When I think of Brazil, I imagine beautiful beaches, amazing barbequed meat, rain forests and sunshine. Last year I had the opportunity to stop imagining these things and truly experience them on my first trip to South America.
One of my best friends comes from the city of Florianópolis, located in the South of Brazil. Florianópolis, or Floripa, as the locals call it, is a coastal city known for its amazing beaches and beautiful city and I got to experience this city through the eyes of a local!
I must admit that while I was visiting, we went to a different beach nearly every day! After experiencing those pristine white sands and warm ocean waters, it was hard to find a more beautiful place to unwind and relax. However, the sun intensity in this part of the world is quite high and even with 60+ SPF sunscreen it’s important to keep yourself covered during the hottest parts of the day and to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, it took me a few days to come to this realization of just how intense the Brazilian summer sun can be, and my skin ended up turning the colour of tropical shrimp red. I was thankful I packed the aloe vera gel.
Every day on the beach included a giant beach umbrella, coconut water straight out of a fresh coconut and often an ice-cold caipirinha. Caipirinha is a cocktail native to Brazil made with lime, sugar and the sugarcane-derived alcohol cachaça. One of my favourite things about the beaches here is that you don’t even have to leave your umbrella to get a snack or a drink. The beaches have many food stands with waiters that will come to you, take your order and bring out your food!
A mixing pot
Brazil is a huge country and, depending where you visit, the local foods can vary greatly. Since Floripa is a coastal city, much of their local cuisine includes seafood. While in Florianópolis I tried some delicious oysters, but I also tried many other common Brazilian treats, my favourite being coxinhas. Coxinhas are bread dough with different fillings inside. I had had them in Vancouver before, however I did not expect the sheer variety of fillings you could get in them. One night after a day spent with friends, we stopped by a popular restaurant called Titia Avo Maria Coxinha. I ordered many different types and spent the evening trying out all the new flavours available to me. I find most cultural food always seems to taste best when you try it in its birth country.
Besides showing me the many spectacular beaches that Floripa is home to, my friend also gave me the tour of his hometown. A few years earlier, he had brought me to a beach with a long suspension bridge. I learned that Floripa is home to the longest suspension bridge in Brazil – the Hercilio Luz Bridge – and that it was a major landmark for the city, and I was finally going to get to see it in person. This bridge was closed for 28 years as it was undergoing restorations, however I recently heard it had reopened to the public. Unfortunately, during my visit the bridge was still under construction but that just means I have a good excuse to head back to Floripa!
One of the places I found the most interesting and lively in the city center was the Mercado Municipal, the city’s marketplace. One afternoon after wandering about the city we stopped here for some tasty food and drinks. I have always enjoyed sipping on a drink while people-watching and this little break in our day was perfect for that. There were dozens of restaurants and people of all ages wandering about the market. My Brazilian friend often refers to his country as a mixing pot of culture and races and sitting in the market that day I have to say I agreed with him.
Brazil is filled with so many brilliant places and lively people. They are the masters of cooking meat – if you have not had a chance to try some Brazilian BBQ, I would highly recommend it – and are known for one of the best festivals in the world, Carnival for the win! I have only seen such a small piece of this country and I hope to return someday in the future to see a great deal more of all the beauty that Brazil has to offer. Until I can enjoy my next Brazilian adventure, I will continue my day dreaming of their beaches, rainforests and glorious food.