Apr 17, 2011

Goiás Velho, beautifully restored colonial town in Goiás

by Antonella Kann

Did I ever mention that the state of Goiás is one of my favorites but overall also one of the least mentioned. Places like Goiás Velho, a historic town which is an unusual tourist-brochure destination, deserves much more than just the simple tag as a preserved colonial town.

It´s not too far away from capital Goiania, so you can drive safely and easily from the airport right into town in well preserved roads. Then, just park your vehicle and start walking. There´s the usual main praça (place), typical to any old configuration of city planning. Around, there´s some commerce but locals tend to stroll around this strategic location at sunset and on Sundays too, after mass.

Goiás Velho is a laid-back sort of place and the main attraction is the traditional hospitality: as a gesture of welcome, and quoting words from famous local poet Cora Coralina “ Every door remains open, as a habit,” she used to say. And it´s true. Nowadays, this kind of gesture is not only rare but something to be proud of. And heartwarming….

While strolling along cobbled streets, colored façades and old sobrados , charming right to its pavements, I realize that this town is an ideal year-round destination. And you won´t bump into tourist-trap restaurants nor be stalked by wish-to-be-guides or even fooled to pay more for a piece of artcraft in one of the souvenir shops.

But do not miss the opportunity to hire a horse-driven carriage to explore every corner of Goiás Velho, which hide a dashing assemblage of 18th century colonial houses, churches and architecture gems. It´s great for capturing pictures of the inhabitants who usually sit in front of their homes, watching the world go by – with their door wide open, naturally.

Eventually you´ll feel hungry and should try the regional specialty called empadão goiano, which is a pie filled with all sorts of meat, from pork to chicken, as well as sausages and other invigorating seasonal produces. Look for menus featuring this dish – quite easy to bump into.

Local artcrafts featuring religious characters are sold widely around town. These dolls are known as the fogaréus

Also, don´t miss a visit to the Casa de Cora Coralina, across a beautiful bridge. It used to be the poet´s home and is now a museum. To spend the night, although there´s no stylish or boutique hotel around town, try the Pousada do Ipê (http://www.pousadadoipego.com.br/) , well located in the center of town. Rustic and simple, it even has a swimming pool and it´s mentioned in the Guide du Routard, so you can trust it´s worthy.

Bookmark and Share

Apr 3, 2011

Maison d´Hôtes, blissfully unpeopled, as if you were in your own house.

by Antonella Kann

You really don´t have to stay in one of the expensive or tourist-trap hotels in Rio on your next visit. You may not have considered, but there are several other options off-the-beaten track which come in handy when you have no desire to melt your credit card: guest houses and hostels have been popping all over the scenery, offering cozy, intimate and luxurious accomodation within range of the city´s interesting places.

Although this alternative doesn´t come out cheap, it´s still a good choice. Because instead of being a tourist, you might prefer to feel like a local. And in your own house.

Last month I visited the Maison d´Hôtes ( Estrada das Canoas 2600 http://www.tuakasa.com.br/) in the neighborhood of São Conrado – very close to where I lived for most of my life, actually. The location, blissfully unpeopled, seems to be in the middle of nowhere, but even if you are an urbanite, the exciting sites are only ten minutes away by car. By coincidence, this exceptionally charming guesthouse belongs to a friend of mine.
It was starting to pour heavily when I arrived at this spectacular house partly designed by well known brazilian architect Zanine. When Claudio Chagas Freitas met me at the gate, he was as surprised to see me as I was to meet again after more than three decades. Rio is a small town, we cariocas use to say. When you least expect, you bump into someone you´ve known as a teenager!
Well, Claudio used to live in this beautiful three story house with his son Matteo. A few years ago, Matteo came back from Switzerland with a hotelier degree from one of the most prestigious schools. Of course, he had an idea in mind: to transform their home into a guest house.
Needless to say that it took quite a lot of persistence and work to neatly refurbish what is now one of the most stylish hub for a tourist to entice his holiday in Rio.
It´s intimacy in a luxurious setting is combined with incredibly comfortable suites . The hospitality, as if you were staying with pals, is provided by both father and son.
But nothing can prepare you for the awesome views from the terrace over the Pedra da Gávea…It´s even more impressive during a thunderstorm…

Bookmark and Share