A journey in Brazil – part 8

Finally we headed to Rio. As it was in the afternoon, we stayed on the outskirts of town. On a lovely quiet Motel. It was different than all the others we’ve been. I guess they had a part of it for families, so a kind of Hotel. I remember in the morning we went down to eat breakfast. It was a good place.
Rio de Janeiro, was different than we thought. As we were there in late winter / early spring there weren’t any naked women on the beach or masses of tourists. No, it was pleasant to be there. Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, the city was initially the seat of the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, a domain of the Portuguese Empire. Later, in 1763, it became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state of the Portuguese Empire. In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Court transferred itself from Portugal to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the chosen seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal, who subsequently, in 1815, under the leadership of her son, the Prince Regent, and future King João VI of Portugal, raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarves. Rio stayed the capital of the pluricontinental Lusitanian monarchy until 1822, when the War of Brazilian Independence began. This is one of the few instances in history that the capital of a colonising country officially shifted to a city in one of its colonies. Rio de Janeiro subsequently served as the capital of the independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, until 1889, and then the capital of a republican Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to Brasília.
Europeans first encountered Guanabara Bay on 1 January 1502 (hence Rio de Janeiro, “January River”), by a Portuguese expedition. Allegedly the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci participated as observer at the invitation of King Manuel I in the same expedition.
In 1555, one of the islands of Guanabara Bay, now called Villegagnon Island, was occupied by 500 French colonists under the French admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon. Consequently, Villegagnon built Fort Coligny on the island when attempting to establish the France Antarctique colony.

The city of Rio de Janeiro proper was founded by the Portuguese on 1 March 1565 and was named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honour of St. Sebastian, the saint who was the namesake and patron of the Portuguese then-monarch Sebastião. Rio de Janeiro was the name of Guanabara Bay. Until early in the 18th century, the city was threatened or invaded by several mostly French pirates and buccaneers, such as Jean-François Duclerc and René Duguay-Trouin.

In the late 17th century, still during the Sugar Era, the Bandeirantes discovered gold and diamonds in the neighbouring captaincy of Minas Gerais, thus Rio de Janeiro became a much more practical port for exporting wealth (gold, precious stones, besides the sugar) than Salvador, Bahia, much farther northeast. On 27 January 1763, the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. The city remained primarily a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese royal family and most of the associated Lisbon nobles, fleeing from Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal, moved to Rio de Janeiro.
The kingdom’s capital was transferred to the city, which, thus, became the only European capital outside of Europe. As there was no physical space or urban structure to accommodate hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly, many inhabitants were simply evicted from their homes.

Unfortunately it was expensive to go up the Cristo Rei, so we contented ourselves to see the town from the highest part we could go.
The favelas could be seen as a hidden part of town.
After these two months spent in Brazil, we decided to cross the border to Argentina by bus. But that’s another story.

A journey in Brazil – part 7

We headed to Belo Horizonte in the county of Minas Gerais which means “general mines” which is a poor county. There were mines once. Don’t remember much of this town except that we’ve slept two nights in the same hotel which had a night club just in front which had loud music playing all night. The region was first settled in the early 18th century, but the city as it is known today was planned and constructed in the 1890s, to replace Ouro Preto as the capital of Minas Gerais. The city features a mixture of contemporary and classical buildings, and is home to several modern Brazilian architectural icons, most notably the Pampulha Complex. In planning the city, Aarão Reis and Francisco Bicalho sought inspiration in the urban planning of Washington, D.C.
The city is built on several hills and is completely surrounded by mountains. There are several large parks in the immediate surroundings of Belo Horizonte.
The metropolis was once a small village, founded by João Leite da Silva Ortiz, a bandeirante explorer from São Paulo. The explorer settled in the region in 1701, leaving a gold rush expedition. He then established a farm called “Curral d’el Rey”which means “King’s Corral”. The farm’s wealth and success encouraged people from surrounding places to move into the region, and Curral del Rey became a village surrounded by farms.
Another important factor contributing to the growth of the village was the migrants from the São Francisco River region, who had to pass through Curral d’el Rey to reach southern parts of Brazil. Travelers usually visited a small wooden chapel, where they prayed for a safe trip. Due to this fact, the chapel was named Capela da Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, which means “Chapel of Our Lady of the Good Journey.” After the construction of Belo Horizonte, the old baroque chapel was replaced by a neo-gothic church that became the city’s cathedral.

Then came the last part of our journey, we headed toward Rio but stopped in Petropolis.
Wow! this town was so different from all the others. It was a wealthy gorgeous town full of trees and plants. The town’s name (“city of Peter”) honors Pedro II, the last Emperor of Brazil, who is entombed there at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. It is also known as The Imperial City, located 68 kilometres (42 mi) northeast of Rio de Janeiro. The city was the summer residence of the Brazilian Emperors and aristocrats in the 19th century, and was the official capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro during the First Brazilian Republic, between 1894 and 1902.

Until the 18th century, the region was inhabited by the crowned indians, which earned it the Portuguese name of “Sertão dos Índios Coroados”. It was only with the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais and the consequent opening of the new way of the mines that passed through Petrópolis in that century that the region began to be occupied by non-indians.
Not far from there, there was another town called Teresopolis. This one was completely the opposite. This town was poor but surrounded by natural beauties. Before the arrival of the Portuguese to the area where Teresópolis lies today, in the 16th century, it was inhabited by Indians. In the following centuries, Portuguese started buying land there. The region was also occupied by a quilombo, formed by runaway slaves coming from sugar cane plantations near Rio de Janeiro.
In 1821, an English citizen George March (born and raised in Portugal) established a farm there, which later became the most important settlement along the way between the court, in Rio de Janeiro, and the territory of Minas Gerais, which led to the great improvement of agriculture and cattle raising.
The Brazilian imperial family was much impressed by the natural beauty and the climate of the region, which developed slowly so that in 1855 the settlement became a village that was named Freguesia de Santo Antonio de Paquequer.
The further development of the village was due to the traders that came from Minas Gerais in the way to Rio de Janeiro, and used the region as a resting stop. Finally, on July 6, 1891, the village became a municipality that was named Teresópolis (“city of Teresa”), after Empress Teresa Cristina, wife of Emperor Pedro II.

In this pic, we were running out of gas. Like fools we took our chance to get to the next town.

A journey in Brazil – part 6

We arrived there one or two days later in the afternoon. Brazilia is the capital. It is a new town very widely spread. Brasília was planned and developed by Lúcio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer and Joaquim Cardozo in 1956 to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro to a more central location. The landscape architect was Roberto Burle Marx. The city’s design divides it into numbered blocks as well as sectors for specified activities, such as the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector and the Embassy Sector. Brasília was chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its modernist architecture and uniquely artistic urban planning. It has also been named “City of Design” by UNESCO in October 2017 and has been part of the Creative Cities Network since then.
We left at sun down. And drove at night again. In this country, trucks didn’t have speed limits like here, they can drive at whatever speed they want, hence it wasn’t rare to see overturned trucks on the roadside. That night, as we were driving, there was this truck following us who was driving at the same speed we were driving! It was so scary. We have seen accidents occasionally and once a deadly one.
Finally some hundred kilomètres south east from Brazilia we arrived at a small hotel with a lovely room in a small town.
There were two kinds of lodging that we used.
The hotels which were clean and comfortable, but they costed about 40-60 bucks.
And the motels which were cheap, and often more luxurious than the hotels. The only issue is that the motels in Brazil aren’t the family ones we find in Us. No “they’re for other purposes”. That’s why they’re clean, modern and have private parking spaces. But I hated those places, not only because i knew what they were for, but also because often we could hear “the business” the neighbours were doing. That was disgusting and hateful. I wasn’t to chose where we spent the night. If I was asked i would have prefered to pay 10-20 more and sleep in a hotel!
In most of them, you can rent the room for the night. But in some you can’t, you must stay only a few hours.

Some pics:

A journey in Brazil – part 3

What can I say about food? I must say that this country has good cuisine. They eat a lot and the choice is available for everyone. We used to take what they called “Marmitex” it is their version of “all you can eat” buffet in Us. Most of the time the restaurant is a self service, you can fill an aluminum plate with whatever you want ; Picanha (grilled meat), bean rice, potatoes and Magnoca. It is very filling!
Or you can eat fried chicken, there are lots of chicken shops, or shops selling a kind of pie called “empanadas” Filled with meat or veg.
Their cakes are very sweet like in America, you can find coffee pots in any waiting area but BEWARE! It is tooooooo sugary. It should have been called a cup of sugar tasting coffee. Taste a little first before adding more sweetners.
Something else I have to mention, I don’t know if they’ve changed their ways or not, but when we were there they had an issue with their disposable plastic cups. When they put a coffee or water machine for the customers, they used to put plastic cups for everyone’s use. But after using them, they didn’t throw them as we do here. They putted them back for the next person! So everyone used the same cups that were used by others! That’s disgusting! In some places even the real cups weren’t hygienically clean either. Their smell could be smelled from the table where they were.

Then we went west toward Paraguay. There was this town called Bella Union in Uruguay Being situated on a piece of land protruding between Argentina and Brazil. A touristic town because its river touches all of them.

We continued toward Foz of Iguacu. A renowned destination for its multiple water falls. It was the most beautiful thing we saw in Brazil. So much water, so much moist! And so much green!

Haha! These cuties were there too!

Not far from there there was Cidade del est, Paraguay known for its shops and malls and its reputation that there were large quantities of marijuana, cocaine, and various pharmaceuticals easy to buy! . The Friendship Bridge connects the town to Brazil and offers city views. We went there for an hour because we’ve heard that there was a market of counterfeit products such as Gucci or Ray Bans but we were disappointed to see that it had nothing to do with the Asian Markets that sold the same thing. Here they were more expensive and with less choice.
We headed on to Campo Grande. This town was part of the county of Matto Grosso which means “big bushes”, a semi desertic part of the country that looks like some parts of Mexico. The region where the city is located was in the past a waypoint for travellers who wanted to go from São Paulo or Minas Gerais to northern Mato Grosso by land. In the early 1900s a railway was completed connecting Campo Grande to Corumbá, on the Bolivian border, and to Bauru, São Paulo. Also in the beginning of the 20th century, the Western Brazilian Army Headquarters was established in Campo Grande, making it an important military center. Today, the city has its own culture, which is a mixture of several ethnic groups, most notably immigrants from the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, Middle Easterners, Armenians, Portuguese people, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and Paraguayans, finally mixed with Asian and White Brazilians from the Brazilian Southern and Southeast regions, its native Amerindian peoples and Afro-Brazilians.
We arrived there at night. As usual we didn’t have any hotel reservation, it was a big town and not many hotels showed up. Finally after a long while we found one not too expensive. It sooooo relieving to find a room and a bed after a long day.
Sometime the next day we hit the road again toward Brazilia.

Some pics:

A journey in Brazil – part 2

When we left Sao Paulo we headed south to Curitiba and Florianopolis. I don’t remember much about Curitiba except that it was said to be the cleanest town in the country. At the end of the 17th century, Curitiba’s agriculture was only for subsistence and its main economic activities were mineral extraction. Waves of European immigrants arrived after 1850, mainly Poles, Italians, Germans and Ukrainians.
But Florianopolis was a very beautiful town by the sea. Seemed to be a European town rather than a Brezilian one. Carijós Indians, a Tupi people, were the first inhabitants of Florianópolis area. The traces of its presence are verified through archaeological sites and sambaquis dating up to 4000 years ago. The Indians called the place Meiembipe or “mountain along the channel”.
Around 1514 the Portuguese landed and gave the area the name Ilha dos Patos, but in 1526 it was renamed Ilha de Santa Catarina (Saint Catherine Island).
The official settlement of the island began in 1673 with the arrival of bandeirante Francisco Dias Velho’s agricultural company and it continued in 1678 with the construction of a chapel consecrated to Nossa Senhora do Desterro. At this time a villa began to take form, slowly becoming a colonial settlement.
To guarantee its domain the Portuguese Crown elevated Santa Catarina Island to the category of village in 1714 with the name of Nossa Senhora do Desterro and already in 1726 they promoted it again, now to the category of town.
From this date on Vila do Desterro and mainly the port began to have a strategic function because it was situated halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, possibly two of the largest seaside cities of South America at that time. For this reason in 1739 the Capitania da Ilha de Santa Catarina was created and Desterro became its capital. Soon the most expressive seaside defensive ring of Southern Brazil started to be built.
With the coming of the Captaincy the population began to grow, but the great population growth happened between 1747 and 1756 with the arrival of about 6,000 settlers coming from the Archipelago of Azores and from Madeira Island. The development of the agriculture, the cotton and linen industry and the commerce followed the Azorean occupation. In 1823, during the monarchy which ended in 1889, Desterro became the Capital of Santa Catarina Province opening a period of prosperity with many urban works and also intense political organization.

We continued to Porto Alegre, the last big town before Uruguay.
The official date of the foundation of the city of Porto Alegre is 26 March 1772 by Manuel Sepúlveda. The village started in 1752, when 60 Azorean couples were brought over by the Treaty of Madrid in order to set up Missions at the Northeast Region of Rio Grande do Sul that was handed over to the Portuguese Crown in exchange for the Sacramento Colony located on the margin of the Plata River.
On 24 July 1773, Porto Alegre became the capital city of the province, when the administration of Manuel Sepúlveda officially started. In 1824, immigrants from all over the world started arriving, especially German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Jewish, and Lebanese. This mosaic of diversity in appearance, ethnic origin, religions and languages is what makes Porto Alegre, nowadays with nearly 1.5 million inhabitants, a cosmopolitan and multicultural city. The city is an example of diversity and plurality.

Some pics along the way :

A journey in Brazil – part 1

I’ve been there about 4 or 5 years ago. Way before the current difficult situation in which the Brazil is.
Unfortunately I can’t say that it was the best trimestre of my life. I haven’t kept many good memories but I won’t be speaking about them here. I’ll just speak about what we’ve seen and experienced .


We landed in Recife, a big town in the north. It is the fourth-largest urban agglomeration in Brazil with 4,031,485 inhabitants. Recife was founded in 1537, during the early Portuguese colonization of Brazil, as the main harbor of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, known for its large scale production of sugar cane. It is a major port on the Atlantic. Its name is an allusion to the stone reefs that are present by the city’s shores. The many rivers, small islands and over 50 bridges found in Recife city centre characterise its geography and led to the city being called the “Brazilian Venice”.

We stayed at a nice hotel not far from fast food restaurants. I remember as mom and I went out in the evening to buy supper. For me it was a big change, we just came from the Uk and finding ourselves in such a different part of the world where some roads were with holes, sandy and not as attractive as in Europe, made the first impact on my mind. But…. We just landed, “i would get used to it” I said to myself.
So mom and I went to a fast food that looked more like Taco Bell rather than McDonald’s. They made hamburgers, grilled meats, burritos…. We bought whatever they had and got back to the hotel.
In the morning, we drove through Recife, it had rained during the night. There were very nice apartments by the sea, very luxurious! Some wealthy people were jogging on the beach. It was as in any town in US or Europe. But as we left the sea shore things began to change in some neighbourhoods. It was as in any developing country. As we drove on the outskirts of town, we found ourselves in a small village . Where the rain’s effect was very visible! The roads were flooded. It was funny to drive on flooded roads though.

We didn’t need a lot time to notice that the Brazilians had a different culture. For example women wore mostly shorts. Very rarely you can see skirts or pants, just shorts. Weird!
For example they were always happy and they cared a lot about their smiles as everyone had very white teeth. Dentists were everywhere. And there was no reason for them not to fix anything that needed to be fixed. So their teeth were perfect.
Women cared a lot of their nails too. Nail shops were busy all the time.
We stayed there a few days and then we flew south to Sao Paulo the biggest city of Brazil.
It is considerated as an alpha global city in the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere, besides being the largest Portuguese-speaking city in the world. The city is the capital of the surrounding state of São Paulo, the most populous and wealthiest state in Brazil. The city’s metropolitan area, the Greater São Paulo, ranks as the most populous in Brazil and the 12th most populous on Earth. It is a megalopolis with more than 30 million inhabitants, one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world.
The Portuguese village of São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga was marked by the founding of the Colégio de São Paulo de Piratininga on January 25, 1554. The Jesuit college of twelve priests included Manuel da Nóbrega and Spanish priest José de Anchieta. They built a mission on top of a steep hill between the Anhangabaú and Tamanduateí rivers. For the next two centuries, São Paulo developed as a poor and isolated village that survived largely through the cultivation of subsistence crops by the labor of natives. For a long time, São Paulo was the only village in Brazil’s interior, as travel was too difficult for many to reach the area.
On March 22, 1681, the Marquis de Cascais, moved the capital to the village of St. Paul, designating it the “Head of the captaincy”. The new capital was established on April 23, 1683, with public celebrations.
The airport is way out of town. We rented a car (which had a defective Air conditioning) a drove to the city center. There was too much traffic on the highway that linked the airport to the city. And it was really the biggest city we’ve been at the time! It had nothing to do with Recife. It looked like Madrid or Buenos Aires. A cosmopolitan city with its good and bad. We had a reservation at a small hotel. As we always reserve in advance when we get to a location by plain or bus.
Two days later we changed to an appart hotel which was more convenient for us. We had a big room, a kitchen, the parking space and the wifi. The only issue for me was that I slept in the kitchen (which was the living room too) and at night small insects came in the dark. I hated to sleep there but there wasn’t any other place.
We stayed there almost a week. There was good food, good climate as it was early spring. Yet, there is a memorable event that happened. Before flying to Brazil we were aware that there were a lot of criminality. We knew that thieves and crooks were easily found. But mom found herself in the most unconceivable situation because she didn’t believe that “that” could happen to her. Never think that something can happen only to others.
She almost got kidnapped! To cut a long story short, two people played their comedy that seemed so real that she almost followed them. If she did, they would probably have asked for a ransom to free her or who knows what. Thankfully mom noticed that something sounded wrong with them and left in a hurry.
If you ever go to Brazil, be-very-careful, don’t trust easily.

The subway was very nice and quick but it is not rare to find oneself squeezed by the number of people taking it.