We first saw the Cultural Centre in the historic pedestrian centre of Paraty our first night in town. Right next to it is a music school that had a group of adults singing which caught our attention and then we noticed the colourful pictures inside. Unfortunately they were just about to close so we went back the day after.
Brazil is a fascinating and stunning country in every sense. The food, the music, the culture, its people are all really interesting and I couldn’t get enough of it all. I wanted to learn more about the history of the region and in particular of its indigenous people. I was promised that this was what the cultural centre was all about so we planned to spend a good chunk of time here.
The front doors of the centre look onto a series of giant pictures of indigenous people from the area but unfortunately there’s no real information about who they are and how they live. Inside is a room with a range of art work and hand made goods but again no notes on what they are or why they are important. At the back there is a courtyard lined with colourful paintings which we assume are made by locals but again there’s no information. Disappointed with the lack of information but wanting to stick around and take all the paintings and art work in, we sat ourselves down in the café situated right in the middle of the centre, in a quiet and dark corner.
We are alone here. The young woman at the counter is reading a book and seems happy to have two people to serve. I get the impression we are the first today. Hot Chocolate of course. It was raining all day today, really raining, so between this dark and quiet café, the colourful paintings right outside and the rain pattering on the roof it was all quite romantic. I enjoyed my hot chocolate. I wouldn’t say it was anything fantastic, but it warmed me up and after another walk through the displays we were on our way.
Verdict: The cultural centre is free to enter and takes only a few minutes to walk through. Extend that with a drink at the café and then walk through the store that sells products made by locals and indigenous communities around the town. Casa da Cultura, Paraty
It takes about 5 hours by bus to get to Paraty from Rio but believe me, it is worth it. Paraty is stunning. It’s port is full of colourful boats eager to take tourists out to visit the bay. It is surrounded by lush rainforests and jam packed with historic houses. It isn’t just a tourist heaven, this is a place that people live and work and this gives it an extra special feel.
It is mid week and low season so the streets tonight were not very busy at all. We had a list of several recommended restaurants, as it seems Paraty is full of good places to eat. We walk past Caminho do Ouro and take a liking to it, so we step in. Caminho do Ouro is named after the Gold trail that, after the discovery of the world’s richest gold mines in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais, brought the gold down to the port of Paraty for boats to Rio and then on to Portugal.
The restaurant almost has the feel of an art gallery. The walls are covered with a very eclectic range of paintings (many of which we recognize as being local painters from our previous walk through town). We sit down and order a Carpirina, of course. While listening to the noise of the waiter shaking our drink in the background we look through the menu. Fish stew for two it is and…oh wait…a hot chocolate with rum for dessert.
This was my first boozy hot chocolate. I have never thought of having hot chocolate for dessert (because I like dessert) but we thought, why not. After our delicious and highly recommended fish stew for two we were presented with a large green coloured glass filled to the brim with hot chocolate. Looks like hot chocolate…smells like hot chocolate. Hmm tastes like rum and a lot of it. In fact this hot chocolate was a glass of rum masquerading as a hot chocolate. There was a hint of chocolately taste but really it was a big glass of rum.
I have no complaints really, one can’t complain with boozy hot chocolates, I got what I asked for, but I had to sip it very very slowly. The waiter noticed this and came by and in Portuguese said with a big smile on his face, “ strong?”. We smile back and 2 minutes later he has come back with a little jug filled with just simple hot chocolate. Relieved we dilute our rum mixture bit by bit until it is more drinkable.
Verdict: A good first experience with alcohol in hot chocolate. This was a great night and not just after all that rum. The fish stew was incredible and I would go back to have another hot chocolate with rum (diluted with more hot chocolate) any day. Caminho do Ouro, R. Dr. Samuel Costa 236, Paraty, Brazil
The cobblestone streets in the historic center of Paraty are slippery. You really need to pay attention where you walk but still I can’t help getting distracted by the white buildings with their colourful doors and windows. Downtown Paraty is a traffic free zone . The city has been able to maintain most of its historic buildings and much of the architecture of the city has not changed for over 250 years. It got its name from the Guaianas people who used to live here and means “river of fish”.
A horse drawn carriage passes by carrying a Brazilian family, probably visiting for the weekend from Sao Paolo. The young man driving the carriage gives a half hearted tour as his thin brown horse tries to manoeuvre the uneven cobblestones with this heavy load. Across the street a small store selling paintings and various items made out of straw has a steady stream of tourists going in and out. Another horse comes by carrying supplies for a restaurant nearby.
We spot Café Pingado as we walk along, and take the tall table near the window and watch the world of Paraty go by. Everyone knows each other by name and locals say hello to most of the people they pass. The sky is grey and the clouds low. It isn’t raining yet but it feels like it already has been. Between the bad weather and the low season for tourists the streets are pretty quiet.
I had the choice of several hot chocolates here at Café Pingado. For that reason, and for its open and warm décor, I instantly took a liking to this place and we came back several times during our 3 day stay in Paraty. I settled on the Submarino. I have good memories of drinking submarinos across Argentina but this one I enjoyed more. I was presented with a small cup filled with hot frothy milk. Inside was a still intact bar of Hershey chocolate. I tasted it before it melted and it wasn’t sweet as you would imagine but more bitter and dark. It melted quickly into my cinnamon flavoured milk.
Verdict: A must when visiting Paraty (which is also a must if visiting Brazil). Sitting here enjoying my hot chocolate and watching life on the cobblestone streets of Paraty is something I won’t soon forget. Café Pingado, Rua Dr. Samuel Costa 11, Paraty