It was an easy two hour bus ride from Angra dos Reis to Rio. As soon as we arrived at the main bus station, we immediately got a taxi to our B&B in Santa Teresa, a neighborhood of Rio that once was home to the elite. But the well heeled left decades ago as the neighborhood deteriorated. Only now is the area begining to gentrify, along with the adjacent Bohemian district of Lapa, that's home to the music of the bosa nova and the samba.
When we asked the cab driver to take us to Santa Teresa, his eyes rolled a bit and with his hand, he made a motion of a firing gun. Not what you want to see. Apparently, there had been a major gun battle between a violent street gang and the police a few days ago. It was a bit unsettling.
It turned out that our B&B was in the better part of Santa Teresa. Gertrude's B&B is owned and run by Adreana, a gregarious hostess of Italian descent, who speaks Portuguese, English and German and knows her neighborhood quite well. Her house, built in the 1930's, is large and beautiful. With Santa Teresa being on a hill, the house had spectacular views of Rio, particularly the Sugar Loaf.
One of the better known sights in Santa Teresa is the Escadaria Salderon, a set of stairs climbing 250 meters that artist Jorge Salderon tiled over throughout the years from spare tiles and tiles donated to him by travelers. He began the project around his house, but was soon expanding upwards and downwards of the stairs. It is a fascinating work of art. Salderon died in 2013.
On one of the evenings at Adreana's, the guests all pitched in to make a scrumptious pasta dish. It was a fun evening with lots of good conversation.
We spent the better part of the next day finding our way to and touring the Corcovado (Christ, the Redeemer). It's a massive statue that can be seen from many areas in Rio. The route to the statue is on an old fashioned train that winds its way through dense rain forest. It's a beautiful ride. Needless to say, the views from the Corcovado are breathtaking.
Our remaining time in Santa Teresa was spent visiting the historic center of Rio, the Rio Art Museum (MAR), the cathedral of São Sebastião (a Mayan architecturally styled building), the aquaduct and the Lapa neighborhood. We also paid our respects one last time to the historic Colombo confectionary for a pastry and an espresso.
We hated leave, but for our last three days in Rio we wanted to be in the Copacabana area. There, our main activities consisted of a tour of two favelas (the poor hillside dwellings that Rio is so well known for) and a trip up to Pào de Açucar (better known as Sugar Loaf).
Favelas are often found on hill and mountain sides. Today, some of the favelas have been given land rights, sewage, electricity and roads.
On the day of our departure, with a very late checkout of our hotel, we had just enough time to visit Rio's botanical gardens and, for one last time, dip our toes in the water at Copacabana beach.
Our visit to Brazil was nearly over. It had been a unique experience, seeing this country and its culture, a people that I well could have been one of, had my parents decided to stay in Brazil fifty-five years ago. Strange, how life can turn out. We leave Rio knowing that we had a great adventure but we left plenty of unturned rocks for the next time.