Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Magical Museum and Many Mosquitos

Yesterday we took a bus up to Alto da Boa Vista to visit the Museu do Acude. The museum is located in a beautiful villa and enchanted gardens, former residence of the late entrepreneur and art collector Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya (1894-1968).

Unfortunately the museum is closed on Tuesdays, which we only found out on arrival. But the friendly guards let us visit the gardens, showed us some information on Castro Maya´s life and achievements and told us about the history of the museum and the surrounding atlantic rainforest reserve of Floresta da Tijuca. It seems that they don´t receive many visitors and obviously felt sorry for us that we made the long way from Recreio only to find the museum closed, so they tried to show us as much as possible.

I absolutely fell in love with the museum - the light coming through the leaves of the huge old trees and the hidden statues gives the place an enchanted athmosphere. And the presence of the former owner of the site and founder of the museum, Castro Maya, can be felt in any tasteful detail and arrangement. The mosaics, the swimming pool, the garden arrangements... From what we learned from the guards and informations, Castro Maya was born in Paris as the youngest son of an engineer and an heiress of a traditional family of miners. He was brought up in Brazil but returned various times to France and always had great interest in France and French culture. An example of his love for French culture where i.a. the fancy dress parties he organized in the Vila do A├žude. They were inspired by paintings from the Louvre and accompanied by music by Debussy. Walking around the enchanted garden of the villa you can imagine the magic of those parties and might wish to travel back in time.

After studying law Castro Maya became a successful entrepreneur. His company Industrial Carioca Cia., was dedicated to the vegetal oil production, being known for its more popular product, the Carioca coconut oil. The guard told us that many older visitors still remember the famous Carioca coconut oil. Besides being a successfull businessman, Castro Maya was a dedicated sportsman and supporter of sports, pioneer of ecological issues, author, art collector and founder of museums and cultural societies.

In 1943 the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Enrique Dodsworth, invited Castro Maya to co-ordinate the reconstruction and remodelling of the Tijuca forrest. For a symbolic wage of one dollar, earning him the nickname of ´one dollar man´, he directed the reform and urbanization of this area, a former coffee plantation. Soon the new urban park became a very popular weekend get-away for the cariocas, reaching up to 5.000 visitors per weekend in the late 40´s.

These numbers seem to have decreased as we found the park deserted! We walked up to the lovely Taunay waterfalls where we took the mandatory pictures and had a coffee in the oldfashioned little restaurant ´Bar da Cascatinha´. We completed this perfect day with another coffee and bolinho de bacalhau in the traditional restaurant on the main place of Alto da Boa vista, but had to leave soon due to the mosquito attacks. They are so numerous - and aggressive - that the staff of the restaurant put a bottle of repellent on your table even before taking the orders!

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