“You should go to Instituto Moreira Salles,” the message read. “Have you been before?”
That’s the thing about taking advice from locals. You can rarely go wrong.
I had a good feeling about Instituto Moreira Salles (sometimes referred to as IMS) before I even arrived. The bus chugged up the gentle hill into an area decidedly more green, not that Rio de Janeiro is lacking in color. Plants hanging from above shielded us from direct sunlight, and a beautiful afternoon was afoot.
When I arrived at Instituto Moreira Salles, it was clear my friend had been right. A majestic cultural centre stood in front of me: red walls, checkered marble floors, nature sprouting from every corner. Entry was free, so I ventured inside, met with photography exhibitions and fleeting black and white film.
Some further strolling took me to the main café area, situated next to a tropical green pond. As for the backdrop, Picasso-esque blue mosaics were splayed across a wall. I stood back and watched families interact; there seemed to be a children’s birthday party of some kind taking place and spirits were high.
I strolled some more. IMS is home to several buildings enveloped by leafy canopies, giving the unusual feel of jungle-meets-art, something decidedly foreign to a Londoner. In the gardens, people ambled leisurely and, to my right, a man read serenely on a mosaic bench.
Before I knew it, three hours had passed and early dusk was encroaching. I really had become accustomed to the Brazilian timeframe, or lack thereof.
I drew out my phone, ready to call an Uber and head back to Copacabana where I had been residing for the past few days. As I tapped in the address, rising fluidly to my fingertips, something stopped me for a moment.
No, I reprimanded myself.
I cancelled the ride and shoved
my phone back into my pocket, making my way to the exit of IMS. I knew that if I took a left, the road led to Gávea, and, at worst, I could catch a bus from there that would take me back home. The ride up to IMS had captured me in such a way that my intuition was urging me to explore, even if only to glimpse at the colored houses perched by the roadside. After all, I had nowhere specific to be.
I began to make my way down, letting my footsteps tumble loosely. The temperature was perfect. As dusk would soon be rolling in, gone was any humidity, and I was protected once more by the branches from above. I had been walking for 10 minutes or so when I noticed a slight commotion some 30 metres ahead of me. Hordes of cars were pulling up to an entrance, and people were gathered around like a swarm of bees. As I neared the entrance, I began to hear the dulcet notes of live bossa nova drifting through the air. A man handed me a flyer which read, “Feira na Rosenbaum.”
Once I had edged my way through the swarm, I stepped into what can only be described as a garden circling a large pink house. White columns adorned the outside, and peppermint green leaves furled around the walls. Immediately, millennial pink flocked to mind.
The garden was beginning to fill and, in every direction something new enticed me. Home-made food, artisanal crafts, local independent clothing brands, shoes galore — all somehow neatly arranged into the pink house and the space around it.
However, what intrigued me most were the people, the said “swarm of bees.” Together they hustled, chatting and laughing, and all the while the sky grew a little more lilac-colored. I could feel this moment was special.
There I was, both an observer and a participator, as though I had stumbled upon a little secret I hadn’t even known existed.
I took my time wandering around, speaking to each producer at the fair. Each had an interesting story to tell, and I learned that Feira na Rosenbaum was running in conjunction with Junta Local, a collective in Rio which supports the creative endeavours of refugees who come to Brazil. Once more, time passed me by and, when I next glanced at my watch, two hours had passed. It was now dark.
This is the art of stumbling upon, one of the most fulfilling aspects of travel and exploration. The smallest and seemingly insignificant divergence which often leads to the simplest and most intriguing of both pleasures and encounters. Had I simply called an Uber and headed home, I would have had a lovely afternoon.
Having chosen to walk and stumble upon instead, I had a memorable one. And for me, memorable always trumps lovely.