Week 2 on “The Magic Island” Floripa, Brazil

Week 2 on “The Magic Island” Floripa, Brazil

Doo Doo Beach

Josh thought that it would be a good idea for us to visit a neighboring beach: Canasvieiras.

On the map it looked as though it was a mere 10 -20 minute walk away but it turned out to be much further and complicated to get to then we initially thought due to the fact that there was some building works going on on parts of the beach which prevented us from accessing it. We had to walk all the way around the beach, on the way passing through the local heavily gated neighborhood to get there.

There was definitely something up with Brazilians and dogs, and Brazilians and heavy gates, even electric ones. From what I had seen in the short space of time since we’d arrived, they seemed to be obsessed with security and protecting their homes from invasion. This was a little surprising considering the area we were in. Jurere was supposedly one of the safest neighborhoods in the whole of Brazil to live yet these people had gates up the wazoo! What on earth were they expecting to happen, a zombie invasion? gang warfare? – or perhaps it was just a cultural thing. Many of the people living here were moneyed and came from the surrounding big cities, so perhaps they were so used to protecting their homes from criminal activity that it came as second nature to do for their second (very expensive) homes. Either way, I could definitely see a business opportunity here: Security Gates R US?! Just a thought.

Walking through the local area made me realise how happy I was that we were staying where we were and that we weren’t staying here. This place not only felt like it was vacant with no other soul about giving it a distinctly eerie vibe, but the streets and houses that were on them were definitely not as nice, even a little rundown in places. I wasn’t entirely sure why Josh thought that it would be a good idea to go to this local beach but so far I wasn’t very impressed with what I was seeing. I hoped I was going to be pleasantly surprised when we got there.

After walking a little further up a very steep hill with many gated houses with barking dogs warning us not to come along closer, finally we arrived at Canasvieiras beach. It was much wider then ours and looked like it was more developed with hotels, restaurants and bars lining the beachfront, but it was also much busier, particularly with beach sellers and families, many who it looked like were going to be there for the entire day bringing their own beach chairs, parasols, drinks, food and even games to play. But asides from it being busy, it also just wasn’t as nice as Jurere beach. It was quite scruffy looking truth be told, and definitely didn’t have the same laid back charm.

After fending off a few people trying to sell their wares to us (even their beach sellers were more aggressive here!), we decided that as we were here we should at least get a bit of sunbathing in. Contrary to popular belief we hadn’t been sunbathing everyday since we’d arrived, but most days to be fair, lol. Well, one has to make good use of ones surroundings doesn’t one? 🙂

The manager of our apartment had given us some of these ingenious beach chairs which were small and compact enough to carry but which you could also use to fully lay down and sunbathe on but because of the distance to get this beach we had just brought our beach blankets.

Eventually we found a beach body free area and put our blankets down. We’d carried our Bluetooth stereo with us that we could listen to some tunes whilst we were sunbathing but it was far too noisy so we decided not to bother. Even though once you closed your eyes most beaches were exactly the same, and burying your feet in the sand was lovely on these Brazilian beaches as all seemed to have luxuriously soft, cool to the touch, fine sand, for some reason I just couldn’t get comfortable there.

Since leaving Rio we had still been being vigilant with our personal belongings, making sure that we either left them in our apartment or locked them away out of sight in the pocket of our beach blankets but for some reason it felt much safer in Jurere then here in Canasvieiras. Whether it was because of the number of people on the beach, because there were groups of youths lurking on the sidelines, due to the fact that it seemed much scruffier here or a combination of these factors, I felt as though my personal belongings were more at risk here. And I definitely didn’t want to leave them to go for a swim. Infact, I wasn’t in the least bit inspired to go swimming in the sea here at all. In short: I wasn’t feeling it.

Josh on the other hand had his own problems..

After less then 10 minutes of laying down on our blankets he started complaining that he could smell something unsavoury. He said it smelt like doo doo. Now true, there were lots of dogs on this beach. The Brazilians love themselves a dog and we often saw 1 or 2 running around on the beach in Jurere, but our beach was much cleaner then this one so it wouldn’t have surprised me if these people allowed their dogs to poo on the beach and they didn’t bother picking it up. Alas I couldn’t smell anything myself apart from the strong musty scent of smoked corn that the beach sellers came by wafting about in the air. As the minutes ticked by Josh began to get more and more unsettled. He was now convinced that he could smell shit and he was determined to find out where it was coming from but after looking around and seeing nothing he finally agreed to surrender and admit that this particular beach trip had been a bit a disaster. It was time to move somewhere else.

He picked up his blanket from the sand and began to shake it off before suddenly noticing that it had a huge pile of DOO DOO on it. Josh had been laying in dog shit!

He was understandably repulsed, visibly on the verge of vomiting and he proceeded to use every explicit word under the sun to express his revulsion. After washing the blanket thoroughly in the salty sea he returned to announce that we were leaving this beach never to return.

I couldn’t agree more!

Acai Wars

Acai (pronounced a-sigh-ee) is a big thing here in Brazil. A fruit cultivated from the acai palm tree that grows in the Amazon, it’s considered to be a superfood here and in the surrounding South American countries where it’s grown due to it’s many health benefits and it’s insta-worthyness, due to it’s distinctive dark purple hue. Usually served as a smoothie or as an acai bowl and topped with nuts, banana, honey and other fruits there are lots of restaurants popping up around here toting their credentials as an Acai seller including our local Brasil Berry who are using that as there USP. However within a week of arriving we have seen other coffee shops in the area start to also advertise their Acai credentials and as a result Brasil Berry has made an even more obvious sign to let people know that infact THEY are the Acai Aficionado’s. Acai drama ensues in this sleepy Brazilian town!

It probably comes as no surprise due to the geography of such a place but there are so many beautiful birds here. Cute songbirds in rainbow colours, wood peckers, seagulls, eagles, and many that I’ve never seen before in my life. Should you be a birdwatcher I would imagine that it doesn’t get much better then birdwatching here in Brazil.

I am not a strong swimmer. I think it has something to do with my genetics (my skinfolk are generally not very strong swimmers probably more due to hair vanity then anything else) but also because I don’t float very well. When I went for a scuba diving lesson (in a swimming pool you understand?!) with my friend Maria, I found it very easy to do (and scary but enjoyable), and I sunk easily wheras she, despite being heavier then me found it almost impossible to sink. Even when they put weights on her waist so that she could sink she still found it difficult, and when I enquired as to why that was they told me that people were different. Some people were more sinkable then others.

Well, I’m definitely one of them! I’m sure my swimming technique isn’t fantastic but I do enjoy swimming and I especially enjoy swimming in the sea (when it’s relatively calm, clear and with minimal seaweed), alas I have noticed that I seem to run out of breath much easier then Josh when swimming (whose a pretty good swimmer) and his posture is such that he seems to float easily. I on the other hand, do not.

But here on the beach in Jurere, I can float for days! Why there you ask? Well it’s because the seawater is extremely salty!! It is perhaps the saltiest sea that I have encountered. Tis very enjoyable swimming here because of this fact, coupled with the fact that it’s not too deep when you first get in, it’s clean (though not entirely clear as it’s been stormy on occasion which has churned up the sea a little), and there’s not many people swimming in the sea. People here prefer sunbathing on the beach and if they do go into the sea then it’s not always for swimming purposes, they just dip in to cool down and they LOVE to pose and will have their friends filming them from the beach whilst they writhe about in the surf to get that insta-good pic.

The Storm

The weather had been changing from being really hot one minute, to being overcrowded to having short bursts of rain but nothing to get too worried about. But tonight was different.

The first thing we noticed was the sky darkening to a deep purpley-blue. Then all hell broke loose. Up until now all we could hear was the gentle sound of the sea lapping against the shore everyday. We heard it when we went to bed at night and then first thing in the morning. It was a gentle, hypnotic, alluring sound. But tonight the winds had picked up and then suddenly I couldn’t hear the waves anymore. All I could hear was wind, a furious wind that howled and screamed, battering against our suddenly very fragile looking window panes.

The palm trees lining the beach I could see were getting a bit of a battering too as the winds forced them to bend over to within an inch of their lives as they struggled to stay upright. I was infinity grateful that I was in the comfort of my apartment whilst this storm raged on around me but as it got more and more intense, and I started to hear our windows getting more and more battered, rattling around angrily in their sockets I started to become more concerned and I asked Josh: will we survive this storm?!

The wind howled, whistled, and shook the very life out of the island. We could hear the bins in the streets falling over and rolling down the road, tree branches whipping about violently, dogs barking repeatedly. Being on the beachfront we were also getting the winds coming directly off the sea, and judging by the state of the wall outside our property it looked as though the winds had already won the battle as the wall was completely destroyed, crumbled to mush.

I was wondering whether these apartments that we were in were built to survive such an onslaught. Certainly from the sound of the wind it was as if the wind man had come a knocking on the door to get in and was getting more and more aggressive and persistent as time went on. I couldn’t relax, imagining the worst: our windows being blasted out of their sockets bringing in the most furious storm either of us had ever experienced tossing us out into the night sky.

And who would we call to be saved? Would we have to beat a hasty retreat to the rooftop for protection? Was the storm intense enough to cause the sea to rise? – because from where I was sitting it certainly sounded like a tsunami out there! Mother Nature was going WILD. If there was anyone still out there I felt sorry for them. The only thing that could protect a person from a storm like this was bricks and mortar.

The rain intensified, lashing down against the window pane and I thought for the first time since arriving that if it was a choice between perishing in a Brazilian storm or being safe in my central heated London home I’d take the latter thanks as I was determined to survive this trip thank you very much.

The noise was becoming more and more unbearable so I retreated to the bedroom and hunkered down on the floor hoping that if the windows did blow in then I would be largely protected by the wardrobe. Such was the strength of the wind I was conjuring up all kinds of escape plans including leaving our apartment to go into the stairwell where the windows were much smaller. The rain gradually lessened over the course of the evening and by bedtime all we could hear was the occasional moany wind gusts. After laying in bed listening to the storm for a couple of hours I was too tired to fight the exhaustion any longer and my eyes eventually closed.

Reluctant Celebs 

We were becoming somewhat of a celebrity couple in our area. Not only had we been befriended by the 2 women in the local coffee shop but we also had a young waiter who was originally from Sao Paulo on our case whenever we went into his restaurant to work for a few hours. The last time we went in there he cornered us with a 20 minute long conversation (whilst we were trying to work) in his extremely limited, broken English, to tell us how much he loved us and how happy he was to have met us (basically). He said that he had been studying English but had never met an actual English person in order to practice what he had learned so he was absolutely elated to be able to have a conversation with us (and let’s face it that was the only language of conversation that we were actually capable of having anyway!), and said how nice we both were and that he really wanted to learn how to speak English fluently so that he could eventually work on a cruise. Needless to say we didn’t have much to say whilst he was giving us his whole life story, we simply listened. He also told us about life in Sao Paulo. He had only been in Floripa for 2 months and really liked it though he admitted to us that the people weren’t as friendly or as chatty as the people in his home town, but he said that it was very safe in Florianopolis compared to Sao Paulo where he said people got robbed allday everyday. According to him, you couldn’t walk around with your purse or phone in plain sight. He mentioned the word “criminals” and “big city” a few times so I got the sense that it wasn’t necessarily somewhere that we would be rushing to go in a hurry!

 Cappacino Brasileiro

The Brazilians have their own take on a Cappacino and it’s not anything like what you are thinking. We had recently learned after being baffled about receiving a “Hot Chocolate” everytime we ordered a Cappacino that in order to get the Cappacino like the version we’re used to having all over Europe (and what I thought was universal), we needed to ask for a Cappacino Italiano as if you just said Cappacino then they would bring you their Cappacino Brasiliero, which is basically a Hot Chocolate made with Cinnamon. It doesn’t have coffee in it at all.

We’re not here to tick things off a bucket list. We’re here (our first time in South America!) to experience what it is to live in Brazil, in this environment that is both natural as it is beautiful, to get to know the people and their way of life as much as we can and see some things along the way. We’re also here to work, not work that is taxing by any means, or that is structured, we’re very much just going with the flow here, working on the days when we feel like it and from wherever we feel like being. We’ve been here for 2 weeks now I’m easing into this new life gradually. I guess I haven’t quite come to terms with the fact that I’ve left work permanently and this is my life now, it still feels just like a long holiday. But I don’t believe that you can feel the soul of a place unless you get to know it, and just taking pictures of it doesn’t sum it up for me. So please forgive me if I don’t document everything in visuals, sometimes words are a more powerful tool for the imagination!

Centro

Centro is the Historic Centre of Florianopolis, the busy part of town where people go to shop til they drop, check out all of the lively bars and restaurants and the open market which was historically used to host a market selling everything from fish and seafood, to caipirinha’s #caipirinhaaday clothes and arts and crafts. We jumped in an Uber and after sitting in surprisingly heavy traffic for about 20 minutes we finally arrived at Centro to be greeted by with lots of noise, lots of cars and even more people. It was very different but exciting too!

I had already done a little research on Centro so I wasn’t expecting to be massively impressed with the area but I still felt that it would be a bit of a disappointment if we came to the island of Floripa and didn’t experience the main part of the city and also, I knew that Floripa wasn’t all just stunning beaches, fake boobs (oh yes, there’s a lot of that here), small fluffy dogs and acai bowls!

I was particularly interested in seeing some of the beautiful old Portuguese style architecture, get a real feel for the place and people and perhaps sit under the famous fig tree that has been there for 140 years. The tree is so beloved of the city that it actually has a nickname: “Figueira”

What struck me after noticing that it immediately felt like another busy city was the fact that all of the stunning greenery that had followed us all the way from Jurere to here was suddenly gone, and in it’s place was lots of buildings and people. The Uber driver had dropped us off at the shopping centre, not the market which is where we wanted to go but since we were just being tourists and having a look around the city we figured we’d find our own way there by foot so after a short time spent in the mall which looked and smelt like every other mall in the world and so was not particularly inspiring we set off to find the main part of Centro.

We had chosen this particular day to do the touristy thing because it was overcast and a little cooler. The thought of trundling about in 30 degree heat in the city centre did not appeal in the slightest but even this was hard going as the roads to the centre were surprisingly hilly. I was noticing that people in Brazil loved their fitness. If they weren’t cycling then they were jogging and if they weren’t doing any of those things then they were still wearing fitness clothes as though they had either come from or were going to do some kind of fitness activity. I couldn’t say that the people here looked better then those in Rio, and they certainly didn’t look as good as the people living in Jurere, but I think that was mainly because of the demographic of people that lived there.

There were a few interesting looking independent shops and restaurants, though we didn’t go into any of them but we did stop at Floripa’s famous speciality coffee shop The Lighthouse Cafe, which we’d actually heard about on a German gay couples travel vlog the night before. The barista at The Lighthouse Cafe was really friendly and could speak English very well. Like many other people he was intrigued to find out that we were from England and asked us where we’d heard of the coffee shop so we showed him the video. Not only do they serve a very impressive array of coffee at The Lighthouse Cafe but they also make and package their own coffee on site so it’s a very cool place. I especially liked the decor.

The Lighthouse Cafe

 

The closer we got to the centre the independent shops petered out and a much less modern, dirtier and rundown shopping area came into view. We made a beeline for the Public Market, which was located in a large airy yellow building with huge arches in the hope that we would not only get some reprieve from the many sellers trying to sell us things on the street but perhaps find something interesting to buy as a momento of our trip.

But instead all we found was a labyrinth of cheap tatt. And unfortunately for us these people were a little more astute to whether we were native Brazilians and they seemed to target us even more as they knew that we were not. The Open Market did have a few bars and restaurants but none that looked particularly appealing and the other arts and crafts shops just reminded me of Deptford Market tbh (not a good look). So we went back outside to face the music.

But, it smelt. Of cheese, socks and of decaying food. The smell was vile. My nose was unable to deal with such an intense pong so we were forced to leave the area. But no matter where we went the same street sellers trying in earnest to sell us their dull wares and the same identical looking shops selling cheap tatt persisted. The whole area was full of them! After awhile the streets began to merge into one and I felt as though I was stuck in some kind of a hellish maze of smelly shops that I would never ever leave. I needed to leave!

We made our way to the only bit of nature in the city: the illustrious fig tree. And it was illustrious indeed. This gigantic tree rose up with majesty and grace daring us not to be impressed by his magnificent splendour. Stretching his green leafy branches out far over our heads and everyone else’s he provided an impressive beauty but also some shade and cool from the now intense mid day sun. We stayed there awhile talking and people watching feeling very relaxed. It seemed as though this was the place to be as alot of the locals were drawn to this leafy park too, but it had to be said, the people in this city were looking more then a little bit bedraggled and worse for wear. There was certainly nothing glamorous about the people here.

Afterwards we made our way to the Open Market again via the shops where I was convinced that I must at least be able to find a beach bag as my beach bag that I got from Paris the year before had suddenly broken. I mean that’s what Brazilians are known for isn’t it: Beaches! I was also fed up of looking like the only tourist on the beach since all women, irrespective of their age wore Brazilian bikini’s to the beach, they did not wear the European modesty styles which basically was all I had so I was keen to get myself a Brazilian bikini to fit in with the locals! But all of the shops were horrible, all of the things they were selling looked dated and cheap and nasty and I simply did not believe judging by what I was seeing, that I was suddenly going to come upon some beautiful wares worthy of purchasement. So we made our way back to the Open Market. Our plan was to go there and have some caipirinha’s and then make our way home. This was a failed mission. I was glad that we had gone but it was nothing to write home about!

Reluctantly we had to admit that this place just wasn’t for us. When we arrived at the market people were baying to get us to go into their store but we eventually settled on a bar/restaurant in the main hall. The hall area was huge but it looked like they were having a pretty slow day as there was hardly anyone in there and there was seating in there for hundreds. We didn’t plan to stay long so we walked into the bar to the side of the restaurant with the intention of ordering our drinks from there but we were both hit in the face at the exactly same time with an intense fishy pong so strong that we could almost see the fishy radiation in the air waves. We left the bar as quickly as our legs would carry us. The caipirinha’s for the record, were not very nice. I was trying to be different by ordering a strawberry caipirinha (which I actually thought would be mango as I still hadn’t learnt all of the words for the various fruits), but when it turned up it tasted horrible and was far too bitter so I swapped mine with Josh’s 🙂

We were pretty happy to leave there tbh.

Btw, these people love their beef you know. Even when I ordered a mushroom risotto they brought me a risotto (not mushroom), with beef! (shaking head)

We’ve yet to work out the way of life here. Shops and the beach bars seem to have weird opening times, some not opening on the days that they say they are, some not opening yet at all, some being empty when you think that they are going to be packed. And of course it doesn’t help that our language skills are pretty poor to say the least and they are not used to greeting foreigners here as most people are Brazilian. Most people here do not speak any English at all, and only a few have a very basic command of English. The younger generation here seem to have more language skills but they are not the ones that we are generally having to converse with when we want information on something or are trying to book a table somewhere. And people love to talk! Even when we think we have done good by memorising a phrase (such as asking for WIFI for instance), they reply with some long and complicated answer in Portuguese rather then just giving us what we want: a simple yes or no! And Uber drivers! Don’t get me started with Uber drivers. The benefit of using Uber in foreign countries is that you don’t actually have to converse with them, where you’re being picked up from and where you’re going is put into the system BUT here in Brazil these Uber drivers like to talk! Rather then just coming to the location that you have indicated on the map they will actually try and TEXT OR CALL you asking you things in Portuguese and needless to say we don’t understand a word of what they’re saying!

I can say that for sure that it was much easier to get around when we were in Thailand and Bali as at least they do get alot of international tourism. But on the other hand of course I feel guilty that I don’t know more Portuguese as I really wish that I converse with them in their own language, but from the little I’ve heard of it, it’s not an easy language to learn.

We found a co-working space near our apartment that opened today so the plan is to go there to work for a few hours during the week. It will be better as the other places that we regularly go we end up getting into the long conversations with the people who work there which is nice but it can be a little distracting when you’re trying to work.

We decided that rather then buying a #caipirinhaaday we will just make our own from now on so we bought the stuff and made our very first caipirinha’s yesterday. it was super easy to make and even more delicious to drink since we can control the ingredients ratio’s. And of course much cheaper! 🙂

 

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