I arrived in Curitiba, the Paraná state capital, on Sunday afternoon. I left at virtually the same time on Tuesday afternoon. Curitiba isn’t as exciting or vibrant as São Paulo; it’s not as architecturally stunning as Brasilia; but it’s still pretty good. There’s none of that slightly annoying paranoia that goes with being a gringo in São Paulo. I stayed at the Ibis hotel on Rua Mateus Leme, and from now on, I’m gonna take the hotel price guide in the Rough Guide to South America with a pinch of salt. The Ibis was about double the price they suggested it was. And never again will I stay in a no smoking hotel. It’s just tedious to have to put your shoes and traipse all the way to the street just for a smoke. Still, minor quibbles.
I dropped my stuff on the bed, had a quick shower and dashed out to try and see a little bit of the local area before it got dark. Very pretty it seems too. The old part of the city is lovely. Lots of pastel coloured buildings. Some nice bars. Plenty of things to look at as you sit and neck a Skol. Including, sat at the table in front of me, a couple with a big age difference. She was, I’m guessing, in her fifties. He must’ve been half her age. She wasn’t particularly attractive. He could’ve probably got any girl he wanted. It’s a wonderful thing, love. Makes me happy to see things like that.
Further walking around revealed a decent-sized bland mall just around the corner. Sunday evening, the place was rammed with teenagers. Thousands of them. I began to wonder where all the adults were in this town. I’d hardly seen any at all. They’d all been eradicated by the hordes of teens in their perfectly turned-out, a bit too clean and nice, Avril Lavigne-style “punk” look.
Monday I was up and at ’em, ready for some sight-seeing. There’s a pedestrianised precincty area called Rua das Flores which is kinda nice. Some pretty and simple churches, but on the whole, I got the feeling I was visiting a Brazilian version of Nottingham. Except with better looking women. (Not that there’s owt wrong with Nottingham women, but, y’know, this is Brazil not the East Midlands, duck.)
But, they do have wonderful bus shelters here. Elevated tinted-glass tubes with automatic doors that seem to work in a similar way to the doors on those modern Jubilee Line platforms in London. And the buses themselves are pretty cool for an arty tit like me: very simple; either red, yellow, or grey (each colour had a meaning: red for express buses, yellow or grey for something else); no superfluous logos, stripes, or graphics; no adverts; just “cidade de curitiba” on the side in black.
I spent a good deal of time walking, getting hot and sweaty, trying to find the Museo Oscar Niemeyer. I had no map, and was trying to somehow convince myself that I could remember what I’d seen on a map in the hotel. Eventually, I found it. Of course, being a fool, I’d forgotten it was Monday, the day all museums seem to be closed. But, I’d walked all the way to find it, so I got my fix of Oscar. I think I’ve got a bit of a crush on his work. It makes me so happy to be stood near one of his buildings.
One well-needed shower later, and I’m waiting outside the hotel to meet Ozorio. Juliana, my friend in São Paulo, had introduced us via email, and he graciously offered to meet me for a drink and show me a bit of the nightlife. And what a lovely guy he was. Very laid-back, laughs a lot, completely enjoyable company. Hurrah. After a couple of beers and some food in the nicey-nice Batel neighbourhood, and we move on to somewhere a bit more down-to-earth back kinda in the centre of town; a bar called called Otorto.
This place was perfect. Really simple. A bar with lots and lots of bottles. A pool table. Queasy lighting. Hundreds of pictures of the Brazilian footballer Garrincha on the wall, rolled-up metal shutters where doors or windows would be, and a nice mix of people. Mostly young-ish folks in their twenties and thirties, a few old geezers too. We drank a cachaça (kind of in the same ballpark as a whiskey, but bear in mind, I don’t drink much liquor, so it all kinda tastes like whiskey to me) and Skol. A couple beers down the line, and Ozorio’s pal Paulo turns up. A very outgoing, lively, guy; full of the joys of life. As we slowly worked up to heading somewhere else, we chatted outside under an awning, and a girl asked, in English, where I was from. Aaah, the joys of being a gringo: you can suddenly find yourself talking to Ana, Juliana, Leila, and Vanessa: a bunch of pretty, intelligent, young women. Someone said it before I came here, and it’s true: Brazilians are so very very friendly.
After a long time spent laughing and getting drunker, goodbyes were said, and Ozorio and I went off in search of somewhere else to keep drinking. Eventually we found a club where a distinctly average rock band were playing. We drank more, and I eventually got back to the hotel, stumbling into the elevator, and then into bed like a cartoon drunk.
The kindly woman at the reception allowed me to check out two hours late, giving me time to get a cab to Museo Oscar Neimeyer and have an hour or so inside. There’s a few different exhibitions in there. Two artists who’s names I couldn’t be bothered to write down, ’cause I sped around glancing at their stuff, knowing it wasn’t my cup of tea, but feeling I should at least give it a go. There was a great exhibit of the woodcutting work of a Brazilian artist called J. Borges. Really enjoyed that. Especially the big collection of the cut wood that they had, not just the prints. And then it was on to the th
ing I really wanted to see: an exhibition celebrating Niemeyer’s 100th year. Lots of large photographs, nine or ten architectural models of his buildings and some of his drawings. I couldn’t have been happier.
48 hours. In and out. Back to the bus station, and back on the road through the rain and the hills and disappearing light; heading south along the coast to Florianópolis.
Before I arrived, Florianópolis was – in my imagination – a city full of Being John Malkovich-style replicas of one the members of Kraftwerk, all singing “Radioaktivität” over and over again. Of course, it’s not like that; it’s a beautiful place on an island where I can dip my toes in the South Atlantic Ocean.