Brazil: You had me at Beach

Brazil: You had me at Beach

Discovering Caraiva

I’d been really busy before arriving in Brazil that I hadn’t had much time to plan the things that I wanted to see and do whilst I was here and a part of me also wanted to have the spontaneity of discovering things along the way. In between working, hosting my perfume workshops, having my driving lessons, attending and running a meetup group, packing and seeing family and friends I was all but burnt out in London and more then ready for this most exciting travel adventure. 

So because of all of this I hadn’t heard of Caraiva before when our Airbnb host mentioned the place to me. She had been very vague as to what exactly we would find once we arrived there, but she said it was special and I trusted her judgement in particular when considering that whilst residing in the mysterious allure of Trancoso, she was recommending this place as a must-see destination in Bahia. So see it I must!

Getting to Caraiva was no easy feat. The roads here in this part of Brazil were shockingly bad, indeed on the night that we first arrived I was bumped and bounced out of my exhaustion on the perilous journey through the dusty, narrow, rocky and uneven dirt roads to get here. The roads were so dusty here that just walking down them immediately covered you with plumes of dirt. And our balcony had a permanent reddy brown film of dust on the floor, tables and chairs that daily sweeping couldn’t fix and all of the surrounding plants and trees were permanently dusty to match. So the idea of venturing out into this tourist unfriendly landscape for a day out, where a burst tire could happen at any given moment, didn’t particularly fill us with enthusiasm.

   

Sunrise from our balcony 

Getting to Caraiva required us to walk for 30 minutes in order to get to the bus station where we would pick up a bus that would take 2 hours to get there, then once we arrived we had to then get on a little boat. As always, we were the only non Brazilians present so it was fun and games trying to buy a bus ticket from the man at the kiosk who couldn’t speak any English but we got there in the end. Thankfully the bus had lots of windows and as we had chosen to go on one of the hottest days since we’d arrived in Trancoso, we really needed the cool breeze. We had brought along with us water, blankets and suncream but since we hadn’t done any research on where we were going or what to expect once we got there, we didn’t really know whether there would even be a beach there. All part of the fun!

The journey to Caraiva simply took my breath away, and not in a good way!

If I’d thought that the roads in Trancoso were bad I need think again as the roads towards Caraiva were utterly awful. The bumps in the road had me and Josh bobbing up and down like a jack in the box. I felt as though I was on some kind of a fairground ride that I was about to be chucked off of and I was genuinely shocked as to how many ditches and lumps and bumps in the road there were, and for how long in the journey this shock to the system went on for. It was as if I was actually partaking in a sport of some kind.

 A bus ride should not increase the adrenaline of it’s passengers (who are supposed to be relaxing afterall!) but every second that went by I was forced violently up in my seat and then thudded back down again as the bus wobbled over the humps in the road. I imagined myself to be a horse jockey. The roads were extremely narrow and had twists and turns in them that would make even Lewis Hamilton blush, yet this bus driver was flying around these roads like he himself was a professional F1 driver. I didn’t even know that buses could reach such speeds as this – but surely he must have been doing around 50 miles an hour down these rural roads, which had huge precipes’ and deep ravines on both sides. This man clearly didn’t care one iota about the health and wellbeing of his passengers.

Water flew out of my water bottle drenching my clothes. My head was pounding from all of the jolting about, my legs felt bruised and Josh almost had carpet burns from his knees being rammed and scraped into the seat in front. We were both pretty shaken up and we hadn’t even arrived yet! To think that some people were actually doing this journey on a daily basis was beyond my British comprehension but then it just goes to show you how much you can endure if you’ve never known anything else I guess, and for these locals, this was all they’d ever known!

After a long and very uncomfortable ride eventually we got off the bus to be met with intense heat and humidity in equal measure. We hadn’t wanted to come when it was overcast and now we were reaping the rewards of a sun that simply wouldn’t quit. The first thing we had to do was pick up a ticket to enter the park so we walked over to the kiosk to get our tickets and that was when we first found out what Caraiva was: an ecological seaside village. 

No cars were permitted on the island, so once you crossed over to it by boat transport was only permitted by foot (or on one of the resident donkeys). To preserve their sacred space they had even devised a donkey “poo collecter” in the shape of a net that hung on the underside of the donkey!

To cross, we had to take a small rowing boat. The whole area was a UNESCO heritage site and the Brazilians took the safeguarding of their natural treasures carefully as I had seen from all of the other UNESCO heritage sites I’d had the pleasure to visit whilst travelling in Brazil so I was exciting to see what this place was all about. I loved the look of the beautiful lake that we had to cross to get to Caraiva, and the sweet colourful little boats that lined the shore. 

Soon we were on our way across the lake. All I could hear whilst we were crossing was the smooth dipping motion of the oars plunging quietly into the still lake and the sound of the birds chirping as they flew overhead. I still didn’t know what exactly I was hoping to find in Caraiva but I was already being mesmerised by the simple beauty of the place and I felt a deep and sincere sense of peace and relaxation being out on the water. 

I wondered if they knew how lucky they were? To have such an abundance of secret treasures curtesy of nature everywhere you turned? 

Caraiva Lake 

After a short ride in the boat we stepped onto the shore and the first thing I noticed was that there was sand everywhere. The ground of the entire village was covered with sand. If you were lucky enough to have a home in Caraiva then when you stepped out of your front door you stepped right onto streets of soft dark yellow sand. Talk about laid back – this was taking laid back to the extreme and from what I could already see, it had an effortless charm and wasn’t even trying. 

The narrow walkways were a maze of streets that had inconspicuous bars, restaurants, private homes, hotels and boutique shops, all decorated in that beautifully rustic hippy-filled way that was common in this part of Brazil but unlike Trancoso, which had a much more “rich hippy” look, Caraiva’s was the real laid back deal. It was authentic right down to the colourful little homes with hammocks swaying on the front porches, the beautiful native indian girls with feathers in their hair and beads around their necks who sashayed silently through the tropical trees, and the little old donkeys  as they made transporting fresh coconuts through the secret sand filled passageways. Dappled light filtered through the trees providing shade from the heat of the sun whilst brightly coloured butterflies fluttered on by making their way to the exotic plants and flowers that decorated the streets. This place had that special something that I kept on discovering Brazil possessed in abundance: Natural Magic.  

We had no idea where we were going we just walked, letting our eyes lead us where it may. It was like walking through a labyrinth with no particular direction. We had already reached the destination but every little thing about this characterful place was a destination in itself. It was simply beautiful. Quiet and humbly so. I was simply elated to have found such a charming place. 

The quaint sandy streets of Caraiva 

We soon found out that Caraiva also had a beach so we made our way there using the vague directions that were dotted around the maze like streets until eventually we arrived at yet another stunner: Caraiva Beach.

The beach was long and wide with thick and luxurious golden sand that merged with another gorgeous icy blue lake that had a generous amount of palm trees swaying invitingly on the beach behind it. The beach was incredibly unspoilt and big enough for you to have all to yourself if you wanted to and it was devoid of any big developments that would have spoilt it’s simple and rustic beauty by Caraiva’s eco status. 

Beach Club on Caraiva Beach

As we were leaving to catch the boat back we saw that some of the locals were just setting up a market which looked lovely. We decided that it would have been nice to stay in Caraiva for a few days and really experience it’s very apparent tranquility. It is perhaps a little too rustic for me to stay in for longer then a couple of days but I truly think that it’s somewhere that is very special and I was glad that we were able to visit. I also did not get the sense that they have seen many tourists (outside of Brazil that is), so that made it even more memorable. 

Arrial D’Ajuda 

This was another place that we were told about by our Airbnb host cum friend, who was so far becoming a very reliable source of recommendations. As with Caraiva I didn’t do any research on the place, I just took her advice that it was somewhere that was worth a visit. 

The only problem was that like many of the other secret discoveries of Brazil, it required a commitment from both Josh and I to get to it.  Lagoinha do Leste  required a 2 and a half, almost 3 hour climb through dense jungle, up the side of a mountain, hugging a precipice of said mountain and alot of clambering, climbing and precarious walking over rocks, streams and goodness knows what else in order to get to it. It was absolutely knackering and though we had taken the “scenic route” which was supposed to be the easier of the 2 options (the other route was only an hour’s hike through the jungle), I was so tired that I couldn’t concentrate on the bloody scenery. 

Even though it was beautiful all I could think of was my utter energy depletion and worry about having to go through this on the way back. But when we landed on that beach I had to acknowledge that it was otherworldly beautiful and very unspoilt. That beach was truly paradise on earth. 

Rio Da Barra 

And then there was Caraiva which should have been easy enough since we were basically just passengers but which was such a terrifyingly bumpy journey there and back that it ended up being far more challenging then I originally thought it would be. But again, like with Lagoinha do Leste I had to acknowledge when I arrived that it’s effervescent beauty far outweighed any difficulty in reaching her. Caraiva was like it was frozen in time, stripped back to the most basic with a most magical allure. 

So I trusted her when she told us to make sure we checked the tide times before planning a trip to Arrial as a trip to Arrial required a walk along 3 beaches: Nativos, Rio Da Barra and Taipe, before arriving there and it would take us no less then 3 hours to get there. 3 hours? I asked. Yes, 3 hours. But she promised. It will be worth it. And she was right. Again.

Firstly, we checked the tide times and it told us that low tide was at 07:30 am so we made sure that we were up and on the beach ready for the 3 hour long trek before the tide came back in. 

It being so early in the morning we had the pleasure of having all 3 beaches almost completely to ourselves. And it was exquisitely beautiful. Taipe beach in particular, as it had these gigantic coral coloured clifftops providing the perfect backdrop to a pristine beach with generous golden sands, lots of palm trees swaying gently in the breeze and a life giving sea that roared it’s greatness. 

The distinctive pink hued clifftops of Taipe Beach

Josh and I remarked at the natural beauty of this place. Yet another beach that had been preserved and so retained it’s outstanding natural beauty. No high rise hotels or ugly buildings were permitted to darken it’s door and thank goodness for that! Brazil has almost 8,000 kilometres of beaches in it’s lands but I was continually being surprised by the breadth, variety and amount of care that had been taken to preserve what makes these beaches so magical. 

Funnily enough by the time we got to Arrial’s beach, not only were my feet utterly destroyed, and I was so overheated that I was literally dripping sweat from every orifice looking like I’d just taken a dunk in the sea, but in comparison to our beach (Nativo’s), and the other 2 that we had passed through, this beach was far inferior. Oh it was more swimmable sure so perhaps more “family friendly” as the water was shallow and there were less waves here but it was also overdeveloped, with lots of resort hotels offering family package holidays no doubt packed together one after another, and there was tonnes of people. Infact, we’d never seen so many people on a beach in Bahia – shouldn’t they be back at work? Josh and I asked one another with a little humour. 

There was also lots of seaweed that had washed up on this beach – the others had none whatsoever. And you know what it’s like when there’s alot of seaweed on a beach – it has this “raw” smell that I don’t find pleasant at all. There’s no way that even if these people weren’t crowding this beach like it was the first time that they’d been on a beach before, that I would have wanted to go in. I don’t want to come out smelling like a creature of the deep.

Our first attempt at making Tapioca Pancakes 

Even though both of us had dead legs from all of the walking we had done we didn’t fancy staying on this beach for much longer so we went in search of the town. What we hadn’t bargained for however was that in our effort to walk into town we would have to traverse up a killer hill – so steep that it really wasn’t funny, and in our current state of dead legs, pouring sweat and energy depletion it almost sent us over the edge. Thankfully we made it up (albeit by this time I was looking like a drowned rat) and as soon as we did we came upon a man selling coconuts on the side of the road. Thank goodness!!!

That drink of Coconut Water surely saved our lives. The town was as special as we had been promised, with lots and lots of colourful little hippy-ish shops, which had a real beachy vibe. We were starving and on the look of food but unluckily for us even though it was before lunchtime (alot of restaurants close at lunch which will never make any sense to me), every single shop bar one was FECHADO’D (aka closed). So we went in there and had a coffee and later on we  through sheer determination in looking we managed to find a place that was open (a buffet restaurant surprise surprise) as every other shop was still closed and I had absolutely no idea why especially with the amount of people that we saw on the beach!

Whilst we were there, walking through the adorable little palm tree lined streets we found a Havaiana shop, and since my beloved crocs had decided to die on me that very same morning Josh bought me and him both a pair. And I had mine customised! They are gorgeous and the best thing is that we bought them from the place where they’re made so they’re also something of a momento of our travels in Brazil 🙂

My brand new Havaianas

On the bus back we met a guy from Israel – as with most people who live here he was very friendly and we’re going to go for a beer with him before we leave here. 

Favouritto’s Decor

I have learnt so much in the 3 months that I have been travelling in Brazil. So much more then I ever could have imagined and none of it has to do with travel. In the quest to attain the perfect life balance the people that Josh and I have met along the way have taught us both an unforgettable lesson: that life is what you make it and life is enriched when you extend the hand of friendship, openness and generosity towards others.

Also, our style of “slow travel” has allowed us to not only fully experience the culture, traditions and customs of the Brazilian people but also to make these human connections that we wouldn’t have otherwise made.

Our experience here in Brazil has been greatly enriched by the people that we have met and our experience here has really made an impression on us. We intend to stay in touch with everyone that we have met here and meet up with them if they come to Europe or see them when we get back, because we will definitely be back.

We ended our time in Brazil with a farewell sushi dinner with all of our Brazilian friends and then awoke at 4:00 pm the following morning to catch the sunrise and go for a swim whilst the sun came up:

The stuff of dreams in the place of dreams.

Sunrise on Nativo’s Beach

Wearing Havaianas and a Brazilian Biquini, whilst eating Acai bowls and drinking Bohemia beer, washing with scented Soap, dancing to Bossa Nova, meeting new Brazilian Friends, making Tapioca Pancakes and saying Bom Dia!  I think that I might just be a little more Brazilian then when I arrived. Thank goodness 🙂

Brazil: You had me at beach. 

You have mesmerised me with your natural beauty and delighted me with each sunrise and sunset. Your people have humbled me with their warmth and friendliness, your music has moved me. I have danced and I have smiled. Your traditions and rituals have intrigued me, your beaches have left me breathless, your ancient trees have humbled me. Your Acai has addicted me whilst your native monkeys made me laugh. I have marvelled at your depth, at your simplicity and your natural magic.

Thank you for 3 unforgettable months!

Lazy Days 

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly:

The Good

The Brazilian People

I thought that the people in Turkey were friendly but the Brazilians have to take the top spot for friendliness. I have been simply amazed at the warmth and friendliness of the people here. Largely  we have experienced nothing but good energy (including in Rio), and generally people have been very open, genuine and warm towards us. We have met so many different people whilst we’ve been here that we never would have met otherwise, many of them are not Brazilian I’ll admit but who they have all lived here so long that they have adopted their way of life and Brazilians are very sociable people. They also love to party, are very close to their families, are proud of their traditions and enjoy music – my kind of people! 

The Starlit Sky

I’ve never seen stars so bright, or as numerous as I have here. The moon too I have seen in so many different ways, all of them glowing and hauntingly beautiful, and the full moon on the night of my Aunt’s memorial 12.12.19 was especially memorable. 

Safety

Contrary to popular belief about Brazil being dangerous and/or crime ridden we have been here for 3 months and haven’t experienced even a hint of danger. This very well maybe in part (particularly in Florianopolis), due to it’s status as being one of the safest parts of Brazil but either way the longer you stay somewhere the more you expand your chances of something bad happening to you but thankfully I’m glad to say, nothing has happened to us.

Caipirinha’s (with Cachaca)

Usually made with Vodka back in the UK – the Caipirinha’s in Brazil are the real deal and after having almost a #Caipirinhaaday I can say that the quality and the quantity of alcohol has been pretty consistent. It’s a really refreshing drink that’s perfect at any time of day. I will definitely be continuing making Caipirinha’s when I get home. 

Tapioca Pancakes

I had heard about this product before – a kind of starch like substance that comes in the form of flour that Brazilians use to make these quite dense, gritty white pancakes. They’re especially good because they’re not sweet and they hold together well so you can put any filling you like on them. They’re not particularly nutritious but they do make an excellent alternative gluten free pancake/crepe option. We tried to make our own for the very first time the other day and it was a success so I’m going to see if I can find the flour online when I get back and make them as a quick and tasty snack.

Acai

Superfood or not, this Amazonian berry is super. Since discovering it we have had it pretty much everyday. And on a few occasions we’ve had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, lol. That is because it is extremely refreshing. Like the most refreshing drink you’ve ever had (even better then water), it cools you right down. It isn’t sweet – it’s perfectly balanced, a very hard thing to find in this age of super sweet foods. It is versatile – you can have it as an ice cream (which we do mostly), with fruits, nuts, granola and coconut or whatever you like, you can also have it as a savoury accompaniment. Or you can have it as a smoothie, on it’s own or mixed with other fruits. And lastly, it never gets boring. I mean literally never. Every mouthful is hugely enjoyable so much so that it’s almost addictive but, and here’s the best thing: Acai is actually good for you! It’s full of antioxidants, so I say bring on the Acai. Needless to say I will be looking for it when I get back and making sure that our freezer is fully stocked. 

Bohemia Beer

I’ve never been a beer drinker. Infact I’ve never even bought a beer before. I have had beer before obviously but it has just never really appealed to me as an alcoholic drink option. That is perhaps in part because of the “laddish culture” that surrounds the drinking of beer back in the UK. And partly because some small part of me believed that beer was a man’s (or an emasculated women’s) drink, but drinking beer here in Brazil is just a way of life for men and women alike. It’s a social drink meant for sharing – it’s usually sold by the pump to a group of people which they have on their table and share amongst themselves. It’s doesn’t accompany football chants, lifting up ones t-shirt to show one’s bra, or verbally abusing passersby, it’s just a perfectly civilised way to spend ones evening. And they had such a variety of beers here but I found my own one that I quite like and it’s called Bohemia. Tasty and with a great name and branding – bonus!

Brazilian Biquini

I took the plunge after weeks of deliberating and went and bought myself a Brazilian Biquini. Once I had seen that most Brazilians over the age of 17 were wearing one, including the grannies who seemed perfectly content to have their buttocks on full display whilst they sashayed down the beach, I decided that I didn’t have much excuse not to wear one myself so I went ahead and bought myself a biquini and have been wearing it on the Brazilian beaches ever since. And I have to admit: there is a certain freedom that I feel when wearing it, and of course it also helps that I’m not the odd one out, as why would anyone look at me when every woman wears one here? – I’m not sure whether I will be brave enough to wear it in Europe but we’ll see how it goes! 🙂

Fluffy Pedigree Dogs

There are lots of pampered pooches here and rather then put me off the idea of having one it has made me want one even more, lol. Alas, Josh’s Mum aswell as his Uncle who had a dog for a longtime up until just recently has said that they do not think it’s a good idea as it will spoil my life. They mean with regards to our passion for travel and autonomy as dogs require almost as much care as children. I do understand what they are saying, and of course I don’t particularly want to pick up poo either so getting a dog is going to have to be put on the back burner for now.

Restaurante Vitoria

Not just my namesake but a very nice restaurant too that is perfectly positioned on the Quadrado to make the most of people watching in a beautiful and super relaxing setting. The Moqueca that we had there is still the best one that I’ve had here. 

Brazilian Clothes 

Brazilians are the original beach dwellers. You can find them on the beach even when it’s overcast and chilly and naturally they have the beach resort clothes to match. Beautiful, floaty dresses in light materials that drift effortlessly behind them as they walk. Dresses in light knit, crochet, linens, light cottons, silks – gorgeous beach luxe styles with soft, feminine materials that I really love. They also love to wear bright colours and as they are typically bronze or brown skinned and the vibrant colours look really good on them.

Coconut Water

Abundant, fresh, delicious and refreshing! Even better then water aka agua com or sem gas (especially when it’s been put in the fridge to make it ice cold)

The Lighthouse Cafe

This coffee shop was pretty cool. They make and package their own coffee beans on site and have a long and impressive list of coffees that i’d never heard of before. The coffee was pretty good too!

Uxua

Though we’d never been inside we did dine there and it was a lovely experience. Uxua is the place that summarises what Trancoso is all about: Laid back bohemian luxury. Wilbert Daas, the guy who owns Diesel and this boutique Bahian hotel, also designed Anderson Coopers rustic Brazilian home which is unsurprisingly very chic.

Casa Clube

This beach club was a 40 minute walk down the beach from our chalet to get to it but thankfully when you got there it was well worth it. In a prime position on an isolated part of Nativos Beach, the food was good (the burger especially), the waiters were good and good looking (and went for a swim in between serving – the women too, for all you lady lovers out there), and the chilled out dance music was great too. 

French Crepe Lady in Trancoso

Out of all of the restaurants we had to choose from in the Quadrado this one was our favourite. Just a small restaurant/creperie next to a library with bar stools out front that you would almost pass but the crepes (both savoury and sweet), made for the perfect dinner if you weren’t feeling all that hungry or you just wanted something a little more informal. The french lady who owned the restaurant along with her brazilian husband, made all of the crepes herself and they were good each and everytime!

Moqueca

A typically Bahian dish, Moqueca is made with seafood (and you can also have a vegetarian version), with vegetables and coconut milk. It has a delicate flavour but it’s also very tasty and is usually served with rice, farofa and beans. It was the closest thing to a Green Thai Curry I’d had since arriving in Brazil and I was yearning for a Green Thai Curry but they don’t really have Asian food here apart from Japanese (aka sushi) as there’s lots of Japanese people here.

Capim Santo Restaurant

Capim Santo was the restaurant where we spent NYE for a private friends only dinner that we had the honour of being invited to. Not only is the restaurant itself stunning, with the distinct feeling of being in some kind of a tropical oasis with it’s beautiful tree lined gardens when you walk in, but the staff who worked there seemed to be as happy as I was to be in such an exceptionally tranquil environment. The food was very good and the live musician was too. Capim Santo just has an ambience about it that is hard to describe. I will definitely be returning. 

Farofa

Though it looks like sawdust and to the naked eye it IS sawdust, a good farofa is actually worth it’s weight in salt (or sawdust or whatever). It gives some interest to an otherwise dull meal (which I’m afraid to say the Brazilians have a lot of), and additional flavour and texture. 

Santo Antonio De Lisboa

Beautiful quaint little place. A maze of little streets beside the bay with lots of boutique shops, restaurants and bars to choose from. 

Forneria Paulistana

This pizzeria in Jurere was a great find. With modern rustic decor, an open kitchen and excellent pizzas we went back there a few times and it didn’t disappoint.

The Quadrado 

As soon as I had read about this place, described as Brazil’s best kept secret I knew that I had to come here. Trancoso: A haven of peace and tranquility with a natural charm, beauty and atmosphere that had to be experienced to be believed but now that I had experienced it for myself I could attest to it’s simple yet magical allure. The grassy green square filled with bountiful trees and vividly colored flowers had a simple white church at the heart and lots of colourful stone pousada’s. Each night the square would come alive – the restaurants strung up fairy lights and lanterns turning this charming square into a magical wonderland. It was in this unique place that we met new friends and old friends for spontaneous evenings out, watched an impromptu native dancing ceremony and attended the classic film on the square event. Bumped into a very famous Brazilian singer there, danced to live music outside the restaurants there and spent many nights drinking Bohemia underneath the stars. The Quadrado is a special and very romantic place indeed.

Samba Dancing 

On the very first day we arrived we saw Samba dancers, wearing their traditional Afro Brazilian clothes on the square. The fact that this was a local event for local people just made it all the more special and there was an old matriarch right there in the middle of it dancing along with them who looked very good for her age but who was probably in her 80’s, maybe even 90’s. Impressive and very authentic, which I loved!

Beach Body Ready

I don’t know who came up with the saying “beach body ready” but whoever it was must surely have been talking about Brazilians. They’re not just beach body ready because they are beautiful (though many of them do indeed have incredible figures), but it’s because they are body confident. They are very happy in their skin and it shows. 

Capoeira

We have had the absolute pleasure of seeing this a few times spontaneously whilst we’ve been here and it has definitely been one of the stand out moments of our Brazil travels. The dance itself is incredible to watch, but so was the easy affection these Capoeira dancers had for each other. Such respect and camaraderie in a sport that they say is violent (its not) was lovely to see, and the artform itself is actually very beautiful – more like a slow dance then a physical fight. I loved their outfits too – white tops and slightly flared track bottoms with a colourful hanging belt and the african drums that they played whilst they danced got you really moving. Watching the Capoeira was one of the highlights of Bahia for both of us. It’s simplicity, authenticity and grace really touched us. 

Tour of Rio De Janeiro (including Christ the Redeemer, Football Stadium, Samba Stadium, Escadaria Selaron, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Buffet Lunch)

I confess that I expected a lot less from Rio De Janeiro before we visited it, but after the 4 days that we spent there visiting both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and going to an amazing Bossa Nova club aswell as the 8 hour tour we did I was left impressed. Vast and sprawling (and yes in parts a little edgy too), it is a beautiful city, a combination of mountains, forest, city high rises, beaches and so i’ve heard only recently, stunning islands surrounding it. It also had an distinctive energy about it. The Brazilian people are a riot of colour and sound and Rio shows newbies to Brazil what it’s all about and I doubt that anyone is disappointed when they arrive. 

Our trip to Sugar Loaf Mountain showed us a panoramic aerial view of the city that I will never forget – it was simply breathtaking.

The Christ the Redeemer statue was big. There’s nothing really more to say about this obscene display of fictitious nonsense. However it WAS big. I’ll give them that.

Bossa Nova Music 

Beco Das Gerrafas was a great find. It does seem as though that only around 50 Bossa Nova songs have ever been recorded and they performed all 20 of them, lol, but nonetheless the music is great. I had a great night and should you be into Bossa Nova music and find yourself in Rio then it’s definitely worth checking out. 

The Nature

Nature is all around and all around is nature. I have seen some of the most incredible landscapes ever to clap my eyes on here in Brazil and I have been humbled by the abundance of nature there is here. Green, lush and mountainous with the most unspoilt and beautiful beaches that i’ve ever seen, many of the places we visited were protected sites and so we really have seen nature in action. It’s not a rich country so it can be a little rough around the edges and even a little rough in the centre, but if you are prepared for a little challenge then you can discover some of their best kept secrets which are incredible to behold. Brazil is such a big country and most people don’t bother to venture anywhere outside of Rio but after seeing what I’ve seen it gives me the confidence to know that there are many hidden gems here in Brazil just waiting to be discovered and I for one would love to see more. 

Favourrito Restaurant

I really loved the beach boho decor in this place and the shrimp risotto was definitely the best that I’ve ever had.

Bohemian Decor

I have always loved the rustic chic of the boho look. That communion with nature, an expression of luxury through simplicity and the use of natural materials has always appealed to me as an architectural and interior style (think greece) and here they have managed to keep a consistent theme throughout. Along with the boho vibe Bahia also has a beachy look and feel to it too aswell as the distinctive look of being in the tropics. Houses are made with stone and painted bright colours, with gorgeous stone tile roofs that compliment them perfectly. They are mostly open, inviting nature in, surrounded by the exotic trees and flowers of the forest which provide shade and lots of character. Elaborately crochet hammocks can be found on every street corner 🙂

Jay’s Bistro Restaurant 

The food at Jay’s Bistro was of fine dining quality which seems to be somewhat of a rarity here. It came as no surprise to learn that the chef (whose name isn’t Jay), trained in Europe. 

Monkeys

Monkeys along with Elephants are my favourite animals and there are lots here in Brazil just roaming freely about and they are so cute! One even came to see hi to us on our balcony which just made my day!

The Bad 

Marisqueira Sintra

Bloody horrible.  I still cannot understand why for the life of me that this place was rated #12 in the whole of Florianopolis. Are they having a laugh?! The worst thing about it was the fact that they are describing themselves as a seafood restaurant and they are located on the seafront yet they cannot cook seafood to save their lives! Both Josh’s and my meals were woefully underwhelming and Josh’s fish was actually raw in places too. Disappointing is an understatement!

Toilet tissue in bin (Sanitario’s, Banheiros)

It’s not nice and it’s not pleasant that after doing ones business one has to throw the tissue in the accompanying bin (which is often overflowing if it’s in a public place), otherwise you will block up the toilet. The luxury of using the toilet as it’s supposed to be used (i.e flushing away the tissue in the toilet), is not available here in Brazil as the plumbing hasn’t been upgraded. I’d like to say I’ve gotten used to it but I haven’t really (alas I always use the bin as required).

Buffet or 2 personas

The Brazilians sure do love a buffet. You can find a “price per kilo” buffet restaurant on every corner. It’s just the thing they do here. I guess it’s a pretty good idea (even though I am not personally a fan of the buffet concept), but as with most things here they like to make the process much more complicated then it needs to be and the buffet food here hasn’t been as good (or as hot) as I’d like. Alternatively to the buffet offerings was the good old “share the same meal with your partner” menu option which not only discriminates against single people but also assumes that you want to eat the same thing as your partner. Not so good if one of you has an allergy, mind you they don’t really cater for people with allergies much here!

The Portuguese Language 

Out of all of the challenges we have had to endure during this trip (and contrary to popular belief we have had some), the language barrier has been the most significant barrier. Of course Brazil gets tourists, I mean who hasn’t heard of Brazil? But most “tourists” in our experience were from the other surrounding parts of Brazil or possibly from other Latin American countries so they were somewhat familiar with the very challenging Portuguese language. We however, were not. 

And no amount of Duo Lingo was going to save us from the very questionable sounding words in the Brazilian vocabulary that we had never encountered before in our lives. Oh of course it sounded great when they said it but when we tried, it simply didn’t work for the most part. Take us asking for water for instance. A very basic (and quite pride filled achievement in our limited lingo experience). Asking for water should simply be:

“Posso ter dois aqua sem gas por favour?”

Translation: Can I have 2 still waters please?

But everytime, no not everytime but almost everytime they brought us just 1 bottle of water or they brought us 1 bottle of water that was sparkling or they brought us 2 bottles of water that were sparkling. What are we doing wrong? we sighed in frustration. 

It clearly must have something to do with our pronunciation of the words that threw them but surely “sem gas” translates to mean without gas and dois means 2. Dois has never meant Um (one)! However since we were the ones without adequate knowledge of reading and speaking the language (reading menu’s was a particularly challenging activity), we couldn’t really complain. Only we could when they seemed to make things even more complicated then they needed to be making us look and feel like utter idiots. If I could speak the language fluently then i’ve no doubt that our experience in Brazil would have been that much richer but unfortunately Josh was as bad at it as me so we were both just bumbling along trying to get by on the basics that we did have. 

When we read words in Portuguese without hearing how it was supposed to be pronounced people looked at us with quizzical expressions on their faces because Portuguese pronunciation of words is not phonetic. It’s not like reading English, German, French or Italian at all.

I’m not very good at languages anyway but what I cannot do is learn Portuguese for Brazil, Spanish for Colombia and French for France. It just ain’t gonna happen!

Chips and Rice with Filet Mignon and beans does not a meal make

When I first came to Brazil I wasn’t sure exactly what I was expecting with regards to their culinary prowess but I’ll admit I was expecting more. Rather then the bountiful harvest of fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables that I was imagining that I would encounter, I was offered beef, chips, rice and beans on more occasions then I could count. 

It seemed as though the Brazilian diet only consisted of beef aka filet mignon, chips, rice and beans (oh and the occasional salad). Now, not only does chips not even go with rice (as far as I’m concerned it’s one or the other), but it is just dull. Extremely dull. So on my travels in Brazil I have had much more beef then I would normally like to eat. Of course they do have seafish too but many of the fish offerings I’d never heard of and I didn’t want to have anymore nasty surprises (hint hint Lucila’s Bistro and Marisqueira Sintra). But to be fair to them, the shrimps are really good and there have at least been alot more food options in Bahia then in Florianopolis which we felt was like a wannabe Europe or something. In comparison Floripa was far too sanitised for Josh and me. It had almost completely removed the Brazilian culture that makes Brazil a unique place to visit in favour of a more synthentic Westernised version. Bahia, both the people, the food and the way of life was much more of the kind of cultural and authentic experience that I had been hoping for.

The Education System

Brazil has a terrible children’s education system apparently. One of our friends, a teacher who has just opened up a school here, told us how shockingly bad it was. And it can be very elitist, so if you have a child here, and you’re not wealthy or well connected then you best believe your child is getting an inferior education that sets them up to fail. Disappointing.

Crabs at the front door

I’m not a fan of having crab holes at my front door and the scurrying to and from by the family of crabs who live there, alas I have learned to live with it, because well frankly, there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. This is a very wild environment and I really think I am due some credit for remaining in it as long as I have with such calm.

The Ugly

Condom Fish

A very condom looking jellyfish naturally occuring on Florianopolis beaches. It wobbled, it vibrated and it had a liquid like substance in the tip. Really not very pleasant. Really not very pleasant at all.

Centro

I will never forget the look and smell of the place – twas rundown and very smelly. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all bad, the park for instance was nice as it had a beautiful ancient fig tree in the centre of it but the area surrounding it was a total letdown, filled with vagrants and people selling fake trainers for £5. Plus there was the smell – that sweaty, frowsy, cheesy smell of an overflowing bin in the heat.  There was nothing redeeming about the place – the shops were full of cheap tatt and besides, they all looked the same. For a “historic centre” it was a pretty poor show, particularly when Florianopolis as a whole has much to offer.

Canasvieiras

Aka Doo Doo Beach. We should have known that it was going to be disappointing when we walked through the rundown and very sketchy looking neighbourhood but of course how were we to know that dogs would have free reign to doo doo on the beach and that their owners would leave it there for some unsuspecting beach dweller to sit on (aka Josh). Horrible beach!

Barratas

I don’t think there is any circumstance in which I could “get used” to cockroaches aka barratas roaming about my immediate vacinity. It’s bad enough when you see them scurrying across the pavement but in my abode? – COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. It is simply OUT OF THE QUESTION for me to remain in an environment in which a cockroach is venturing about like it lives there. They make my skin crawl! 200 MILLION YEARS of evolution in a crispy outer layer, questionable looking tentacles and a penchant for filthy environments, no thank you! Alas not only did we see the roaming barratas in our Jurere Apartment which we promptly killed with a generous spray of insect killer but we have seen far more then we cared to in the extremely “jungleist” environment of Bahia, with it’s abundance of nature aka creatures that lives outside and occasional come in.  

Brazilian Politics

Everyone we have talked to here, from Florianopolis to Bahia dislikes the current President Bolsanaro very much. He has been nicknamed as the “Brazilian Trump” and if you thought that was bad then you need to hear the kinds of things he has said about black people, women, gay people and the indigenous community. Just a regular racist, sexist, homophobe then!

Mosquitoes 

They have been on me like a rash ever since I stepped foot in Bahia. It is much hotter and much more humid here and we have the unfortunate luck to be situated just behind a vast mangrove which I’m sure is breeding them like no tomorrow! Since I am allergic to them and come up in a heated bumpy rash immediately that is extremely uncomfortable and painful it isn’t the greatest experience I have to say. but this is the price you pay for living in such a tropical environment I guess. Shame my 50% Deet Jungle Formula and Avon So Soft Oil Spray doesn’t keep the bloody buzzards at bay!

Road Infrastructure

Goodness gracious me the roads in Bahia are bad! On our extremely bumpy journey to Caraiva I was left drenched from my drink spilling all over me, a headache and a bruised leg from the incessant jostling about. The 2 hour long tumultuous bus journey required nerves of steel and  anti-bruise pads to match. Awful beyond comprehension.

JW.ORG

Unfortunately JW.ORG aka the Jehovah’s Witnesses (which I unfortunately used to be a part of), have made themselves very much known in Brazil. Standing outside bus stops, restaurants and even at the entrance of the local Supermarket, they stand feebly by trying to tout their wares to anyone who may listen (which incidentally is noone). Needless to say I think the whole thing is an utter waste of time (and therefore, life).

Brazil’s Best Beaches

Campeche (Floripa), Nativo’s (Bahia), Taipe (Bahia), Rio Da Barra (Bahia), Jurere Floripa), Lagoinha Do Leste (Floripa), Barra Da Lagoa (Floripa), Caraiva (Bahia), Copacabana (Rio De Janeiro)

Campeche: A gloriously wide beach backed by sand dunes with powerful and icy cold waves. 

Nativo’s: Magical. Versatile. Charming.  Palm trees and the characteristic and well preserved mangroves lead you to the warm, clean sea with a thick and golden sandy beach that connects to a purple hued lake. 

Lagoinha Do Leste: Wild and beautiful. We trekked for almost 2 and a half hours across the mountain to get to it but it was worth the wait. The very definition of a deserted paradise beach.

Jurere: Soft powdery white sand and shallow waters with the most incredible sunrises. Lots of fancy beach bars too (only open in the high season)

Taipe: A long, wide, sandy beach that is overlooked by dramatic coral pink cliffs and palm trees. Such character and beauty! 

Barra Da Lagoa: The beach is lovely here but what makes it especially beautiful is the fact that it has a lovely emerald green lake on the other side and if you cross over the bridge you can get to the piscinas naturais, a natural lake amongst craggy rocks that jut out from the sea.

Caraiva: Everything about Caraiva is magical. The lake, the sand filled streets and the magnificent beach.

Copacabana: Copacabana beach showcases the energy of Brazil. It is colourful, dramatic and beautiful.

So, did we get to do and see everything we wanted to? – for the most part, yes. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t get to visit Salvador, the capital of Bahia – “the most African state outside of Africa” for it’s largely Afro Brazilian residents and African culture. But I had naively assumed that as Trancoso was also in Bahia that it would perhaps be an hour or two drive away but clearly I underestimated the size of Brazil as Salvador was more then a 10 hour drive away! So it wasn’t to be this time round but when I’m back (and I will be back), I will make sure that I get to visit Salvador. 

Josh wanted to try his hand at Kite Surfing whilst we were in Trancoso but the guy who was usually posted up at the beach offering lessons went missing all of a sudden and isn’t answering messages on his Facebook page (typical), so he’ll have to try and get lessons elsewhere. Thankfully kite boarding is pretty big now, particularly in parts of Europe such as France and Portugal so he should be able to take it up there no problem.

Tomorrow we leave Brazil in search of a new discovery: Colombia.

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