In the summer of 2015, we carried on with the discovery of the New Continent – started in 2013 with our fabulous trip to the U.S.A. - going to South America this time, more specifically to Brazil. First, I have been to São Paulo on my own in the middle of July, where an acquaintance who lives in that wide metropolis was waiting for me. Thanks to that person, I could immerse myself in the Brazilian way of life, sometimes off the beaten track of tourism. We stayed there three days, and then we reached the Nordeste and the bustling with life and colored Salvador de Bahía, then Recife and Natal. Ten days later, we went to the unavoidable Rio de Janeiro, where J.R., who had a shorter vacation than me, joined us for the last two weeks of this unforgettable trip. That was a big first! We had never met this way before in a foreign country. After we enjoyed the cidade maravilhosa, we carried on to the South, wide territory of a different Brazil, having an extraordinary stay in Florianópolis, too little known in Europe. Then, we ended with a few days in São Paulo, from where J.R. and I took off to Paris, with the feeling that the discovery of this country with an asserted character made us better.
Personally, that was my longest trip: I had never stayed four weeks far from my homeland before. And I must admit it’s a quite rewarding experience, because for the first time, I had the impression of living in the visited country, in a very sporadic and fleeting way, but always deeply. Of course, mixing with Brazilian people most of the time, taking up their culture, their customs and their daily life greatly contributed towards it.
Like the U.S.A., it is a real continent country made of vastness, contrasts and diversity. Real mosaic of mixed colors, you come back from there with vivid images deep-rooted in your memory: beaches of paradise, tropical islands, vast forests, picturesque waterfalls, colonial architecture, cities covered in concrete, favelas springing up like mushrooms, streets bathed in music and show dances (samba, bossa-nova, forró…), rainbow colored scenes of frenzied carnivals that stirs an incredible popular fervor… The richness of nature is inevitably accompanied by climatic variations - sometimes disconcerting – so that it gets impossible to have the same kind of weather during your stay when you travel to every corner of the country. Biodiversity there is remarkable, and Brazil abounds with endemic species.
Taking into account considerable distances, aircraft is the mode of transport that is essential most of the time to go from a state to another. The most widespread airline company is TAM, but you can also use Gol, Azul and Avianca. The bus network is expanded as well. Those vehicles are comfortable, but be aware that trips are very long. It took us eleven hours to join São Paulo from Florianópolis! According to city busses, numerous and very used, they are real part of local folklore: they will lead you from a station to another at a furious pace with bumps that will make you understand you should better hang on from the first second of the ride to the last if you did not find any seat. Besides, they may not stop at a station which is yet part of the route, just because busses from different routes are already stopping there, which prevents the driver from seeing users making signs for him to stop. You will have no other option than waiting for the next one. Some of them operate between city centers and airports for a very low price, but rides are very long due to the numerous stations. Obviously, many taxis operate on those routes as well, but like in many countries, they are rather expensive. However, be aware that there is a compromise solution in some cities: the Van Service network, which provides shuttles that can transport about fifteen persons.
You will meet in Brazil an endearing population, with an incredible kindness. A special mention to Gustavo in São Paulo, Raimundo nicknamed «Rai» in Salvador de Bahía, the very nice and helpful staff in Hotel Marsallis in Natal, Ezequiel in Recife, and last but not least, Amanda in Florianópolis. There are diverse origins, notably Amerindian, European and African. Brazilians are pleasant, helpful, with an optimism which seems unshakeable in spite of the social difficulties the country is going through. The sweetest people we have ever met, taking each one of our trips into account. They will come to you whenever they feel you are in difficulties to help you, give you some information, and they will often seize the opportunity to relate you about their passion for their city, their region, their country. And you will stop for a while, with no feeling of losing your time because they know so much how to inspire you with that passion. Many of those meetings will be fleeting without being necessarily superficial, and will be part of the deepest memories of your trip. You will remember in no particular order faces, smiles, shared laughter without knowing exactly where and when you crossed them because they were so numerous, but the ecstasy of memories will remain deep inside of your soul, even a long time after you returned.
The Brazilian food is in the image of the country: mixed and diversified. Quality is undeniable, as much according to fishes and seafood as according to meat. We still have in our mouth the taste of feijoadas, churrascos, picanhas, petiscos and many others. A special mention to cocktails as well, notably the unavoidable caipirinha, cachaça-based, which is also available in caipiroska (vodka-based), caipifruta, accompanied with fruits as mentioned in the name.
However, every rose has its thorn: urban violence in cities is no legend. Crime in some districts of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is well known all around the world, but be aware that it is the same in Salvador de Bahía, and to a lesser degree in Recife and Natal. Only Florianópolis is spared among the places we visited. The way some spots are secured will give you shivers, but you will quickly figure out that it is justified most of the time. Fortunately, this is not what you will retain about your trip, but only the numerous attractions of Brazil mentioned above. You just have to avoid showing off your valuables, to take the bare essentials according to cash, and to leave your passport where you stay to only take a photocopy. Generally, just carry out the various security instructions to the letter, and unless you find yourself inconveniently in the wrong place at the wrong time – which can finally happen anywhere in the world – you will not have any trouble. However, we felt frustrated of not being able to carry our cameras whenever we wanted to devote ourselves completely to one of our passions.
Honestly, it is not our favorite destination even though we really enjoyed that country and will go back there whenever the opportunity arises. Our hearts still beat harder for the U.S.A. and Slovenia. But, now that we have visited Brazil and met Brazilian people, we cannot imagine the life of a traveler without going to that fabulous country at least once.
Published on April, 27th 2016
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