We’ve spent the week in Brazil’s two major centres, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and once again have spent a lot of time with people — mostly our Couchsurfing hosts, but also some ex-students and other randoms.
Monday 19/9 Our Couchsurfing place was in Santa Theresa, a lovely neighbourhood located quite a long way up a hill. As luck would have it, the top of this very hill is where Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue is located — we decided to walk up to it. The walk took about an hour and a half, along windy unpavemented streets, but the feeling of satisfaction at arriving at the ticket office was immense. The ticket price includes a minivan ride up the last stretch of hill, thank goodness, so we saved a bit of energy there. The statue is amazing and the views from the top of the hill even more so: we saw the Rio-Niteroi bridge that we’d driven across the day before with Washington, the lagoon near Pedro’s house, the Sugar Loaf, and of course Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
The walk down was easier but just as long; we took a detour to another awesome lookout then continued down the hill to the supermarket for supplies. This was mildly stressful. We spent the evening with Ale and his cousin Edu, chatting and eating.
Tuesday 20/9 After getting a bit of work done in the morning, we walked down the hill to catch the metro to the Botanical Gardens. We only had two hours there before they closed, but they were fantastic, really well laid-out and with a lot of variety: from Japanese gardens to waterfalls and rivers. We spent the evening with Edu, drinking home-made caipirinhas and eating burritos for dinner.
Wednesday 21/9 We had an early start, but not as early as Edu, who left the house at 4am to head to the consulate. We had a more luxurious 7am wake-up, which gave us time to pack up in a leisurely fashion and leave at 8:30. The walk to the bus station was steep and difficult to start with but soon levelled out, and we hopped on a bus to Sao Paulo at 11am. On arrival six hours later, we called our Couchsurfing host Norma then navigated the metro to… the wrong stop. Fail. The return journey involved a transfer at Sé, in the central city, which was so packed they have security staff managing the crowds. We did eventually find the right stop and had a 15-minute walk through light rain to Norma’s place. All in all, a standard kind of transit day.
Norma made us extremely welcome, preparing a light supper for us and leaving a basket of tasty treats on our bed. She had to go out to a band practice and we waited for her husband Marcondes to get home from work before going to bed.
Thursday 22/9 After a sleep-in we headed to the supermarket with Marcondes, who then cooked us a tasty lunch before leaving for work. We were thinking about going into the city but left it too late; it looked like the weather in the centre was shocking anyway. Instead, we walked around the neighbourhood where we’re staying (Penha), had a tasty hot chocolate, and got into a long conversation with the checkout guy at the fruit shop. In the evening we made caipirinhas with Norma then chatted with her and Marcondes after he came home. Spanish is the lingua franca at the moment… our Portuguese is almost non-existent and they don’t speak much English, but we’re all getting by in Spanish.
Friday 23/9 Craig and I prepared lunch in the morning, which we all ate together before Marcondes had to go to work. We also headed out not too long after, and caught the metro to Sé, where we looked at the cathedral, the municipal theatre, and other city-centre highlights before walking along Avenida Paulista.
Apparently it was the Day of the Icecream and an army of red-shirted young people were handing out iceblocks outside the art gallery, we scored two each on the way past and a Magnum to share on the way back. It started to rain so we had a coffee and had a look around some of the bookshops and art spaces along the avenue before wandering along to Vila Madalena, where we had planned to meet my ex-student Felipe and some couchsurfing acquaintances Thaís and Daniel. We ended up having a lovely evening chatting and drinking some very tasty caipirinhas (well, I did anyway, Craig stuck to beer).
Saturday 24/9 Unfortunately Craig woke up feeling sick and didn’t improve as the day went on, so he spent the day in bed catching up on some reading while I headed out shopping with Norma and Marcondes. We started by catching a bus then a metro to a shopping mall where we picked up a car they had hired, then drove around the city visiting their favourite food shops. Norma made sure to take a round-about way so I got a personalised tour of the city centre, as well as having a chance to see the Japanese shops in the Liberdade area.
Lunch was an enormous feijoada that we picked up on the way home, after which we rested for a couple of hours then got ready to go out. Norma’s a singer and was performing in two bands in a bar in Itaquera; it was a perfect excuse for a night out. I got to practice my Portuguese with the other band supporters, including Norma’s parents, who are really lovely and were incredibly patient with my stumbling attempts at communication. Everything wrapped up at about 5am and I dived into bed as the sun was rising.
Sunday 25/9 Getting up didn’t seem like a very good idea, but we managed it. Craig was feeling a little better so we recorded the podcast and got some other work done while Norma and Marcondes returned the car.
Now, it’s mid-afternoon on Sunday and we’re planning to head to the bus station via the museum of the Portuguese language in the Luz metro station; we’ve heard it’s really good. Our overnight bus to Foz do Iguaçu leaves at 8pm… obviously, we’re really looking forward to it.
Our plans for the next week are quite up in the air, we haven’t managed to find a couch in Foz or finalise an offer of accommodation for later in the week, so it looks like we’ll be