Are we still in Brazil???

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve traveled all over the South of Brazil. I thought I knew all of the idiosyncracies that Brazil and Brazilian culture had to offer, but I was totally surprised at what I found in Gramado…

My husband was presenting a paper at a conference in Gramado and he suggested that I come along. Gramado is a small mountain town in the state of Rio Grande de Sul (The southern most state in Brazil). We flew into Porto Alegre, rented a car, and drove up the mountains to Gramado. By the time we reached Gramado it was dark but in the morning I was in shock from what I saw.

Gamado is not like any place that I’ve seen in Brazil. It is a small touristic town rich with a history of German and Italian immigration. Basically Gramado makes you feel like you are in Europe. The streets are beautiful! Filled with planters and beautiful street lights. The architecture is mainly German with little Gingerbread houses everywhere you turn.

Gramado is a great place for both a romantic weekend away or a family vacation with the kids, there are several different activities for everyone. The first day in Gramado we spent shopping at the many different artesian shops and fine furniture shops. Next we went to the several chocolate stores and tried a variety of sweets, we were even able to go to the Prawer Chocolate Factory and see how the handmade chocolate was made. Finally, we ended our lovely day with an excellent meal of fondue. Fondue is a specialty in Gramado, especially because it gets so cold in the winter. We went to an all you can eat fondue restaurant, and our first course was the cheese fondue course served with breads and potatoes. The next course served a variety of raw meat that we cooked ourselves on a stone and was accompanied by 20 different sauces. And our final course was, of course, the chocolate fondue course served with 8 different fruits.

Our second day in Gramado we traveled to the waterfalls near by and hiked down to them. Fair warning though to hike down you have to go down and then up 730 steps. After the waterfalls we went to the Lago Negro (Black Lake) where you can paddle boat around the lake. Finally we headed over to Mini Mundo (Mini World); which is more of a kids attraction but fun none the less.

On our last day we visited the town near by named Canela which has a beautiful church in the center of town.

It was a great weekend getaway that I would highly recommend.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramado

Curitiba

Well I’m back! I had a nice holiday weekend with the in-laws in Curitiba. I had not been back to Curitiba for two years and all I can say is that I really missed it there. To be honest I hope to live there someday. It is much more my style than São Paulo, not that I dislike São Paulo, it is just hard because I‘ve never lived in a big city and São Paulo is really big!

Curitiba is also a big city with 1.75 million people but it has the feel of a smaller city. Curitiba is very green and has neighborhoods similar to that in America. There are many parks there and the pace of life is much slower than in São Paulo. One of the loveliest things about Curitiba is the many Paraná Pines or Pinheiro trees that grow there. These are a specialized species of evergreen tree that are indigenous to Southern Brazil. The female trees have large pine cones which have seeds similar to pine nuts and are edible but I have not had a chance to try them yet.

My in-laws have several Pinheiros on their property and told me that they are endangered and a protected tree. If you plant one on your property then you get a tax break, however if you cut one down you get a fine. These are truly beautiful trees and a symbol of Curitiba.