Three years ago today, I was waking up in a hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to the view of hundreds of skyscrapers in the distance. I’d never been further than New York before, but I’d plucked up the courage to travel all that way just to experience something new. I can’t actually believe that three years have passed since I was in Brazil – it feels like yesterday! It’s definitely safe to say, though, that it really was the trip of a lifetime. So, just for nostalgia’s sake (and to keep the memories fresh, since I have the memory of a goldfish) I thought I’d reminisce my favourite Brazil trip highlights on my 2-week trip to Brazil.
My Brazil Trip Highlights
The food in Sao Paulo
I landed at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport on May 15th, 2014. I stayed there for two or three days before moving on to nearby Santos in a lovely hotel not far from Paulista Avenue. I’ll be honest; Sao Paulo wasn’t exactly my favourite place I’ve ever visited. It’s like a South American New York, without the novelty attached to it. It’s one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Walking down the street in the city centre and outskirts, it becomes more and more obvious. I think, if I didn’t have a local with me all the time, things wouldn’t have gone so well for me.
But the fact is, I was in Brazil for the first time. All I wanted to do was eat authentic feijoada, which is exactly what I did at the first opportunity. We went to a tiny restaurant on the outskirts of Sao Paulo’s city centre, which apparently served the best feijoada in the city. We opted for the black bean feijoada, which was served in a huge pot (and I mean huge), accompanied with plenty of rice on the side. And oh, god, was it good. I’d had feijoada before, but never like this. Whilst in Sampa (Sao Paulo, to the locals), I also enjoyed traditional ‘fazenda’ Brazilian food, which is food dating back years that’s enjoyed by residents of the Sao Paulo countryside.
The luxury of Ilhabela
After staying in Santos for a night after my trip to Sao Paulo, we took a bus to Sao Sebastiao, which took around four hours. From there, it was a case of hopping on a ferry to Ilhabela, an island just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
It’s safe to say that the 5-day stay in Ilhabela was the best trip of my life. It is also an unforgettable part of my Brazil trip highlights. I’ve never been anywhere like it. The island is inhabited by 30,000 locals who lead a slow-paced, relaxed day-to-day life. The lifestyle is totally different from those on the Brazilian mainland. There are a few shops, bars and restaurants, and a few hotels dotted along the beaches.
DPNY Beach Resort
It’s the closest I’ve ever come to paradise, if I’m honest. I stayed at the DPNY Beach Resort along the Praia do Curral, which was voted the best hotel in South America at the time of my stay. Even though we stayed in the most basic of rooms, it was still undoubtedly the best hotel room I’ve ever stayed in (and I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels!) Every morning we’d enjoy a traditional Brazilian breakfast overlooking the beach; we’d spend the afternoon in the spa; and the early evening drinking water out of a coconut and eating sushi on our sun loungers. I spent my evenings eating in one of the hotel’s amazing restaurants.
Ilhabela is notorious for the mosquitoes, though. Being probably the palest person staying in the hotel, mosquitoes absolutely loved me. I think at one point I had about 20 mosquito bites; there’s a reason why they hand you a mosquito repellent cream the moment you check in. But yeah, as soon as I have the money to do so I’ll be returning to DPNY. It really is something else.
The fame of Santos
Santos is where I spent the majority of my time on my trip. After Ilhabela, I spent a further 10 days there before it was time to go. Home to Santos FC, Santos is one of the most famous football teams in Brazil. Santos FC introduced some of the world’s best footballers, including Neymar and, of course, Pele.
On my second-to-last day in Santos, I actually had the pleasure of meeting Pele’s hairdresser! I mean, it was pretty obvious from the pictures of Pele plastered all over the walls of the barber’s shop who he was. So I didn’t hesitate to go in and have my picture taken with him.
Santos is also famous around the world for its coffee, so a visit to the Coffee Museum was a must-do. I left Brazil literally before the World Cup started, so the atmosphere was electric. There was World Cup-themed graffiti everywhere I looked, on the walls and on the roads, and the locals were beginning to decorate the outsides of their homes. Full of beautiful beaches, friendly locals and lots to see and do, Santos is definitely one of my best Brazil trip highlights. It is worth a visit if you’re heading to Brazil sometime soon.
Three years has gone so fast, and I can’t get enough reminiscing my Brazil trip highlights. Visiting Brazil is undoubtedly something I’m planning to do again in the future. Magical times.