The forecast for the week looked ominous, thunderstorms and rain every day until the end. Looking at the BBC weather map I could see a huge rain cloud making it’s way from the south, towards costa verde, Paraty and Rio. Hrmph.
But in the morning, when we opened the shutters and went out for breakfast the skies were clear and things looked promising. We ate the usual; coffee, cake, toast and some fresh fruit, and met a few of the other guests in the hotel, a couple from New York on their honeymoon and expecting a baby, they’d been here a night already and were going out on a boat trip.
Today we didn’t have much planned, but we wanted to see the old town and generally just have a look around. We headed into Paraty via a beachside wander on Praia do Jabaquara, wandering out as far as we could paddle, looking out onto the calm sea, and surrounded by rainforest covered hills. The sun was hot as we climbed the small mound between us and town, then back down, onto cobbled streets, over a small river and into Paraty.
The old town is a criss crossing network of cobbled streets, each building painted white with brightly coloured window frames, it’s remarkably photogenic. Cars aren’t allowed in and only horse and cart navigate the uneven streets, amongst a few stray dogs.
The town is hip and bohemian, and between restaurants and the odd tourist shop are fascinating art galleries and sculptures. We wandered down Rua do Comercio and tried to make a note of where interesting shops were, but it’s labyrinthine and difficult to find anything again.
We stopped for a can of cooling Guaraná Antarctica, and as we recovered from the heat the clouds started to come over, and soon, before midday, the sun was gone. At the edge of town we found Paraty’s famous landmark, Igreja Santa Rita, which looked fantastic against the swirling dark clouds.
We skirted the south of town. At the port all the tourist boats had left for the day, and the place was quiet. Further round was another church, Capela de NS das Dores. I left Sam with the camera to snap the scenery and walked ahead in search of a comfy bench.
An Indian couple from California were taking pictures across the river. As with most travellers in Brazil it’s easy to strike up a conversation, and again we shared stories of our travels, waxing lyrical about Iguaçu falls, which they were heading to next. It seems popping over to the Argentinean side isn’t so easy with an Indian passport.
Back into town, I tried my hand at photographing textures, which rarely come out as expected, before making our way into ‘new Paraty’, with modern roads and shops it’s very much like any other Brazilian town. We found the banks and ATMs, only one accepted European cards, 40 minutes from our hotel.
We stopped at a per kilo buffet restaurant for lunch and piled on the tasty barbecued steak, lamb stew, potatoes, vegetables and rice. At the checkered plastic tablecloth we sipped cold bottled coke and picked at fish bones.
Back in town Sam found an English speaking Cachaça expert in a room filled to the ceiling with expensive varieties. The charming assistant poured out free samples of un-aged (used in cocktails) and ten year matured (for drinking straight) Cachaça; it’s 38%—48% and made from fresh sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled. Paraty is a renowned Cachaça producer and each year it holds a Cachaça festival. There’s a distillery and tour out of town but it was too far for us. We bought a bottle of Cachaça Coqueiro and tipsily meandered home.
At Eliconial the jacuzzi beckoned and we relaxed amongst the warm bubbles until our hands wrinkled. We made the decision to stay here for the rest of our trip, and booked the remaining nights before heading out for dinner. An owl watched over us from the telephone lines.
That night we ate at the recommended “La Marguerite”. Inside a guy with guitar played his tunes and covers, interspersed by music videos of the Lighthouse Family (there’s so much 90s music in Brazil, it’s very odd). Our waiter had the widest smiliest Brazilian grin you’d ever see, as he took our wine and food order. Outside a marching band passed by.
This place had everything except gourmet food. The decor, atmosphere and style was sumptuous (including the Mona Lisa made from a favela oil painting), but we left lamenting why they’d battered Sam’s prawns and how in a meal with pork and lamb there was no sauce or vegetables. Alas, the wine was good and our dessert wonderful; the waiter flambéed banana with brandy at our table in a pan engulfed with blue flame. The hot sweet alcoholic fruit was yummy.
On our exit the heavens were open, and rain battered the cobblestone. We tried our hotel umbrella but it broke and we dived into a taxi. Our driver took us home to the tune of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)”.