First stop for my daughter and I was Rio de Janeiro. We spent a week hanging out in the neighborhood of Gavea and going to the Leblon beach in between seeing family and friends. We went to a particularly good restaurant in Santa Teresa with fabulous views – Restaurante Aprazivel. Make sure they give you a table with a good view. If they don’t, pretend that you are going to leave until they do. That’s what we did and it worked.
We kicked off week #2 with a Rio Blogger get-together and a tour of downtown Rio, and then after the birthday party of my niece, we headed to Minas Geris.
An unexpected pleasantry of driving through Brazil is the amazing countryside. The countless varieties of vegetation you will see in one square mile is beyond amazing, and most likely due to the vast variances in temperatures, moisture and light across the hilly land. The drive from Rio to our first stop, Tiradentes, was filled with farmland and little towns. A result of the gold rush in Minas Gerias, Tiradentes is a tranquil little city nearly forgotten by time.
Then we went to Ouro Preto, a larger and more developed city, but one that has still kept its mining town charm. Between Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, we continued to see signs about something called “rocambole.” As we approached the town of Lagoa Dourada, the signs became more frequent and boastful. “O Legitimo Rocambole!” By husband tried to explain what a rocambole was, but I convinced him that we must stop to buy some. So we stopped in Logoa Dourada at Rocambole Cia. Rocambole is basically a kind of pound cake rolled up like a jellyroll with various fillings. We selected acai and doce de leite. Yum! Served us well for desserts over the next few days and even into the next few towns!
One frightening aspect to driving the roads of Brazil, especially the hilly, rurals highways, is the total ignorance of some of the other drivers. More than once we witnessed a crazed car physically push another car out of its way and into another lane. It even happened to us once. And despite some of the lunatic drivers on treacherous roads, I never, ever saw a police car pull over anyone (never even saw a police car come to think of it). I especially didn’t like taking these non-privatized highways at night. Dangerous drivers came out of nowhere and it was too dark to see anything of interest. Sometimes that included the road.
Tiradentes and Ouro Preto are “must sees” in Brazil for the history and architecture as well as for the culture and shopping. You can pick up marvelous Minas delicacies like doces, cheese, pepper sauces and local cachaça as well as great pewter and ceramic finds. But be warned. Both cities are walking cities and if you are opposed to hiking up and down unevenly paved hills, you may want to head to Bahia instead. However, you’ll receive quite a good workout if you decide to take it on.
One of the best of elements of the trip was the great food! We experience both classic cuisine as well as deep-rooted Minas eats. I don’t do much complaining here about the restaurants in Sao Paulo, but I often rant to anyone who will listen about how I’m disappointed with most of my experiences with Sao Paulo restaurants so far, especially because we are paying New York City prices! But Minas was just the opposite. Fabulous food with surprisingly low tabs!
After Minas, we made a stop in Petropolis where my father-in-law has a weekend house. There is some great history and architecture in this area as well, but one great find was a mushroom farm/restaurant called Funghi d’ Oro.
We spent a glorious day at the beach in Rio, and on the following day we stopped for a night once again in Penedo on our way back to Sao Paulo. There we enjoyed more good food. Our daughter got to see Santa at his Brazilian residence and of course, we worked in a couple pony rides.
For more about our trip to Ouro Preto click here.
For more about our trip to Tiradentes click here.
For more about our trip to Petropolis click here.
For more about our trip to Penedo click here.