Destination Rio de Janeiro, the first travel to the former capital of Brazil.
Met by chance: a restaurant with the typical cuisine of Minas Gerais in the center of Botafogo.
Day 4, 2 PM
After having visited the Aleijadinho exhibition, we entered an adjacent building. We went there to see a photography exhibition. Meanwhile, there was a downpour outside. We had to walk under the canopies to stay a bit dry; none of us had been clever enough to think of carrying an umbrella. The photo exhibition was themed ‘Africa’; it was a fascinating topic for the three of us. All photos were in black and white, and showed snapshots of daily life in several African countries south of Sahara. Another exhibition was located in an adjacent room. Handicraft made of colored strings. Clothes, bags, and other artwork, as examples of expressive modern art. To be frank, I tried to understand the modern art. I have visited museums and exhibitions in The Netherlands ((De Pont, Tilburg, and Stedelijk, Amsterdam), In United Kingdom (Serpentine, London), and here in Brazil (Pampulha, Belo Horizonte), and I have to admit that these art forms really fascinate me. Even though I could not really follow the philosophy of the artist as he was pasting a tea bag behind a glass plate, for example… Once I got the shock of my life when I noticed an art work on the Internet, made by an Italian artist (Boetti), who had created EXACTLY the same as I had made in my free time: a world map in Peters projection (other than the Mercator projection, the surface is in the correct proportions on the map) with the national flags within the national borders. Unfortunately, my ‘art’ was destroyed by ‘graffiti’ from a toddler. The same work Boetti (1940-1994) had exhibited worldwide. Boetti made it in 1984 and I had the idea around the same time. I had never seen the works of this artist before…
The evening that followed was not exciting enough to write about. It was an evening in a local bar with friends of one of us. Such an evening could also have occurred in Belo Horizonte, and therefore I will not include more details of this evening in the travel story. Everyone woke up relatively early, the next morning, although it was Sunday. The original plan was to collect our luggage in the bus cargo before noon. The bus would then drop us near Botafogo Beach. At night, a very interesting concert was about to start. But we were in Brazil, and we had to deal with Brazilian way of life. Noon became two hours later. We left the hotel at 1 PM, and we had to wait for one more hour – outside – for the bus to arrive. Our stomachs were already protesting; it should have been a funny growling sound of all stomachs together if everyone was able to keep silent for a short while. No one was. Brazilians and silence, opposites attract. There was a lot of chatting and laughing during the short bus ride from Copacabana to Botafogo.
We left our belongings in the bus, the bus driver promised to watch our bags and rucksacks. Our first goal was to keep our stomachs quiet, and we went for a cheap restaurant near the beach of Botafogo. We already had the experience that Rio is an expensive city near the touristic hotspots. Therefore, we had to find a kind of restaurant that that is not easy to be found by average tourists. Something what I already had experienced in other cities spread around the world. In cities like Rome, Brussels, San Diego, Lisbon, Paris. Where you can have cheaper meals, even at rates far below the tourist rate. The large group of forty, that was present in our bus, was quickly split in smaller groups. My group consisted of eight people, including the Five, including Deborah. We crossed a wide and crowded avenue, and started our quest. We did not really have to walk far from the beach; a group of small restaurants was located in a minor side-street. The two girls of our little group did their work: they checked the menus, the prices, and the hygiene. They decided for us where we all would have our warm meal.
We entered the restaurant that turned out to be almost empty. Was it a good choice? Because here is another useful hint: observe the guests in the restaurants. When a restaurant has many local guests, it is an indication that this restaurant is cheap and serves good food. Are there many tourists? Don’t get shocked to meet high prices! Almost empty? Then you may take into account that this restaurant may serve a lesser quality, or offers a bad service. Try this hint by yourself, when you are on holidays. Despite our doubts, we opted for this restaurant. Joana was our spokeswoman, she negotiated the menu and price. The woman of about forty years initially protested, but she did not really want to lose eight very hungry guests. Yes, I say GUESTS, because you never meet CLIENTS in a restaurant. This was one of the first laws that I had to remember for live when I started working in a restaurant, when I was student.
To our mutual surprise, we were all from Minas Gerais. Because the woman was a mineira; she was born and raised in Belo Horizonte. We were one of her final guests, since she was about to close the doors of her restaurant for ever, only one week later. The talkative woman explained us that the cost exceeded the profits. Very talkative or not, she quickly disappeared in the kitchen to prepare our meals. She offered us a very delicious meal. With rice, beans, salad, fries, spaghetti, tapioca flour, with the option of chicken cuts, pork cuts, or beef cuts. Her beautiful daughter arrived to help her, and made our table ready. We were allowed to take the soda and beer from the fridge. I never had experienced this before: clients who are allowed to serve themselves with drinks in that way. The meal had a delicious taste; the big steak was tender and juicy and well seasoned, the fries were crispy. We enjoyed this meal very much; we took our time for it. We were offered ice tubs, iced fruit, or chocolate as a dessert. We kept good memories of our final meal in Rio. We thanked the woman and wished her success in her remaining days as owner of this restaurant. It was already half past four in the afternoon. There was only half an hour left, before the unique concert would start at Aterro de Flamengo. We walked to the Aterro, and waited there what would come next…
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007, 2015