From where to go to what’s in store, Ker & Downey VP and intrepid traveler David Jones scouts the globe and answers burning questions for those who live to go there.
We want a cultural and exclusive winter getaway that ’s not just a beach. Where should we head? Jennifer Johnson, Houston Texas
The town of Paraty is a UNESCO-protected World Heritage site located about midway between Sao Paolo and Rio de Janiero. This colonial masterpiece goes back at least 400 years. It served as the terminus of the Minas Gerais, or Gold Route, and the main seaport for shipping gold and precious goods back to Europe. Paraty’s white-washed dwellings set along blocks of cobblestone roads are a recent discovery by well-heeled Brazilians seeking an escape from the crazy city life. Exploring the cobblestone streets is like being transported back to the days of the gold trade. Villages have a recreated, theme-park feeling but Paraty over delivers in authenticity. Locals live as they have for years and seem unaffected by the outsiders basking in the peacefulness of their daily existence. Big city artisans have created a bohemian community with great dining experiences, a bustling art scene and eclectic shopping. Storefronts bursting with color and creativity are everywhere, full of creations by true artisans. It is a foodie nirvana too, home to a few cachaça distilleries crafting liquor from local sugar cane and unassuming farm-to-table dining experiences that do not disappoint.
Tetê Etrusco, a former ballerina from Sao Paolo, found an 18th century sea-facing house that needed her loving care. After a painstaking restoration she christened her masterpiece Casa Turquesa. From the minute you arrive, Tetê makes you feel like a longtime friend. She immediately orders you to shed your stress and big city worries by placing your shoes in a personalized basket and donning a pair of Brazil’s de rigueur flip flops, Havaianas.
While in Paraty, you must take a day cruise with local boat builder Captain Daniel Mestre aboard his handcrafted vessel called Barco Brulo. He painstakingly built this traditional wooden boat and it is as colorful as Daniel’s personality. He took me on a full morning cruise through the chain of rainforest-covered tropical islands facing Paraty. He moored in a small bay and it made me think of old episodes of Gilligan’s Island—no one else in sight. I was able to swim and snorkel in the clear water and take in underwater views unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We made landfall, and as I put on my runners, Daniel stopped me and said, “You cannot experience the rainforest the right way with shoes on your feet. You must go barefoot!” All I could think of was being stung, eaten or poisoned in the deep jungle, but he insisted so I complied. It was the most deep sensory experience I have had in my travels. The paths were strewn with flora so smooth and inviting that I could never imagine experiencing it again unless barefoot. Daniel knows his stuff, and he made the rainforest come alive.
I really vowed to keep Paraty my little private place, but I just couldn’t. It is just too perfect not to share this gift with others.
For more information about traveling to Paraty or to add it to your next Ker & Downey journey, contact your travel professional or visit us online at www.kerdowney.com. To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to check out the current Quest Magazine.