Monday, 9 August 2010

A weekend away in Switzerland - NOT!

We couldn’t decide where to visit this weekend so we flipped a coin for the beach or the interior. The coin said the interior – the coin was wrong! We had glorious sunshine all weekend and, as you can see from the map, we were nowhere near the beach : (. Taking heed of this adventure here, we took our trusty GPS and I memorised the map (as Tim was insisting that we just needed to get to Taubate and turn left).

We visited Campos do Jordao which is a small town in the interior, about 2.5 hour drive from Sao Paulo. We hired a car for the weekend which only cost us Rs 150 for the entire weekend (friday through to monday) but it was a special rate for Father's Day! Normally it would be Rs150/day and we've yet to find a decent rental place nearby.

I had had this town on the list of places to visit as it is THE town to go to in the winter. I found two heliports on the map - that's how many rich people from SP like to come here and be cold. There is a winter festival there all through July and if you look at all the local gossip rags (very good for learning portuguese, seriously!) most of the local celebs will have been papped by papparazzi here. Mainly Paulistas, and some Carioca's, travel here to play cold (OK, Sat night did drop to 12'C). It's a chance for them to bring out their big fur coats, woolly hats and mittens  I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed with the town as it doesn't look anything like Switzerland. I honestly thought it was going to be a picturesque little Swiss village in the Brazilian countryside....

We had managed to book last minute, Pousada Piano Piano which was about a 10 minute walk (part of up a hill) from the main part of town, Vila Capivari. Places were still pretty full this weekend and most require a minimum 2 night stay which is a little pricey at Rs350 per night.* They were very family friendly, provided a cot for Sophie, had a great selection of movies and electric blankets! It was such a gorgeous day we desperately wanted to sit outside for lunch. We walked around the square and found Baden Baden, famous for it's brews, which had lots of outdoor seating but it's where everyone wants to be / be seen. There were lots of places for fondues and hot chocolate but we really couldn't bring ourselves to pretend to be cold when it was about 25C. We eventually decided on a beautifully terraced Italian restaurant who were a little snobby but didn't bat an eyelid with Sophie throwing spaghetti around our table. 

We then took a drive to Pista de Itapeva (10km) which turned out to be a pretty breath-taking view of the surroundings. You could see 3 towns in the distance, and beyond that was really impressive mountain range. This photo doesn't really do it justice.

We had dinner at Baden Baden as a table was free and I was up for trying their fondue. We actually ended up with a hot 'tepid-warm' plate instead of a vat of hot oil, but it was really good aside from waiting an hour for our meat to cook ... I understand that being cold is a novelty to most Brazilians but, now that I think about it,  how many 'winter' countries do al-fresco dining? Sitting outside at 12C, is not a pleasant way to dine!

On Sunday we took drove to Horto Florestal (10km from Vila Capivari) which is their state park. I wish we had done a bit more research and been prepared with walking shoes and backpacks as this was definitely the highlight of the area. There were a 6 different trails of varying difficulty, and lots of forest and fauna and waterfalls to see. We, instead, went to the chocolate shop (not quite Swiss but very, very good) and the local cantina. It was Father's Day in Brazil and lots of families were out celebrating. Tim even had other father's shake his hand and say 'Congratulations' on being a father, so lovely!

So in summary, if we come back to Campos do Jordao, we would come back with a bunch of friends, rent a big, lovely house, drink lots of baden baden, cosy and warm next to a fire most nights, and plan some great outdoor activities each day (horse riding, mountain bikes, off-road trips). OK, I should be honest - I doubt we'll head back to Campos in the near future. We've moved to  Brazil for the beach and sunshine. I don't need to pretend I like winter and we'll get our dose of it when we are back in the UK for a visit!

*Note to travellers use to great value accommodation in places like Asia - you can pay silly prices for very average places. Don't be surprised!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Brazil on The Pearl Report

The Pearl Report, Hong Kong, focuses on Brazil this week.

Part 1
Part 2

Monday, 2 August 2010


Sorry I haven't been blogging in awhile. We were travelling for most of June and had a friend visiting the start of July, and it always takes me a bit of time to mentally return to 'normal'. We are also still waiting for our visas, which is taking longer than expected. We really shouldn't be surprised. So we are in a 'holding zone' for now  - it's hard to make plans if you're not sure where you're going to be next month. That said, we are still making the most of Sao Paulo being our new home. On the weekend we went and did some exploring of parks. Spent some time chilling in Parque Ibirapuera and Parque Vila Lobos, hunted down a pretty decent chinese restaurant in Liberdade (Tenzan on R. Galvao Bueno which has giant portions, you only need one or two dishes for 4 people). We also visited Centro Cultural Sao Paulo  which is an open building next to Vergueiro metro. It serves as a library, meeting place, exhibition space, shelter from rain; courses, various performances and collections can be also found there.

There is a fantastic photography exhibition currently running called E.CO - a display of 20 photographic collections from Latin America and Europe. My favourite collections were NoPhoto (Espanha) which was a series of photos of chinese cyclists training in a chinese metropolis, Documentography (UK) which showed the impact of urbanisation throughout the world and SupayFotos (Peru) which depicted local life. I think everyone nowadays, with a digital camera and photoshop, fancies themselves as a photographer, but this exhibition has reminded me of why photographers are justified in calling themselves professional. Most of my photos are stored away on my computer somewhere never to see life in print. Seeing these well thought out images blown-up, close and personal is truly enlightening. Definitely worth it! (and then Liberdade is just up the road for lunch). 

*p.s if you are lover of photographic exhibitions and travel a bit, here are some other spaces that are worth visiting if you are in NY (International Center of Photography near Times Square ) or London (Getty Images Gallery near Oxford Circus).