With Arms Wide Open

Wednesday 28th  March 2018

We woke up earlier than usual this morning. We knew there was a lot of packing required to get everything back into the suitcases. Having been here for four nights we had spread ourselves to the four corners of the room.

It was surprising to see that despite having been travelling for almost a fortnight we had a suitcase full of clean clothes!

We were done and dusted before breakfast. By the way we eagerly packed you would have thought we couldn’t wait to leave but that would have been the furthest from the truth. In fact, we felt a little upset that our trip was coming to an end.

We consoled ourselves with another bountiful breakfast downstairs. The rest of the morning was spent relaxing by the pool.  

With our flight not until 10pm we could have had another full day of running around seeing some further sights of Rio, but we chose not to. 

Although when I found myself taking photos of the flowers again I knew I was getting a little bored, so for a change of scene we left the hotel and went for a walk around Santa Teresa. 

We didn’t get far before stopping to admire the incredible tree at the end of the road. We had noticed it before but not given it much attention. It was a spectacular tangle of roots from the parasite that had engulfed the original tree. Despite being situated on a three-way junction we sat on a rickety bench beneath its branches simply soaking in its natural energy.  

Moving on we headed uphill to Largo dos Guimares, stopping at Portella, the bar on the corner.   

We had a drink whilst admiring their garland of empty bottles strung above our heads. I wondered if they made a different note when struck, like an elaborate xylophone. Fortunately we were going home today, I could easily have seen myself standing on the tables with a pair of spoons trying to get a tune out of the decorations after a few too many caipirinhas.

We moved on, walking down Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, passing a mannequin looking wistfully out of an open Bar Portella window.   

There were a few other eateries down here and a shop selling traditional handicraft from the “indigenous Indians of the Amazon”. We had a look around but what caught our eye was the amazing Afro hairstyle of the shop assistant. It was truly spectacular.

Directly opposite the shop was a church, Paroquia Sao Paulo Apostolo. We didn’t bother checking if it was open or not. We didn’t walk any further than here, we turned around and made a b-line to Bar do Mineiro, a highly recommended café. We were getting more than a little peckish.

It didn’t look like much from the outside but it was very popular which is always a good sign. 

Inside the tiled walls were cluttered with photos of famous Brazilians as if they were patrons of this humble establishment. Above a small serving hatch was a television showing a football game as seems the norm in Brazil.

The counter was decorated a little more quirkily with several puppets and a tall statue of Anubis, the dog headed Egyptian god. There didn’t seem to be a reason for it other than it looked great.

It seemed quite a coincident that this morning I read an exert from an Egyptian poem, translated into English of course. “We wander together to every beautiful place, my soul inspired, my heart in bliss, because we go together.”   

We ordered lunch. The table next to us had a delicious looking plate of melted cheese. I looked down the menu and pointed to the queijo.

When it arrived sadly it wasn’t the same dish. Instead it was a huge slab of firm cheese similar to halloumi, warmed to soften but not browned. It was an obscene portion. As tasty as it was, I couldn’t eat all of it. Also, it was only a starter!

Our next course soon arrived. I had ordered omelette with chips, and a bowl of feijoda. Unfortunately, the bean stew was cooked in the traditional way, flavoured pork knuckle. I couldn’t eat it and Julie hates beans, so it was left. Then came Julie’s pork dish. When it arrived we both laughed out loud. It was an enormous portion, enough to feed four hungry people! 

She struggled to make a dent in the pile of pork, conceding defeat and asking for a doggy bag. The remaining half of the cheese also went into the box. We didn’t want to appear to be wasting food. Thankfully they didn’t see us dump the box into a bin on the way back to the hotel. 

Full and lazy we returned to the hotel and spent the afternoon snoozing by the pool. 

As the time came for our pick-up to the airport we moved upstairs to the balcony and absorbed the view one last time. We felt sad to leave.

When the time came we had as warm a bon voyage as we had a welcome when Valeria came out to wave us off . The sun was setting beautifully as we drove through Largo dos Neves before turning downhill, leaving Santa Teresa.

Our route to the airport took us past the carnival strip where nearby were the graveyards of old floats. Large open warehouses were filled with used and broken papermache creations from last month's extravaganza.  I don't know if they were here to be recycled or destroyed but it was a sad end.

It was a reminder that the fun could not go on forever.

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