A few years ago, I bought a Brazilian TV mini-series called "A Casa das Sete Mulheres" (The House of the Seven Women). It is based on a book and tells the epic tale of the Farroupilha Revolution in Rio Grande do Sul and the love story between Giuseppe Garibaldi and Manuela Ferreira, the young woman he met before the famous Anita. Little did I know that one day I'd be going to see the area and the locations where they filmed it (see the charqueada ranch house with the large wooden door below).
Charqueadas, or ranches where the cattle were killed and their meat dried out in the sun, were started near Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, in 1780. Their owners became enormously wealthy, as attested by what's left of their ranch houses (one of which is now a fabulous inn, see below) and opulent homes in town, all built in the nineteenth century. Their money (and longing for all things European, from Parisian fashion to art and architecture) built two theaters, gorgeous monuments (check out the market tower below), and a magnificent public library in Pelotas (which was undergoing restauration at the time of our visit). These days, the region is known for its peaches and sweets made from fruits, thanks to which I put on a couple of pounds in two days. I also found out that they make some of the best chocolate truffles in the world in Pelotas! The most interesting discovery I made, though, were the hydraulic tiles handmade in the traditional way. You can visit the factory (the only one remaining out of seventeen that were churning out floors and sidewalks for this once-sophisticated city) or pick your design and order your floor right at their website. These guys made me wish I had a home in Brazil to build or restore!!
In these days of environmental concerns, it is sobering and encouraging to realize that the lovely Arroio Pelotas, where people now swim and fish, was once filthy and stained red from the blood and guts of slaughtered herds.
As with the Vale dos Vinhedos trip, we thank our friend, driver, and tireless guide, Ms. Gesswein, who, lucky she, is redoing her kitchen floors in a lovely pattern!!! She also makes this rice with dried beef in the traditional way.