Priscila and Eduardo invited us to share their weekend in praia do Curral. It is a 3 or 4 hour slog down from São Paulo for them and Curral is their retreat from the rat race – and what an utterly delightful retreat it is.
Their house in the hills is a little slice of heaven and the view from their pool is just beautiful; although I would probably tire of it after 10 or 20 years. The house is virtually unoverlooked and if you look hard you can see a few houses lower down the hillside in between the trees, other than that it is just trees and the sea. Beautiful.
But it wasn’t all relaxing because I found a new Portugese tutor in Bruna. She spent ages helping me read her books. I read Cinderela, Snow White and Pinochio fairly easily, so easily in fact that ‘minha professorinha’ decided that we should move on to a more serious and technical text, “Creiaturas Magicas’; I was doing OK with the Fairies, Orgres, Orcs, Goblins and Trolls but was well out of my depth when it came to the varous classifications of Witch! And, bless her, when I came across a word I couldn’t understand Bru would explain it or act it out for me!
And all too soon we had to say our goodbyes and set off back to Santos, avoiding the Sunday rush hour at the ferry. We needed to be back for Monday to return the car, wash clothes and pack again before setting off for tye North East. We had a wonderful visit spent with wonderful people. Thank you so much Edu, Pri, Theresa and Bru! We really hope we can return the hospitality before too long.
Priscila and Edu have their wonderful house in the hills above Praia do Curral, which is one of the 2 southernmost beaches on the south east coast of the island. Their house faces south and has delightful views over the island and the sea. Valeria has put on Facebook that you shouldn’t own a lovely house, just know someone who does ….. well this is that house.
Edu had to work an extra day and so on our first full day here, Thursday, Priscila took us out to lunch in the ‘old town’ of Vila with their daughter, Bruna and Edu’s aunt Theresa
The morning had been bright but as we drove to Vila the clouds got lower and darker and by the time we got to the restaurant the rain was torrential, we got soaked in the 5 feet from the car to the restaurant door and that was with the umbrellas. The rain persisted until we’d finished lunch and held off long enough for us to enjoy a stroll around the centre of town, which was crowded due to a Cruise ship arrival. Villa is a nice place and vaguely reminiscent of São Francisco do Sul, although smaller and less colourful, but that could have had something to do with the rain.
lhabela was originally inhabited by the Tupinambas Indians who according to the sign in Vila called it ‘Maembipe’, or ‘place of ex change of goods and rescue of prisoners’. Wiki gives the original name as ‘Ciribai’ meaning ‘tranquil place’. Americo Vespucci ‘discovered’ the island in 1502 and named it São Sebastião Island. It is the largest of Brazil’s coastal islands and is now a popular tourist destination and, despite the rain, you can see why.
On Friday we went for a walk down to the beach at Curral, marred only by the clouds which spent the afternoon gathering. It was packed as it is one of the few beaches on the south of the island with restaurants. It was only the rain which sent us back home and into the pool. Even in the rain Ilhabela lives up to its name!
Although we planned on visiting Ilhabela on the weekend after returning from CornéIio Procópolis the weather had different ideas; it rained almost solidly for 7 days and visiting the ‘Beautiful Island, in the pouring rain would not be much fun. So we delayed our visit by a week and watched the rain.
And boy did it rain. Up in São Paulo there was serious flooding with streets turning to rivers washing away cars as the city drainage simply can’t cope! Down here in Santos the streets are mostly flat but the drainage is just as inadequate and many shops and restaurants are at, or slightly below, street level; the ‘bow waves’ from passing cars wash across the pavements and flood into them.
But finally we were on our way to Ilhabela. This is where Edu and Priscila have a holiday home and were driving down from São Paulo to meet us; they were due to arrive by 9 pm so we were in no rush to get there, setting off from Santos after lunch. Ilhabela is about 170 km north of Santos and we decided to hire a car again. Although we could have taken the ferry via Guaruja, 40 km shorter, it would mean driving through Guaruja, which would have added an hour to our trip. We decided on the longer, but quicker, route inland to Cubatão, at the base of the coastal mountains, then along the coast.
The term ‘quicker’ is a little mis-leading. The trip took us over 4 hours to get from Santos to the ferry to Ilhabela, about 160 km, the cause being speed limits. Once away from the city and onto the single carriageway roads the limit drops to 80kmh, and in the numerous towns en route it is frequently 40 and 30! Driving here is pretty ‘freestyle’ and traffic laws are pretty much ‘advisory’ unless outside a police post. But when it comes to speed limits the authorities have moved traffic calming into the realm of fortifications. Speed humps are monstrous and cannot be taken above 30kph, you get 300 m warning, then bang, speed ‘hump’. Speed cameras are similarly unmissable, not the subtle little yellow boxes we are used to in the UK, and are announced in advance by subtle ‘Fiscalização Electronica’ (Electronic Enforcement) sign boards. The actual camera emplacements were designed, I think, by the same folks who created the enigmatic monolith in Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey, they are massive and generally defended by walls of bollards on substantial central reservations and speed humps on the approach. And fair play, if you are going to enforce a speed limit this is how to do it, forget “No excuse for speeding” signs on the cameras, just fortify the road. Between the speed forts it is back to tail gating, overtaking on double white lines (yellow in Brazil), overtaking on the approach to bends, hill crests and almost anywhere except where permitted. Ghost Islands are actually for overtaking and not to protect junctions and hard shoulders are provided to facilitate undertaking.
And so after an entertaining 4 hours, during which my cringe muscles developed serious cramp we made it to São Sebastiāo and the ferry. And just as we were carefully reading Priscilla’s illustrated directions text she pulled alongside us in the queue, 2 hours early; we couldn’t have planned it! And so we were guided in, and it is possibly just as well; the restaurant where we turn left was easy to miss. Their place is quite high up and the road is very steep, and our little Hyundai was running out of steam by the time we got there. But it was worth it. The house is delightful and the views from their pool deck are awesome, especially in a thunder storm with lightening illuminating the clouds and striking the sea in the distance ……. yes, it was raining again.