My idea is to take a stroll around the natural wonders of the city, its colonial past, imperial Brazil … and end on the beach.
FEIRA DA GLÓRIA In the Feira da Glória (Glória farmers market) there is a great concentration of small local producers where you can find countless seasonal fruits that you cannot get in a supermarket such as saputí, tucumã, camu-camu or muricí. Of course, you also get the most celebrated tapioca in the city. With its roots in indigenous cooking, tapioca is the umpteenth transformation of manioc flour and becomes a pancake on the heat of fire. The Feira da Glória takes place in front of Praça Paris (a French-style garden), an area urbanized by Mestre Valentim. The son of a diamond smuggler and a formerly-enslaved woman, Valentim is also responsible for the urban design of Passeio Público, created in 1779, considered to be the first public park in the world. He was the first person of African descent to receive an architecture degree in Brazil.
MUSEU DO AÇUDE Inaugurated 1964, the Museu do Açude is located in the main house of a former coffee hacienda. Amassed by Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya and later donated to the Brazilian government, the collection gathers important baroque ceramics and tiles as well as Asian pieces. Here you can follow the trade between China and Japan, between Japan and Portugal and from Portugal to Brazil. Furthermore, the gardens have permanent interventions by artists, commissioned by Marcio Doctors. Among them is the first of Hélio Oiticica’s “Magic Square” works to be built (Magic Square No 5—De Luxe (Penetrável) (1978/2000) and Lygia Pape’s house in ruins (New House, 2000). In the 1940s, Castro Maya also managed the Tijuca National Park with a conservationist approach.
TIJUCA FOREST The Tijuca Forest owes its existence to the vision of Pedro II, the second and last monarch of Brazil, in what was perhaps the first ecological-preservation action in history. (Tijuca National Park is fifteen years older than Yellowstone.) In view of the drought threatening to leave Rio de Janeiro waterless, in 1861 he expropriated the coffee plantations covering the neighboring mountains and replanted the forest. It was at Casa do Almeida, an old coffee hacienda, where the reforestation of Tijuca was concentrated. There are two trees that are over six hundred years old who survived most likely because they were part of the garden of the house. This is where I filmed Spiral Forest (Kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name) (2013–15) and did the scanning for Phantom (Kingdom of all the animals and all the beasts is my name) (2015).
VISTA CHINESA Not long after the reforestation of Tijuca National Park, the new forest became a place for leisure and promenade for the Carioca population. The park’s second administrator, Barão d'Escragnolle, hired French landscape gardener Auguste Laziou who introduced Romanticist amenities like nooks, leisure areas, fountains and lakes. The Vista Chinesa (Chinese view) is supposed to be an homage to Chinese immigrants who brought tea farming and consumption to the city.
CACHOEIRA DO HORTO & MATA DO PAI RICARDO Despite being almost completely deforested, a few places of primary rainforest still survive in the Tijuca massif. A small treasure of biodiversity is the Mata do Pai Ricardo, at the feet of Rio’s famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue. In this small portion of the original jungle, the most striking trees of Rio can be found, as well as countless cascades where you can cool yourself off in the creeks that meander the hillside. My favorite is the Cachoeira do Horto, also known as chuveirinho (little downpour).
JARDIM BOTÂNICO Also founded by Pedro II, the Botanical Garden of Rio gathers some of the natural wonders of the six biomes that form Brazil (Amazônia, Cerrado, Caatinga, Mata Atlântica, Pantanal and Pampa). Among them are the pau mulato trees that change from shimmering silver to dark copper before shedding their bark and turning silver again.
JARBÔ CAFÉ Hidden along a service road of the park, the near the Espaço Tom Jobim, Jarbô Café serves cakes, sandwiches, salads and a bistro-type menu with a tropical touch. I like it because it is an oasis of peace, although it could be cheaper!
SUNSET AT ARPOADOR A proper day in Rio is not complete without gazing at the sunset on the beach. My choice is always Arpoador, where I often bump into other artists and friends.
— DANIEL STEEGMANN MANGRANÉ