Hip Hip Hurrah, Our Family is in Paraty - Days 402 - 404
We are with our wonderful sons and their lovely girlfriends, all arrived safely in South America. Hip Hip Hurrah, our family is in Paraty, Brazil.
Before that, Day 402 was pretty nondescript, we took ages to get a sim for our phones (very reasonable here) and then get to our hotel near the airport so we could meet the family.
Day 403: We arrived at the Airport to discover that John and Georgia had already landed and waiting in a café for us. Shortly after, George and Laura came from their domestic flight. They had spent the last two weeks travelling around Argentina. Fabulous, we can pick their brains for the best places to go, as I know that Laura would have researched well.
We collected our 7 seater Fiat, squeezed all the bags and us into it and off we went. We’d heard that driving around Rio was a bit precarious, but we found that only one section was; the supposedly three-lane road had no lines, so people were creating their own lanes in a very creative way!
Four hours later, we arrived in Paraty. Tim dropped George, Laura and I off at the hypermarket and then up to the Airbnb to unload the bags. Shopping in a new country is always fun, getting to know the local foods and trying to work out what some of the ingredients are. Crikey, you should see the size of their Avocados, they are massive! The power kept tripping due to a thunder storm so shopping would pause while we stood in complete darkness. Two hours later we finally finished, Tim picked us up, and we got to our home for the next few days up in the rainforest; and rain it did do; however, we still managed to have a bbq that night with a massive piece of skirt steak and delicious tangy cheese for the non-meat eater – me.
Day 404 up early as I had booked a Historical tour around Paraty. We were met by Juan, a historian and Mexican by birth who moved here with his young family a few years back. And I can understand why. The area is beautiful.
Our guide was brilliant; friendly, passionate about his subject and great at communicating his knowledge of this fascinating city.
He informed us briefly about the history for the country, how the Portuguese Royal Family and its court of nearly 15,000 people retreated here in 1807 just days before Napoleon and his forces invaded Lisbon, and also the importance that Paraty played, being the port and start of the 800 km "Golden Road" that financed the Portuguese empire for hundreds of years.
We wandered around the cobbled streets made from ballast brought over from Portugal to hopefully be replaced by gold for their return journey. Neat white buildings surrounded these straight lanes with their doors and frames all painted distinctively so to determine where people lived “Pedro lives at the yellow door with the dark green surround” rather than at number 14. Juan pointed out that each church was assigned to a different type of person; aristocracy for one, slaves for another, ladies of the society decided they didn’t want to mingle with riff raff, so they had a church built, and so did the freemasons who no longer needed to be discreet here as they did in Europe. Their church was intriguing; it looked more like a town hall. Juan asked us to notice something key about the masonic tradition – the number 33. Yes, 3 x 11 squares in the architecture.
After that, we kept noticing masonic symbols all over this historic centre such as three stone pillars at street junctions representing a triangle for liberty, equality and fraternity. Even the old city was designed with 33 blocks.
Suddenly the heavens opened, and the cobbled streets quickly turned into a stream. Apparently, the area is known as the Little Venice of Brazil and was designed this way for cleaning the streets. We huddled into a Puppet Theatre and ended up booking tickets for a Boxing Day eve. Eventually, umbrellas up, we carried on the tour, skipping over the drier of the rocks to keep our feet from being wet. We failed.
We ended up in a covered area where Juan explained to us about Capoeira. I really liked his style, he would ask us questions so that we would try and guess the answer, keeping us engaged. I hadn’t heard of this before, it is a martial arts with a mix of dance, acrobatics and music, created by slaves from Africa at the beginning of the 16th century. So there we were, swiftly diving and spinning as our opponent tried to hit us. Our lesson ended with Juan teaching us chant that goes with the martial arts and he was very impressed with our enthusiasm. I think most of his guests usually whisper the tunes.
During the tour, Juan also advised us of the best places to eat. Well, UNESCO has named Paraty as a "Creative City for Gastronomy". He highly recommended a cooking school where we could learn local recipes as well as the history of the food; right up our street. So, that was booked for our last evening here also. Our schedule was nicely unfolding.
The finale of the tour was for an artisanal Cachaça tasting. A very nice gentleman explained about this distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice. Phew – the neat stuff nearly blew my head off. I did learn that when drinking this, keep your mouth shut to stop the fumes from burning. It was great to try the blends with different flavours including sweetcorn, which, in Brazil, they use in cakes and deserts.
We said a very fond farewell to Juan and off to one of the recommended restaurants for a delicious lunch.