In some ways, Paraty is very similar to Ouro Preto. It is another old colonial town, with that same Mediterranean vibe, but where Ouro Preto evokes the Italian countryside, this is more reminiscent of a Greek harbour town. There are the same cobbled streets, but instead of that maze of twisting, turning lanes, here the streets are wide, open, and (thankfully) flat. And similarly, Paraty is not one of those places to come to do or see anything in particular, rather you come to enjoy the town itself. The local bus here provides a slow trip along the coast and even a trip into the private residences of the nuclear power station workforce. Recent events in Japan forced us to look upon the reactor building only a few metres from the road in a different light.
Our hostel, the HI Paraty, was just outside the old town. A great location, and probably, about 10 years ago, a great hostel too, but it was looking a little tired around the edges. Unfortunately the rooms were a little shabby too, the mattress was lumpy and the sheets threadbare, which is a shame, because with a little bit of work it could be a really nice little place.
Wandering into the old town, you soon realise one of the main reasons people come here – the food. There are restaurants on every corner and some of them look pretty good. Unfortunately they are also pretty pricey – not great if you are a backpacker on a budget – but never mind. Luckily, we manage to find a bar with some reasonably priced caipirinhas and opt for a liquid lunch instead. Inside, we bump into two girls that have just checked out of our hostel (they weren’t that impressed either) and soon we are chatting away. Several caipirinhas and a cheeseburger later (it was the cheapest thing on the menu!) we staggered home, eager for our beds (a combination of tiredness from travelling and too much cachaca) only to realise it was not yet 9pm!!!
We spent the next day exploring the town in more depth, picking up a canine friend along the way. The little mutt dutifully followed us all morning (it may have had something to do with the fact that I was feeding him ham sandwiches), following us through the streets, round the harbour and to the beach, although we sadly lost him on the way home when he came across a group of tourists having lunch in a cafe – the prospect of some free food was just to much temptation for him to bear -Judas.
We stopped off for a drink on the way home at a bar called Paraty33 as there was a great little trio playing a mix of Brazilian classics, 60s swing and 80s pop covers. What we didn’t bargain for was a hefty cover charge – our three drinks ended up costing us twice what we had expected. Live music it charged as an extra on bill. One to watch out for.
Back at the hostel we found an email from the girls we had met yesterday inviting us to dinner. Throwing our budget out the window, we accepted – we were getting a little bored of pastels and super noodles. That evening we dined at Margarida Cafe, a restaurant Rich had already been lusting over on the internet.
As we walked in, we spotted the band – the same trio we had seen playing earlier that day, we hoped they didn’t think we were creepy groupies. It was a really great meal and several bottles of wine interrupted only briefly by a power cut. So backpacker budget firmly out the window we head home to the lumpy mattress and damp pillows.
Paraty is a cool place, but we only saw one side of the town. In peak season, when the sun is shining, the nearby beaches are said to be some of the best in Brazil and boat trips head out to nearby deserted islands. Our next destination is famed for being one of the world’s best surfing locations so we are saving the beach towels for Florianopolis.