Paraty – a historic colonial town of white walls and irregular cobblestones, cachaça, and kitsch craft shops
As we scoured the interweb for somewhere to stay in Paraty, we were bemused to find that accommodation prices had trebled and rooms were scarce on the ground for the weekend we had planned to visit. Very puzzling indeed…until we discover that the town’s cachaça festival (31ª edição do Festival da Cachaça, Cultura e Sabores de Paraty) is due to take place that weekend. Excellent!
A cove, a view and winged jewels
Our guesthouse, Pousada dos Navegantes, is a gem hidden away in the nearby Praia Grande. Our balcony looks out over the garden which stretches down to a small cove. The view is spectacular! That night, we wander down to one of the beachside restaurants in the tiny fishing village and using our very best Portuguese (ehm…) order fresh fish and salad – steak and chips appear! Classic!
The next morning I’m up at dawn again and pad out to the balcony to call home. Darts of electric blues and greens flit about below me. Hummingbirds!!They are tiny and jewel coloured and incredibly fast. I adore Brazil!!!
A cachaça-steeped Paraty
After a feast of sweet watermelon and freshly baked chocolate cake, we hop into a minivan crammed with locals. Destination: Paraty. My favourite thing about the van is the home-made device the driver had rigged up to slam the sliding side door closed. Ingenious! We need one of these at home – imagine no more of that leaning out like an eijit trying to drag the post-pub taxi van’s door closed to the calls of “Nope, not closed. You may try again!”. This could be a dignity preserver!
We arrive in Paraty under grey clouds and drizzle and zip directly to the historic centre. The buildings are pretty, white and low. The cobblestones are excellent. They are basically just randomly strewn rocks of various sizes and shapes masquerading as cobblestones. I do a double-take when I see a group of high-heeled ladies picking and teetering their way across them. Bravery comes in many forms!!
We continue on to the festival tent. It’s 11am, a live samba band is playing and the cachaça drinking has begun with gusto. Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit made from fermented sugarcane. It’s the key ingredient of Caipirinhas, the national cocktail of Brazil. All around us people are swaying to the samba and drinking from little mugs the size of shot glasses strung about their necks. It’s still abit early for us so we wander around the port and explore the town. Lunchtime arrives and we head back to the marquee for a meal of prawns flambéed in cachaça and rice, and feijoada, a traditional and delicious black bean stew. We then make our way to the cachaça stalls where we try both pure and flavoured cachaça. One sip is enough for me and I snaffle a cachaça-infused chocolate truffle instead. Nom nom!
All in all Paraty is an undeniably pretty little seaside town but the myriad of tourist-orientated craft shops leech the colonial settlement of its original charm and leaves me a little underwhelmed. I’m far more enamoured of the basic authenticity of neighbouring Praia Grande.