then - i notice - every so often after looking in my direction she does the sign of the cross. Well I mean I know my dress sense has sometimes been known to be a little on the skimpy side and today i am
Views over the city
Views from the top of Santa Teresa
wearing my shortest shorts but really....i don't look like that much of a fallen woman do I? Its only later that i realise she is doing it as we pass every place of worship on route...because its Easter Sunday!
After the beach - left pretty much deserted by the Cariocas - i make my way to the hotel where i´ll be staying tonight to meet the tour group who i will travel from Brazil to Argentina with.
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