It has been more than 50 days since we left Miami on our “Circle South America Grand Voyage” on Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner. We have so many memories, including transiting the Panama Canal; flying from Lima to Quito, Ecuador for an overnight; Peru’s spectacular Incan wonder of the world Machu Picchu; the fjords of Argentina; the world’s most southern town – Ushuaia; and the 270 individual falls at the mighty Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil.
Recently we spent several days in Buenos Aires, then headed north up the coast of Brazil toward Rio, stopping each day in another town, village or city, the names of which are new to us. Each day is hotter than the last.
At one stop, we docked all day at Parati. Some people went on small boats out to the islands but many have rocky shores and are private. Most took the tenders to the mainland beaches which are small and idyllic. Most have barracas (stalls) serving beer, fish and, at most, a handful of beachgoers.
This historic town has beautifully-preserved historic Portuguese colonial architecture, an imposing fort, charming narrow cobblestone streets – some of which flood when the tide comes in – and exquisite churches. Taxis are not allowed in the historic center of Parati. It is a beautiful and tranquil town where there are no bargains.
Parati’s colonial history is reflected in its beautiful old churches. During colonial times, the churches were built to serve specific classes and races. The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Saint Benedict was built in 1725 by and for slaves. Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Pardos Libertos (Church of St. Rita) was built in 1722 and is the oldest in Parati. It served freed mulattos. Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores (Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows) was built in 1800 and served the colonial white aristocracy. Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remedios, First Church of Our Lady of Remedies, was started in 1646 and was not finished until 1873. It served workers and fishermen.
In the main square is Nossa Senhora Dos Remedios. The church is open for masses and visiting. The charge is $3 U.S. and prayer is included in the price!
The fort, Defensor Perpetuo, was built in 1703 to defend Parati from pirate attacks and protect the gold being exported from Minas Gerais.
The next day we anchored off the island of Ilha Grande, 93 miles south of Rio. First it was a pirates’ lair, then a leper colony and finally a prison for some of Brazil’s most violent and deranged criminals. Now it is a vacationers’ paradise.
The village of Abraao is within walking distance and off we went. Ilha Grande boasts over 200 of the most beautiful beaches and rainforests. It is probably the only place in the world where it is possible to see coral and tropical fish along with Magellanic penguins and Southern right whales. It is a hot spot for biodiversity and conservation. There are lots of howler monkeys too.
The next day we sailed into Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvellous City as Rio de Janeiro is known in Brazil. Synonymous with the “Girl from Ipanema” the dramatic view from Christ the Redeemer (the largest Art Deco sculpture in the world) atop Corcovado Mountain and famous Carnival celebrations, Rio is a city of stunning architecture, abundant museums and marvelous food.
Before we got to Rio the ubiquitous Amsterdam Sauer jewelry reps were already on board. You always say that you are not going to get caught up into going to their store and the next thing you know, you are in one of their limos and on your way downtown.
Resistance is futile and the next thing you know you have bought one their birds carved from semi-precious stones or a piece of jewelry.
That evening we went to a carnival tango show. Lots of glitz, incredible costumes, exciting dancing, gauchos, marvelous music – lots of fun till you realize there is only one exit. All of a sudden we were nervous, but soon the show was over and we have had a grand time – and learned a lesson about asking about fire exits before going anywhere!
For almost 300 years the Portuguese ruled Brazil, so the national language is not Spanish as in most of the rest of South America. Brazil gained its independence in 1889.
The next day we went out to the Sugarloaf Mountain and took a cable car up to the first station on the way to the top. There is a helicopter landing pad there and that is scary to see one land on a pad half the size of a tennis court! Then it is on to the next cog train and on to the top. Wow!
After all that excitement it was very relaxing to sit in the bus and see Copacabana Beach. It is full of colorful rented umbrellas and happy people. We toured the city and headed back to our home away from home. We set sail at sundown and a rainstorm was brewing. It was dramatic.
Corcovado, the site of the iconic statue “Christ the Redeemer,” is nearly twice as high and offers a wonderful view of Sugarloaf.
The next day we sailed into Salvador, Brazil. Some people like Brad took cultural tours. They particularly enjoyed Sao Francisco Church and the Convent of Salvador. Completed in 1723, this church and convent are among the most important and beautiful colonial monuments in Salvador. The church is richly adorned with gold, silver and precious stone along with elaborate ceiling art. The walls are covered with beautiful antique Portuguese blue and white tiles.
Having been there before, I indulged in retail therapy by going to the Mercado Modelo. The Mercado is housed in a large, rambling building by the harbor that has over 300 stalls. It was a long, hot walk but it was worth it.
After a lovely dinner with new friends from Connecticut, we sailed away and were happy to spend the next day relaxing at sea on our way to Fortaleza in Brazil.
About the Author (Author Profile)
A fixture in Louisville society, Carla Sue Broecker has been writing her weekly column for more than two decades.