Picturing Paraty

The beautifully preserved colonial town of Paraty snuggles itself between lush, green mountains and a bright blue bay.

Whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets serve as a real-life oil painting that you can walk through.

After a great trip to Buzios and Arraial do Cabo I was fixing for more small town adventures, so the following weekend I took off again.

This time I ventured in the opposite direction, and made the picturesque four and a half hour journey from Rio de Janeiro to Paraty.

These are the sites that greeted me upon my arrival…

Paraty-HorseandCarriage

Take a horse and carriage ride, although I don’t know how comfortable it would be with all the uneven cobblestone streets – At least it looks romantic.

Paraty Photos - Brazilian Food

Beef carpaccio, ceviche served with Pringles and Bohemia beer was the happy hour snack of choice.

Paraty Photos - Cobblestone Streets

Tables in the streets, flowers bursting over walls and mountains in the background.

Paraty Photos - Colonial Town TouchesThe beauty of Paraty is in all the little details.

Paraty Photos - Pousado do OuroGolden hour from Pousada do Ouro.

Paraty Photos - Street Lamp

Looking down at the cobblestone streets and lovely antique street lamps from above.

Paraty Photos - Restaurants in the StreetAfter such a relaxing first day in Paraty has me rested and ready for waterfalls tomorrow…

 

Exploring Arraial do Cabo

The land of hidden gems. That’s officially the new slogan of Brazil. I haven’t told the secretary of tourism yet but he’ll understand.

It seems like around every turn, in every region, there’s a “can’t miss” place that locals rave about. It’s a beach, park, waterfall, neighborhood, etc. that you just don’t hear from until you’re within range. These are places that I affectionately refer to as hidden gems, and Brazil is full of them.

Arraial do Cabo Brazil

Locals and travelers alike kept telling us that while in Buzios we had to make time to go see “some of the best beaches in Brazil.” With a bold statement like that, we pushed our return to Rio back and went to see what the fuss was all about.

After a great weekend in Buzios we traded in the dune buggy for a public bus and short ride south to Arraial do Cabo.

Arraial do Cabo Harbor

We were met at the harbor in town by the local boat tour organizer and he offered us a 4-hour trip for R$50 ($22USD) per person. Gabriel quickly rebutted with R$20 and we all settled on R$25 ($11USD).

It was low-season and we were six deep (after meeting another Argentine couple), so we had all the leverage.

Arraial do Cabo Harbor

Joined by a large Brazilian family already waiting onboard, we lifted anchor and set out to sea.

Arraial do Cabo Travel Guide

Colorful fishing boats, rolling green hills dotted with beautiful homes and bright turquoise waters greeted us.

Arraial do Cabo Brazil Boat Tour

We made our way across the cove to Ilha do Cabo Frio aka Ilha do Farol (Cabo Frio/Farol Island).

Arraial do Cabo Brazil Praia Ilha da FarolI mean… c’mon. This is Praia Ilha da Farol (Farol Island Beach), our first stop of the day.

Arraial do Cabo Brasil Praia Ilha da Farol

We docked close to shore and I instantly flung myself overboard. Believe it or not, this is one of the better back flips I have ever done. Sad, I know.

Arraial do Cabo - Ilha do FarolJust a couple of dudes swimming in pristine blue water and running our toes through the whitest of sand.

We were originally scheduled to go to four different beaches but the water was pretty rough coming in from the open sea so we ended up spending most of the day here.

Nobody complained.

To cap off a great day on a deserted tropical island with good friends, we stopped for one of the freshest feasts of my life on the way back.

Arraial do Cabo - Fresh Oysters

The most delicious oysters I’ve ever had in my life, caught directly behind me, eaten on a floating restaurant. Usually I like some horseradish and cocktail sauce on my oysters, but all these needed was a little lime and they were good to go.

They easily rank amongst the best Brazilian foods I’ve had.

We eventually made our way to shore and caught a bus back to Rio, but not before I added Arraial do Cabo to my list of beautiful hidden gems here in Brazil.

On the way home I sat quietly looking out the window with a big smile on my face, just thinking about what’s next. The problem with discovering new places is, it just makes you want to do it more!

Arraial do Cabo Tourist Map

Arraial do Cabo Tourist Map

 

A Weekend Warrior’s Guide to Buzios

Buzios Brazil - Buzios Brasil

In desperate need of an escape from all the dudes in Rio after the World Cup, a few friends and I headed east to the peninsula paradise they call Buzios.

Just a three hour bus ride from Rio, it’s the perfect getaway for Cariocas seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Thanks to a well-publicized visit by Brigitte Bardot back in the early ’60s, Buzios has gone from a simple fishing village to a well-traveled vacation destination for weekend warriors like us.

We painted our faces with SPF-30 and stormed the sand like Normandy in search of fun in the sun.

With only a few days in town, here’s a step-by-step account on how we made the most of our time in Buzios. Follow this and I guarantee a swift victory over monotony.

STEP 1: Travel in Style

Buzios Travel Guide - Ostrich Pillow

The easiest way is to take a bus from Rio de Janeiro’s bus terminal (Rodoviaria). They run everyday, almost hourly, and it costs around R$46 ($21USD). You can also rent a car, but with the gas and fees, it wasn’t worth it for us.

If you’re not going from Rio de Janeiro to Buzios, check out this all-inclusive “How to get to Buzios” resource for help.

STEP 2: Find a Home Base

Buzios Travel Guide - Where to Stay in Buzios

We stayed at the El Misti Hostel where we got a private, 4-person room with in-suite bathroom for R$30 ($14USD) each. It was clean, comfortable and a short walk from downtown Buzios.

There are tons of hostels, hotels and pousadas in Buzios, so shop around for what works best for you.

STEP 3: Pop the Top

Buzios Travel Guide - Rent a Buggy

Rent a dune buggy. It’ll cost you around R$100 ($45USD) for the day and that includes the respect in the streets when you’re cruising around with the top down.

Side Note: All men should know how to drive a stick-shift. If you don’t now is the time to learn. If you don’t do it for the ladies (look how happy they are), do it for Paul Walker.

STEP 4: Never Settle

Buzios Travel Guide - Praia Azeda

With almost two dozen beaches around the peninsula, you should swim around before you get married. For example, are you more of the quiet sunbathing type who likes a little intimacy? If so, Praia Azeda is for you (above).

Or, would you like more action and activities with your seaside experience? If so, Praia de Geriba is your answer (below).

Buzios Travel Guide - Praia de Geriba

With the buggy, we went to six different beaches over the course of 24 hours, all within a few miles of each other.

STEp 5: Identify the Bar 

Buzios Travel Guide - Beach Bar

At all times, you should know where the closest bar, cart or guy with a cooler on the beach is. It won’t always be obvious who’s slinging the adult drinks, but stay focused and they will appear. Sometimes in the form of old fishing boats!

Remember, you’re on vacation and it’s up to you to prove it.

Buzios Travel Guide - Bars

Step 6: Enjoy the Sunset

Buzios Travel Guide - Sunset in Manguinhos

We were told that the best place to watch the sunset was at the pier on Manguinhos beach. When we arrived however, the scenery wasn’t particularly attractive after everything we’d seen. The beach and surrounding area looked like it was used mostly by fisherman.

That all changed when mother nature turned the lights down. We found a spot at the end of the pier and enjoyed the show. The fishing boats added the perfect contrast in the water and the colors could fill up a crayon box. Well played Manguinhos, well played.

Buzios Travel Guide -Sunset in Buzios

Step 7: Stay up Late

Buzios Travel Guide - Porto da Barra

Start with Porto da Barra in Manguinhos right after the sunset (above) with a nice view and a sweet setup.

From there, head back to downtown Buzios’ main street,  Rua das Pedras, to cruise the streets and enjoy the many bars and restaurants.

Buzios Travel Guide - Central Buzios

If you’re up for it, I’m told that Pacha Nightclub is as legit as it gets when it comes to mega parties in Buzios.

However, I opted for a nice whiskey, two ice cubes, good friends and a solid waterfront view to finish the evening.

Buzios Travel Guide - Beach Bars

This is how I Buzios. Any questions?

Buzios Travel Guide - Buzios Map

Above is a map of the peninsula of Buzios. All the yellow highlighted areas are beaches.

*El Misti Hostel photo was taken from El Misti’s website, I didn’t actually climb a tree and take that.

 

Rio de Janeiro Favelas – Santa Marta

Santa Marta Favela Rio de Janeiro BrazilLast Sunday morning I decided it was time to go see Michael up in Santa Marta.

I waved down the local public bus just outside my apartment and made the short, 10-minute ride over to the Botafogo neighborhood to experience another one of Rio de Janeiro’s many faces – life in the favelas.

Santa Marta was one of the first Rio de Janeiro favelas to be pacified back in 2008, and continues to be one of the safest in the city.

“Pacification” as it’s called, is the plan by Rio’s government to eliminate the city’s favelas of weapons, drug dealers and gang-controlled operations by establishing special police officers known as UPP (Pacifying Police Unit in English) within each favela to uphold the law and maintain order.

Santa Marta Favela Rio de Janeiro BrazilWalking up to the never-ending stacks of houses was a bit overwhelming and intimidating at first, but luckily the vibe on ground level was completely calm and laid back.

My roommate joined me on the adventure and he knew the area pretty well. He directed me to the tram we needed to take to reach the top of Santa Marta. Without a ride up, it would have been one serious Brazilian butt lift workout climbing all those winding stairs. Maybe that’s the answer ladies : )

Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro BrazilThe tram has four stops and runs up and down the hill to help transport locals and all their things, from groceries to furniture.

The view from the top of Santa Marta was absolutely stunning. You could see everything from Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo to Christ the Redeemer, the Lagoon, and Ipanema beach.

Rio de Janeiro Favelas - Santa Marta We walked down and stumbled onto an intense 4v4 soccer match that had attracted quite a crowd.

Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro BrazilIf I were a soccer scout, these are the places I would come; small soccer fields deep inside the city. After witnessing the Brazil vs. Germany match, maybe there’s somebody here that could take Hulk or Fred’s spot.

Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro BrazilWe stopped and watched for a while before cutting down one of the small narrow alleyways and into the heart of Santa Marta.

We weaved through the sidewalks and past open doors, taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells of the community.

Around every corner was a new surprise.

Kids ran by kicking makeshift soccer balls as grown men gathered to drink beer wherever there was room. Women hung laundry on rooftops and teenagers played music on their stoops.

Despite the garbage everywhere and most basic of living conditions, the place had a wonderful energy and seemed like everything moved in unison.

Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro BrazilA small group of kids stopped flying their kites to ask us if we were going to see Michael. Another young girl came out of her house to ask the same question.

We confirmed with both parties that that’s what we were doing and they helped point us in the right direction.

We were in no hurry to go see him, but it seemed like the kids wanted to ensure that we had a purpose for being there. I respected that.

I was happy just wandering through the passageways and soaking up all the surroundings, but with a few more turns and past some barking dogs, we arrived at Michael’s place.

Michael Jackson in Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro BrazilMichael Jackson is a music legend all over the world, but here in Brazil, he’s on another level.

In 1996, MJ came to Rio de Janeiro (and Salvador) to shoot the “They Don’t Really Care About Us” video and he came Santa Marta for many of the video’s shots.

For that, he was forever honored with a life-size bronze statue of himself high above the city.

Michael Jackson in Santa Marta Favela in Rio de Janeiro BrazilWith MJ off my list, I guess now it’s finally time to go visit the other immortalized man in Rio… Christ the Reedemer.

I plan on visiting more favelas in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out this video which gives an awesome first-person look inside a favela in Rio de Janeiro.

The Ultimate Brazilian Food Guide

Brazilian Food is as diverse as your going to find in Latin America. Heavily influenced by Arabic, African and Portuguese immigrants, Brazil’s culinary world has reaped the rewards from the melting pot of people and varying landscapes across the country.

Before I get started with the most popular foods, let me share a few facts…

  • While Southerners love their churrascos (BBQs), northerners opt for more seafood and spicy treats.
  • Brazilians everywhere love their buffets and pay-per-kilo (pay-by-the-pound) restaurants, so practice self control when visiting.
  • Like many Latin countries, lunch is the biggest meal of the day and the principal plate in most local places is rice, beans, french fries, a small salad (a slice of lettuce and tomato) a piece of meat or fish and farofa.
  • Salgados, which are fried or baked snacks like empanadas, coxinhas and kibes, are popular anytime of the day and often substitute dinner.
  • Rio d Janeiro has a strong sandwich, salgados and juice culture and you can find small, stand-only shops that serve all three on virtually every corner around the city.
  • The most popular street foods around the country are hot dogs, popcorn, tapioca, acarajé and espitinhos.

Now that you understand the basics, here are 23 traditional Brazilian foods and dishes that you should try the next time you travel deeper in Brazil.

Disclaimer: All photos and food were taken and eaten by me, not in the same day though. Also, please do not try to lick, suck or bite your computer screen.

23Pão na Chapa

Brazilian Food Guide - Pão na chapa

Brazilian Food Guide – Pão na Chapa – Santa Marta bakery in Sao Paulo

What: Toasted french bread baguette loaded with butter or Requeijão (cream cheese).
Where: Order it at any bakery, sandwich stand or juice bar across the country.
Tastes Like: Buttered or cream cheese covered toast. This one’s pretty simple.

22. Coxinha

Brazilian Food Guide - Coxinha

Brazilian Food Guide – Coxinha – Veloso Restaurant in Sao Paulo

What: The popular Brazilian salgado consists of chopped or shredded chicken, meat, and/or cheese, covered in dough, molded into a cone, then battered and fried.
Where: From restaurants to street vendors all across Brazil, these dangerously delicious little devils are everywhere.
Tastes Like: A fried chicken cordon bleu, minus the ham, but with shredded chicken and dough… okay, so it’s completely different. Think, shredded chicken poppers.
Also Try: Bolinho de Bacalhau

21. Acarajé

Brazilian Food Guide - Acaraje

Brazilian Food Guide – Acaraje – On the streets of Salvador

What: Take a deep-fried black-eyed pea fritter, split it in half, add a generous portion of caruru and/or vatapá (a spicy cream of fish and shrimp paste cooked in peanut sauce), and then add green and red tomato salsa, fried shrimps and homemade hot pepper sauce.
Where: Found on street corners all over the north/northeast of Brazil.
Tastes Like: A crazy fried shrimp falafel taco from outer space.

20. Mortadella Sandwich

Brazilian Food Guide - Mortadella Sandwich

Brazilian Food Guide – Mortadella Sandwich – Public Market in Sao Paulo, Brazil

What: Layers of delicious, grilled mortadella meat (ham/bologna) on french bread with a disrespectful amount of melted cheese.
Where: Most sandwich spots around the country will offer a variation of this tasty sammy, but the best rendition I found was at the public market in Sao Paulo.
Tastes Like: This isn’t your grandma’s bologna sandwich.

19. Moqueca de Camarão

Brazilian Food Guide - Moqueca de Camarao

Brazilian Food Guide – Moqueca de Camarao – At a restaurant in Salvador

What: A hearty Brazilian shrimp stew made with coconut milk, palm oil and all the essential veggies like onion, tomatoes and peppers.
Where: This is traditionally served in restaurants and homes in Northestern Brazil.
Tastes Like: The Peruvian dish I cooked in Lima with local friends, Chupe de Camarones, except this has coconut milk and a lot more sides.

18. Pasteis

Brazilian Food Guide - Pasteis

Brazilian Food Guide – Pasteis – This guy from Brasilia loved making Pasteis!

What: Fried pockets filled with meat, cheese or sweets like banana or doce de leite.
Where: Like the coxinha, pasteis (plural for pastel) are a Brazilian snacking staple and can be found throughout the country.
Tastes Like: Savory, stuffed fried dough.

17. Costela

Brazilian Food Guide - Costela

Brazilian Food Guide – Costela – This was from a friend’s home in Curitiba.

What: Beef ribs. Just add salt and let it go in the oven or on the grill
Where: Very popular in the Southern States of Brazil, but can be found in Churrascarias (Brazilian steakhouses) everywhere. The best ribs are served up from family BBQs like this one in Curitiba
Tastes Like: Ribs. Salty, meaty, deliciousness.

16.  Tambaqui de Banda

Brazilian Food Guide - Tambaqui de Banda

Brazilian Food Guide – Tambaqui de Banda – Ate this guy in Manaus before heading into the Amazon.

What: Grilled fish. Simple and perfect.
Where: Northern Brazil (around the Amazon).
Tastes Like: Light, fresh, grilled fish. One of the best dishes I’ve had in Brazil.

15. Passarinha

Brazilian Food Guide - Passarinha

Brazilian Food Guide – Passarinha – Regretting this on the streets of Salvador

What: Cow pancreas, grilled and served with an onion and tomato salsa.
Where: Northestern Brazil.
Tastes Like: A salty car tire. Once was enough for me.

14. Polenta Frita

Brazilian Food Guide - Fried Polenta

Brazilian Food Guide – Fried Polenta – Crushing this spread after a late night in Porto Alegre

What: The golden sticks to the back/left of the sampler plater are fried polenta (cornmeal) fries.
Where: I have only found them in Southern and Central Brazil, but I’m sure they can be ordered elsewhere.
Tastes Like: Crunchy on the outside, creamy and corny on the inside. Like a french fry, but much MUCH better. Another popular fried french fry rendition is mandioca frita (fried yucca), but to me, polenta frita is the best fried rod around.

13. Kibe

Brazilian Food Guide - Kibe

Brazilian Food Guide – Kibe stuffed with Ricotta cheese – Downstairs from my apartment in Rio de Janeiro

What: Kibe (or Kibbeh) is actually an Middle Eastern snack brought over by immigrants and cherished by Brazilians. Here, the most popular rendition is a torpedo-shaped  ball of bulghur (cracked wheat), minced onions and finely ground lean beef stuffed with beef, cheese or vegetables.
Where: Your local salgados stand and arabic joints across the country.
Tastes Like: a fried meatball seasoned with exotic spices from faraway lands.

12. Carne de Sol

Brazilian Food Guide - Carne de Sol

Brazilian Food Guide – Carne de Sol – Feira de So Cristovao in Rio de Janeiro

What: Sun-aged steak served with all the usual suspects.
Where: Northeastern Brazil, where the sun tenderizes the meat just right
Tastes Like: Steak. It’s good but not all that exciting.

11. Caldo de Sururu

Brazilian Food Guide - Caldo de Sururu

Brazilian Food Guide – Caldo de Sururu – Enjoying with friends in Salvador

What: A Brazilian mussel chowder made with mussels and sometimes other seafood, garlic, onions, potatoes or yucca, spices and tropical palm oil.
Where: Typically found in Northestern Brazil, the most interesting place you can order it on the beach. Vendors walk around with kettles of this hot soup along with cilantro, chili sauce and limes to top it off. Not exactly my ideal beach snack, but it’s great on a cool evening on the streets of Salvador.
Tastes Like: An exotic clam chowder, the red not the white.

10. Goiabada

Brazilian Food Guide - Goiabada

Brazilian Food Guide – Goiabada – At my local grocery store in Rio de Janeiro

What: Guava paste, usually spread on toast, stuffed in pastries or eaten with minas cheese and called a Romeo and Juliet.
Where: Breakfast tables, grocery stores and bakeries everywhere.
Tastes Like: A deliciously sweet fruit roll-up on steroids.

9. Espetinho

Brazilian Food Guide - Espetinhos

Brazilian Food Guide – Espetinhos – From a Sunday market in Brasilia

What: Steak, chicken, sausage and cheese on a stick.
Where: Served up on the streets and even grilled fresh at the beach.
Tastes Like: The answer to all your drunk problems.

8. Brigadeiro

Brazilian Food Guide - Brigadeiro

Brazilian Food Guide – Brigadeiro – Way too close to my apartment in Rio de Janeiro

What: Condensed milk, butter and chocolate rolled into a rich ball and covered in chocolate sprinkles.
Where: A bakery near you.
Tastes Like: An undercooked brownie ball with chocolate sprinkles. Yeah, they’re good.
Also Try: Doce de Leite on or in anything.

7. Açaí

Brazilian Food Guide - Acai

Brazilian Food Guide – Açaí – Exactly three minutes walk away from my apartment in Rio

What: A delicious dark purple berry that when combined with guarana syrup and some granola, it turns into the perfect breakfast, post-workout or anytime meal. Add strawberries or bananas for an extra kick of awesome.
Where: Açaí is actually from the north but Cariocas (people from Rio) eat it like it’s nobodies business – myself included.
Tastes Like: A thick blueberry smoothie that I would bathe in if it was socially acceptable.

6. Pão de Queijo

Brazilian Food Guide - Pao de Queijo

Brazilian Food Guide – Pao de Queijo – From the Santa Teresa neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro

What: Warm, cheese stuffed buns.
Where: Created in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, but now popular all over
Tastes Like: Extra cardio tomorrow, no regrets today.

5. Farofa

Brazilian Food Guide - Farofa

Brazilian Food Guide – Farofa – from a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro

What: Fried cassava flour that may include egg, bacon, banana, torresmo (pork rinds, above) or other add-ons. Brazilians use it as a topping for rice and beans, meat and anything else they can get their hands on.
Where: You can’t escape it.
Tastes Like: flavored sawdust. I think it was something created by the beer companies to dry your mouth so you would drink more beer (Brazilian friends hate when I say that).

4. Tapioca

Brazilian Food Guide - Tapioca

Brazilian Food Guide – Tapioca – A roadside stop near Fortaleza

What: Tapioca is a starch extracted from the manioc plant that looks like sea salt. Add butter to bond it and cook it like a tortilla, add savory or sweet fillings and fold into a taco shape.
Where: Native to northern Brazil but found on street vendors everywhere
Tastes Like: Good question. It’s kind of like a chewy, gummy, burrito, but not really.

3. Churrasco

Brazilian Food Guide - Churrasco

Brazilian Food Guide – Churrasco – From a Churrascaria in Porto Alegre

What: Meat. Lots and lots of beautiful meat. Steak, sausage, pineapple, and odd bits
Where: It’s a religion in Southern Brazil but can be found all over.
Tastes Like: Success.

2. Fruit & Juices

Brazilian Food Guide - Brazilian Fruit

Brazilian Food Guide – Brazilian Fruit – from the Sao Paulo central market

What: Delicious, mouthwatering fruit and fresh fruit juices.
Where: It varies by region, but they’re all worth a lick, bite or squeeze
Tastes Like: Some familiar, many foreign, most tasty, some funky, all welcome.

1. Feijoada

Brazilian Food Guide - Feijoada

Brazilian Food Guide – Feijoada – Rio de Janeiro

What: This is Brazil. A thick meat and bean stew with rice, greens and farofa sides
Where: All over Brazil. Many restaurants and families will prepare this dish on the weekends, because once you eat it, you’re not going or doing anything.
Tastes Like: a meaty chile without the ground beef or chile seasonings.

Está com fome? Are you Hungry?

See Also: The Ultimate Guatemala Food Guide