Santa Teresa

July 11, 2009

We went to Santa Teresa again today.  We went last year, on a Sunday, in the rain, and were disappointed.  We wandered around the twisted cobbled streets, steeply built on a mountain within the city, passing dilapidated mansions (which were half-swallowed by jungle and extremely beautiful in a maudlin way) looking for a restaurant that was supposed to be extraordinary.  We never found it.

Convinced that we missed something, given how many travel articles focus on this small “bohemian” area, I dragged Scott back, ready for it to be full of artists, crackling with intelligence, running perfect little cafes and shops that sold interesting crafts and trinkets.  Ill-fated from the moment we hailed one of Rio’s yellow cabs, the driver had no idea how to get there.  After asking directions we skirted to the north of the lagoa and up into the hills until we were going full speed around tight bends, flying past other cars and motor bikes as everyone pretended it was a wide, flat, paved road, not steep cobbled switchbacks with no shoulder and only jungle surrounding.

Upon arrival (safely), we found the same small praca, the same three lame shops, the same four restaurants and the same nothingness as before.  I’m holding out hope that it’s cool at night, the bars a little darker and livelier, the restaurants a little more buzzing.  In the daylight, the mansions still look amazingly cool, with views of the city and favelas below, but everything else is a tiny chip of a gem that every travel journalist magnified, blowing expectations way out of proportion.

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