Jane Jacobs was an important writer and social activist. An American who moved to Toronto, Canada, she wrote her book The Death and Life of the Great American Cities in 1961. It’s a book which influenced the approach to, and planning of big cities, providing them with a more human perspective.
For Jacobs, the vitality of movement and chance encounters by people in different environments within a neighborhood is essential to strengthening social bonds within cities. Public places such as streets and parks, as well as local establishments, are designated as important places for developing relationships and dialogue between the various people who live, work or visit there.
If alive, Jane would be 100 years in May, 2016. In honour of her reflections, I chose to reveal to Canadians and remind Brazilians living in Canada, of the vitality of the small, cozy neighbourhood of Urca, in the south of Rio de Janeiro.
Though the starlet is the Sugarloaf Mountain, a tourist destination that attracts thousands of visitors every year, I will shift the focus to a place known as the Wall of Urca. Three metres high, about half a metre wide and 1600 metres long, this heritage site made of pressed granite has established itself as a charming meeting spot that brings together both locals and tourists.
Families, friends, acquaintances and strangers go there to enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Guanabara Bay. The gentle sea breeze, the shadows of the almond trees and the colourful boats moored in Guanabara Bay form a unique and pleasant atmosphere. But it is the joy and relaxation of the people who go there that make this place so special.
Some seek the good food and cozy facilities offered by the local bistros and restaurants. Others choose to enjoy snacks and drinks right there in the fresh, open-air, as they lean against the short wall. A nice and unsophisticated spot that reinforces one’s sense of being in Rio, for both locals and tourists!
Where to go in Urca:
Bar Urca: specializing in seafood and Brazilian and Portuguese cuisines, the snack and beverage service is even offered to those leaning on the Wall. Rua Cândido Gaffrée, 205.
Garota da Urca: meat dishes such as steak and “medalhão à piemontesa” are served in portions large enough to be shared. Snacks like cheese balls and savoury pastries are very popular. Av. João Luiz Alves, 56.
Boteco Belmonte: famous for their “empadas abertas”, the shrimp ones are the best! Meat, poultry and seafood are also served. Av. Portugal, 986.
JULIUS Brasserie: with a small and pleasant atmosphere, they serve contemporary cuisine at reasonable prices. Av. Portugal, 986, Loja D.