Tuesday, 17 July 2012 10:49 AM
Kate Walker explores the picturesque colonial town of Paraty in Brazil and samples the local nightlife
Saturday night is Samba night. Well, in Paraty, every night is a potential Samba night...
By 11pm ‘Armazem Paraty’ is hotting up. Local musicians group together over bottles of red wine and jugs of caipirinhas and … simply jam. Cuíca (a hollowed-out drum), flutes, harmonicas, cavaquinhos (similar to a banjo) and a mighty zurdo (drum) thump and pulse. And the crowd only grows larger.
There’s no room for awkwardness; if your moves prove mechanical, the closest local will pull you in close and quickly correct foreign hips. For the shy souls out there, this can be a little flustering at first, especially when met with confident hands and a strong, tanned beaming face; but after a few lugs of home grown cachaça (sugar cane liquor) it’s liberating to just let go and enjoy the scene for what it is.
Five am came around all too quickly, signally the end to our night, but Kathy and I left on a high. Pumped from the dance, the songs and the laughter we had a 15 minute stroll over aged cobble stones and along the Perequê açu River to Vivenda – our home for four nights.
Located in a safe and quiet neighbourhood, Vivenda emanates tranquillity. John, the owner, greeted us on day one with open arms (literally) and a genuine interest in our plans for exploring the colonial town.
White washed bungalows with splashes of colour from Paraty’s local artists and the subdued recordings of French and Brazilian jazz musicians in the background makes for a chic home away from home. Consisting of two bungalows and one double bedroom, up to six people can be accommodated at any one time.
Breakfast is a decadent affair. John’s team of local ladies serve up seasonal fruits, natural yoghurt, a variety of cheeses, ham, eggs, fried banana and an array of breads including pão de queijo - typical mini Brazilian cheese breads.
Sitting on your own private patio around the swimming pool, dressed in just a crisp white bathrobe and it’s easy to while away the morning hours. However, mornings spent drifting in a post chow-haze should be kept to a minimum as Paraty – although small – has so much to offer.
Exploring the town by bike, like a local, marvel at the cobbled streets – dating back to the 17th century when the Portuguese traders first arrived – and the myriad of brightly coloured doors, often near-hidden by a tangle of foliage. Pass through impressive doorways, peruse boutique stores and discover the work of over 100 artists in the nooks of well-preserved historical houses.
Meandering around the town and shopping is all well and good but an island hopping day trip should not be overlooked. Tens of boats line up in the early mornings along Paraty’s jetty and you can take your pick. Pay dearly for the more intimate, luxurious vessels or part with only a few bucks and spend the day aboard a much larger boat and with a great many more people.
The Bay of Ilha Grande – boasting clear, peacock-blue waters and isles draped in lush vegetation is your playground for the day. With an acoustic guitar being strummed quietly below deck and a frozen, condensed-milk smoothie in hand, we were quite happy to relax on board, but we dropped anchor a handful of times for the thrill-seekers amongst us to scale the rigging and leap off the boat with whoops of pleasure (or terror) into the cool waters.
For the sun-baked and boat-weary, take time out in any one of the historical centre’s cafés and restaurants. A particular favourite of mine was Margarida Café. Here you can sit, unhurried, amongst the dark colonial furniture and the warm glow of lamplight and unwind with a proper coffee to the tunes of a live piano.
Or, if your head and liver have recovered well enough from the previous caipirinha-infused night, then head to ‘Bar Coupê’. People-watch with a beer in hand and if you feel like getting more involved, join the animated individuals propped up at the bar for a televised game of local futeball (football). You’ll be sure to make friends, even a team of them. Just make sure your rooting for the Brazilian side.
By Kate Walker
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