Bite Size Destination Throwback: Brazil 2013

Cove on Ilha Grande, Brazil

Sometimes a trip is all about relaxation. While the majority of my adventures are a little too active to fall under that category, there are a precious few whose primary purpose was simply just to get away and decompress. My 2013 jitney to Brazil was just such a trip, and I’m happy to share and relive the highlights with you now.

Destination: Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and the Costa Verde)

Year: 2013

What Brought Me There

Paraty Bay, Brazil

The winter of 2013 was a rough one for my wife and I, culminating in my father-in-law’s passing away. Between the stress, loss and freezing cold, never was it more apparent that we needed a break. Fortunately, we were able to use airline miles to book flights to Rio, which was the perfect gateway for the relaxation that lay ahead.

We started with a brief two days touring the city’s main sites such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the amazing beaches, before moving on to the gorgeous, pedestrian-only island of Ilha Grande. Next it was the too-charming-for-words cultural town of Paraty, situated in a paradisaical nook of the Costa Verde coastline for a few days until the inevitable return to Rio, home and a New York winter.

What I Loved

Streets of Paraty, Brazil

I’m not a big fan of city living, but my time in Rio, with access to such incredible beaches, made it more appealing. But even better were the lush mountain landscapes that stretch down the coast toward Sao Paolo state, with emerald green bays, abundant waterfalls and beaches galore.

On Ilha Grande I loved the sandy streets, dining on the beach by candlelight and the shady lane through the jungle leading up to our pousada. In Paraty, the whitewashed buildings trimmed with bright colors and festive lighting made every night feel like a fiesta. The comfortable accommodations caught between the mountains and the sea was the perfect place to be for the aforementioned relaxation we had come for.

What I Would Do If I Went Back

My travels in Brazil were limited to one tiny region. That is way too little time and range for a country so richly blessed with so many natural and cultural treasures.

If I were to return, I’d love to expand my explorations, from seeing Iguazu Falls in the South, the picturesque adventure town of Bonito on the border with Bolivia, and most of all the remote Atlantic island of Fernando de Noronha.

Have you been to Brazil? Share your favorite moment in the comments below. And if you want a great Brazil souvenir, check out the Brazil Rugged Country Code Tee in the Custom Travel Art Shop.

Brazil Rugged Country Code Tee

A Love Letter to the Island I Met a Year Ago

the tranquil cove of Praia Pousa
The tranquil cove of Praia Pousa

Who can forget the bittersweet memories of our former loves? Most times, it followed the same parabola: The flush of excitement upon meeting, the whirlwind of good times spent together, and that sensation of loss that you don’t yet fully comprehend when inevitably your time together runs out. You might be sad for awhile but life goes on and so do we. But there will always be those random triggers that will have you thinking about those magical times on a Tuesday afternoon when driving home from work, or some rainy Saturday while doing laundry.

A year ago I experienced such love. Fortunately I don’t have to hide it from my wife because she was there and I believe was equally enamored as I was. The object of my affection was not a person at all but a lovely island on Brazil’s Costa Verde called Ilha Grande. And now, on the one year anniversary of my arrival there, I’ve decided to write the love letter I always wanted to send.

The idyllic harbor of Abraao
The idyllic harbor of Abraao

I first met Ilha Grande (pronounced eel-ya grun’jee) after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Rio and a 15 minute transfer in a glorified Zodiac with an outboard motor from the tiny hamlet of Conceicao de Jacarei. The day was overcast and well on its way toward evening, but even in the diminished light she was sufficiently beautiful for me to fall in love at first sight. I felt excited disembarking in the only settlement of any size on the island—a village called Abraao. I was enchanted by the lack of vehicles and the sandy streets cutting through the lush greenery that makes up the entire remainder of the island. And I felt that buzz of contentment walking downhill from our hillside pousada and dining right on the beach until a thunderstorm chased us off. Yes, for me sparks were flying on my first night there and the prospect of several more left me in a state of complete well-being.

Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The next day we spent time together at Ilha Grande’s most famous beach—Lopes Mendes. While everything is walkable if you have the time (and stamina) we opted for a boat transfer to the trailhead for the 30 minute hike to the beach past monkeys, sloths and slower tourists. Stepping out from the jungle, I fell in love all over again.

The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil
The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The sand was a glimmering ribbon of white stretching out in a giant crescent—most of which was peacefully empty. The water was turquoise but choppy given this was the Atlantic side of the island. Laying there listening to the surf, feeling the sun and drinking uma cerveja estupidamente gelado (literally: stupidly cold beer), like many former loves, you wish the good times could last forever.

Nighttime Dining al fresco
Nighttime Dining al fresco

Such longing continued into the evening while dining outside in a backstreet pizza parlor followed by a few hours of leisurely souvenir shopping in the small but lively village. After that it was another walk along the beach under a starry sky with the rich smell of wet vegetation like an intoxicating pheromone. Man, I miss her.

The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande
The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande

The next day we spent some more quality time together, leaving the curve of Abraao Harbor and entering a state park with a loop trail that brought us to scenic overlooks, black sand beaches, an ancient aqueduct, and the remains of a former prison that was once this island’s raison d’etre. This was followed by more dining, shopping and strolling that left us dreading the following day when we knew we’d have to leave.

It’s hard to accept when something good has to end, and leaving Ilha Grande was no exception. Sure, we moved on with our trip, returned home and got on with our life. But like other loves gone by, I still steal a thought or two of our times together, wondering if we shall meet again, and hoping in my heart of hearts that the answer is yes. And it’s that thought that keeps the memory fresh and flame still burning. And yes, it makes doing the laundry all the more enjoyable too.

Share Your Love For All Things Travel With A Gift From Customtravelart.com!

Whether it’s a custom tee, bucket list design or personalized departure or arrivals board, Custom Travel Art can create the perfect gift for the traveler in your life – even if that traveler is you! Browse our collection now for the perfect travel gift.

A Love Letter to the Island I Met a Year Ago

the tranquil cove of Praia Pousa
The tranquil cove of Praia Pousa

Who can forget the bittersweet memories of our former loves? Most times, it followed the same parabola: The flush of excitement upon meeting, the whirlwind of good times spent together, and that sensation of loss that you don’t yet fully comprehend when inevitably your time together runs out. You might be sad for awhile but life goes on and so do we. But there will always be those random triggers that will have you thinking about those magical times on a Tuesday afternoon when driving home from work, or some rainy Saturday while doing laundry.

A year ago I experienced such love. Fortunately I don’t have to hide it from my wife because she was there and I believe was equally enamored as I was. The object of my affection was not a person at all but a lovely island on Brazil’s Costa Verde called Ilha Grande. And now, on the one year anniversary of my arrival there, I’ve decided to write the love letter I always wanted to send.

The idyllic harbor of Abraao
The idyllic harbor of Abraao

I first met Ilha Grande (pronounced eel-ya grun’jee) after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Rio and a 15 minute transfer in a glorified Zodiac with an outboard motor from the tiny hamlet of Conceicao de Jacarei. The day was overcast and well on its way toward evening, but even in the diminished light she was sufficiently beautiful for me to fall in love at first sight. I felt excited disembarking in the only settlement of any size on the island—a village called Abraao. I was enchanted by the lack of vehicles and the sandy streets cutting through the lush greenery that makes up the entire remainder of the island. And I felt that buzz of contentment walking downhill from our hillside pousada and dining right on the beach until a thunderstorm chased us off. Yes, for me sparks were flying on my first night there and the prospect of several more left me in a state of complete well-being.

Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Lopes Mendez Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The next day we spent time together at Ilha Grande’s most famous beach—Lopes Mendes. While everything is walkable if you have the time (and stamina) we opted for a boat transfer to the trailhead for the 30 minute hike to the beach past monkeys, sloths and slower tourists. Stepping out from the jungle, I fell in love all over again.

The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil
The amazing sand and surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

The sand was a glimmering ribbon of white stretching out in a giant crescent—most of which was peacefully empty. The water was turquoise but choppy given this was the Atlantic side of the island. Laying there listening to the surf, feeling the sun and drinking uma cerveja estupidamente gelado (literally: stupidly cold beer), like many former loves, you wish the good times could last forever.

Nighttime Dining al fresco
Nighttime Dining al fresco

Such longing continued into the evening while dining outside in a backstreet pizza parlor followed by a few hours of leisurely souvenir shopping in the small but lively village. After that it was another walk along the beach under a starry sky with the rich smell of wet vegetation like an intoxicating pheromone. Man, I miss her.

The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande
The Loop Trail, Ilha Grande

The next day we spent some more quality time together, leaving the curve of Abraao Harbor and entering a state park with a loop trail that brought us to scenic overlooks, black sand beaches, an ancient aqueduct, and the remains of a former prison that was once this island’s raison d’etre. This was followed by more dining, shopping and strolling that left us dreading the following day when we knew we’d have to leave.

It’s hard to accept when something good has to end, and leaving Ilha Grande was no exception. Sure, we moved on with our trip, returned home and got on with our life. But like other loves gone by, I still steal a thought or two of our times together, wondering if we shall meet again, and hoping in my heart of hearts that the answer is yes. And it’s that thought that keeps the memory fresh and flame still burning. And yes, it makes doing the laundry all the more enjoyable too.