Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dia 29: Voilà!

After Sonnet 29, a bit of yoga, and a breakfast of scrumptious fruits, I ran off to get ready for a bus tour of town. After Papa and Cyprian Uncle set off for a series of meetings, I met my guide, Auberto, in the lobby of the Melia, and we were Brasilia-bound! The first thing I noticed was how effortlessly he intertwined Portuguese and English, constantly alternating between providing background information to me and my three Brazilian tour-mates. It was fun to see how much I could understand of his Portuguese explanations!

Our first stop was Santuario Dom Bosco (Dom Bosco’s Shrine), which looks like a concrete box from the outside and a mystical planetarium from the inside. One feature of the church which I found really interesting is the confessional -- it is entirely transparent, meaning one would look his/her priest in the eye during confession, and also be visible to the entire congregation! (Auberto ascribed this design choice to the fact that no one in Brasilia sins.)

Second on the list was Memorial JK, the tomb of President Juscelino Kubitschek. We only got to see it from the outside, but I hope to go back tomorrow to explore the exhibits inside.

Third, we visited the Brazilian Military Headquarters. The space features an enormous acoustic shell (that round thing in the background), which allows words uttered at a normal volume to be heard as unusually loud by a grand audience standing in the space in front of the stage. (I really need one of these in my room. 18th birthday present, anyone?)

For our fourth stop, we headed across the road to see Burle Marx Square, designed by Roberto Burle Marx, who is said to have introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil. Howard Roark would be proud.

Then it was on to Catedral Metropolitana, a (literally) breathtaking cathedral which kind of looks like an onion from the outside. The area behind the cross is full of really neat birthing imagery -- there is a stain glass depiction of an embryo (yellow), uterus (blue), and pregnant belly (green). Wow.

Our sixth stop was Congresso Nacional, which is comprised of an “upside-down bowl" (Senate) and “right-side-up bowl” (House of Representatives).

Seventh was Praca dos Tres Poderes (Plaza of Three Powers), home to Palacio do Itamaraty (Palace of Arches -- Foreign Ministry), Palacio da Justica (Department of Justice), and Palacio do Planalto (Presidential Palace). In the middle of the square is an underground information center with an awesome model of the airplane- / butterfly-shaped town of Brasilia.

Our eighth attraction was Ponte JK (Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge), which crosses the man-made Lake Paranoa. The lake is a really pretty color, and I’m kind of tempted to go swimming there. We’ll see.

The last stop was Palacio da Alvorada (Sunset Palace), the residence of Brazil’s president. Dilma’s garden was home to a mango tree and tons of baby emu, which Auberto likened to both guard dogs and velociraptors. 

What a great overview of the city! Back at the hotel, I enjoyed a yummy Pizza Portuguesa and a great nap before re-editing the Annual Report article I had started looking at on Monday. I then had the pleasure of reading a really interesting essay by a close friend, and giving him my feedback. A lot of it was over my head, though!

When the men returned from their meetings, Papa and I headed to the hotel's peppy gym for what was a very invigorating workout. We then washed up and ran a few errands at Brasilia Shopping Mall before dinner. We ate at Universal Diner, a city-renowned restaurant whose chef has been voted "Best Chef in Brasilia" for the past 3 years. My curried shrimp dish certainly validated her title as such -- Mama would have loved it!

I now sit with Cyprian Uncle and Papa as they chat and I await a repeat of the delicious chocolate mousse I had for dessert yesterday. Boa noite!

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