To continue on the topic of doing things that are free (and there are lots) we went to the Brazil National Library - a couple of metro stations away from us in Rio centre. The Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil is the depository of the bibliographic and documentary heritage of Brazil.
We got ourselves there right on time for the daily 2 pm guided tour in English just to find - following some natural Latin American logic - that there was in fact no such tour at all never mind today but all week: 'No English. English next week'.
We generally just roll with things on this trip so we decided to tag along on a Portuguese tour that was already underway and got a pretty good hang of the place anyways.
The building is beautiful - like an old palace. I love buildings that get light from the above and have beautiful detailing - I hope the photos give some idea of the grandeur of this space. It is so fitting that old libraries have big and grand surroundings, the University Library in Helsinki also has a stunningly beautiful interior - I will post pictures of it when we go to Helsinki in the summer.
The National Library also had two exhibitions - one in the Lobby was about Ulysses Guimaraes, a well known Brazilian politician and labour leader who died in a helicopter crash in 1992.
The other exhibit was about Brazilian landscapes and nature through the eyes of French botanist Auguste Saint Hilaire. We had a nice time at this exhibit looking at some of the very fine graphic etchings and watercolours of the time. Some of the botanical analytical drawings were superb, and Dante and Lili looked at the brushwork very carefully. In those days books were all made and illustrated by hand, and there may have only been one or two copies of a book that ever got made.