After 24 hours of travel I have made it to one of the most amazing parts of the world, Trancoso,which is located in the Bahia area of Brazil. I will be spending the next five nights at UXUA http://uxua.com/?language=pt and Etnia and Etnia Clube de Mar http://www.etniabrasil.com.br, all which are in Trancoso. Presently at Uxua, which reflects the bohemian-chic lifestyle of this corner of paradise. I am learning quickly that despite the rain you live without hurry according to the rhythm of the breeze and the passing of time…something new for me to appreciate but at the same time something I can easily get very use to!!
Upon arrival I was transferred from the Porto Seguro airport by the best operator in the Bahia area called Portomondo (http://www.portomondo.com/en) . They provide wonderful local tours as well which I will experience first hand tomorrow visiting one of the most gorgeous beaches in Brazil, Esphelho Beach and Casaiva, a small fishing village. I had the most delightful English speaking driver, Fernando, who had lots of local insight to share along this gorgeous drive alongside papaya and banana groves.
One quickly realizes the lay of the land as the heartbeat of Trancoso life is the Quadrado, a tree-shaded sward with a row of low-rise houses on either side and a small church. Charming in its absolute simplicity. The Quadrado is Trancoso’s social and ceremonial centre, a tropical cross between a Portuguese village square and an English village green. Only a handful of its tiled huts are still lived in by locals. The rest have been converted into funky little boutiques, pousadas and restaurants with outside tables under the shade of overarching trees.
I have been here less than 24 hours, and despite the POURING rain, I find it one of the most unique places I have ever been… a place that almost any one would love and appreciate the simplicity and friendliness of the locals.
My first adventure was early this morning when I ventured out to see the Quadrado in the day light and take a walk while the rain had eased off… as I approached the far end where the horses were grazing around the simple white washed church ,which is the center piece of the Quadrado, there were two local men setting up their “dream catchers’ and feeding bananas to the peering monkeys bouncing around the trees above.
Much to my surprise the skies opened up and I stand there in disbelief trying to strategically place myself under a large tree to hopefully stay dry. However, luckily, the nice Portuguese men standing nearby, managed with sign language to ask me to join them under their umbrella they had tied onto the tree above. I happily did so for the next 30 minutes.
I, of course, thought I had a solution to our miscommunication and whipped out my iPhone where I had previously downloaded GOOGLE TRANSLATE… well no service.. 🙂 We still carried on a lovely universal conversation with smiles and gestures.
Needless to say I made my first purchase in Brazil and hope my dream catcher brings me lots of good luck!
ETNIA POUSADA AND ETNIA CLUBE DE MAR
CARAIVA, ESPELHO BEACH AND LUNCH AT SYLVINHA’S
I spent my last two nights at Etnia and Etnia Clube de Mar. Etnia, a lovely boutique hotel, located a few minutes walk from the Quadrado, is a little secluded haven. The rooms are themed after classic destinations worldwide ..all very brightly decorated. The property has a wonderful swimming pool that is alongside the inviting open air dining area.
I must admit Etnia Clube de Mar was my preference, located 10 minutes by car from the Quadrado. It is located right on the beach and only has five well appointed bungalows, most having lovely balconies and outdoor showers. They are all flanked with all the comforts. yet certainly a very rustic feel about the place. I loved the slatted windows, weathered wood and muslin mosquito netting which kept things all in balance.
The beach is a wonderful walking beach and if you head to the “right” out the property you may find you are the only one enjoying it! The rustic beach bar and restaurant are a great place to hang out when not enjoying paddle boarding or some of the beach activities that are offered.
In my mind, the ideal stay in Trancoso would include a few nights at Uxua on the Quadrado ending with a few nights on the beach at Etnia Clube de Mar.
As I say goodbye after five nights in one of the most beautiful places in Brazil, Trancoso, I hope to be lucky enough to return one day soon. I spent my days as if I were a local…slow paced, relaxed and enjoying the surrounding beaches and life on the Quadraro….all of which make this part of Brazil extra special.
I thank Piero, Bob, Paula, Johnny, Carlos and Lilly for all they did for me while at Uxua (pronounced ooh-shoo-ah) . The energy and enthusiasm from Laura, the manager , at Etnia and Etnia Clube de Mar, was almost contagious. She took lots of time out her busy schedule to make sure I saw her properties in depth but most importantly shared her favorite local excursions, some of which I have listed below in hopes to help you have a better understanding of this area.
HISTORY OF TRANCOSO:
The village of Trancoso is originated from the Jesuit settlement of Såo Joåo Batista founded in 1586. Recognized by the Historic Patrimony, was rediscovered in the end of the 70’s by a group of hippies and since that time, it’s attracting people from all over the world.
OVERALL FEELING OF THE QUADRARO:
Trancoso, a tiny fishing town located in the state of Bahia, has done an incredible job preserving it’s old-world ambience despite the attraction of celebrities and other fashion minded people who arrive for weekend escapes.
There is no other place that I have ever experienced ,that is at the same time primitive and sophisticated like the, square of Såo Joåo, or better known as the Quadraro. The easy going charms are unchanged.
The 16th century old “square” is really a long rectangle and at the far end towards the Atlantic ocean is the center piece of the square, a beautiful white church, surrounded by donkeys and horses peacefully grazing. The square is surrounded by adorable colored UNESCO protected homes, shops and refined inns and restaurants and miles of empty beaches down below.
The Quadrado comes alive at night when the evening is illuminated by candles on the tables under the starry sky creating a delightful atmosphere. Although the tranquility reins in most times of the year, I am told it’s possible to dance with live music or stay at the outside parties over festive times like New Year’s until the sun rises.
FAVORITE DINING VENUES AND LOCAL OUTFITTER IN TRANCOSO:
If you are staying at UXUA you will be one of the few to realize that their cuisine is the best available on the Quadrado. Uxua only accepts hotel guests for dining…with a rare occasion of an outside guest.
Top Picks are: Uxua, Capim Santo, Etnia Clube de Mar, Maritaca for pizza and Slivana or Sabor da Bahia for excellent Bahian cuisine.
A blog I found written by the owner of UXUA http://braziltraveltips.blogspot.com.br/2010/01/best-restaurants-in-trancoso-by-wilbert.html
PORTOMONDO ADVENTURE: www.portomondo.com best outfitter in the area for all tours and any transfers. English speaking drivers can be requested. The owner, Klauber, is able to set up any request and make your stay in this area as “local” and as special as possible. Biking, boating, horse back ride with a local cowboy to the white lagoon for a mud treatment, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and kayaking are only a handful of activities that his company offer.
One of the most striking beaches in the region, Esphelo, also known as”mirror” beach as its name translates the beauty of the crystal blue sea surrounded by white sand. It can be reached by a very bumpy, potentially car sick ride, that is about 25 kms from Trancoso. Another option is an hour boat ride which would be my mode of transportation next time around if the seas are not too choppy and a much more scenic approach.
It is an untouched environment but does have some delightful restaurants tucked up on the cliffs…. the most discrete one is Sylvinha’s..she only opens when she has a reservation..no set menu but cuisine is inspired on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
After an hour plus drive (38 km) down the long dirt, pot hole road, through the Atlantic forest, valleys and sandbanks, we arrived at Caraiva, a small fishing village that seems to be stopped with time. Once again arrival can be done with your guide in a motorboat and maybe the best approach.
To confirm how primitive it is the island did not get electricity until about 8 years ago! No cars on the island as horse and buggies are the mode of transportation.
The access to the village is made by small rustic canoes driven by locals while cars stay parked on the other side. With only 350 inhabitants, it is a very peaceful and primitive island. It’s streets are make of sand charmed by the small colored houses and primitive vegetation. We spotted local fisherman making fishing nets under the coconut trees.
Caraiva is blessed with gorgeous and practically deserted beaches which are great for surfing , swimming and other water sports. The Atlantic forest borders the beach with crystal clear waters and at the southern end is the Pataxø Indian village.
Corumbau is the last stretch of the coast on the South direction, edging the Discovery coast and starting the Whales coast. It is inhibited by only 25 families. I would suggest visiting for one night, taking only an over night bag, arriving by boat.
I was unable to visit but top of my list for next time… it has been suggested to me that a quick overnight at either Fazenda Sao Francisco de Corumbau (more upscale) or Villa Naia would be worth experiencing.
I did not have time to visit but understand it has very gorgeous beaches….13 kms of coast line.
You arrive via a ferry which crosses the river Joåo de Tiba and arrives to Santo Andre. This is a small fishermen’s village with on stretch directed towards the ocean and the other directed towards the river.
A very rustic island with no paved roads. Tourists enjoy kayaking,wind surfing, scuba diving or fishing for Blue Marlin. There is a nice selection of inns and restaurants that serve local foods of Bahia. The best options are to stay at Hotel Toca de Marlin and dine at Restaurant Garivota. http://www.tocadomarlin.com.br/index2_en.asp
RIO DE JANEIRO AND IGAUÇU
RIO DE JANEIRO:
Rio is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, wonderful climate, carnival celebrations, samba, balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. It is an explosive place…full of energy…. a city that lives in and for the sun and full of beauty, art, insanity, holiness and growth. I found Rio very intriguing and loved its diversity.
I think three nights in Rio is an ideal amount of time and would incorporate some of the highlights of the city as mentioned below.
1) Bike tour of the city on the famous beaches, lagoon area .… ending up in the Botanical Gardens and enjoying one of the fabulous restaurants in this area like Oro: http://www.ororestaurante.com/menu.php
2) Corcovado Mountain to see Christ the Redeemer…most amazing views of the city from here and has a WOW effect when seeing it up close. Big tip is to go early to avoid lines and avoid weekends if possible.
3) Sugarloaf Mountain can be reached via cable car or indulge in a nice hike to the peak. (you can skip if not enough time as best views from Corcovado Mountain).
4) Surfing… for the more advanced, the beaches further South have the bigger waves
5) Samba lesson
6) Visit Santa Teresa neighborhood
My favorite three hotels in Rio: all totally different in style, feel and neighborhoods.
1) The iconic Hotel Copacabana, an Orient Express property, is one of the most striking buildings on Rio beachfront…set on Copacabana Beach. www.copacabanapalace.com.br It has the best swimming pool in Rio where is it is the meeting point for dining, sunbathing or relaxing. The most desired rooms are in the main building (not annex) overlooking the beachfront or the swimming pool.
2) Fasano Rio on Impanema Beach… gorgeous rooftop pool and bar overlooking Impanema Beach… rooms very contemporary, Philippe Starck’s first hotel in Brazil…less desired rooms are the ones facing the back side of the hotel. I would splurge and book an ocean view…worth the extra money! http://www.fasano.com.br/hotelaria/hotel/2
3) Hotel Santa Teresa, a Relais and Chateaux property, a historic coffee plantation mansion located in the quaint neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Well suited for those who would like to be removed from the “action” of the beach and prefer a quieter setting. Wonderful ambience with fabulous restaurant and bar. http://www.santa-teresa-hotel.com/en
TOP DINING PICKS RIO:
1) Duo, in Barra da Tijuca…Italian http://www.duorestaurante.com.br/
2) CT Boucherie, in Leblon…a meat-lovers paradise http://www.ctboucherie.com.br/?page=midia
3) Al Mare..located at the Hotel Fasano/Rio – excellent seafood..oysters are amazing but VERY $$$
4) Térèze…in the Hotel Santa Teresa, is one of the best in Rio in a fabulous hilltop community
5) Antiquarius..is a favorite for more traditional Portuguese cuisine
6)Porcao, inIpanema…Famous churrascaria (meat)
7.) Zuka, in Leblon..Hipster, delicious dining..a must for lunch
7) Aprazível, in Santa Teresam a very happening restaurant in Santa Teresa with a breathtaking view, best for lunch http://www.aprazivel.com.br/
9)Gero Rio, in Ipanema, owned by the Fasano hotel family – Italian
10) Satyricon…one of Rio’s best seafood restaurants
11) Bar do Arnaudo, in Santa Teresa, for delicious local food
12) Devassa, Leblon..to snack like a Brazilian in Rio, drink beer with a young crowd..more of a chain but fun
13) Forneria, in Ipanema…hip eatery featuring modern decor a lively scene, great food
14) Sushi Leblon, in Leblon, the best sushi in Rio. This small, intimate restaurant is the go-to spot for sushi
15) Oro: New hotspot in Botanical Garden neighborhood. Famous celebrity chef/owner
16) Polis Sucos for fresh juices
17) Academia de Cachaca in Leblon
18) Brigite, in Leblon
19) Bira, Prainha Beach
20) Roberta Sudbrack, in Botanical Gardens, http://www.robertasudbrack.com.br
21) Miam Miam, inBotafogo
Rua Visconde de Piraja 365 – Ipanema
Very up and coming
Dias Ferreira. 45, Leblon
Famous contemporary jewelry designer
121 Rua Garcia D’Avila
For Brazilian gemstones
Rua Garcia D’Avila 113
85 Rua Maria Quiteria
My favorite Brazilian designer
Rua Anibal de Mendonca 135
Maria Bonita Extra
for young design
Best bathing-suits and bikinis
Rua Visconde de Pirajja 547
Also, good beachwear
Rua Visconde de Pirajja 351
130 Garcia de Avila – Ipanema
Sophisticated Brazilian designer
Rua Nascimento da Silva 244
Plastic design handbags
Rua Visconde de Pirajja 565 B
VIT art nouveau and deco pieces
Rua Marques de Sao Vicente 42, 3rd floor
Pewter and Tin
Rua Marques de Sao Vicente 52, 2nd floor
Praca Geeneeral Osorio
Rua Barata Ribeiro 502 D
Bar das Artes
Praca XV de Novembro 48
La Vereda in Santa Teresa
428 Rua Almirante Alexandrino
Rua Garcia D’Avila 149 Loja B – Ipanema
Casa de Culutra Laura Alvim
Cultural Center including cinemas and an art gallery, as well as a cafe. Located just off Ipanema
Artur Fidalgo Gallery
Great contemporary art, featuring established artists
Casa Daros Gallery
Showcases works by Latin American artists
Anita Schwartz Galllery
Promotes young Brazilian, up and coming artists primarily
A Gentil Carioca
An artist run collective promoting Brazilian works
Via Manzoni Design Shop
A successful concept store for local interior design talent
As one can clearly see Rio is a must visit to any itinerary to Brazil!!
I spent one short night, almost two full days at Igauçu Falls, one of the most famous attractions in all of Argentina and Brazil. Located on the border between Argentina and Brazil – 150 million years old and plunging sixty-five meters with a width almost three kilometers – puts Niagara Falls to shame. Appropriately, the name means “big water” to the local Guaranî Indians who have inhabited the area for more than 2000 years.
These 275 massive waterfalls are divided between these countries and provide vastly different views and experiences depending on what side they are viewed from. They are the widest in the world and the number of falls can actually vary between 275 and 150, depending on how full the river is. Most of the falls are on the Argentine side but the best views are on the Brazilian side, so a visit is not complete without doing both.
I was fortunate enough to stay on the Brazilian side, inside the Igauçu National Park at the Orient Express property, Hotel das Cataratas (www.hoteldascataratas.com.br). A very sophisticated colonial-style hotel which is only located 15 minutes from the Cataratas International Airport. It is not only well located but offers an array of on site amenities.. gorgeous pool, fitness room, bar and wonderful dining options along with lovely accommodations with all the modern amenities.
However, most importantly, the hotel faces the waterfalls. The path leading to the sweeping panoramic views of the falls, located right in front of the hotel, can be accessed by hotel guests before and after the park closes to the public. This hotel is clearly the nicest option on either side… Argentinian or Brazilian. For those wanting to stay on the Argentine side, within the park, the best option is the Sheraton. Both hotels have views of the falls but amenities and quality of hotel differ drastically.
I was amazed at how magical this experience was and especially in disbelief when a full rainbow stretched from one side of the river to the other while I was on my Macuco Safari boat adventure ( http://www.macucosafari.com.br/en/macuco-safari). WOW, my lucky day and what an adrenaline buster! I was in the best of hands with the private tours that I set up upon arrival with the hotel as they know the ins and outs of beating the crowded pathways and border lines which could cripple your stay. It is most important to strategically plan your activities to best avoid the HUGE crowds and heat of the day in the summer time.
The biggest issue with accessing both sides is if you are not traveling throughout Brazil it may not be worth the hassle to get a Brazilian Visa. I found it quite intriguing to see these amazingly powerful and beautiful falls from both countries. Argentina requires a reciprocity tax that must be purchased before departing the USA for $160.
The activities are plentiful…. canopy tours, invigorating boat rides on the river like Macuco, a sure adrenaline buster! Helicopter rides on the Brazilian side only… $120 for 10 minutes! Rafting, kayaking, hiking, bird park on Brazilian side and many more options to choose from.
I would ideally suggest two nights at Igauçu …. a must add on to any Argentina or Brazilian itinerary.