mardi 20 septembre 2011

Você pode dançar...?

Portuguese classes can be useful in many ways... When you have a teacher who is quite interested in music - and good Brasilian music! - and has had dance classes in different types of Brasilian dances, well you get some nice hints and explications... Here you have a selection of Brasilian dances, with histories and an origins making them very different one from another.

Forro - danced especially in the North East of Brazil:

Samba de Carnaval - of which probably Recife or Salvador is the most known (Rio is the touristic one):

Samba for two:

Capoeira - the reminiscence of the slaves' dances to be found in Bahia:

On top of Curitiba

The Torre Panorámico is the famous radio tower of Curitiba: it is as well a radio tower, providing Paraná with frequencies, as a symbol for Curitiba (because visible from every where!). It is an easy landmark in the mental mapping of the city - you just see it from almost everywhere...

This tower is thus also a touristic attraction where for instance the Linha Turismo stops (green tourist busses, hop-on-hop-off) - and the 3 reais are cheap for the great ascension it is! What a view... see for yourself!

The core of the tower is engraved with themes from the city, Rua XV, fishermen, the circus... There is even an elephant, and of course the araucaria tree - the symbol of the State of Paraná

As the evening was pulling its veil over the city, not knowing completely if it was darkness or rain clouds - the light just offered an amazing atmosphere to the townscape!

Me and Curitiba - I do love this city in all its beautiful, ugly and ackward ways

samedi 17 septembre 2011


Samba night at Academicos de Salgueiros - samba club...! Great time, great music, and caipirinhas! Not just the traditional one with lime and cachaça, but also with maracuja (passion fruit)!!!! Brazil is really a blessed country when it comes to fruits! And music - dancing on the beat of samba and carnaval gets all the bad demons and thoughts out of your body and just leaves you happy!

Not so carioca musicians but carioca music definately!

Manoela and Felipe - mastering the dancefloor!

Debora, Dina and Felipe

Academicos de Salgueiros

Música brasileira

Brasilian music is not only samba... MPB, Música Popular Brasileira is probably the most important, also because it seems to encompass quite a lot. Here the music academy is the MPB school - traditional instruments, traditional sounds and beats, then developping that into whatever direction, this is MPB. Then the bossanova, from the 50's with João Gilberto as main figure, is one of the most important Brasilian music style, which developped eventually into some kind of Brasilian jazz; then we have also some Brasilian reggae, the carioca funk, some kind of folk-country music (I think they call it caipira or sertanejo)...

Duas guitarras

Here you have some examples of my favourites: (Céu) (Los Hermanos) (Bebel Gilberto, the daughter of João Gilberto - the 'founder' of Bossanova) (Tom Jobim - I was just introduced to him as the best Brasilian composer ever... a bit bossanova, a bit samba, a bit jazzy... very nice!)


samedi 10 septembre 2011

Brasilian consumerism - the mall

The mall is an institution here!

Well, Curitiba has around 30 shopping malls - and people refer to them actively! "Have you been to the shopping Barigüi? No?! Oh, you should... So nice" Or "Have you heard of the Shopping Mueller? It is the first shopping mall of Curitiba - it was an old factory" And probably the worst "You should use the shopping malls to find your way in the city - the parcs and squares are all the same"... because the shopping malls aren't, I thought silently.

Well, and on the tourist map you find the hotels and the shopping malls. And people offer their guests to go visit the mall. And people go to the mall rather than in the shopping street, and certainly rather than in the parc. Even though they are ccrowded, and the squares as well, you sould just see the shopping mall!

Va passear...

Saterday - after some good sleep after the Paranaguese adventures, I decide to go investigate my neighbourhood and the city.

I live in Bigorrilho, on Padre Anchieta - one of the major transportation and density axis. North from Padre Anchieta, I have the Parque Barigüi, and South lays the district Batel. Those transportation and density axis are very important in Curitiba; they were developped by Jaime Lerner under one of his terms as mayor of the city. The concept is to combine land use incentives and transportation infrastructure to promote easy access and mobility through the city, reduce the traffic congestion and orientate the growth of the city (hereby avoiding a random sprawl). This means that along those major axis, residential functions are promoted in high rise building, so that as many people live close by the transportation that will bring them to work, leisure activities and so on. The principle is simple and effective. The congestion in Curitiba went down and the bus system is used by a huge part of the population.

Typical transportation axis

Nonetheless the car industry has lowered its prices, making the ownership of a car something quite common, even among students. Furthermore the car is a status emblem: if you have money, the first thing you buy is a car. New projects need thus to be developped to support the first intention of Jaime Lerner.

Those axis are as well very functional in the mental mapping of the city: go towards the high rise buildings and you know you will eventually reach an express bus line - the tubo. The aim of my walk was to cross from one axis to another and see how areas between those axis are constituated and how they look like.

Avenida Sete de Setembro - Batel

Approaching Avenida Sete de Setembro - high rise buildings, of which the furthest one actually has some kind of greek-temple-like top! Talking about styles...

I walk up toward Praça da Ucrânia. On Fridays a little food market gather people from the neighbourhood for a little evening snack. It should be very convivial - haven't had the chance to go yet though. From there on, I start my crossing of Batel, from Padre Anchieta to Avenida Sete de Setembro. On the road, attraction stops are Castelo do Batel, a little castle in the middle of the city, mostly used as restaurant and reception hall, and Praça do Japão. Then moving down the tubo line to Praça Eufrasio Correia, where I usually change busses when I go work but where I actually never stopped and walked.

The crossing - First the buildings let me present the buildings you find on those major axis. High rise is one fact, but the architectonic expression is another. It does look like any harmonising incentive exist here, but one thing is for sure: we like tiled facades! Architects from here consider it as 'nouveau riche' bad taste. - apparently a trend that should derive from São Paulo. Well, yes, it is a bit funny, but those tiles do give colours, and some kind of weft to the building, plus it catches beautifully the sunlight.

Examples of facades

Walking along the axis, you still come across houses, proper two/three storey building with a sloped roof and all, squeezed in between the high appartment buildings. And those become more regular as you walk away from the transportation axis. The amount of storeys drops, and not only houses are seen, but very different types and styles! It becomes more and more obvious that Curitiba is a city of contrasts.

Padre Anchieta - houses squeezed in between high rise appartment buildings

Another house-type on the way

I reach the square where is situated the military hospital - a beautiful building, fitting the lines and ideas of an European modernistic establishment from the 1920's. But its proper edification year is unknown to me. In general, I come across many square and green pocket parcs on my city walks. It is certainly a quality of Curitiba - which diserves really its nick name as green/ecological city, in that sense at least. These places are not only potentials for the reduction of floodings in urban districts, a better air quality and a support to the area livability in terms of environment; they support as well a kind of social sustainability. Even though Brazil is a segregated country, when it comes to social and economical 'classes', even though the neighbourhood characteristics (rich, fancy, poor e.a.) are visible, you meet on the squares young couples sitting on benches, homeless sleeping on the benches, children playing around, mums and dads walking with the baby buggy, people walking their dog, young skate-boarders and bikers, old people, beggars with kids, dogs, carts...

Military hospital

Castelo do Batel and other funny wonders - The castle is a pastiche. A funny little fantaisie in the urban landscape of Curitiba, but with so many other funny architecture styles, it is a little extra surprise on the way, an extra contrast that catches the eye. Clearly Curitibanos have variated views on what good architecture and beautiful homes and buildings are. But all those differences somehow in the end gives the tone to the heterogeneous townscape and harmonises it through its many variations. If this makes sense at all to you...?

Castelo do Batel

Other surprises on the road...

Praça do Japão - Again a wonderful piece of green and social gathering in the high and dense built area. This square is a tribute to the Japanese immigrants, as some immigrating groups got their parc, some get their square. In the mapping of the city, it supports as well this reality of Curitiba, being a Brasilian city with Brasilians and Portuguese speaking citizens, all coming from different origins. Something that makes me feel good about this city.

Praça do Japão and its surroundings

Praça Oswaldo Cruz and Praça Eufrasio Correia - More interesting praças. Oswaldo Cruz is less green and the built surroundings somehow feels heavier. The asphalt and concrete rules, with their grey nuances. But the square is nonetheless an activity hub with playing grounds for small and big. The nearby streets, although very close to the transportation axis of Avenida Sete de Setembro, offer the sight of colourful small houses - used and full of what we would call patina, but beautiful. Still the poverty of the district is sensed strongly. A few stops after, we are at Praça Eufrasio Correia - a green lung again. So all in all, the squares alternate as well in atmospheres, styles and materials. This gives me a very rich and diverse impression of Curitiba's urban spaces. I guess though this is my viewpoint, with the background and eye I have developped - I do hope though that the Curitibanese enjoy those spaces as much as I do. They are the important ones in this layout. It seems, from the discussions I have had so far with people, that they aren't aware of the qualities of their city - only the bad/sad aspects of it, its disfunctions and lack.

Shopping Estação and the Brasilian consumerism - Well, Eufrasio Correia is the stop as well for those who want to go shopping in the huge mall Estação. I usually would not go in such places but I need to see though what attracts so much the Brasilian people. If many are to be found in the parcs and squares of the city, as soon as the sun shines, it will never meet the density of people massed in those malls. Here you find the praça de alimentação, a huge indoor central square where junk food and express meals can be consumed. From there, indoor streets develop on the first and second floor along which all teh shops are disposed. People go in and out. Well, so do I - I cracked the two pair of jeans I brought to Brazil so I need to find a replacement anyway. Difficult given their sizes, and mine! When I want to pay, I am offered to do it three times. I did not get it at all in the first place - that custom would be for electrical or domestic appliances, smart technology or so. The thing is that everything is so expensive here. I often dwelled about it with my friends from here: considering the high amount of poverty, how can everyone access those items, how do poor people pay for they every day stuff? Well, it seems that this way of paying must be one answer. I started understanding why so many prices were not written as such, but as multiple of 3, 4 or 5. This allows every Brasilian to contribute to their society's consumerism, fitting capitalistic standards which might in the end actually sap their economy. I need to investigate more about this - more discussions, some newspapers and articles.

The alimentation square - the interesting point with shopping Estação is its past function as a railway station (which justifies its name as well!) It gives the places and interesting look and some identity maybe, compared to other shopping malls.

Açúcar com...

I have already mentioned the sugar issue in Brasilian food and habits.

Well, you are some kind of weirdo if you don't put açúcar in you coffee - yesterday evening, when waiting for the bus from Paranagua to Curitiba, I got myself a café com leite. The lady almost yaled at me for not putting sugar in my coffee! And today stopping in an Italian ice cream place during my city-promenade, I ordered an espresso. The coffee is excellent, sharp and creamy as its Italian brother but what else can you do than smile gently when comes two packs of sugar and one of sweetener with your tiny cup...?

vendredi 9 septembre 2011

Feriado na Paranaguá baia

The 7th September is a National holiday in Brazil. The 8th September is a state holiday in Paraná. Taking the Friday in the lot and counting the weekend, suddenly you have five days off! The plan was to visit Rio de Janeiro but since I was not aware of this holiday in advance, the last minut planning revealed to become a bit expensive. Some trainee colleagues from the office offered me to join them to Superagui. And in the dynamic, Louise was with us on the trip!

To situate you on the Paranese coast...

But isn't it a world wide law that it should rain on National holiday? Well, muito chuva indeed! When we arrived at Paranaguá, we were told that the boats to Superagui had to go by the river instead of taking the sea road, which made the trip long - plus, the infrastructures on the island being very basic, we weren't sure of what kind of adventures would be waiting for us. The plan is thus to drive to Pontal do Paraná stay over in a summer house on Praia do Leste until the weather shows a better side.

The summer house is in a condomium - a ghost city as Pedro, my colleague (many Pedros over here!) describes it. Huge houses, no unity, no harmony. Just constructions behind walls and fences and those for some, when others are satisfied with the biking security guard keeping an eye on the houses, which sidewalk is marked by a yellow line: they pay for the extra security watch. The condominum offers a safe frame for summer holidays - yes, Pedro tells me that people only use their houses during summer, meaning that this neighbourhood is mainly empty three quarters of the year. Still we see some people, elder couple or young teenagers hanging out around, on the beach, in an abandonned house or close to the neighbourhood's fast food. Some kids on bikes passes by from time to time. But it is a quite and sleeping artificial city that we meet when we arrive - well, one could argue that all cities are artificial, since built by man but this city is a true artifact, not bound to its context in any way, it could almost be called a virtual city, which receives only three months of reality per year.

Thus, the day goes with a walk along the beach in a rainy weather, Pedro showing us the few interesting houses that catch our architectural diformed minds, some cooking and quite some eating, playing games, going to the coffee shop (more eating involved - yes, Brasilian people eat a lot, all the time)... More people come over - it is a chill atmosphere.

Nothing's like a lit fire place on a rainy day

Next day Louise and I wake up to a quite house. We decide to go walking on the beach - Praia do Leste is a long beach laying just in front of the condominium - which is not closed with walls as any other condominium would be, because legislations do not allow to close of areas next to a beach. The waves are massive - it is the Atlantic ocean. Maybe it isn't the reason, but the thought of it does have some effect on me :-) The brake of the waves is grand, a paradise for surfers. A pieces of land, with grass and various vegetation, separates the beach and the houses; here lay what I would consider as fishers'boat, colourful and waiting for their owner, in need of a layer of paint. The landscape is splendid. The used look of it has something of a patina that speaks to the eye, while the reality of it isn't as attractive - besides those huge houses, it is a rather humble and poor locality. It is a fishers' harbour and land. It is my first time out of the city, and the impressions are multiple - I won't dig into those thoughts here though.

Praia do Leste - grey and rainy, but beautiful!

Sprinter-birds, or that is how I named them because I have no clue of the Brasilian fauna - definately need to get myself a book about their fauna and flora! - Those birds were running in and out with the flow of the waves. Although they could fly to escape the water they would sprint, like if running a marathon, in a marvellous dance with the water! Fascinating...

The weather is grey but warm and dry. Maybe today we go to Superagui. But the others are clearly oversleeping, so we decide to find a bus to the harbour of Pontal and get a boat to Ilha do Mel - an island closer to the coast and wee more touristic, known for its beautiful beaches and nature preservation. So off we are...

Pontal do Paraná - sailing out to Ilha do Mel

Ilha do Mel

Boat - trip and colours

Within two hours we have reached our destination and sit on the terrasse of a little restauration establishment of Nova Brasília (one of the main settlements of the island), eating seafood - camarão, feijão and rice, you don't get it more local and more Brasilian!

View from our lunch spot - great, eh?

The plan is to reach Encantadas, the other bigger settlement and take the boat back from there - this trek will take us through the local rain forest, Praia Grande, Morro do Meio, Praia do Miguel, Morro do Sabão, Mar de Fora and through Encantadas, down to the harbour. Louise and I start walking throught the forest, amazed at every fifth step by the beauty and rich nature, the light piercing through the thick canopy and illuminating some parts like a spotlight on a masterpiece, the twisted and inextricable branches, the many parasite plants growing on bigger trunks...

Forms and colours of the flora

We reach Praia Grande and its pousadas - rudimentary houses where you rent a room to stay. Going on we reach Morro do Meio, a group of rocks to climb in order to reach Praia do Miguel. The start is easy enough but close to reaching the other side, the way reveals some diffcult passages and the strength of the water makes us considering walking back, when we are passed by a local (well, we found out about that later - must have been a local to just do what he did) who jumps one rock, two rocks, down in the water and up again on the other side: easy peasy! Two tourists follow, thus so do we, with less agility than our local 'jumping-feet'. the four of us end at some point trippig down in the water. Louise and I manage though to only get wet up till the waiste... what an adventure! We reach out of the water, giggling at the look of ourselves: everything is wet! The path goes on, crossing Praia do Miguel and to Morro do Sabão: Louise stops "No, this means Soap Mountain in Portuguese! It means it is muddy and slippery, and after all the rain of yesterday, it will be very muddy and slippery!" Indeed, at the top we have now sand, salt and mud everywhere. The way was adventurous, but what a splendid landscape to discover. Louise knew Ilha do Mel from previous trips but just loves it and still gets surprised by its beauty - perfectly understandable! Along the way, not only the landscape takes your breath but details touch the eye and soul: enormous birds hovering and circling up in the sky; palm trees and other plants which I would not even know the name of climbing up the slopes of the mounts, covering every inch of them with an intense and dense green coat; flowers with special forms and virulent colours; the thought of doing all this in your havaianas... Incredible Brazil!

Surfer board planted in the sand on Praia Grande

Morro do Meio rock adventure

View of Morro do Meio from Morro do Sabão

(1) Havaianas hiking...? (2) Going down Morro do Sabão

Reaching Encantadas, it is a 'dude-surfer' atmosphere we meet - chill music, colourful pousadas and people. Small paths zigzagging down to the sea, children running, people hanging out or passing by, some campers, music is playing somewhere behind the trees. This place is apart in time and space - just wonderful. We head back to Pontal, right before dawn.

Encantadas - pousadas and harbour

Back at the house, it is a well diserved shower and dry clothes that awaits us! A little trip to the coffe shop where the others are sitting: cup cake and capuccino with cinnamon - hmmm! No need to mention that the version of cup cakes is here deliciously creamy, sweet and flavoured, true to the previously described Brasilian cuisine.

* * * * *

Next day, same story - the house is quiet. Louise and I escape again for a day-trip. Actually we would have tried another island but the boats only go to Ilha do Mel, so here we are again. This time we pick another lunch spot in a little restaurant with blue and yellow shutters and a very fisherman-like character. It seems that the cool and well-looking surfer guys come here as well - bonus ;-) Same menu.

The mysterious moutains in the distant mist - on our way to Brasília on the second day

Magic and peaceful light scenery when arriving in Nova Brasília

Lunch place on the second day

Peixe (fish), camarão (shrimps), feijão (beans) and rice - Guarana drink

Today we'll aim for Fortaleza, where the fort Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres guards the Eastern coastline. It is a 4km walk on the beach, where you can: let your mind follow the flow of the waves; aerate you brains with the wind; stimulate your imagination with the many sea-formed and polished wood pieces, as well as the formation of flora next to the beach; and just enjoy the company and discussion. Lovely! And this landscape... always surrounded by rocks and islands in the sea, and some misterious mountains in the background, just emerging from the fog.

Scenery on the way to Fortaleza

The fort is a typical Portuguese/Brasilian fort, first built to ensure the protection of Paranaguá bay against pirates and the French fleet in the 17th century. It has only been used a few times through history. We agree that it must have been the vacation of the Brasilian army, back then - with few things to do here, they must have been bathing all day long. The view from the fort and from the mirador is again fantastic: the sea, the bay and the preservation area.

Emblem at Fortaleza - Portuguese caravel ships, the sun and the sea, the moutainous island

Fortaleza fort - wall and main building

Fortaleza fort - reminiscence of Portuguese architecture

View point at the Mirador - a defense maze!

The fort seen from above

At the viewpoint with Louise

When we reach back to Brasília, it starts raining - perfect timing. We reach the house where more people have joined our friends and hosts. We leave for Curitiba. This is it for this time: we have walked every path on Ilha do Mel, and must come back to experience the wonders of Superagui!