Oh, Brazil, I’m so in love once again!
At 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, it was impossible for life to get any better. I sat on a chair in the shade, my toes buried in soft sand, a stunning view of crashing waves and verdant mountains plunging in turquoise sea before my eyes. My stomach was filled to the brim with a meal I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
It was a seafood feast, cooked to perfection and eaten on the literal edge of the Atlantic. First came a platter of grilled fish slathered in a spicy mustard sauce, served with salad and rice. Next was a simmering pot of squid stuffed with shrimp, farofa (a crumb-like garnish made from manioc that’s added to many Brazilian foods), and banana. Finally, another hot pot of the Bahian specialty moqueca, which is fish simmered in coconut milk and dendê oil, served with more rice, slices of sweet pineapple, and pirão, a side dish made of thickened fish stock and vegetables with the consistency of soft polenta. The meal was accompanied by tall glasses of icy cold, freshly pressed fruit juice and finished with hot, sugary black coffee.
The meal was just one part of an unforgettable two-day trip down the Costa Verde, which stretches south of Rio de Janeiro, to the towns of Paraty and Trindade. Our guide was Aimore, the brother of my mother’s dear friend Veridiana, who insisted on repaying my parents’ kindness to his sister several years ago in Canada by personally showing us the region. It was a wonderful surprise and great pleasure for us when he suggested the trip, and he proved to be a fantastic guide.
The Costa Verde is achingly beautiful. Veridiana was right when she told me to “enjoy paradise!” For two hours we drove along a twisty road, over and around jungle-covered mountains that dropped into the sea, except for the little bays and coves where silver-white beaches beckoned to us. It was vaguely reminiscent of the cliffs of northwestern Sardinia, where I once lived, but far more lush and tropical. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I know it’s one of those places I’ll dream of seeing again before too many years have passed.
Paraty is a colonial jewel – the once-upon-a-time capital of the Portuguese empire, when it relocated itself to Brazil in a frantic retreat from the impending threat of Napoleon. It has ancient cobblestone streets, worn smooth from hundreds of years of pedestrians, with whitewashed churches and colourful stores full of travellers, artists, and musicians.
Trindade is a fishing village turned tourist attraction, but it hasn’t become tacky or repetitive in the way that so many Brazilian beach towns have. It is nestled in a bay between mountains, with crashing waves that are just the right height to be fun without being too terrifying.
We followed a deliciously lazy pattern all day: play in the water, walk barefoot along a sandy jungle trail to the next beach, play some more, repeat. We stopped to eat our seafood feast, then walked for a kilometre through the jungle to swim in some natural swimming pools. From there, we caught a motorboat back across the windy bay, to our car, and eventually back to our pousada, where we (happily) had one more night before heading back to Rio.
The warmth and generosity of the Brazilians never cease to amaze me. The first few days here in Rio were a bit of a challenge, as we struggled to get a feel for the city and its layout, but as soon as my mom’s friend Veridiana and her entire family got involved, showering us with moral support, fabulous meals, fun outings, and now this spectacular trip to the Costa Verde, the city has become personalized for me in a way that it wasn’t before. I only hope I can repay the kindness they’ve shown us someday in Canada.