I mentioned before that we absolutely loved our trip to Brasil. What an opportunity. We’re thankful for everyone who helped make it possible for us – and for Claudia’s family for knowing (seemingly) every amazing chef that their region has to boast about. More pao de queijo, please?
During ten days on the ground in Brasil, we spent time in 4 different cities. Each unique. Each charming. Each inviting different reflections.
We started in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, and the home of my new sister-in-law’s family. We weren’t expecting BH to be so…big and…tall. My context for international living is Guatemala, which boasts one big city and where Guatemala City expands out, BH goes up. We loved the architecture, the busy streets, the excellent restaurants, and being in a big city where we could walk around safely. A breath of “big city” fresh air.
Next city on the tour was Ouro Preto – as its name suggests, Ouro Preto was situated at the middle of Brasil’s gold rush. As a UNESCO world heritage site, the city is beautifully preserved – cobblestone streets, breathtaking views (and hills), beautiful parks, churches, restaurants, and a unique soapstone market. What stood out to me about this city – it doesn’t depend on tourism. When I walk cobblestone streets it’s usually taking a group of visitors to a market to spend all their Q’s.
City number 3 on the list was Tiradentes. Here’s a good time to explain that every city we went to wanted to claim a piece of Tiradentes story. He was a freedom fighter – part of the independence movement against Portugal. He was hanged for his involvement. His birth city was named after him; Ouro Preto has a monument to him because that’s where the movement started; Rio’s claim to fame is that he was jailed there before being hanged. Amazing what a hero does for a country.
Anyway. Tiradentes had a similar feel to Ouro Preto, but it boasts a pretty amazing train ride into town on a historic steam engine. One of our highlights.
Last stop on the city tour was Rio De Janeiro. We stayed on Copacobana about 2 blocks from Ipanema. I didn’t realize how famous these beaches were, but I do understand why. We fell in love – with the beaches, the juice bars, the old, the new, the contrasts, the sights. Rio is fascinating to me – It is both the infamous host to violent, bloody wars in the Favelas and the upcoming host to both the World Cup and the Olympics. I was expecting something like a sinister Disney World. The reality lies somewhere between those two extremes, but I’d have to spend a lot more time there to say anything else. We found a lot of beauty and freedom in Rio. Too bad they just don’t make the Pao de Queijo like they do in Belo Horizonte!
Two thoughts. If you ever have the chance to visit Brasil, do it. Don’t blink. Go. And, eat at Fogo de Chao even if you don’t eat meat. The cheese bread is just that good.