Back to Porto Alegre: beautifully homemade sweets, a breathtaking view of the city and a couple of more days to explore!
On our last night in Porto Alegre, the first time, João and Mari (João worked with James at Red Hat) very, very generously offered us to stay at their home for our second visit. We were absolutely flattered and excited to be arriving to a beautiful apartment with hot water, a washing machine (YES, YOU READ THIS RIGHT! WE COULD DO WASHING!!!!), and most importantly a place that really felt like home.
We caught a taxi from the airport and were warmly greeted by João at the gate of their apartment block. Going up to the 19th floor we quickly popped our bags down and chatted for a few hours about our experience at Iguazu falls and what was planned for the upcoming days. While chatting we were spoiled with some beautifully home-cooked sweets made by Mari and OMG they were amazeballs! We started with Pao de Queijo (Brasilian cheese bread), followed closely by a slice of Negra Meluca - “crazy black woman cake”. We had Escondidinho de Frango – the delicious Brasilian version of chicken pie, Casadhinos which are small shortbreads filled with sweetened guava, the cheese used in the pao de quiejo (I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s delicious), guava paste and mortadella with slices of mozzarella. We had been completely spoiled, and then spoiled more with a couple of beers; it really felt like we were staying at the Hilton.
João had taken the day off from work Friday, he and Mari decided to take us on a bus ride to the beautiful city of Gramado – a colonial style city with a lot of heritage, beautiful buildings and scenery. We arrived off the 2 1/2 hour bus trip into Gramado at around 11:30am and caught another bus to visit a roadside restaurant called Café Colonial. A café of what we’d expect in Australian terms, it was not. A Degustation of an enormous amount of deliciousness and a never-ending amount of wine, it definitely was. Polenta chips, deep fried cheese sticks, deli meats, jams, breads, pickles, cakes, quiches, koftas, jellies, desserts, fruit slices… SO MUCH FOOD! And maybe a little wine in between ;). It is quite literally an all you can eat place, if you run out of anything you can ask to have more, including the wines (evidently, Dee was pretty pleased with this). By the end of it all, we were all so stuffed with food, we couldn’t finish the meal and had to go for a walk to deal with the food comas that we had managed to get ourselves into. For anyone travelling to Gramado, ever, there are apparently other places that do the colonial style food that we had, but really this place was by far the best value for money for the ridiculous amount of delicious food we had tried to eat.
Gramado has some beautiful architecture, mostly early European style buildings designed for cold places. We passed a few museums on our walk, including the train museum, and then passed a lolly house. James was accosted by some of the characters out the front and suitably dragged into having photos taken (it’s been a difficult time trying to get James interested in having photos taken of himself but we’re getting there slowly!). After photos of the quirky shops, including Dee’s new home ‘Da Fazenda Queijos & Vinos’ – the wine and cheese farm, we caught a taxi to Canela Parque do Caracol, home to the Canela Waterfalls. Although, not as spectacular as the Iguacu Falls, these were pretty amazing. We walked around the park and were able to see the falls from many different angles, including the river that lead to them. Unfortunately, due to a small landslide we weren’t able to walk to the bottom of the falls as there was a tree across the 1000 stair walkway. The view from the platform was pretty special, we were quite happy to spend the afternoon walking through the reserve and chilling out. We were fortunate enough to see one of the large rat type animals, neither of us can remember what it was called, and neither of us got a decent photo of it.
Following Canela, João and Mari took us back into the Gramado township. I say town but there are over 30,000 people living here and then a massive tourist population on top of that. We headed toward Lago Negro, ‘Black Lagoon’, and took a leisurely stroll around the lake. There was the option of paddling in one of the swans but the walk was certainly going to do us well seeing as we were all still very full. It was really quite peaceful here, the path is lined with flowering bushes and small spots to sit and watch the world pass by the lagoon. We finished our walk around here with an ice-cream and a walk back into the main part of town to watch the sunset over the gullies behind Gramado. We made our way to the cathedral in the middle of the town square to check out the architecture, then in the undercover vine area for a few drinks before heading back to Porto Alegre for some well deserved sleep.
Saturday morning started off early with a trip down to the local fruit markets where we bought coconut sweets called Docinhos – sickeningly sweet but extremely delicious. There are a tonne of flavours to choose from, including pumpkin, chocolate, dulce de leche, plain coconut… the list goes on! We then were taken to one of the major shopping centres in Porto Alegre to escape the heat for a while and to meet up with Leo. We wandered around looking at all of the different stuff that we don’t have in Australia, then sat ourselves down for another massive meal: this time it was sushi – Dee got ridiculously excited, having craved sushi for at least part of the five weeks we’d been away. We chilled out for the afternoon at craft markets near João and Mari’s home, dreading the need to pack our bags again but it had to be done. We had organised to take an overnight bus to Montevideo, which left at 8:30pm, so off to the bus station for some sleep we went.
Porto Alegre has been amazing! We can’t wait to come back and visit again, unfortunately it probably won’t be on this trip but hopefully it won’t be too long!