Last week I was able to check another thing off the list of "things to do and see in Rio de Janeiro," thanks to some new girls I met. We'll call them the "Sex and the City" girls, because I like to protect people's anonymity on the blog. Besides, they're über-fashionable ladies!
We went to the Sítio Roberto Burle Marx. You have to schedule a visit ahead of time; they're quite serious about that and we had to go back and forth with the guard at the gate to verify that our car had made reservations for a tour before they'd let us in. It's R$8 for the tour, cash only.
The sítio is a gorgeous botanical treasure trove, containing some 3,500 different species of plants, as well as some (purportedly) interesting buildings, art and sculptures. Unfortunately, the buildings were all under construction so we weren't able to see them this time around.
This is a trip for wearing comfortable shoes and not being afraid of walking, as there's lots: up and down stairs, hills and cobblestone paths. The mosquitos were as big as small birds. You really, really need repellent. Our guide didn't speak English, but she was kind enough to repeat when necessary and spoke clearly and simply. Unless you're really interested in botany, you're probably just going to pull out your camera anyhow, so don't worry about missing too much information.
Here are some highlights:
Leaves that look like they've been painted for some fantastical children's book:
Furry bird of paradise flower cousin, and closeup.
These jade colored flowers; love the shade of green. Very regal!
Christ of the Drowned, carved from a pillar of white cedar that was part of the cargo of a ship that sunk, drowning most of the passengers and crew (I think that's the story I heard). An artist took one of the pillars and carved a scene of the drowning people clinging to Christ's hair and beard. Moving, no?
I really liked these old ship's figureheads that had been installed as porch art. Maybe it's just a phase, but bright colors and traditional/folk art keeps catching my eye..
We had lunch after at Bira, a restaurant that apparently everyone knows about but which is impossible to find unless you already know where you are going.
There's a gorgeous view and amazing caipirinhas, but you will need to come hungry and preferably with two or three eating companions. The three of us shared one dish and there was still some left over. A steaming moqueca de camarão, as you can see:
It was mah-va-lous. The siri (crab) pastels were also really, really good. Prices are $$$: more than an executive lunch in the city, but way less than you'd pay for dinner around these parts.
I highly recommend this as an alternative to the Botanical Gardens, and as a fun day trip. I saw plenty of buses that I recognized on the main roads, but it might be a little difficult to do it without a car. We had a driver...this link (in Portuguese) has information about the buses that go near the Sítio, but you'd still have to take a kombi or taxi from the closest bus stop.