Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Steamy love in Brazil

The effects of a long Satanic English winter were starting to take their toll, so four weeks ago, looking tired and pale, I jetted off with my muscled Brazilian butler, Juan, to his homeland, Brazil.   No, I did not forget my tiny pink 1920s bathing suit with two pom-poms sewn on the front.  We first visited Salvador.

We met a street food vendor called Dada.  Dada is reputed to be the best chef in the historic Brazilian city of Salvador; so much so, this larger-than-life character owns three restaurants in the favelas.  Dada also runs a popular food stand in the centre of Salvador and is known to locals and tourists alike.  Dada’s speciality, Moqueca de Camarão - King Prawn and Coconut Stew - is a typical dish to eat.  This Bahian dish is a mixture of indigenous Indian, African and Portuguese and this wonderfully spicey dish is evocative of this corner of Brazil.  Originally, moqueca would have been cooked in banana leaves over hot coals.  Nowadays, Dada prepares the dish with dende oil, a vibrant orange paste made from palm.  The street food is reason enough to go to Salvador, never mind the18th-century candy-coloured Igreja Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (famous for its powers to effect miraculous cures) where I was told to tie a ribbon, known as a fita, in Juan's hair and make a wish!

In the seedy, bustling backstreets of Salvador, we visited The Pelourinho, the central plaza, which is lined with richly decorated baroque churches, tiny squares, and fine old colonial mansions. By day, one could wander its cobblestone streets for hours.

After a few relaxing days here, we chose to fly to Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of 21 islands and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, 220 miles offshore from the Brazilian coast.   The islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The number one place to stay on the islands is the Pousada Maravilha.  Our bungalow had no lack of indulgences, including a tropical garden, wooden outdoor tub and the softest billowing cotton imaginable.

We swam from this beach - Baía dos Porcos, the Bay of Pigs - and watched glorious sunsets.  Time here slowed to a few frames per second. Snorkeling in the shallows revealed multi-coloured fish who were not afraid of us.  The place is the epitome of a tropical paradise. The perfect Robinson Crusoe escape with luxury accommodation to hand!

When God created the airplane, he made it possible for weary Northern souls to escape the greyness of winter and enjoy such beautiful corners of this planet.  I arrived home to Buckinghamshire with a renewed passion for life after our four weeks in the tropics.