Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Already Planning My Next Trip to Brasil in February

Most Brasilians will tell you that the red tape in their country is the worst in the world. I’ve witnessed that bureaucracy first hand and let me tell you, they are pretty much on the money. However, with that said, there is one process I have to go through every two years that I actually don’t mind at all…traveling back into the country to renew my permanent resident Visa. To others, this may be a bother, but to me, it is a very good excuse to save my pennies and go back at least every two years to visit friends, family, and some of the places I love.

Whenever it starts getting close to traveling time, I find myself taking a walk down memory lane and deciding before I get there what places I simply must re-visit. There are so many, and my husband and I usually only have ten days to fit them all in between all the parties everyone will give to welcome us back. So here is my short list, time permitting:

Taking a drive in one of the prettiest rural areas in the valley, Estrada Bonita. Here is where we stayed in a cabin at the Pousada Vale Verde on my very first trip to see my husband’s wonderful hometown, Joinville, in the State of Santa Catarina. I remember getting to the cabin around dusk and looking around before settling on the bed to take it all in when the bed totally collapsed beneath me. There were no other cabins and only bunk beds in the other bedroom. I remember how sorry the caretaker and her husband were for our problems and they stayed for over an hour replacing the bed with one more stable, and instead of getting angry or anxious, we all just laughed through the whole ordeal. That’s Brasil.

In the morning, we woke up and we met the owner, Angela. She spoke just enough English to make my stay there more enjoyable. We had breakfast outdoors under a chickee hut overlooking the hills and a beautiful pond. There was bread and meats and cheeses and jams and spreads and real butter and guava, mango, watermelon and grape juices, and coffee and tea, and of course cakes and pastries. The whole experience has left such an impression on me that I can still go back there in my mind when I’m having a rough day. It was one of dozens of like experiences I had that first trip and subsequent trips to Brasil.

The City of Curitiba is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever been to. I’ve stayed at 5* hotels (when the dollar exchange rate was 3:1) and lesser hotels when it was not. I can honestly say that staying in a 3 or 4* hotel in Curitiba is also nice. What impressed me first and does to this day is the way everyone who deals with the public, especially as far as tourism goes, is extremely polite, helpful, and dresses and grooms themselves impeccably. For instance, it is common to see hotel employees wear uniforms, but in addition to that, the women all pull their long, dark hair back into a bun. The look is stunning and it shows how small details are so important to the Brasilians. And it is rare to see someone not smiling or giving a little dance or going out of their way to be helpful even if they can’t speak my language. I’ve never felt so welcomed in my life anywhere.

Oh, and I can’t forget the architecture in Curitiba. Some of the most fantastic buildings I’ve ever seen, from historical to contemporary. If you are an architecture buff, this is definitely a must-see city on your list.

A drive up the mountains to see my husband’s family. That is the most favorite thing to do. There are two main roads up the mountain, one via Corupa and one via Serra Dona Francisca. The drive via Corupa is quite beautiful and it is one that allows you to look down over the valley in all its splendor at some of the most daring landscapes I’ve seen. My favorite view is that of the tres Marias mountain peaks. I always know I’m about halfway home when I see those mountains.

Driving up Serra Dona Francisca is a bit hairy, especially due to slow trucks and fast motorcycles. I drove a portion of it once and decided I’ll just sit back from now on and take in the view, which, by the way is breathtaking. One of my favorite memories is going ‘up the mountain’ in late afternoon and noticing the intricate patterns the pinao (pine) trees make on the rolling meadows in Happy Field (Campo Allegre). And the hydrangeas are everywhere. Yes, I’ll say it again…breathtaking.

But the thing I look most forward to when traveling to Brasil, besides seeing the people I love and meeting new friends, is the food. Oh my gosh, do those people know how to cook. The Brasilian churrasco (grilled meat) is amazing, as is the pizza. They have a style of serving in the restaurants called rodoviaria. Usually, you get a buffet of salads and then waiters bring entrees around to your table. For churrascaria, it is meat, meat and more meat--steaks, roasts, sausages, chicken, duck, ham, etc. on long spears that they cut and serve right at your table. All you can eat for a ridiculously low price (generally $4 US lunch/$10 tops US dinner).

For pizza it is the same concept, with added pasta dishes and sometimes steak and the ever popular fritas (French fries). I know, it’s kind of funny, but Brasilians love French fries. On the pizzas, I’ve seen every topping imaginable and some I could not have dreamed up if I tried, such as corn, mussels, tuna, beef stroganoff, even ice cream! My favorites are white and dark chocolate with strawberries and banana nevada (banana topped with meringue).

If I continued to list all my favorite places to go in Brasil, it would fill up ten Blogs, so I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say, I can’t wait until they require that I go back and get that Visa stamp. Poor, poor me.

Anyone who wants to learn more about wonderful Southern Brasil, or are even thinking it’s time to take your own trip down there, let me know. I can help you plan one of the most unique and amazing vacations of your life.

Til then,

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