These are some of our favorites photographs of Paraty, that little gem of a colonial town on Brazil's Green Coast.
Paraty gets its name from a small fish abundant in swampy areas (it's a Tupi word). The town, which is a National Monument, is located in the largest area of primary Atlântica Forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro, 252 kms south of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The Villa de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Paraty was the second largest Brazilian port until the mid-1700's, thanks to gold exports from Minas Gerais. It was also such a large producer and exporter of Brazilian sugarcane liquor, that "parati" became synonymous with cachaça (check out the song Camisa Listrada).
The town has a population of 29,000, which swells considerably during the summer months, carnaval, the Festival da Pinga (the Cachaça Festival in August), and the Festival of the Holy Ghost, celebrated 50 days after Easter. Paraty is also home to the yearly FLIP or Literary Fair, which brings writers from around the world, including a few Nobel Prize winners. It used to be a manageable size, but I heard that it's gotten too big.
Only special delivery vehicles are allowed in the historic center of town. Wear comfortable walking shoes, because the large, irregular cobblestones can be a killer...How some locals are able to ride bicycles on those streets beats me!
Paraty has several first-class inns (called "pousadas" in Portuguese) and you can take boat trips to its countless islands and coves, or go explore restored sugarcane plantations, bathe in waterfalls or walk in the forest...(actually you can spot monkeys hanging from phone lines right in town...) From nearby Angra dos Reis, a small train will take you on an unforgettable trip through the surrounding forest.
The small church of Santa Rita dos Homens Pardos is an extraordinarily beautiful example of 18th century architecture. It has one central altar and two side altars housed in balconies high above. It's home to Paraty's Museu de Arte Sacra, where you can see a superb 18th-century terracotta pietà. This image was stolen from the Nossa Senhora do Rosário church several years ago and later recovered from a junk shop in Rio. The shop owner had no idea of the origin and value of the image, and the person who found it, completely by accident, is a Paraty resident! I tried to obtain permission to take photographs inside the church and museum, but was unable to get in touch with the right guy. Oh well, next time...Next time, August 2007: The church is been restored and at the moment it also sports a very unbecoming banner with the words: Cultura em Greve (Culture on Strike), which means that Federal Government employees are letting taxpayers—the ones who ultimately pay their salaries—down.
We found a couple of wonderful shops, one at the Casa da Cultura and the other, Arte Brasil, right behind the Santa Rita Church. There are lots of fancy restaurants in Paraty, we'll let you pick and choose, but if you're on a budget and want to eat buffet-style, we found a self-service by kilo called Sabor da Terra, which was excellent. It's located on the main drag about 100 meters from the historical town center.
For those of you who wish to experience Paraty like an insider, we emphatically recommend The Academy of Cooking & Other Pleasures. Its owner, renowned chef Yara Roberts of PBS fame, is a charmer and a great cook with the sunniest smile you can possibly imagine.
The city of Paraty has its own web site. There's a wealth of information out there. For travel and assorted tips about Paraty in Portuguese, visit the online guide Férias Brasil.