Ah... Flamengo... this is probably one of Rio's neighbourhoods we enjoyed the most. You see, some time before travelling to Brazil, and definitely way before we had even imagined we could travel there, we saw a movie called Reaching for the Moon ("Flores Raras" in Portuguese) about US poet Elizabeth Bishop's romance with Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares. We really enjoyed the movie, and at some point Lota is involved in the building of Flamengo Park and in the design of moon lamps: tall towers with lamps that are supposed to give light as if it were moonlight. I don't know, the whole thing was very romantic. And so there was no way we were not going to visit Flamengo and its park.
See that picture above? Those crazy tall things are the lamps I was talking about. I loved the view from the bridge we were on, the design of those things, and the strange feeling of knowing I had seen this in a film without knowing I'd visit myself some day!
Exploring around, we crossed some fascinating parts of the park, with weird trees that grew in a way that you could basically step within, as in a cage of living matter.
And this was also our very first approach to Rio's beaches! Sure, we had no beachwear at all, but this was the first moment I realized how incredibly lucky Cariocas (that is, people from Rio) are: gorgeous beaches, gorgeous background and gorgeous people!
As many other parts of the city, Flamengo had a very nice share of old, colourful architecture. I mean, I was indeed expecting some, but not in these quantities! Though it's obvious they've torn down plenty of older buildings to erect the newer and very bland concrete and glass towers we all know, there is still plenty to see.
And Flamengo was where I tried the two foods I liked the very best by far during all our trip! We got to this very unassuming, very basic and very popular eatery called Tacacá do Norte. What's so special about this place is that it serves authentic Amazonian food (from the states of Amazônia and Pará) which, needless to say, I didn't even know existed!
The first thing we had was a nice, hot bowl of tacacá. A very peculiar soup! It contained tapioca, tucupi (a yellow sauce from wild manioc root), yellow peppers, shrimp, and jambu, a kind of greens with slight anaesthetic properties!? And served, necessarily, in a gourd. It was tangy, peppery-spicy, unique, and I absolutely loved it.
But then you had to follow that with dessert, right? Well, they also had very authentic açaí dessert. I have no idea how this is made, but it is deep red-brown, it's served very cold (sort of like a very cold mousse?), and it has a very rich flavour, not too sweet, and... complex? I'm really trying to think what this tasted like... maybe like a mix of... nah, forget it. It's amazing. And those white things on top is sugar, but sort of in the shape of styrofoam bits? LOL And also, not exceedingly sweet, which I really appreciated!
Finally (at least food-wise) we went for a beer at a place called Devassa. It was hot, we wanted to just sit down and relax (Tacacá do Norte was delicious, but it's no place to sit down and unwind). I didn't have high expectations, as this looked like your average very commercial brewery. But I had a blonde, my habib had a dark one, and both were amazing! and both were draft! Thumbs up for Brazilian brews!
Afterwards, we were ready for some culture! The MAM (Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, or Museum of Modern Art). Again, one of those places the habibi knew pretty clearly he wanted to go to, and about which I knew next to nothing. Getting there involved a walk through part of the park, which offered us some incredibly luscious pink-red flowers whose petals also carpeted the ground! This city is so teeming with plants and flowers!
And once inside we proceeded to have one incredible experience, thanks in great part to the architecture of the building itself. I mean, look at that staircase! And a number of the pieces fit just way too well with the space!
It was nice to see some Carioca graphic art, including an inspiring quote that included the phrase "poetic materialization" (materialização poética).
As well as the transformation of space, for which this museum was just perfect.
And of course, Rio being the kind of city it is, it was just not going to happen to be looking at art installations without a hunk casually sitting outside shirtless. Because Rio.
My last view of Flamengo? The museum's pond, with a carp, and the reflection of those romantic moon-lamps. Amazing neighbourhood, amazing day. Enjoyed it enormously.