On the morning of Day 7, we left our beloved Rio de Janeiro in search of a change of pace.
When I planned this trip, I wanted to see more of Brazil than Rio. I know that was an audacious proposition due to the humongous size of the country. On the other side, I read a lot about other great places to visit in the same state occupied by the Marvelous City.
Originally, I had envisioned visiting Ilha Grande and Parati. Later, I felt that was a huge stretch of time. I ended up deciding for a couple of days in Parati in an effort to get a more rounded understanding about South America’s biggest country.
I have to be honest. Before this trip, I didn’t know anything about Parati. To my shame, I didn’t even know it existed. I know, throw all the tomatoes you want in my face. But as I kept reading (and looking at Google photos), I started to have an unique feeling about this town. I knew I had to visit because something great was going to happen.
Well, my prophecy became a reality. I arrived to something like this (see photo below).
Wonderful, right? It was all I needed to see in order to understand I was at the correct place.
Before I move on, let me give you some background about Parati. I realize you may be as lost as I was with respect to this city.
Parati (which means “river of fish” in the Tupi language) was once an important gold port. It was the end of the infamous “Gold Trail”. At the end of the 1600s, gold was discovered in what is today the Minas Gerais state. A road was built to connect the town of Diamantina (in Minas Gerias) with Parati. After arriving to Parati, the gold was later transported to Rio de Janeiro or Portugal. With time, the glory of the city declined because (1) another trial was built to transport gold (the original Gold Trail was the blank of many pirate attacks) (2) the gold began to run out.
After the gold period, the town had two smaller economic revivals after coffee and cachaca production increased in the area (this happened at the beginning of the 19th century).
Most of the architecture has not changed in 250 years. The construction of the highway between the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states (in the 70s) has converted the city into an artistic haven and touristic destination.
Yes, the architecture gives the city that old world charm, colonial feeling. However, it is not the only element adding to the traditional, lost in time vibe.
Let’s take transportation as an example. The colonial center of town is closed to motorized vehicles. You may think this is a conservation initiative. Well, yes it is. Nevertheless, the streets of Parati were made with big, rounded rocks. This makes the terrain almost impossible to navigate with modern vehicles.
The point is that residents and visitors have to move around in non-motorized vehicles. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation. I don’t know. To me bicycles add an interesting touch to a beautiful city like this.
Bicycles may add a touch of tradition but horse carriages are definitely the coolest form of transportation found in town. They are used to transport people and goods.
As I mentioned, Parati used to be a busy port. Many colorful boats are still docked at its piers. I just imagined how great it would feel to arrive at a colonial city like this by boat (I experienced this the next day). Bicycles, horse carriages and boats, things kept getting better and better.
I also experienced how some residents go out to sell typical sweets in a colorful cart (by the way, everything is colorful in here). Coconut and chocolate were the most common ingredients in the trays filled with the most succulent pieces you can think of. I particularly like some of the coconut sweets. Believe when I say, I had a coconut pastry every day. I walked and walked thru the streets until I found a vendor. Eating a delicious piece of heaven in a colonial town. Check.
Let me not forget about one of the things that made me feel like I was really in those Portuguese colonial days. As I walked close to the bay, I noticed some of the streets were inundated. This was not a deficiency or problem. The Portuguese designed the city like this on purpose. When the tide goes up, the water enters the streets cleaning them. When the tide goes down, the water in the streets recede. What an ingenious way to maintain a clean city.
As you can see, Parati maintain its traditional feeling and atmosphere in many ways. I can say a walk on its streets is a walk on the past, on another time.
Have you visited Parati? What elements gave you a hint of the colonial period? Let me know in the comments section below.