I found a great area to retire! Lenora and I went to Ilhabela this weekend. It´s the largest island in Brasil, about a 15 minute ferry ride from the Atlantic coast. Much of the island has been preserved as a state park, and it´s one of the largest areas of untouched Atlantic rainforest in Brasil. We only scratched the surface of what´s available in our weekend here. I want to go back as soon as possible, but Lenora´s father says that I should get to know a real beach now, so I guess there´s a lot more to discover in Brasil!
We took a bus to São Paulo on Friday afternoon and arrived with five minutes to spare before our next bus left for a three and one half hour ride to the coastal city of São Sebastão. From there we took a 15 minute ferry ride, and then a taxi about five miles north to our hotel. We stayed at Hotel Mercedes, a beautiful 40 year old hotel with about 50 rooms. We paid the equivalent of $90 a night for a room with two comfortable double beds overlooking a garden with walkways among the flowers, pools, and waterfalls. It had a frigibar, TV, phone, air conditioning, and a great shower. This was more expensive and elegant than we really needed, but it was in a great area and was a nice introduction to what was available on the island.
We walked to Viana, a neighboring restaurant, for dinner, where we shared cold beer, a shrimp appetizer served in an edible boat shaped crust, and a shrimp entree in a curry sauce over rice. Viana has the reputation of being one of the three best restaurants on the island, but Lenora and I both agreed that it IS the best! The shrimp was so large, tasty, and tender that it could have been lobster!
Breakfast was included in the price, and was served until about 10:30 every morning. There was a beautiful selection of breads, cheeses, meats, fruits, cakes and pies, juices, and coffee, in addition to eggs cooked to order. We could sit in an open atrium inside the hotel or on the deck overlooking the ocean.
After breakfast, we headed out to the beach. The first beach we sampled was Viana, across the street from the restaurant of the same name. We sat on white plastic lounge chairs with a table and an umbrella that could be moved in or out of the water depending on your interests and the condition of the tides. We alternated between swimming, sunning, drinking, and eating. We ordered the shrimp appetizer again, but this time we didn´t share - we each wanted our own! The Viana beach is noted for clear water and fine brown sand, with moderate wave action and a variety of rocks in and out of the water.
We moved next to the Mercedes beach across from our hotel. This is a small private beach protected by a concrete wall from the rest of the beach. It´s adjacent to a small store, the hotel bar, and the hotel swimming pool. From the pool, we could sit and look at both the pool and the ocean. We stayed there only long enough to drink a caipirinha, a drink with limes, sugar, ice, and cachaca, which is like a Brasilian rum.
After a shower and a short nap, we headed for a small town a couple miles south of our hotel (but still on the north half of the island). There were interesting stores, a variety of restaurants, and nice people. I found a variety of clothes and souvenirs, and we had coffee and a chocolate nut cake at an extremely elegant coffee shop. After a couple hours of exploring, we went to Aeroi Restaurant, which was a restaurant extended on a deck over the ocean. We shared a bottle of wine and more shrimp there, and it was good, but the main draw of this restaurant appeared to be the atmosphere.
We had to check out by noon on Sunday, so we ate breakfast and sat on the beach until the last possible moment. I´m starting to look a little Brasilian - I´m getting a tan and I´m not overly burned! We bought our return bus tickets and had one last meal at the Deck, which was the third of the restaurants we had been advised to try. Again the food was really good, but I still liked Viana best.
We didn´t have time for many of the features of the island. There are boat trips, scuba diving, trails to fascinating waterfalls, and horseback riding on the beach. I´m sure we could easily spend a couple weeks there, but all we had were two days. We didn´t make time for anything in the rainforest. I could see some from the road, but it´s not the same as walking through it. I want to go back!
Lenora has convinced me to stay here in Campinas for one more day, so I´m leaving for Goiânia on Tuesday morning. We´re going to São Pedro tonight, the largest mall in South America. After that, ?