Diary/Photo Journal

Week of January 13, 2008 (see page 9 for the second half of the week)

The start to this week set the tone and pace for the entire week as we were on-the-go from the get-go.  We met with Maria Luiza (Gerson's cousin) and her husband, Jacque and headed to their fazenda (farm) outside of Rio de Janeiro.  Actually, I should say two fazendas and they own two separate farms about an hour apart.

The main fazenda has their quaint home nestled within the mature landscaping that Jacque designed himself.  Jacque has owned the fazenda for over 30 years and he built much of it to his own taste.   There is a pool and terrific bar-b-que area along with many kilometers of roads to explore. 

The original small homestead and the
house today

Enjoying the pool

The view out from the dining salon area

The path to the bar-b-que area

Various views across the fazenda

These fazendas are typical of many of the farms one would see around the major cities.  They are usually owned by the city's more wealthy inhabitants and run by on-site "caretakers" or workers.  The owners provide free housing with all the utilities, farm vehicles, farm animals, etc. and also pay a salary to the live-in employees.  The employees in turn, take care of all the land's needs, the animals and the main home.  It is not uncommon to meet families wherein at least one family member is illiterate and unable to even write their own name.  As there really is no other work in this modern world for such a person, this arrangement is a good fit.  The workers have a home provided for them and they receive some money for their work.

One of the employee's houses with waves from
the adorable children

Three of the adorables

Views to other parts of the fazenda

Ferocious watch dogs live here...yeah right

An enormous fruit called jaca

and Rosa, one of the employees tackling
this massive fruit (blech was my opinion; however
Gerson loves it)

We spent lunch in small nearby town called Silva Jardim and I had probably one of the best meals I have ever had in Brasil (with Brasil's outstanding food, this is a big boast).  The town just vibrated with small-town niceness and people were out and about everywhere.  At night, the corners of the central park were bustling with people lined up to get a sorvete (ice cream) or other doces (sweets).   It was the same at the local pizza place as it seemed that the restaurant was the local gathering place.

You would never think that the far left opening would be the front
of the restaurant that would serve such fantastic food

Antonio's Pizza - local gathering place and some good pizza
Maria Luiza, Louise, Gerson and Jacque

Jacque stopping in at the local cheese maker for our breakfast cheese

Gerson being amused with the phone booth (the monkey is endemic to
that part of Brasil and is also endangered)

The second day out amongst the farms, we visited the second fazenda and it definitely was our favorite.  This fazenda does not have a family "home" and is made up of several employee houses and incredible open ranges.  The primary caretaker family were warm and friendly and even though the home was small and had concrete floors, there was not a space you could not eat off of.  In comparison to the first fazenda and the "quality" of people living on each, this fazenda was by far the loveliest. 

Aldemar, the caretaker, saddled up horses for us so we could take have an intimate view of "his" fazenda.  Every line on his face was from smiling and when we complimented him on the beauty of "his" farm, he replied "he would not live any other way".  After spending a few hours with him and his family, we began to see the truth to his love of this land.

"Wait for me" is what this chick seems to be saying

Saddled up and ready to go

A river to cross (if too much rain, it is uncrossable)

The fazenda property line is somewhere out there

Gerson ready to rustle some cattle

Louise taking the photo op

OK, these are cute cows

We spent about an hour wandering up and over the various lush green hills and breathlessly took in one magnificent view after another.  It was only well into our jaunt did I find out that my horse was 7 months pregnant and that explained why she took every opportunity to grab a meal on the run.  Aldemar laughed at my saying that she was over-using the excuse to eat so much as she was eating for two.  It was clear that the horse I was riding was the favorite of Aldemar as his affection for her was obvious.

Differing views of the fazenda and our ride

The last photo was taken by Aldemar and I believe, based on my having
to explain the camera and explain which side to take the picture from, that
this was the first time he used a camera, let alone a digital one.  You be
the judge of the photo, but I believe he has real promise as a photographer!

Coming back in to Rio - you can
see the Cristo Redentor on the top
of that peak

We left early the next morning for Rio and spent a short night there.  Rio, not being one of our favorite cities, was easy to leave early and head to our next stop.  Petropolis is a mountain retreat north of Rio de Janeiro and it is where the royal family would spend their summers away from the heat and humidity of Rio.  Also, Petropolis still boasts that the descendent of Emperor Dom Pedro II (great-grandson Dom Pedro de Orleans e Braganca) still lives there.

Having a list of historical places we wanted to visit, we started with the Casa de Santos Dumont.  Santos Dumont was definitely a genius with many facets to his intelligence.  As taught to the Brazilians, he was the first to fly an airplane (1906) and if you even attempt to discuss with Brazilians that the Wright Brothers flew an airplane in 1903, they will quickly tell you, Santos Dumont was first.  Actually, both the Wright Brothers and Dumont were "firsts" as the Wright Brothers launched their plane by motoring down the "runway" and vaulted off a ramp, steered the aircraft and landed several hundred feet away.

Santos Dumont, on the other hand, motored down the "runway", lifted off under the motor's own power, steered the aircraft and then landed safely at a further distance than the Wright Brothers.  The difference being that the Wright Brothers did not use the power of the aircraft to lift off the "runway" whereas Santos Dumont did.  I satisfy both arguments by saying the Wright Brothers were the first to actually steer and control an airplane while Santos Dumont was the first to "take off" under the aircrafts own power.  So there...

Santos Dumont and his characteristic hat

Santos Dumont's home - designed and engineered by him
and a very early example of building into cliffs.  The fact
that it is still in such good structural condition is further
evidence of his understanding of engineering principles
and his considerable genius (he is also thought to be the inventor
of the wristwatch)

Our guide through the house

These stairs were designed by Santos Dumont
to accommodate a very steep staircase and not
trip while ascending or descending.  Notice the
cut out step with the first foot placement being
next to the rail for support.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our walk through Santos Dumont's summer home (there were just so many engineering quirks that are still valid today) we were off to several other historical and interesting places, all within walking distance.  We first stopped at the Museu Imperial which was the palace of Dom Pedro II.  Housed within the walls of the museum are the imperial crowns, the fine clothes and exquisite furnishings in which Dom Pedro II indulged. 

I was not able to take photos within the interior of the palace; however, I was permitted to take a rather fun photo of my feet donning the felt slippers everyone had to wear in order to protect the marble and hardwood floors that run throughout the palace. 

From there, we found our way to the Catedral Sao Pedro de Alcantara wherein protects the tombs of Dom Pedro II, his wife Dona Teresa and their daughter, Princesa Isabel.  The cathedral was quite beautiful and it should be noted that it was the beloved Princesa Isabel that signed the declaration to abolish slavery.

The Museu Imperial (or Imperial Palace)

The fun felt slippers that had Gerson and I
skating all over the palace.  How many of
you have skated through a palace? 

The Catedral Sao Pedro de Alcantara

Gerson checking the map for our next stop

The tombs of Dom Pedro II, Dona Teresa and
Princesa Isabel

We toddled on around the small town to other churches and found some beautiful reminders of the Portuguese influence on the creation of this village of retreat. 

Just a great picture of a very photogenic church
We found this wonderful little garden set up along one of the
many streets we wandered upon

Notice the telltale Portuguese tiles (blue and white) and
the intricate details

A stop at the Palacio Cristal and its orchids

An example of the mansions built by one of the royal "hanger-oners"

With what little time we had left in the day, we drove up to another small historical town called Congonhas (co-gon-yas) that is actually within the State of Minas Gerais.  Minas Gerais was formed when that small, colorful metal was found and drove the people crazy with "Gold fever".  Minas set the gold-rush standard and did so more than 100 years before California or Australia.  At the time, Minas Gerais and the indigenous peoples stolen from the interior of Brasil and forced into slavery, were digging up half the world's gold.

The notable tidbit about Congonhas is the display of soapstone statues at the Basilica do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos.  The statues, created around 1800, are called "The Prophets" as they represent the prophets mentioned within the Old Testament.  Each statue was hand carved and appears to have a passionate life of its own...but this is not the remarkable part.  The artist, Antonio Franciso Lisboa
(1738-1814) was known as "Aleijadinho" (Al-ay-ee-zsa-deen-yo) which means "little cripple".

Aleijadinho suffered from an unnamed disease that slowly left him without his fingers, toes and the use of his lower legs (historians suspect syphilis or leprosy).  Undaunted from his artistic genius, Aleijadinho would strap chisels and hammers to his arms and created magnificent soapstone masterpieces, in Congonhas and in other towns nearby. 

The artist Antonio Francisco Lisboa
"Aleijadinho" or "Little Cripple"

Gerson before the Basilica do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos

The Prophets and Gerson having a little fun posing for
the picture

Notice the detail worked into the stone and those scrolls
contain Latin phrases still readable today (and all done
by a man with no fingers and little use of his lower body)


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