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Day 50: Rio de Janeiro

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A period tram station in Rio's Santa Teresa neighbourhood.
Michael Palin - BrazilSanta Teresa is something of a haven for eccentrics and lost causes. As we walk around Fábio points out an open-fronted grocery store, eye-catchingly decked out in blue and white azulejo tiles, whose owners are so rude that if anyone stops to take a photo they shout abuse at them. Almost next door is the Bar do Arnaldo, Ronnie Biggs's favourite restaurant, where he would retell his version of the Great Train Robbery to anyone who would buy him a meal. The only thing that's missing today is the yellow trams. Apparently there was a serious accident only a few days before in which several people died when the brakes failed. Until questions can be answered satisfactorily all the trams have been withdrawn.

Fábio likes surprises and on the way to our next destination he shows me a uniquely Brazilian accessory, called Pocket Percussion. The samba rhythm seems hard-wired into every Brazilian. As those of other nations might unselfconsciously scratch their heads or pick their noses, the Brazilian will begin to shuffle a step back, a step forward, sway the hips a little and go into their own private samba. Pocket Percussion consists of a tiny box with two ball bearings in it, which, when shaken, gives instant accompaniment for your samba habit.

What he wants to show me next is one of the regular fruit markets that are held weekly in neighbourhoods all over the city. The one we end up in is Laranjeiras, a comfortable middle-class area. Stalls with striped awnings stretch halfway up the hill. I've never seen fruit sold in such abundance and variety as here in Brazil. For a papaya fan like myself the sight of succulent piles of them ten or twelve deep is like some mild hallucination. Passion fruit and mango, limes, oranges, custard apple and coconut of course are all in perfect condition. Fábio is keen to show me the more exotic varieties like the small red, cherry-sized fruit from the Amazon called acerola, in demand around the world now as a 'super fruit', with a hundred times more vitamin potential than any other. Jabuticaba is a black olive-like fruit which only grows in the area of Rio, Minas and São Paulo. Its name has passed into the language to mean something quintessentially Brazilian.
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 50: Rio de Janeiro
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Rio de Janeiro
  • Book page no: 207

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