Before my family and I boarded a plane back to the US, we took one last trip in Brazil. We had been invited to attend a wedding of two Brazilian friends we had met while living in Brasília. Our friends are both from Belo Horizonte but had planned a destination wedding in the quaint colonial town of Tiradentes. We were excited to see a part of Brazil that we had heard so much about but had not yet had the opportunity to visit and decided that this would be the perfect way to end our two- year tour in Brazil.
First things first. Tiradentes is not the easiest place to reach—we flew to Belo Horizonte from Brasília and then rented a car to drive another three hours south. The drive ended up being even longer than expected due to a truck drivers’ strike along the way. However, the drive was beautiful and reminded me very much of my home state, West Virginia, with its green rolling hills, mountain ranges and winding country roads. Interestingly, Minas Gerais is also known for its mining; in contrast to the WV coal mines, however, the state boasts iron, gold and gemstone reserves.
One of the largest tourist attractions in Tiradentes is Igreja Matriz de Santo Antônio, a church with hundreds of kilos of ornate gold decoration and the featured photo for this post. (Photography is unfortunately not permitted inside!) The town is lined with artisan stores featuring gemstones, and products made from pewter, iron, wood and ceramic. It also has original cobblestone roads, high stone sidewalks and colorful architecture that all date back to the colonial era. (The bride reminded me that though the town is charming in appearance, it was mainly built on the backs of slaves…)
We spent most of our time wandering through the town, ducking into small shops, sampling traditional Minas food, touring churches and relaxing at our resort. We had planned to take a steam train from Tiradentes to São João del Rei, thinking our son would love it. But, as luck would have it, we were given wrong information at the tourist center regarding departure times and ended up not being able to go—had we had more time in town, we certainly would have done this though!
One other thing worth mentioning about Tiradentes is the food. Lonely Planet dubbed it the “culinary goldmine of Brazil” and it is host to the annual Festival Cultura e Gastronomia Tiradentes which takes place every August. I would liken the character of traditional Minas food to the heart and soul of Southern cooking. It is hearty, simple, savory—and generous in portions.
Tragaluz came highly recommended to us by our friends and it did not disappoint. I had my first taste of guinea fowl and it was delicious! The ambience is at once elegant and cozy with glass, pewter and colonial china adorning each table; I was a bit nervous bringing our 18-month old there, but as everywhere else in Brazil, the staff was very welcoming to our toddler. But I would say that this particular restaurant would be best enjoyed on a romantic date night.
We had better luck at Divino Sabor, which is a casual buffet-style restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. They serve very traditional Minas food without any pomp and circumstance. We had our very last meal in Brazil at Estalagem do Sabor and it was quite the feast (see picture below!).
What about the Brazilian wedding? It was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful locations for a wedding that I have ever seen. The wedding was held at a private resort, Brisa de Serra, with the ceremony site overlooking a dramatic silhouette of a steep mountain range. The couple exchanged their vows just as the sun was setting behind the mountains; it was a breathtaking moment to witness. And I am now convinced, after hearing vows exchanged in Portuguese, that it is the true language of love!
The one thing we noticed that was very different from wedding in the U.S. is that there was no set agenda to the reception; everything flowed and just … happened. The D.J. started up immediately following the ceremony; while some guests lingered by the hors d’oeuvres, others got down on the dance floor. There were no seat assignments and once the food was brought out, people could help themselves whenever they felt like it. Our little boy had a blast on the dance floor and there were plenty of other toddlers and children to keep him company. One final observation: as would be expected from a culture that places so much emphasis on appearance, it was certainly a fancy affair and the guests were decked out in evening gowns, coiffed hair and three-piece suits. Luckily, we had planned accordingly and tried hard to look our best!
On our way back to Belo Horizonte, we had planned to stop at Inhotim, a famous museum and botanical garden just south of the city. Unfortunately, the drive back took longer than expected and we arrived less than an hour before it closed. The kind woman working the ticket counter graciously let us peek inside without charging us the entrance fee—and it only made us wish that we could spend more time there. Perhaps one day we will return to Brazil and visit this gorgeous place, a natural muse for any artist.
And just like that, our two years in Brazil have come to an end. Our next adventure in Maputo awaits us (be on the watch for a safari blogpost!), but first we are in the States for several weeks, spending much anticipated time with family and friends.
Brazil, you have been very good to us. Obrigada – eu vou sentir saudades! Até a proxima!