November 10, 2016
On November 9, 2016, we arrived after an overnight direct flight from Chicago O’Hare to São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport.
As soon as we landed, a Brazilian passenger got on social media and found out who won the U.S.presidential election – to our shock and dismay, we found out Trump had won! I could write a whole post about that, but for now I am going to stick to this travel journal. From Guarulhos, we got a mid-afternoon, one-hour flight to Afonso Pena airport in Curitiba, where our friends, Eliane and Carlos, live.
I was amazed to see how Curitiba had grown when we arrived and Carlos drove us to their house, crossing much of the city. The city itself has a population of 1.8 million, but the metropolitan area has swelled to nearly 4 million! Needless to say, there was much I didn’t recognize and since it had been 37 years since I was last here, I don’t think I would have recognized even familiar things if they hadn’t been pointed out!
When Eliane returned home from her part-time job that night, she told us of her plans for us the next day: we would catch a tourism bus nearby, but we had to get to the stop at a certain time or we would miss the bus!
Of course, that’s exactly what happened! We spent too much time talking over our morning coffee and didn’t make it in time. So Carlos drove us to another stop further down the line, the Torre Panorâmica (Panoramic Tower).
Arriving there, Eliane figured out we’d have 20 minutes to go up into the tower before the next bus would come. We paid admission (it was R$5 – five reais – , or R$2.50 for seniors age 60 and up) and went up in the tiny elevator to the lookout level, where we took pictures from all directions.
There were two urubús (vultures) sitting on the ledge outside. Eliane told us it’s good to see them, because they die when there’s too much pollution, so their presence is a good indicator of relatively fresh air.
I could now see for myself how much Curitiba has grown so much since I was here last! There are clusters of tall buildings in various places and large areas of green, which are the many parks. I was happy to see that there are still a predominance of houses, although there are also many high rise apartment buildings. Inside the tower, the round cement foundation pillar contained murals depicting the life and history of Curitiba and Paraná.
We went back down and looked briefly at the gift shop, but we didn’t buy anything.
We got on the bus as planned, where we received a sheet of 5 tickets (meaning we could get off and on five times throughout the day) and a pamphlet containing a map of the route and a short explanation of each stop in 3 languages – Portuguese, Spanish and English. A sheet of 5 tickets cost R$40 each.
The tower was stop #24 of 25, but the bus was on a continuous loop so it didn’t matter. We climbed the steps to the upper deck and sat right in front. There was a canopy overhead (because it might rain) but the front and sides were open – better for taking pictures!
From the Panoramic Tower, the bus headed down the hill toward downtown and the Setor Histórico (Historic District). I became obsessed with capturing as many pictures of araucárias as possible. On my first trip to Curitiba, I fell in love with these pine trees that grow only in this area of Brazil, whose branches curve upward, like inside-out umbrellas!
The bus stopped for about 10 minutes at Praça Tiradentes, but we didn’t get off. Tiradentes is the nickname of Joaquim José da Silva Xavier (1746-1792), a hero and leading member of the Brazilian revolutionary movement.
At each stop, there was an oral narration in the same three languages about what we were seeing. Some of the places we could not actually see much of, because the bus could not enter some of the streets (one was blocked off by police cars for some reason) and also, sometimes the bus didn’t stop right in front of the landmark in order for us to get a good look at it. This was the case with the Historic District – we could only see part of it – but we would visit it another day on our own.
Everywhere in Brazil is evidence of the richness of art, and Curitiba is no exception. There are many beautiful murals for public appreciation as well as good art museums.
Stop #4 is the Railroad Museum.
Other stops along the route included Teatro Paiol, built in 1906 as a gunpowder storage, it was transformed into an arena-shaped theatre in 1971. Dedicated by popular poet/singer/composer Vinícius de Moraes, it represented the beginning of Curitiba’s cultural transformation.
Paço da Liberdade, which used to house the city government and now has a cultural center.
The Arab memorial
We finally got off the bus at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (popularly known as “The Eye”), mainly because we were hungry. It’s a great museum, Eliane says, so we’ll have to come back here. As it was, we sat down for a small bite to eat at the MON cafeteria – I ordered bolinhas de queijo and diet Guaraná (Guaraná Zero); Dale and Eliane ordered quiches, and we all shared. In less than half an hour we were returning to the bus stop so we wouldn’t miss the next bus.
We got on the next bus and again went upstairs. There were more people on this bus but it wasn’t too crowded. The problem was the noise. The motor on this bus was so loud that it drowned out most of the narrative. We sat through stops 13-17, which didn’t help much because we couldn’t see anything – I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t even get a glimpse of the Ópera de Arame.
We got off at Parque Tanguá and walked some. There was a fountain and water that dropped off into two waterfalls. By this time, we were hot and tired, so Eliane called Carlos to come pick us up.