State… Rio de Janeiro
Type… Coastal Town
Language… Brazilian Portuguese
Currency… Reals $
Exchange rate (at time)… €1 = R$ 4.21
No. of days… 4
Average daily spend… €65.14 p/p
Accommodation… Small Boutique Hotel
Daily Temperature average… 28°C
Nightly temperature range… 14°C
A scenic bus journey hugged the coastline as we left Rio and headed south. Fully reclining seats helped prepare us for a welcome change of pace in our next stop, Paraty. A small colonial coastal town set in a bay surrounded by islands and mountainous Atlantic forest. It is also famed for the production of Brazil’s most popular spirit cachaca, the main ingredient in Caipirinhas.
To complement our expectations of drinking caipirinhas in the sun, we’d booked a hostel offering a beach front location. Despite the appeal of the beach, the rooms themselves looked underwhelming but it was the pick of the bunch and so we assumed any potential cons in the dorm room would be more than made up for when we had our feet in the sand eating mangoes in the mornings and drinking caipirinhas by lunch time.
We didn’t wake up there to find out. We were shown to a 9 bed dorm with bunks stacked 3 high, no window and an ensuite that I’d have rathered were an out house. We asked to be moved to another room with a more traditional one up one down bunk arrangement. The receptionist (using the term lightly) acknowledged that “it is a little tight in there yea” with a casual chuckle and showed us to a room with only 6 beds and what appeared to be some sort of small window. We hastily agreed to the “upgrade” with our standards now hovering anywhere above surf shack.
We spent 5 minutes trying to work out what selection of the 6 beds would ensure the most distance from other people’s feet, were another unfortunate person to arrive. At this point we decided to cut our losses and set off in search of new accommodation.
We upped our search from hostel to guest house and accepted a room from the first person to respond to us on WhatsApp. We carted our bags around the corner from the hostel to what turned out to be an extremely well run and homely 5 room guest house that felt like a five star hotel after our last experience. An enormous double bed, hard wood floors, features and furniture that felt befitting of the colonial town, clean white sheets (the previous ones had holes in them), Netflix, and an outdoor living area by the pool where an incredible breakfast was served every morning. We could already picture our days relaxing here as we were shown through the property, our faces a mixture of joy and relief. It was an unscheduled but welcome escape from hostels, even if it did come a little early in the trip.
Getting the facts straight
On our first morning, we took the free walking tour to learn more about the history and architecture of the town. The many quirks of the town, such as why the tide comes in every 7 hours and casually flooding the streets, made it one of our more interesting walking tours.
The town previously earned it’s riches through the gold rush and then the coffee plantations. It remained largely untouched due to the combined effect of a well timed economic depression and the abolishment of slavery in 1887.
It is now it is experiencing a successful boom in tourism, the third wave, however there are strict laws to protect the town from changing.
Soaking up the atmosphere
We soaked up the atmosphere of the town and many caipirinhas sitting on the main square most evenings. A steady stream of cocktails and talented buskers made for a great place to sit and people watch in a very relaxing atmosphere and every bar and restaurant in the town had live music on in the evenings.
Exploring the bay
We boarded a schooner for a relaxing boat trip to some of the 68 islands sitting in the bay of Paraty. The islands felt untouched bar one or two shacks set up on the beach to take advantage of the arrival of thirsty visitors every afternoon.
Between brahmas on the beach, a fresh fish lunch on the boat, we managed to fit in some swimming and snoozing and were back on dry land in time for an evening wandering the town.
Drifting through the colorful doorways
Paraty is a popular spot for artists and craftspeople selling their wares. The town is littered with small art galleries, book stores and shops with handmade jewelry, crafts and Brazilian indigenous objects.
It also boasts a lively gastronomic scene. We treated ourselves to an authentic Brazilian meal in Margarida cafe. We tried a fresh coconut and leek risotto and with a grilled Brazilian white fish decorated with banana crisp. For desert, we finished with a cheesecake with guava.
Feeling relaxed and refreshed, we braced ourselves for a monster of a city, São Paulo, this time feeling a little braver and a lot more prepared.