A Travellerspoint blog

Bahia - Morro de São Paolo and 7 Days of Paradise

92 °F

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Our last week is intended as a time to unwind before returning to California - no schedules, no plans, no commitments. Yes, we made the right choice of destinations. Morro de São Paolo is a small island about two hours by fast boat from Salvador. Here there are no roads, only sand.

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Arriving we are met by the "taxis" who transport our luggage from the boat with wheelbarrows along the beach. Our taxi driver, Aloisio, is amazing.

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We have elected to stay at a resort of small cabañas in a grove of coconut trees where we are the only guest for much of the week, sharing our space with blue morpho butterflies, blue crabs, and an occasional monkey.

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This is very close to paradise and we take full advantage of it.

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At night, numerous bars are set up on the beach to mix drinks from fruits you have never even heard of. I´d better just leave it at that and toast to an amazing trip.............

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Posted by RobandAmy 13:00 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Bahia - Visiting Salvador

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Bahia, a region along the Atlantic coast, in the northeast of Brazil, is known for its laid back lifestyle and friendly people -- a natural place for us to unwind in the last two weeks of our trip. We begin our visit in the city of Salvador, a port on the
Bahia de Todos os Santos, the largest bay on Brazil´s coast. A very old city that was at the hub of the Portuguese sugar cane trade, it now has a population of 3 million and continues to be an important port as Brazil develops its sugar cane-based ethanol industry.

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We have chosen to stay in the district of Pelourinho, the heart of the old city that lay derelict for many years before its recent renaissance (that is only partially fulfilled). Accessible only to pedestrians, it has become a lively center of entertainment, arts and tourism. During the centuries of sugar cane production, the Portuguese enslaved approximately 4.5 million African people and transported them to Brazil. At the center of this, and with a population that is 80% Afro-Brazilian, Bahia has developed a culture based on African influences and traditions.

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African traditions and religion meld with Brazilian catholicism, music and food have their roots in African traditions that have been preserved in spite of the peoples´ captivity. Capoeira, an Angolan martial arts practice is a popular form of sport/recreation that we see almost everywhere we go. The food here is delicious (and spicy, unlike everywhere else we have been). The image below was taken while Rob and Amy were buying Bahian delicacies to share at their respective offices.

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The streets at night are filled with people out to enjoy neighbors and friends and to meet new. Music - rock, reggae, drum corps (below) of all ages and descriptions, church events - seem to occur at every corner. Going out at night is very entertaining and we have met the friendliest people.

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To digress, Bahia is also blessed with beautiful beaches and rainforest. On a break from the energy of the city, we visited a beach to the north where they have established a project to help preserve the sea turtles that nest on Brazilian beaches. Just thought you might like to see some baby turtles - nine million were born last year.

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Posted by RobandAmy 15:20 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Brasilia

semi-overcast 75 °F

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I can remember learning about Brasilia as a child in the 1960´s, a new capital city being created from scratch in the interior of Brazil. In two years, the city will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary and, like the colonial cities we have visited, has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. The concept of Brasilia was originated in the 1700´s as a way to make the capital safer from invasion and to facilitate development of the resource-rich interior. A competition was held in 1957 for the design of the urban plan and in 1960, the capital was moved here from Rio de Janeiro. This city was created on a monumental scale that has been rigorously faithful to designer Lucio Costa´s original concept and continues to be developed according to that plan.

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The east-west axis of the city contains the governmental and commercial functions with the Three Powers Plaza terminating it on the east. Here, the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government form a triangular border of this monumental and somewhat sterile square. What makes this an amazing place, though, is the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer. The buildings all clearly belong to the time when they were built and the monuments all fit in with the design. The beautiful arches of the Niemeyer buildings have become the iconic image of Brasilia.

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Just west of the government ministeries is Niemeyer´s Cathedral of Brasilia, clearly more spiritual in its inspiration than the government buildings immediately adjacent. Niemeyer continues the use of curving elements that, here, have been formed into ribs in contrast to the arches found elsewhere.

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The Brazilian climate makes it possible to incorporate landscape and integrate it into the architecture in very stunning ways. Niemeyer and Burle Marx collaborated on the Ministery of Justice shown below.

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The residential axis of the city, perpendicular to the governmental/commercial, is a modernist "garden city" executed on an enormous scale. Built up of superblocks that each house about 2000 people in 6 story buildings, the population of the residential axis has grown to about 300,000 people. The buildings are built on "pilotis" or columns, that preserve a continuous public open space at the ground level. Scattered through the blocks are neighborhood retail, schools, churches, libraries, that serve groups of 4 or more superblocks. The buildings and spaces are beautiful and well used.

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Finally, a building not designed by Niemeyer, the Dom Bosco Sanctuary. A stunning space with walls of blue glass that makes the roof appear to float above the ground.

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Posted by RobandAmy 15:29 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Ouro Prêto and the Colonial Towns of Minas Gerais

semi-overcast 75 °F

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Minas Gerais is a hilly region about 250 miles inland from Rio de Janeiro. The Portuguese discovered gold here in the 1700´s and several towns were built around the mines, demonstrating their wealth by constructing ornate churches in the Baroque style.

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Ouro Prêto is the largest of these towns and has been very well preserved. Mining is still a major industry here, primarily for iron, but also for a variety of precious stones that can be found in this region. There is a large university and it is obviously a popular tourist destination.

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The streets of the town are narrow, windy, sometimes steep, and always paved with rough stones. Buildings have been lovingly maintained in their original styles and there is a healthy mixture of pedestrians, cars and dogs everywhere.

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Visiting different parts of the town can be a strenuous task, but the views and the wonderfully friendly people of the town are our reward. Evidence of the Baroque is found in great details everywhere, such as in the fountain below.

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Our stay here takes us to other colonial towns of Mariana, Tiradentes and Congonhas which have equally amazing buildings, but lack the state of preservation we have found in Ouro Prêto.

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We haven´t forgotten our friend, Oscar Niemeyer, though! At the end of our stay, we spend a day in Belo Horizonte, where we visit one of his first churches, the Igreja do São Francisco de Assis. It is a gem of a building with fantastic murals by Portinari both inside and out.

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We are able to spend some time with recent Field Paoli intern Mayka Napoli and her boyfriend Almir in Belo Horizonte before continuing on to Brasilia.

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Posted by RobandAmy 10:41 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Rio de Janeiro - Beyond the Beach

all seasons in one day

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Every day can´t be a beach day so our travels include taking in the traditional sights of the city as well as visiting some notable buildings and gardens. We start with visits to the mountaintops that offer some stunning views of the city when the weather cooperates.

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The weather is not kind to us at Corcovado where Rio´s iconic Cristo Redentor overlooks the city. The 98-foot-tall messiah is reached by a railroad that climbs 2300 feet through the rainforest of Tijunga National Park. This park preserves the hills of the city while also providing a place where the poor of the city continue to illegally build the "favelas" that have been a major challenge for the city in recent years.

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We spend an incredible morning in the Botanical Gardens that were established here by the king of Portugal two centuries ago. There is a wonderful assortment of tropical plants and the central allee of imperial palms is unforgettable.

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Of course we also take in the architectural scene here. Much of the very old neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro have been demolished over the years, but fragments of the colonial city still remain. Most plazas and buildings have been preserved as monuments to the past rather than as an integral part of the city´s life.

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Rio and most of Brazil, though, have an affection for their "Architect Laureate," Oscar Niemeyer. Still practicing at the age of 100 (and recently remarried), his work has created a very unique spirit for Brazilian architecture. We visit his Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi as preparation to see much more of his art in the coming days.

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Posted by RobandAmy 16:13 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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