Brazilian Cities (continued)
Rio de Janeiro, the capital of the Republic, is famous for the grandeur of its situation; many travellers, speaking from wide experience, maintain that it takes first place among the most beautiful cities of the world.
The Bay, studded with islands and bordered by fantastically shaped mountains, inset with hills and framed in heights which are bedecked with an enchanting medley of forests and buildings, presents a series of pictures such as we might even be surprised to see at a magic-lantern entertainment in fairyland.
Famous city-builders of many nationalities have either omitted to sweep slum-lands away from the neighbourhood of docks or allowed the harbour to become the most squalid quarter of their metropolis. Not so the Brazilians. The docks at Rio form the entrance to the main thoroughfare, the Avenida Rio Branco, a broad highway which is flanked by palatial public buildings, shops, and offices, and partitioned by trees into wide sidewalks and carriage-ways; hence the favourable first impression of the city as seen from the Bay takes a firm grip on the visitor the moment he sets foot on shore.
Avenues are a feature of many of the busiest streets in this sunny city; spacious squares and gardens also play a prominent part both as decorative agents and healthy lungs.
The Avenida Rio Branco merges into a marvellously beautiful promenade, which extends for five miles and commands a series of magnificent panoramas of the Bay; the roadway is reserved for motor traffic. I cannot tell you whether there are any speed regulations for automobiles in Rio; but I can assure you that, if there are, none of the drivers pays the slightest attention to them. The sea-front, in particular, is an ideal resort for any motorist who has racing fever. Here innumerable cars, usually of a luxurious model, speed along at a pace which makes motor-racing on famous tracks quite a tame sport. Sea-bathing is a popular amusement; and various cafes, where iced drinks are served al fresco, are favourite haunts.
The most fashionable of the business streets is the Rua Ouvidor, where are situated the establishments of leading jewellers, dressmakers, milliners, tailors, and sundry other society caterers. The Society Parade which takes place here every afternoon provides a display of the very latest Parisian fashions and diamonds of the first water.
An aerial railway to the summit of the Sugar-Loaf Mountain affords an opportunity for an exciting trip through mid-air. Electric trams and mountain railways offer facilities for a wide choice of short-distance excursions to places of great interest and beauty, such as the Botanical Gardens, and to vantage-points for obtaining wide-sweeping panoramic views of the bay and city, such as Corcovado, Tijuca, and Petropolis, the summer hill-resort of Rio.
A Royal Mail steamer takes us southwards to Santos, the great coffee port of Brazil.
Brazil produces more than three times the amount of coffee than is included in the total output of all the other coffee-growing countries of the world. There are about four and a half million acres of land planted up with this crop in the Republic, and of this vast area devoted to the industry over two million acres are situated in the State of Sao Paulo.
From Santos we go by rail to the city of Sao Paulo, situated 2,000 feet above sea-level. Just as Para and Mangos may be said to have been "built of rubber," so Sao Paulo has been "built of coffee." Both the city and its people have a very distinct individuality; everything we see, everybody we meet, gives us the feeling that we are in an atmosphere of extraordinary energy and enterprise. A temperate climate, due to elevation, has doubtless played its part in bracing up the Paolistas, but from the ambitious role which they have so successfully enacted in Brazilian history, it would seem that, among inhabitants of tropical regions, they have been specially blessed with a go-ahead temperament.
From Sao Paulo we make an excursion to a fazenda, or coffee estate.
The coffee-fields are an inspiring sight; they appeal to us, not only by their vast extent, but by the beauty of the shrubs in whatever season we happen to visit them, and by the picturesque manner in which ranks upon ranks of these shrubs occupy the hillsides and valleys of gracefully undulating country.
The cultivation of coffee requires very great care. For seed purposes the largest and most mature fruit must be selected, left to wither in the sun, and then dried in the shade. Only the best of seed must be allowed to go into the nursery. The seedlings are moved during the rainy season between November and February. They are transplanted in rows into holes of a certain depth and at a given distance apart, which varies according to locality. The fields must be kept well weeded. Pruning of the shrubs is another very necessary operation. The flowering season lasts from about September to December; the crops are harvested from about April to July. The coffee is dried in a barn, which is to say a "terreiro" in fazenda language. It may be dried as a "berry" or as a "bean"; in the latter case it is first washed. Coffee-beans are passed through a husking machine, and then through a sorting machine. The "berry" coffee, which is not so subject to being deprived of its strength by changes of climate as is the "bean" variety, has to go through numerous purifying operations, and is finally placed in a polishing machine. The labouring classes on the fazendas consist mainly of Italians.
Sao Paulo coffee is all exported through Santos. On our return to that port we are piloted by a most courteous member of the Commercial Association through one of the large warehouses; sack-loads of coffee are being received, cartloads of bulky sacks are leaving to catch a steamer which sails to-morrow. As each bag is brought in its contents are sampled, and their grade decides in which part of the warehouse the sack shall be stored to await transport to the European or American markets.
From Santos we go to Guaruja, to spend a weekend at the most fashionable of Brazilian watering-places. Our one complaint concerning the journey is that it is too short; the novel railway trip through the heart of a tropical forest, along a pass walled by trees richly clothed with foliage and gorgeously bedecked with flowering creepers, comes all too quickly to an end.
Among the attractions of this pleasure resort is a large and luxurious bathing establishment; sea-bathing is perfectly safe, and the beauty of the hill-girt, island-studded bay adds to the charm of aquatic festivities. There are good facilities for tennis, croquet, and golf. The sands afford motorists a fine track of many miles in extent, which allows the racing spirit full play, and which opens up an enchanting series of ocean, forest, and mountain views.
Guaruja possesses an establishment which is unique so far as Brazil is concerned—a really first-class hotel, run on first-class lines. But this is not a Brazilian enterprise, truly speaking, for it was built and equipped by an English company, under whose control it is managed by a European staff.
Brazil is not the only South American country that is very much behind the times as regards hotel accommodation. The general lack of good hotels throughout this Continent is particularly surprising in relation to the many up-to-date, even advanced, travelling facilities that have been introduced.