In the winter of 2008, I decided it was time to visit Brazil and attend its famous Carnivale! I planned a one night stay in the beach town of Buzios, two nights in bustling São Paulo and then Rio de Janeiro for the main event. I booked us on direct flights with British Airways and in February 2009, we were off.
We spent our first night in a hostel somewhere in Rio de Janeiro. I don’t recall the hostel unfortunately. Catching our first glimpse of Sugar Loaf Mountain at the top of the street was quite a thrill. We had arrived late the night before and so it had been hidden in the darkness. We were just using our first night as a pit stop and so we made our way on the coach, later that morning, to Buzios.
Knowing I’d booked a hostel on the top of a hill, we jumped in a taxi at the other end. I didn’t fancy dragging my suitcase up the hill (yes, we still travelled with suitcase back then). The place was called Bella Vista Eco Experience, although I don’t think it had the ‘eco’ bit at the time.
The rooms were separate buildings, each with an open plan kitchen/bedroom and a balcony with a killer view over the town and harbour.
We had heard that Buzios was a popular spot for cruise ships and looking out at the bay, we could a small ship at anchor, looking no bigger than a child’s bath toy.
The Town of Buzios
Free of our bags, we walked down to the bay front. We passed a vast restaurant strung with fairy lights. The waiters stood in idle clusters. I wondered why such a small town needed such a dining behemoth.
Along the narrow strip of beach we came across possibly the coolest internet cafe in the world. It had a row of British phone boxes in, a very stylish effect. The sun was setting really early, it was dark by 19:00. I should have expected it, it being February, but it was so warm that my brain was in summer mode. That combined with my jet lag meant we were done with dinner by 19:15.
We went to visit the sitting statue Brigitte Bardot. Back in the 1960s, she spent a bit a lot of time here, sung its praises and put Buzios on the map. Suddenly the world took note of this gorgeous corner of the world and it was quickly being refereed to as the Brazillian Cote D’Azur.
Walking back the way we had come, we passed the huge restaurant again. It was packed to the rafters. Every table was full and the waiters were now dashing to and fro, dishes in hand. A cruise ship had pulled up to the pier. The passengers, it seemed, had all disembarked, walked three minutes and stumbled into the first place they could find for dinner. This may be why I have never been on a cruise ship.
Check out all our travels in Brazil
The Creepy Crawlies
Back at our place, in the morning, we witnessed a very similar scene, albeit on a much smaller scale. Sizable black ants were walking in a determined line across the kitchen floor. Following the trail, we saw that they were marching to and from the sugar pot. Not terribly keen on having a stream of insects in the room, we decided to move the sugar. It took an embarrassing amount of screaming and giggling (from Karl) before we managed to get it outside into a giant flower pot.
To catch our onward transport, we had to descend the hill again. With gravity’s help we figured it would be much easier than the journey up the hill. We had to come down the opposite side to the one we had used before. I’d vaguely wondered why the taxi seemed to be going the long way round on the way up but thought he was just being cheeky because we were on the meter. About halfway down, the road surface deteriorated into a thick red dust track, littered with large chunks of concrete. We had to haul and heft the luggage down the obstacle course which took an age. Thank goodness we had left early! This was the first time I decided that a backpack would be a good plan.
Thankfully we made the coach, the first of two (well, three) that would take us to São Paulo and the next leg of our Brazillian adventure.