Friday, December 2, 2011

Cross country travel - day 11

Our time in Curitiba has wound down and it's time to hit the road and drive for our final destination of Mireiros. I know we did not see it all and hopefully I will make it back to this wonderful city someday.  Back to our journey though and since it will take a day and a half to return, we wake early to get a good jump start on the day.  As we leave Curitiba,  I notice some Portuguese tile. I had seen
some in other historic parts of the city the days prior but for some reason,  this morning it catches my eye.  It is simply beautiful and it had to make it into my story.  If you get the chance to visit the city,  pay attention to this wonderful story telling of the blue and white portuguese tiles.
Off we drive down the toll roads, spending our money to drive on nice roads. It is a pretty basic drive through the country, but every once and a while, on the outskirts of a small city or two we drive past a replica of the Statue of Liberty.  I find this interesting and soon realize that it is a store called Havan.  A department store of sorts located in several cities on the eastern coast of Brazil.  We don't stop as we don't need any electronics at this time and time is money.  I find their use of the Statue of Liberty for branding interesting.  I guess they are saying you can get your own piece of the USA if you shop their store.  Next time I see one,  I will have to insist on stopping and checking out the inside.
There is little adventure and sight seeing today off our main path as our objective is to get back home.  Soon we leave behind the houses built of wood and I find myself scouting the skies for my friends - - - the toucanos.   (yes toucans).  For me the sighting of these odd shaped colorful birds is a feat without compare.  I watch the sky as we drive mile after mile on our journey.  Many times seeing something flying through the sky only to be disappointed that it is some other bird.  Today I see at least five of the bright beaked birds and capture distant photos of two.  Toucans are traditionally isolated birds and do not spend much time around humans.  They are also social birds so if you see one,  a second one is normally not far away. 


This toucan hunting sure helps the time pass and soon it is afternoon and time for a little
break.  We pull into the gas station and park next to a pink motor cycle to fill the tank with gas.  I head into the store and I am happy to see an old friend Chester the Cheetah gracing the bag of Cheetos.  I decide to have a little American pleasure and purchase a bag.  They make such a good drive time snack although they were the cheese puff variety and I much prefer the kind that goes CRUNCH.   Anyway it was a nice touch of life in the USA for the afternoon and I did enjoy it.   The owner of the motor cyle is in the store as well and although I don't understand Portuguese yet,  it is not hard to tell his personality matches that of his pink motor cycle. After a small break and listening to his storey we hop back into our car full of gas.  We are soon traveling in some of the same areas as the beginning of our journey.  The sun sets and it is time to lay our heads down on a hotel pillow.  Another four hours and we will be back to Minieros. 

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cross country travel - day 10

Curitiba Trade Center
I often share about our morning routines but since I want to do some research on Curitiba and we have a lot of sights to see I am off and writing.  I am excited about the city and when we open the blinds,  the sun comes shining through (Yeah it's back!!).  Since we only have one day to explore let's get right to Curitiba. 
Founded in 1693 Curitiba is full of history and amazing things to see.  It is definitely the largest city we have visited on this trip with 1.75 million people calling it home.  The capital of Parana (a state in southern Brazil) and the largest city in the state, it is a prominent cultural, political and economic centre in Brazil.  The cities historical importance lies in its location, half way between the cattle raising ranchers in the southern part of Brazil and the markets in the north.
The city's first non indigenous settlers came from Paramagua when gold was discovered in the region.  These settlers formed a small village called  Vila da Nossa Senhora da Luz dos Pinhais ("Our Lady of the Light in the Pine Forest").  There is an interesting legend about the creation of the city as a group of pioneers founded a small village near the Atuba River in 1648.     These settlers adored Nossa Senhor da Luz and had a statue of her in a particular place in the village.  Legend has it that every morning the image turned her eyes to the pine forest which was known to be sacred to the native Tingui tribe.  The villagers took this as a sign that they were being shown a special place for their village and although they knew the Tingui took them to be enemies,  the settlers took the risk and went into the forest to find this special place.  During this search they came across the Tingui tribe and to their surprise the Indians were peaceful and expecting them to come.  The leader of the tribe is said to have taken a stick and stuck it into the ground saying "Core Etube" ("many pines")  By this location a mighty tree would grow and today it is the zero mark of Curitiba.  In 1812 it officially became a town and the name was changed to a form of current day Curitiba. There were several variations of the name before the current spelling and pronunciation stuck.  Later in the 1800's, people from Germany, Poland, Italy, and the Ukrain began to migrate here to become part of the farming community as the city grew and developed.  Today,  most of the migration to the city comes from other cities within Brazil.  The rich history can be seen throughout and we are excited to begin out journey, (thank wikipedia)

As we drove in the city a little yesterday we noticed a site seeing bus, so our first goal is to find where we can catch the bus.  I feel a bus is a great way to get acquainted with a new city and while on the bus you can make a list of what you want to go back and see.  This is how we have decided to spend our morning.  Tickets for the two hour journey can be purchased in the heart of the city so we quickly head in that direction.  Our destination is Tiradentes Square/Praca Osorio which is anchored by Catedral Basílica Menor de Nossa Senhora da Luz of Curitiba.  A beautiful Catholic Cathedral constructed from 1876 to 1893 in the neo Gothic style. The square is considered the birthplace of the city.  It is lush with palm trees, an elegant clock tower, and of course artistic mosaic sidewalks. After finding a parking spot we purchase our tickets, board the bus and soon we are on our way enjoying the sites from atop the double decker bus.  It is a little cool today but the tour sure gives us a good overview of the city and once again I am glad I brought a jacket. I am amazed by all the beautiful architecture and lush squares throughout Curitiba.  The excursion takes us into several of Curitiba's neighborhoods and we are able to see a lot of the popular tourist spots located throughout the city as we add them to our afternoon and future visit agendas.  Past beautiful churches, Hospital Caridade, Paiol Theater, Museu Oscar Niemeyer, Tigre Royal, Paco Municipal, Arabian Memorial, Curitiba Trade Center, Botanical Garden, Tiles Panel, Motor Car Museum, Curitiba Memorial, to just name a few of the places we saw and added to our must explore more.  (I don't think we will hit them all today but sure will try and if we don't it always means a future visit is in line)

The bus tour comes to an end back at the square where it all started and we decide to explore the square and the area at the end of the route.  Located in the central part of Curitiba it is obviously the oldest part as well.  The city is proud of its history which is apparent by the amount of older buildings which have been or are currently being renovated.  We are surrounded by architectural wonders and details with beautiful color accents.  Each building tells a story and how wonderful it would be if one could understand what they say. We turn the corner and see Garibaldi Square.  Simply spectacular with colorful buildings and majestic architect.  The square is anchored by "Memory Fountain" (nicknamed Drooling Horse).  A bronze sculpture by Ricardo Tod, unveiled in 1995 and dedicated to the memory of people who, in the past, used to stop at a nearby drinking fountain to allow their horses to get a drink.  I simply think the sculpture accents the square with it's all white church, colorful shops, and mustard colored Arcades of São Francisco.  We find a little cantina to grab some lunch and enjoy the square.
After lunch we continue our walking tour and we comment on how the city is laid out to encourage pedestrian traffic. As we walk along we are lured into a building by a wonderful "wood sculpture of Bucephalus".  A spectacular sculpture depicting a sea horse and soon we realize we are in an open air art
museum.   It happens to be the Memorial de Cidade (Curitiba Memorial).  The Memorial of the city of Curitiba is a space dedicated to the memory, the arts and culture of Curitiba.  On our visit we enjoy the eclectic art and wonderful people watching.  It is another beautiful find in the heart of the city.

Our next find is the Paço Liberdade (Freedom Square), which is centered by a stunning building built in 1916 as the seat for the mayor of Curitiba.  Today the building houses a quaint little restaurant on the main floor and offices on the other two.  The building is accented by whimsical fountains, elaborate sculptures, mosaic sidewalks, and the beautiful buildings which line the square it sits in the middle of.  There is definitely plenty of photo opportunities and more details then one could observe in the short hour we spend exploring.  We will have to come back to this spot someday to continue finding more little treasures.
A few steps further down the pedestrian streets we come to another one of Curitiba's important landmarks,  the Federal University of Parana.  A historical building constructed in the early 1900 century to house the newly defined federal university.  A truly grand structure with its large concrete columns,  it anchors one end of Santos Andrade Square and sits across from the Theater Guaira.  We walk through the square admiring the University building, flowers, garden sculptures and white fountain in the middle.  We come across a lady walking her dog and she shares some history of the square and suggest that we take a look inside the Theater on the far end of the square.  We bid her a good day and walk to the theater to check it out.  Upon entering the theater we are greeted by a older gentleman who offers to show us around.  As he brings us into the different nooks and crannies of the theater,  he shares his history with the theater.  He has been working there for many years and has met many famous Brazilian actors and actresses.  (Including my friend Fernanda Montengro)   The tour is surely a pleasant surprise and we enjoy the stories he shares.  We spend quite a lot of time with him visitting behind the stage, up to the balcony, and the tribute wall with plaques honoring many of these actors and actresses who have worked there.  The tour is ended when a group of school age students arrive and he must lead them on their guided tour. 
We decide it is time to see a couple of the other places we saw while on the bus tour earlier and since they are not in the center of the city, we head back to the car.  A short drive and we arrive at the Curitiba Botanical Garden.  As we pull up, the gardens are hidden by large mounds of dirt covered by lush green grass.  We walk to the top of the mound and peer over to see the beautiful trademark gardens of Curitiba created in the French garden style.  A flourishing  lawn filled with finely cut hedges and a carpet of flowers rolled out down the middle of the walkway.  The air is fresh and with partly cloudy skies it is a perfect day to walk in the garden.  At the end of the walkway past the fountains is a glass structure. Built in an art nouveau style with a modern metallic structure, the greenhouse resembles the Crystal Palace of London.  It is filled with tropical plants found in Brazil.  There are parts of the garden which are currently being renovated and so the greenhouse is a little crowded today.  We spend a little time there before deciding it is time to head on. 
It is getting late in the afternoon and so we decided to head Santa Felicidade.  A region of the city where the Italians settled when they first came to the Curitiba.  Today it is known as the gastronomic district of the city with a wide variety of famous restaurants and wineries.  There is a restuarant which has been recommended not far away where we plan to have dinner this evening.  It is on our way back to the center of the city so for now we just grab a small snack, a little wine, some chocolate and enjoy a nice walk down the street  exploring the great architecture.
Evening is approaching and so our time in Curitiba is quickly coming to an end. 
We leave the main street and head towards the restaurant but are disappointed as it is closed.  I guess this mean we will have to find a new place to eat.  We continue downtown and settle for eating at a railroad station turned into a mall.  The Mexican food was not bad,  but I sure wish we would have stayed in Santa Felicidade for dinner.  After eating and a little walking around,  it is time to end our day in Curitiba and get some sleep for our journey back. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cross country travel - day 9

Curitiba - Curitiba - Curitiba - we wake up early as we are excited to move on and leave the soggy city of Florianopolis for Curitiba.  I sure hope the good old sun will shine some and give us some new found warmth. As for our visit to Florianopolis,  it is a beautiful city and I am sure it takes quite a different feel when winter weather fades to summer and the beaches fill.  I guess we will have to wait for another day to see just what the city all has for us to love.
We leave after our usual morning routine and off we drive continuing up the coast of  Brazil just past Joinville before we start traveling inland.  Joinville... since today is a short drive we take a detour and explore this city  of around 520,000 residence.  We as tourist are welcome to the city by the surely German influenced city gate and as we continue into town,  that influence is even more evident.

OK - let's explore a little history of the city since Joinville is definitely French, but the city is obviously influenced by Germans,  what does wikipedia have to say.  Well, the city was founded in 1851 by German, Swiss, and Norwegian settlers.  The land was in fact a wedding gift to the French Prince of Joinville who married Princess Francisca of Brazil.   According to the internet, shortly after the wedding a palace was built in the city for them but I could not locate any additional information or photos of the palace.  The Royal couple never actually saw this land and sold it when they fell into financial crisis.  It was during this short period that the city obtained its name in honor of the Prince.  Joinville has thrived with an industrial and commerce economic base.  Today, it is the center to some of Brazil's largest software companies and is famous for it's strong German influenced culture.  It retains many aspects of the German culture in its architecture, local dishes, parties and in the way of life of its inhabitants, often known as workaholics.
Our journey today, takes us into the downtown area of the city and the German influence mentioned in wikipedia is definitely obvious.  The weather has cleared a bit, at least there is no rain and we enjoy getting out of the vehicle and walking around a bit.  I don't find the palace (at least I don't think I do) and at the time I did not know it even exist so I was not really looking.  However, I am intrigued, so someday a return visit to Joinville may be in order.  There is also a Lutheran influence in this predominantly Catholic country and the street corners are marked with their churches.   We stumble onto a main boulevard with gorgeous emperor palms lining the green space down the center of the street.  We take a relaxing stroll down the sidewalk and enjoy our exploring but soon it is time to continue our journey inland.

After a couple more hours in the car we arrive in Curitiba and begin to look for a hotel.  The feet of finding a nice hotel is a little hard as there is a convention in the city which is occupying a lot of the rooms.  At first all the rooms don't meet our standards as they either don't have  internet, are extremely small, or are on noisy streets.  We finally get lucky as one room opens up just as we ask the front desk if they have any vacancies.  We will take it!   We unload our bags and set out to explore the city a little before dark. 

My first impression of the Curitiba is that it has a modern twist which I have not seen in other cities of Brazil.  Along the streets there are round glass tubes full of people waiting for buses to take them home.  Evidently these hamster home like structures are the city bus stops and clearly residence depend on public transportation.  I am sure they are a welcome shelter on days like these when the weather is unpredictable. The next impression of Curitiba is of all the English directional signs  around.  I have not seen this in other Brazilian cities either, so I can only assume it is a little more tourist friendly or at least gets more tourists  from Europe and the United States.  Just, maybe I will be of some help as we navigate through the streets to our destinations. 

Speaking of destination,  we are in search of our first one which is the Opera de Arame (Wire Opera House).  A famous outdoor theater located in a lush park, Parque das Pedreiras .  After a couple of missed turns,  we finally reach the parking area and soon we are walking across the wire bridge towards the beautiful structure.  I imagine coming here to listen to an opera or to see a play.  How wonderful it must be with the wonderful sounds amidst the trees around.  A great  experience, but today it must only be a dream since there is no concert and we have no ticket.  Soon it is time to journey on. 

Our next destination is another park and after a few days of rainy weather,  it sure is nice to take a walk and enjoy the fresh air of the park.  A typical park found anywhere else in the world with a Brazilian twist of color.  Yes the observation towers at the other end of the reflection pond is a robust yellow mustard color.    Brazilians seem to like this color a lot and often choose it to paint their buildings and other structures. We spend a little time in the park and soon it is getting dark so we head back to the hotel to freshen up before we head out for dinner.

For our evening adventure, we park near a square in the heart of the city.  As in other cities of Brazil,  I am intrigued by the mosaic tile walkways.   They are so artistic and each one is different then the next.  A lot of time and energy are spent creating these masterpieces and they can be found all over the country.  I have quite a collections of walkway photos and often wonder what observers must think when I am attempting to get the perfect shot.   But, back to my observations... in the middle of the park there is a wonderful fountain off set by the dim lights of the street.  In the misty weather that has moved back in,  it is a perfect accent to a relaxing walk.  We search the buildings surrounding the square for a place to eat.  After some disagreement and a short search, we all finally decide on an Italian Buffet.  To our delight the food is simply wonderful and we truly enjoy our meals.  My only regret is that I do not remember the name so I cannot promote it on my blog and it makes it a little more difficult visiting again someday.   It truly is a great  ending to our first day in Curitiba.