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Wonderful Brazil

Author: Audrey H.
Date of Trip: July 2006

Motor to Paraty (pronounced Para-chee), a living museum, now preserved as a national park because of its importance to the Brazilian Gold Rush. It’s only 6 blocks square with 2-story colonial buildings, four (4) 18th century churches, and no cars allowed ( not hard to understand as you attempt to maneuver the unpaved stone streets - not even as smooth as our Philly cobblestones). I could barely walk the streets – I still don't understand how the locals ran along and rode bicycles?!?!

Our hotel (Pousada Porto Imperial) was most relaxed, charming, and well-appointed (onyx sets of chess, checkers and backgammon at tables around the pool), stone walls, beautifully-caged love birds, small tropical garden, common sitting / reading area, bar & breakfast areas, lounging room with fireplace (why?!?), sauna, high ceiling rooms with inside-shuttered windows, thick lace curtains and mission style furniture; pretty, pretty, pretty!


A lovely boat ride along the coast, in to the beach and swimming with the fishes, lunch on the boat, more swimming and sun. That night, Gail, Margery and I had a super evening at an unusual puppet show, preceded by dinner at a Thai restaurant (yes, Thai – a nice change from Portuguese, Portuguese, Portuguese - great food, great company, great atmosphere!).

The PUPPET SHOW Em Concerto was in a small 100-seat theater. Started by a Brazilian couple in 1971 as street performers in NYC, it gained popularity in Brazil and now tours the world, but remains local to Paraty. The 2' puppets are not controlled by strings or wooden poles. The stage is matte black; the 2 puppeteers are dressed in black head to toe to fingers and with black netting over their faces. They hold and manipulate the puppets elbows or head or joints. You may see the black fingers at the puppets head or elbow for the first few minutes, but then you are so entranced by the puppets movements as they play a violin or flirt with one another that you don't notice the puppeteers anymore.


Motor to Sao Joao dei Rei (Hotel Ponte Real) one night and a walking tour the next day. It’s another colonial town along the Gold Route. Interesting history, beautiful little churches, great dinner (and pewter shops).


Our morning walking tour of Sao Joao dei Rei ends at the train station. And there we take the "Smoking Mary" train (an old Baldwin USA steam train) to Tiradentes. Jolene befriends of group of young ladies and they converse in their ESL English. I am busy snapping pictures along the countryside. When we arrive in Tiradentes, we disembark and join other travelers to watch the engineer unlatch the steam engine, and drive it back alongside the passenger trains. Once at the front of the line, the steam engine settles into a round-about, and it is manually pushed around, re-hooked to the cars for the return trip.

After a guided, walking tour of the city’s historic sites and some leisure time shopping, we meet for lunch at a delightful little restaurant.

Board our bus, and off we go for a visit to Mina de Passagem, an 18th century gold mine. Since its discovery, approximately 35 tons of gold have been extracted from this mine. To get to the mine galleries, we ride in a 14 passenger, single-cable, rickety open trolley car down a 90o slope into the mines; which are 120 meters deep and 315 meters long. As we walk around the mine caves, our Guide explained the elements and 17th century mining and a miner's day.

On to Ouro Preto (Black Gold and the center of Brazil’s 17th century gold rush). On the way, a stop at Congonhas do Campo to view the famous works of Aleijadinho; 12 life-size, soapstone carvings of The Prophets and (in 6 small chapels) 66 polychromatic wooden carvings of The Stations of the Cross. I was surprised that the soapstone carvings are still exposed to the world and its elements, and not in a protected museum (like Michelangelo’s David), but our Guide explained that issue is still under discussion.


It’s a full day in Ouro Preto. We do a walking city tour, including some churches and the School of Mining, and have some free time in the late afternoon for exploring and shopping. One of the richest churches in the world, Church of Our Lady of the Pillar is in Ouro Preto. It is a small church but its altars and carved works are painted entirely in gold.


Return to Rio via a motor coach tour of Petropolis - a lovely mountain resort town – a favorite with the nobility, and rich & famous Brazilians vying for a quiet get-away from Rio. Late lunch at a lovely, large restaurant. It’s a buffet for the appetizers and salads, but waiters continuously circulate, serving chicken, beef and fish from skewers at tableside.


Fly to Manaus for a boat ride to our Amazon Rainforest; 3-days at Ariau Amazon Towers, a treetop hotel along the Rio Negro (black river). What a unique (!?!) resort; suggested by Jacque Cousteau to a friend who built it in 1986. (If you build it, they will come!) There were 8 round, tower buildings (4-5 stories tall, no elevators), spaced throughout the complex, made entirely of wood and tree limbs. Each floor level was round, with seating surrounding the tree trunk in the middle, and your apt doors (thickly carved with tropical flora and fauna) along the outside of the circle. Our semi-air-conditioned room (excluding the bathroom) was wood floors, walls and ceilings, with one light bulb in the center of the room, one over the bed, and a pedestal fan (no TV, no phone). The room sloped so much to the outer wall, that our beds had blocks on one side to keep them level.

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