Thursday, May 27, 2010

Visiting historic Paraty

Following 5 days in Trindade we took a local bus up to Paraty, an historic colonial town founded in 1667 (although the quiet harbor area is thought to have been first discovered in 1531). There is a well preserved historic district that features 25 (little) square blocks of historic buildings and ankle-twisting boulder paved roads. It is a beautiful town.

By coincidence we were there at the time of the “Festival of the Divine Holy Spirit.” In addition to Catholic religious ceremonies unique to the occasion, there were dozens of great food and drink booths set up in the main square, plus a huge stage with live entertainment nightly. Lucky us to have chanced upon a big public party.

Paraty is rather known for its monthly festivals and events – they keep the pousadas and restaurants full!

Luiz spent a few days in Paraty last August and had found a sweet little pousada with an even sweeter proprietress, so once we arrived we set out to find her hideaway and secure a room. Jane, our hostess, remembered Luiz instantly. After they exchanged hugs and kisses and we all cooed over her 6 month old grandson, she gave us her best room.

Everything was great: the room, the amenities and of course the breakfast! If you are ever looking for a pousada in Paraty VERY NEAR the historic district (at 1/3 the price of pousadas within the district) check out Pouso Mel de Liz.

One new find this time around was a beach bar and self-described “World Music Club” in Jabaquara (the northern district of Paraty). It was great. The owner had just moved back to Paraty with his wife after running a pousada in Trancoso (great town in Bahia) for the past 14 years. His little beach bar was truly a little corner of Trancoso. Great vibe.

New to me, although Luiz had been there before some 30 years ago, was a visit to the “Big Tobagan.” It is a huge sloping waterfall that you can slide down (when the weather is warmer). While we visited the river/waterfall we were fortunate to be there when a proud local came to “surf” the waterfall. Great to watch, but I won’t be trying that any time soon.

Finally, our favorite thing unique to Paraty (although the fine restaurants with live music are a close second), was the Grupo Contadores de Estórias adult puppet theater. If you go to Paraty you absolutely MUST see their work, performed in a tiny 100 person theater space. The puppetry is ‘direct manipulation’ by masters draped in black. The scenes are universal in their charm and performed without words, just music. This company has performed all over the world. We were THRILLED that the company had just returned from Spain so we could see them again. Performances are on Wednesday and Saturday only.

Here is a brief video from their website where two old folks are flirting. Although the video is halting at times you get the feel. The actual performance is accompanied by music only, without lyrics. Check it out.

Preparing for the World Cup

Brazil is getting ready for the World Cup party season by (believe it or not) cutting import taxes on beer because local production officals fear they will not be able to keep up with demand during the games.  Brief news story here.

I'm telling you, Brazilians know how to party!

For another good write up about the pending games, check out this post by Leighton Gace over at Murder is Everywhere.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Annie Leibovitz shoots futebol players

This one is for you Danielle. Talking about the World Cup we cannot forget just how beautiful some of the players are.

The June cover of Vanity Fair magazine features some World Cup stars showing off their flags.

And here's a scene from the shoot!

Wildlife sightings while on vacation

Luiz and I don’t have a really sharp eye for wildlife, but often times here in Brazil the little guys just come right up to you and demand your attention. Here are a few photos of some beautiful creatures that crossed our path while we were on vacation last week.

A Tiê-Sangue (Brazilian Tanager) came to visit us every morning while we ate breakfast in Trindade.

This little guy was part of a group of about a dozen sagui monkeys living in several large trees in a garden in Paraty.

We swam with these colorful beauties while at the Picina Natural in Trindade.

These 7-color "Brazilian flag" birds joined us for breakfast in Trindade.

Probably the biggest tree frog I've ever seen, seen here sitting on our veranda railing.

About the size of a softball, this sand crab gave us a start while walking the beach.

These toucans feasted on açai in a palm just outside our window in Trindade.

3-D digital animated "Rio" movie trailer

Have you seen this yet?  Great fun.  I've seen it posted on the Made in Brazil as well as the Adventures of a Gringa in Brazil blogs.  But it is so cool I had to post it here as well.

It seems everything's coming up Rio these days.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beautiful Trindade

Trindade is beautiful. There are six beaches, most separated by rocky coastline. Each has their own charm. Two of them have shorefront restaurant services, four are delightfully deserted.

On day one we simply went to Praia do Meio and soaked up the view along with enjoying a delicious pan-fried fish fillet with shrimp sauce lunch to commemorate Luiz’s 58th birthday. In fact, the food was so visually appealing and scrumptiously delicious that we ate it all before remembering to take a photo.

The beach was a nice mixture of sand and surf, but we were warned that during busier periods the place can be completely overrun with people. The surfing looked good.

Lunch was so fantastic that we came back to the very same restaurant the next day for my birthday lunch: spaghetti with seafood. It was incredible.

Day two also included a hike along Praia do Cachadaço to the Piscina Natural (natural swimming pool). This is an outstanding boulder-protected area along the coast that forms a near perfect pool for calm waters and quiet bathing, complete with resident fish. That is, when it is not swarming with tourists. We were rewarded for our strategic Monday/off season visit with just 14 other people present. But back at the restaurant they explained that on some popular days there can be more than 100 people scrambling over the rocks and snorkeling in the water – a sight I hope I never see. It was a good hour hike to get to the pool, then we caught an oversized aluminum motorized rowboat seating 6 (local ferry service) back to town.

Day three took us to the swimmable waterfall Pedra a Engole just inland from the town. But the chilly season kept us from taking the plunge in the cold fresh water.

On day four we walked north along the long Praia dos Ranchos and Praia de Fora during low tide. That afforded us the opportunity to scramble over the shoreline rocks rather than having to climb back up and over them. We were rewarded by a lonely barzinho at the end where we had a couple cold ones, then continued to Praia do Cepilho.

Day five was spent lazing around on Praia dos Ranchos at a kiosk with a cute young waiter with impossible eye lashes. We ate fresh fish, drank crazy cold beer, and took in the eye candy for dessert.

We never made it to Praia do Brava, which requires a pretty good hike up into the forest and then back down to the beach. Next time.

Trindade is a beautiful spot, but it has long since been discovered by weekend getaway folks from São Paulo. Be warned – according to the locals, it can get ridiculously crowded during vacation periods and holidays. The old days of this being a sleepy hippy town are gone. But do visit if you have the chance.

Getting to Trindade and settling in

We liked the idea of Tridade as a place to celebrate our birthdays because it does not have a gas station, no bank, no chain store anything – not even an ATM machine. It's our kind of place. Plus, it has been getting a lot of good reviews on travel websites for backpackers, etc. It was time for us to check it out.

Luiz and I are strategic when we travel. Most places worth a visit are visited by hoards of people. We try to avoid the crowds. For the really popular spots our strategy is to steer clear of holidays and high season in general and try to arrive on a Sunday afternoon. Sundays tend to be quiet days where weekend visitors are packing to return home and pousada (bed and breakfast) owners are eager to offer a discount to book an otherwise surely empty room.

Getting to the coastal town of Trindade was a bit of a haul. Just about 5 hours south of Niterói by car, it took us nearly 7 hours and three buses to reach our destination. It was a pleasant adventure.  The "Costa Verde" (green coast) is a beautiful drive.  Our bus from Niterói went as far as Angra dos Reis. Then we transferred to a local bus company, Colitur, to ride the hour-plus further down the coast to historic Paraty (R$8). (There are busses from Rio that go directly to Paraty, but since we were leaving at 6:00 a.m. we departed from our local Niterói bus station.) From there we hopped a really local bus, again Colitur, for the additional 45 minutes to Trindade (R$3).

Our advance research had us focusing on a pousada (Pousada do Riacho) tucked back off the main road (there is really only one road that is Trindade) that featured individual chalets, a nature trail through the surrounding forest, and a swimming pool fed by the stream that borders the property. But when we got there it struck us as a little too hippy-dippy and the fact that we would be the only people there (while sweet and romantic) could mean the breakfast service may be minimal.

So we checked out several other pousadas and decided on a really nice place (clearly top of the line for this otherwise rather rustic spot) called Pousada Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers), also back from the main road. It turned out to be an excellent decision.

Our room was terrific with views of the forest and the pool below. The place was spotless. Breakfast was tremendous. And our hosts Sonia and her daughter Renata were sweet and attentive. Should you find yourself in Trindade, look them up.

Having unpacked our bags and chatted up our new friend Renata for a recommendation for Luiz’s birthday almoço (hearty mid-day meal/lunch) we set off to explore Trindade.

Tia Helenice's birthday reunion

On the eve of our birthday getaway Luiz, Zozó and I joined many others from our extended family to celebrate tia Helenice’s 70th birthday. Gotta love these 9 hour parties.

Endless food and drink. Kids everywhere. Luiz saw cousins he had not seen in 30 years and met others who weren’t even born before he moved to the United States.

I even ran into some folks who spoke English (who were older than 8 years).

Just before we sang Happy Birthday and cut the cake the grandkids made a sweet presentation for their vovó, reading a poem and telling her they loved her.

Nice party!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Traveling for our birthdays

It is difficult to wrap my head around this, but – I will turn 50 on Monday. Say what!? Luiz will be 58 on Sunday. (btw… he is frustrated by the proximity of our birthdays because now he no longer gets personal gifts, but rather candles, picture frames and soaps for the both of us. LOL!)

Our original plan was to go to Machu Picchu for my 50th. But you may have heard that heavy rains earlier this year wiped out the transportation routes to the world heritage site. We will make the trip some time in the future when things are not held together with bailing wire and duct tape.

On Sunday (after a huge party/family reunion on Saturday for Luiz’s aunt Helenice’s 70th birthday) Luiz and I will travel about 4.5 hours south of Rio to a little coastal village: Trindade, for a romantic getaway. We will stay a week.

Beaches, waterfalls, hiking trails, local cooking, and daytime boat excursions (to even more beaches)…

Ahhhhh – Qualidade de Vida.

The blog will go dark for a while, but I will be back with photos and tales.