Travel day today. Caught the 11.20am bus from Paraty to Rio, which follows the coast all the way north. Arrived in Rio half an hour late, but not bad considering there´d been an accident just inside the suburbs, and plenty of roadworks along the way. We´re on the 11th floor of the Hotel Atlantico Copacabana, but even still there´-s a bit of traffic noise, it seems to come straight in through the air conditioning unit. Good location though, and comfortable room, so looking forward to the next few days. A quick trip to the Amex exchange office on Av. Atlantico - a local resident warned us NOT to walk along here at night because it is very dangerous.
He said he has been complaining to the police for ages to do something, but they don´t appear interested. Interesting that even the locals do not wander here in the evening.
Lots of walking today, weather is lovely so will enjoy it while we can (rain is forecast). Our hotel is right next to a metro stop, so we caught the train to the Centre and followed the Lonely Planet walking tour (or as much as we could, their directions and maps never seem to quite match up with what´s on the ground!). WE got out at Cinelandia Station (cinemaland, so named because it is next to the oldest cinema in Brasil - the Odeon -, which is still operating since 1921). Across the square is the Municipal Theatre (another one modelled on the Paris Opera), the National LIbrary and the city council chambers - all impressive old stone buildings.
From here it was a quick walk up to the Convent of San Antonio - the main chapel is being renovated so the altar is hidden behind a big screen, but the smaller chapel is open and is an extravaganza of gilt, gold on absolutely everything. They have a ´musem´of sacred objects, basically just a small room of some silverware, cassocks and a couple of portraits of priests and cardinals. The shopfronts on the nearby Rua Carioca are supposed to be lovely and colonial, but not really that impressive. The shops themselves are just full of everyday junk, and the historic facades are becoming quite run-down. Nice, but nothing special. From here we stopped for a coffee and cake at Confiterie Colombia, a beautiful old coffee house along the lines of the Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires - lots of dark panelling, mirrors, chandeliers etc.
. Definitely not cheap, but a lovely diversion from the walking. By now we were quite near the port area, but stopped first at the Praça Tiradentes to visit the Palace there. It was the Brazilian parliament until that moved to Brasilia
and is now a museum of the Brazilian parliament! The building has been renovated and contains lots of original furniture and artwork, and the centre chamber is now used by the state parliament. Entrace is free, and a local university student gave us a guided tour of the upstairs area (which is restricted access) in almost perfect English. Reinforces our view that some of the best things we´ve visited on this trip (and particularly in Brazil) are the free things that you find by accident because they´re not well-advertised. We wandered through the port area, could see some impressive colonial buildings on the other side of the harbour, then made our last stop, visiting the National Museum (had lunch in their cafe, very nice and reasonably priced). The museum showcases the history of Brazil, is well laid out, has many signs in excellent English and gives a terrific overview of this country´s history. Lots of exhibits, including some of the royal carriages, and definitely worth a visit.