Saturday, 16 October 2004

Strange Fauna

As I was saying yesterday, I went out last night. I had my first local food from Minas Gerais. As usual in Brazil, it was completely unfit for a vegetarian. Good thing it's not my case so I enjoyed it thoroughly. After that, I went in search of a place to have a few drinks. It wasn't too difficult considering I was in the Savassi neighbourhood of Belo Horizonte and I ended up in the 3 Coraçãons cafeteria, that had a nice terrace outside. The beer was the standard chopp and went down quite well. However, the local fauna was interesting and totally unexpected. The square was full of goth, rasta, hippie, punk, you name it. I thought I was back in Camden Town for a second. Then I realised it was way too warm for it to be London and most of the crowd were way too young and probably guilty of underage drinking. I had discovered what rebellious Belo Horizonte teenagers get up to on a Friday night! Surprisingly, they were very well behaved even if some of them did try to put on a show. I found it very amusing and so did the other customers of the cafeteria. Apparently, this is what happens on Praça Savassi on a Friday night. I then went in search of somewhere more like a night club or a live music bar... and failed. I blame the way Belo Horizonte is designed with large straight avenues built for cars. As a result, there is no area of the town which favour pedestrians and would be a natural point of focus for outdoor night life, the way the Pelourinho is in Salvador. Tonight, I will try another area of town called Lourdes and see if I fare better. An interesting thing I noticed last night though is that quite a few bars officially advertise their closing time as "when the last customer leaves". I wish they'd do that in London!

Today I met with a friend and she took me to a few places out of town, including a lake, a zoo and a natural reserve. We started at the lake of Pampulha. It is quite nice and boasts a quadruple water spray feature at one end, better than the one in Geneva. It also has the Igreja de São Francisco de Assis on its bank, a church with the most unusual architecture. Unfortunately, it was undergoing repairs so we could only see the back of it, by the road, which shows an amazing azulejo (the Portuguese white and blue tiles, see an example taken in Lisbon). The zoo is like most other zoos except that I was able to see more of the local fauna there. They do have some weird animals in Brazil. Then we went to the Mangabeiras park just outside of town, in the Serra do Curral. Very nice but very tiring (Serra is a mountain range in Portuguese, same as Sierra in Spanish). We got a fantastic view of the town though!

Apparently, tomorrow, there is a fair just outside where my hotel is. If I understood well (my Portuguese is getting better but I still struggle a lot), they basically close the two internal lanes on each side of the central reservation in Avenida Alfonso Pena and put up lots of tents in the middle were they sell lots of things. That still leaves the Avenida 3 lanes each way so the interaction between drivers and fair should be interesting.

Great! I just found a map of Belo Horizonte so you can admire the beautiful grid design. My hotel is between dots 8 and 16.

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