Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Beaches and books in beautiful Paraty
It’s hard to believe that a small, colonial town south of Rio could host an international literary festival, boasting the likes of authors Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and William Boyd, in its line-ups. But then when you visit Paraty, it’s easy to see the attraction.
UNESCO considers Paraty one of the world’s most important examples of Portuguese colonial architecture. Sweet little houses with different coloured doors sit on pretty cobbled streets, along which you can wander all day long without getting bored.
At the old town is the harbour, where you can join organised boat trips or – even better – treat yourself to a private, afternoon voyage. It’s not as cheap but you can choose from the 65 islands and 200 beaches off the coast of Paraty. Just go to the harbour in the morning and speak to any of the boat owners there, who will take you. Ours was Marcelo and he kitted out the top deck of his boat with bright-white cushions for us, patiently waiting – and sometimes joining in – while we dived off the boat to explore beaches and underwater marine life.
For lunch, Marcelo took us to a tiny island with only a single restaurant. So small was the island, that his own boat couldn’t dock there, so we had to be picked up by one of the waiters. The food was delicious and the portions huge – just order one plate between two. In fact, this is a good, general rule of thumb, in southern Brazil at least. One portion between two is more than enough. We ate fresh fish, rice, beans and salad.
Paraty is also home to the Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures, an alternative style cooking course run by Yara Roberts (and mentioned in a previous post). But if you don’t fancy cooking, head to the Margarida Café, an almost Cuban-style, open-plan bar and restaurant with high-ceilings and dark wood fixtures. The food is, yet again, delicious, but more modern and inventive. You can spend the whole night there, listening to good, live music. Just don’t expect the act to change on a daily basis… And the caipirinhas are rather strong.
There are plenty of places to stay in Paraty but I would recommend a pousada called Marquesa (see the photo of its swimming pool). It’s where all the authors stay during the festival, so if you’re planning to visit Paraty during the event, you will need to look elsewhere as the pousada is wholly devoted to the authors.
As for the literary festival itself, or FLIP as it is known, it starts tomorrow and runs until August 8.
Come back tomorrow for an interview with Benjamin Moser, an author making his debut at FLIP, after a successful showing at the Southbank’s Festival Brazil.