Paraty

Paraty

Paraty was an unexpected stop on our southbound itinerary, but we needed to change our course, as Florianópolis was drowning under a week-long deluge. A woeful and monstrous nimbus was spreading quickly across the continent. I wondered if this was nature’s way of rectifying man’s lamentable ignorance, by drenching the fires and oil ravaging Brazil in a long and torrential wail. With only a day or two before the impending rain, we resolved to wring out the final sundrops in Paraty. Off we set from Vila do Abraão, venturing for the first time on our own without a tour group or guide. It was a daunting operation, but everything went smoothly, to both my surprise and my relief. The locals were quick to point us in the right direction. It was a 45-minute boat ride first to Angra dos Reis, and from there, two and a half more hours by bus to Paraty. Continue reading “Paraty”

Ilha Grande: A Return to Eden

Ilha Grande: A Return to Eden

The Tamoio people were the first to set foot on the land which they called the “great island,” Ipaum Guaçú. Portuguese seafarers kept the name, but christened it in their own tongue. For hundreds of years, Ilha Grande on Brazil’s Costa Verde was the antipode of a paradise. Its bright reefs and fine sandy shores witnessed the extirpation of the indigenous inhabitants and the crux of the transatlantic slave trade. Succeeding centuries saw the continued evolution of a most maledictive place, with both a lazaretto and a maximum security penitentiary constructed on its grounds. In light of the misfortunes that befell Ilha Grande and its unwilling captives, there was one hidden grace. Lack of urban development had given nature an unfettered hand in shaping the terrain of this emerald isle. After the prison’s closure in 1994, the island’s perfectly preserved biosphere took to the spotlight with a halcyon charm. Free from the menace of disease and Brazil’s most dangerous felons, this lustrous green pearl off the coast of Rio de Janeiro became at last, in the new millennium, somewhere to set foot on once more. Continue reading “Ilha Grande: A Return to Eden”

Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida

Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida

Ask any Latvian what the most charming town in the small Baltic country is, and chances are you’ll hear the name Sigulda. Situated in the Gauja River Valley at the entrance of Latvia’s largest and oldest national park, Sigulda is a place steeped in mythos and natural beauty. More so than the historically Hanseatic Riga and the preened seaside of Jūrmala, Sigulda elucidates Latvia’s close connection to nature.  Continue reading “Gauja River Valley and the Rose of Turaida”

Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera

Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera

Thirty minutes outside of Riga is Latvia’s favorite seaside resort, where miles of silica sand finer than powdered sugar sooth the soles and the sultry fragrance of bristly pines boosts the spirits. It’s a place where families, friends, and lovebirds flock to embrace a slower pace of life. This is Jūrmala. Continue reading “Jūrmala: Latvia’s Seaside Riviera”