Vanessa is a Brasilera we got to know really well whilst living in London. She's from Guarapuava, a small town approximately 4 hours west of Curitiba. The purpose of their trip was for her boyfriend Tim (any ex-colleague of mine in London) to meet her friends and family. They were unable to fit Sao Paulo into their itinerary so we figured we'd head over to them instead!
The flight from Guaralhos is only 40 minutes. As we flew in the view was pretty amazing for as far as we could see the land was covered in small, idyllic farms and there were trees, trees and more trees. Joaquim, one of Tim's associates, came to pick us up at the airport and drop off us at our airport. Unfortunately we arrived just in time for rush hour.. and even more embarassing, he drove us to all 3 Mercure Hotels in town (obviously the last one was the one we were booked in..). One thing we are finding more of each day, is that the hospitality of the Brazilians is incomparable to any country we have lived / travelled in.
Curitiba has a brilliant public transport plan. The roads are split into 4-6 lanes on the main roads. 2 lanes are allocated for normal traffic, 2 lanes for fast traffic and the middle 2 lanes are for speedy buses which operate just like a subway system in any other major city but instead it's on street level. Clever people.
I think Tim was excited to have some English speakers after a week in rainy Guarapuava... sadly for him, all we wanted to do was speak as much Portuguese as we could! We ate in kilo restaurants, drank caprihinias, visited the Oscar Niemeyer Museum via the Linha Turismo (tourist bus) and found Bar do Alemão (Curitiba has a strong German presence). As much as Sophie loved hanging out with all the jagermeister shooting, beer sculling students it was already way past her bedtime and plus we had plans to check out the world's largest restaurant (only 5,000 people can eat at any one time) in Santa Felicidade, the italian quarters.
Unfortunately Santa Felicidade was only 4,995 people full that night...and fortunately for us we were invited last minute to Vanessa's friends' house for a churrascaria. Alessandro came to pick us up ... again, that Brasilian hospitaility... in other countries it would be assumed that you would make your own way, not have the host come pick you up, welcome you into his home and cook and serve you food and lots of beer all night! Vanessa met Alessandro and his wife Andressa, and Alessandro's mother Rosa in Italy when she was living there a few years back. They were all really excited about meeting Vanessa's Tim but at the same time were so welcoming to all of us. We spent the evening bantering in bad portuguese, eating picanha and winding them up about Tim's love for Argentina. A great last night for Tim in Brazil so hopefully he will come back again for a visit soon!! (Tim, I promise sunshine and a bottle of cachaca will be waiting the next time you visit!)
Joaquim invited us to his daughter's 24th birthday 'fejoida' lunch. Fejoida is Brasil's precious national dish which is like a heavy meat stew with beans, and you eat it with rice, crisps (?) and other assorted veggies, oranges and pickles. Tim's other associate (Helio and his wife, Decca) came to pick us up from our hotel. We arrived at the Casa da Pedra... it wasn't a local restaurant like we had assumed but an art gallery / wine cellar that they had hired for her birthday! I had forgotten my own rule (Rule No. 38 - it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed). I was horrified as I was wearing jeans that Sophie had peed on earlier that day (this is what my life has come to) and I walked into a room of champagne swilling, 5 inch stilletos and bling bling bling. Haha, and we were on the table with the 'oldies'... but lunch was lovely, the setting was absolutely beautiful and it was great people watching. I can't even remember what I did for my 24th birthday. The band started up and Sophie woke up. Helio and Decca insisted on taking us on a tour of all the parks around Curitiba - there were some really stunning parks, alot of them have only been developed in the last 20 years and a couple of them were converted from old quarries. More clever people.
I know Curitiba is not really a destination point for most visitors but if you are travelling through Curitiba it's definitely worth having a look around.