A September 2002 trip
to Buzios by actonsteve
Quote: Like it's counterpart on the French Riviera, Buzios has class. It also has great beaches, beautiful people, and nightlife to die for. A fabulous resort so far not discovered by the rest of the world.
The town of Buzios is perched on the Cabio Frio headland about 168 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. When the rich and pampered have had enough of the Avenida Paulista or Ipanema beach they head for here. The town itself is very charming with some lovely pousada's for those who want to enjoy the sun and the sea by day and it's superb restaurants and bars at night. Forty years ago it was a simple fishing village but the French film actress, Brigitte Bardot, came here in the sixties and this 'lost paradise in the tropics' was flashed around the world.
It now has 150 pousadas (most low-rise and blending in with the local architecture), 50 restaurants, open-air cafes, bars, clubs, art galleries, and fashion shops. It has the swagger and pretensions of it's French Riviera counterpart but is far less expensive. In the summer the whole world comes here and the mayor pleads with visitors to stop arriving.
But now the secret is discovered the world wants to see Buzios. And who can blame them? Its decadent reputation and plethora of good beaches may seduce you as well.
The big attraction for many Brazilians is the restaurant and shopping scene. The prices here are astronomical and the number of boutiques and galleries is stunning. But people also come here for a good time. The bars of Rua de Perata keep throbbing to the early hours and there is quite a singles scene in this busy town. Whatever, you want to do, find or enjoy - you will find it in Buzios.
Five buses a day come from the big city along the coast. The journey from Rio's rodovaria (bus station) takes 2 1/2 hours. Most of Buzios can be travelled on foot.
Many people hire out a beach buggy when visiting Buzios. These can be hired for about 70 reals a day and are a good way of reaching the more remote beaches. Buzios is about showing off. If tanned high-spending beautiful people are your thing then you will love Buzios. Find yourself a stretch of sand, apply the sun cream, suck in those stomach muscles and make like the beautiful people do.
Hotel | "Hotel Nilceia - the cheapest option in Buzios"
It is literally steps from the bus stop on the south side of town. Buses from Rio arrive five times a day and a simple walk a block west and north takes you to the Rua Manoel de Cavalho which leads into town. It has balconies overlooking the Rua is the Pousada Nilceia. The same people who own this own the Pousada Santa Ana which is a little closer to town. It is owned by an Auntie-like Argentinean woman who speaks fractured English. For 30 reals a night you will get a single room. Doubles are available for 40 reals and both include spotless in-suite bathrooms. Rooms are upstairs and are on either side of a central corridor whose roof is open to the air. In the summer this is natural air conditioning, but in the Spring/late Winter when we were there, it meant the wind can really whistle along the corridor.
The rooms are a good size and linen is promptly changed. The bathrooms are spotless and contain a hot-water shower and white tiled walls. The rooms out front also have a balcony looking down onto the Rua which includes a relaxing hammock. My only quibble is that the balcony is closed off by slats rather then a solid door. This means noise from the traffic roaring below can be deafening. While I was there an election in Brazil was being called which meant lots of cars driving up and down trying to convert the borgeoise of Buzios with loudspeakers. The first night I was there I stuffed toilet tissue into my ears to block out the noise.
I liked this hotel. The staff were friendly and eager to please. Breakfast was free but the pousada did not contain a dining room so you had to trek to its sister pousada--the Santa Ana--which was just down the street. The breakfast area is in a courtyard with television watched over by an ample woman of Bahian extraction. She will serve you coffee, chocolate, fresh melon, pineapple chunks, ham, cheese, rolls, and fresh orange or guava juice.
It's a good way to start the day before sunbathing in Buzios. Pousada Nilceia is one of the few budget options in Buzios. The quality of service here is just as good as one of the big pousadas and at a fraction of their price.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on February 1, 2003
Rua de Cavalho
It is situated along Rua Ribeiro Dantes, southwest of Rua de Perata. Bright orange from the outside you can hardly miss it. It is squeezed between a souvenir shop selling T-shirts of Buzios and 'Alhoanet', where you can check up on your e-mail. There is a definite code to the Quilo restaurant. First you take your plate and help yourself to the buffet. When you have loaded up it is taken to the till and weighed, a print-out shows the price. Once you have finished eating and then you must pay at the till including any drinks you have had. The expected price is generally not more then 15 reals (£4 or about US $8-9). The tables are clean and the clientele was full of families. One evening a teenage Brazilian football team wearing the famous yellow-green T-shirts came in.
The food is a mixture. Fejoida and other Brazilian specialities are on hand, as well as stroganoff, rice, fresh fruit, olives and grilled prawns. Huge rumps of prime Argentine steak are for the picking although these will send your bill soaring due to weight. These can be washed down with Brahama beers, wines or guava juice. The atmosphere inside is always bubbly. Brazilians are the most gregarious of people. As I was flying down I changed planes in Madrid. Other nationalities will cheer when their plane returns to their home city-- Brazilians will go into excited raptures when their flight is announced.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 1, 2003
'Bananaland' - Quilo Restaurant par Excellence
Attraction | "Praia dos Ossos - the loveliest beach in Buzios"
Praia do Ossos is my favorite beach in Buzios. It may not have the glamour of Jao Fernandez or the surfers of Geriba, but when I was there in early spring it was deserted and seemed like a little hidden secret. Of course, it isn't, and in the summer it is overun with fellow sunseekers. So many in fact that you cannot move - and the mayor of Buzios appears on television pleading with people not to come. This year may be different - the majority of visitors are Argentine, and the economy of that country at the moment is in turmoil. Buzios may echo to the sounds of Portuguese rather then Spanish this coming year.
Ossos is within easy walking distance of Rua de Perata - head east from the pier along the sea walk to the statue of Brigitte Bardot. Before the statue the roads will split to climb the promontory. The one to the right is Azedinha Alzeda, head left along the walk, up the hill to the Catholic church. This church is quite beautiful - blue and white - with angel statuary dotting the grounds, palm trees, and a superb view of Praia dos Ossos. From here you can see the curve of Ossos and the trail down backs the beach, circumnavigates it, and heads even further west over more headlands.
Ossos is rather a small beach - only 200 feet long. The bay is surrounded by forested headlands and claims golden sands and fishing boats bob in the water not far from shore. Strolling couples wander the trail and are overlooked by glass-fronted houses, barracas, and speeding beach buggies. The famous Brazilian beach culture had not quite woken up, but there were enough people here to enjoy the beaches and sun.
I found a spot next to a fishing boat which provided protection from the wind. On went the sunscreen, off came the shorts, and out came a paperback. I could feel the rays relax me as I tucked into one of my 'keep me occupied" books. The sand was so soft underneath and I felt time slip by as I lazed in the Brazilian sunshine. There are not the hawkers on Ossos that there are on Ipanema or Copacabana, so for food I headed to a nearby barraca. There I was fixed up with a delicious grilled chicken sandwich and a pineapple/orange milkshake which was whisked in front of my eyes. Then back to the beach for more sunbathing.
Praia dos Ossos
Attraction | "Jao Fernandez - beach of the rich and famous"
To reach it you must first reach Praia de Ossos (see earlier entry). Once you reach this beach then follow its walk to the furthest promontory. This will lead you to the arm of the Buzios peninsula containing the majority of secluded beaches. The trail heads uphill from here along cobblestones and is enclosed by scrub and bushes. A more deserted beach than Ossos and Jao Fernandez will greet you--Azeninda beach. To get down to its sands follow the red-earth donkey trail. When we were there it was completely deserted due to bad weather. The western side is a bunch of overlapping rocks and the eastern side leads to a smaller beach surrounded by jungle (see photo). I don't think I have been to a country with such spectacular beaches as Brazil.
To reach Jao Fernandez backtrack to the statue of Brigitte Bardot on Amaco beach. The road to the right heads uphill to a small praca with giftshops and a bus stop. From here, head left and uphill into mega-condominium land. Here you stray into the realm of rich package-tourists and the pousadas look after hundreds and hundreds of people. At the end of the road is Jao Fernandez which is blocked from the road by seafood restaurants. Once you are past these you can see the full expanse of Jao Fernandez--an enormous bay with creamy white sand (see photo). It faces the Atlantic and the surf can be incredible. The day I visited the waves were very fierce. It was to gray for sunbathing but that didn't stop the deckchair attendants buzzing around or the hawkers trying to sell you coco verts (green coconuts) and sunscreen.
Overlooking it all were some magnificent million-dollar condominiums reminding us who Buzios is really for. This was enhanced by the growl of beach-buggies everywhere. At the wheel were gorgeous young men with whiter-then-white smiles with bottle blonde girlfriends at their side. They proved their machismo by spinning the buggies at ridiculous angles and leaving the rest of us in a cloud of dust.
The story of my life.....
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 1, 2003
Joao Fernandez Beach
Rua das Pedras 0.5 Mile
Attraction | "'Chez Michou' where the beautiful people gather..."
The Rua de Perata bursts with restaurants, discos, and bars. One of the most famous and popular is the 'Chez Michou' on the main road. Here the young, gorgeous, and rich gather to sip caipirinhas and dance to Bossa Nova. This is where you show off your healthy tan, wear the most fashionable clothes, and spend money like the world is going to end tomorrow.
It is situated a little way down Rua de Perata, just before the turn to the jetty. It is open-air and spills onto the street. The tables are grouped around a small dance floor and the bar runs along one side of the wall. Chez Michou also doubles as a creperie and barmen/waiters toss crepes into the air much to the delight of tourists. Brahma beers are on tap as are many imported beers such as Budweiser and Heineken. They also do a mean selection of cocktails. We were there in low season (early spring) and the place was booming. To the Brazilians it was cold and many of them wore jerseys, a log fire was burning and, later in the evening, a tent roof was put up when it rained.
I was there with a couple of friends from the SouthAmericanExperience bus--Gary, Derek, Doreen, and an Irish couple (see Ilha Grande journal). We had a good time buying Brahma beers and caipirinhas. As budget tourists we seemed underdressed compared with the beautiful people around us.
You must try a caipirinha while in Brazil. It's a mixture of rum, lime, ice, and sugar; a couple of these will have you out of your seat and dancing. Buzios is popular with Argentineans and there were always a couple of groups dancing around us. As the music started up, they started to dance and I dragged Doreen out onto the dance floor where we proved we were silly foreigners by dancing incorrectly to the samba.
'Chez Michou' is a good place to meet Brazilians. It is, however, in the wee hours more of an exhausting pick-up joint, so any attempts at honest conversation may be interpreted as a 'come-on.' Some of the people in there were beautiful. Designer clothes complimented tanned skin and perfect features. The jewelry shops of Ipanema have been raided to dazzle those in Buzios. Wear your best gear to Chez Michou, and try not to make a fool of yourself like I did--learn the samba before you go . . .
Av José Bento Ribeiro Dantas, 80
Buzios, Brazil 28950-000
After the witching hour the entire street is bursting at the seams. People spill from bars, dance to samba, parade in bikinis and drink cocktails in the street. Music throbs from pulsating bars, people dine alfresco and South Americans from all over the continent--usually the rich variety--ogle the expensive shops, dodge the beach buggies and admire the beautiful people.
During the day of course, it is completely different. From morning to early afternoon it is recovering from a hangover. The holiday makers are lounging on the beaches while the waiters and barmen set up for the night ahead. A few desolate tourists might wander around the boutiques and galleries but as the sun beats down on the gigantic cobblestones, sunglasses are brought over the eyes and most head back to their pousadas for an afternoon nap around the swimming pool. And the Rua de Perata gets ready for another night of debauchery.
This 'Stone Street' is the main drag of Buzios. It runs parallel to the beach and is one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Brazil, matching Rio's Barra di Tijuca and Leblon prices. If you start from its western section (and yes, a Bob's burger has made inroads here, probably the cheapest food in Buzios) and head east you will get the most from the Rua. At the intersection is a Catholic church, a relic when Buzios used to be a fishing village. Each night about 8:00pm, before the discos start up, gospel singing can be heard in the interior. If you poke your head around the door a guitarist leads the congregation. This seems to jar against the wealthy glamour of Brazil's St Tropez and is one of the few places in Buzios where you can meet the original inhabitants.
Next door is a superb Internet cafe only costing two reals for an hour. Across the cobblestones are the start of the boutiques with pencil-line bikinis and the latest fashionable clothes. At this point there are still tiny alleys leading to the beach (see photo). This is one of the few surviving features of village Buzios. The Armacao beach, which is closest to town is the most unused and still resembles a working beach with fishing boats drawn up on the shore. It stretches for a kilometers along a large bay broken up by rocky jungle headlands. Fishing boats bob in the water and dogs trot up and down the beach. The rocky island of Ilha Cabaldo stands just offshore and the whole of Buzios is spread out in a crescent.
The beach meets Rua de Perata at the working jetty. From here boat trips are available to explore the Cabio peninsula which is always covered with divers, tourists, and fisherman. Further on, as the bay curves to the south, is another vast beach. A paved esplanade follows its curve and passes dive shops, beachbuggy hire, and Thai restaurants. As you look over the the water there is a statue of three black fishermen pulling in the nets (see intro). At high tide the sea covers these figures and they are there to symbolize Buzios' humble past. Completely unlike the statue at the end of the trail--Brigitte Bardot. This stretch of path is called the Orla Bardot and the statue looks nothing like her. Very quiet and demure with hands gently on lap.
Then back to the beach and the Rua de Perata. The range of restaurants is incredible here--you can eat Mexican, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Thai and even traditional Portuguese/Brazilian. Seafood is Buzios' speciality, though it doesn't come cheap. Also worth exploring are the number of 'Arco's' (arcades) each one filled with designer shops. 'Ra-ka-ta-ka-ta' is a very weird bar with cheap pina coladas. The barman here is very amusing and has the strangest accent I have ever heard--part Brazilian, part Indian, part Caribbean with a little touch of cockney thrown in. He wouldn't tell us where he was originally from but had decided to settle in Buzios. According to him he lives in paradise, who are we to disagree...
It was an otter of immense size though. It was also obvious that we had little chance of seeing it. Most animals in the parks of South America are nocturnal and seeing them is very rare. The continent has the world's biggest profusion of wildlife, with more species being discovered all the time. The park is 11,000 hectares of jungle and mountains. It makes a worthy excursion from the 'Cuidade Marvelosa' and was our overnight stop between colonial Paraty and the buzzing chic resort of Buzios.
The Serra dos Orgaos NP is the closest national park to Rio de Janeiro. It lies in the north of the state and borders the beautiful Imperial city of Petropolis. It gets its name from the strange vertical peaks in the park that resemble the towering pipes of a church organ. The most famous is 'Dedo de Deus' (God's finger) which rises to 2,000m. The highest peak in the park is Pedro di Sino (Bells Rock) which has a 14km path to its peak. Its sheer west face is one of the hardest climbing pitches in Brazil.
It is exceptionally remote and the journey is not for the faint-hearted. We arrived in the dark and my heart was in my mouth as we traveled dirt switchback roads and crossed rivers on rickety bridges. To reach it without a tour takes some doing. Frequent buses from Rio stop at Petropolis, from where you can hire a car. Direct buses head there from the closer Teresopolis but these are infrequent--generally one every two days. There are good accommodations inside the park and the whole facility is very well done. At the lower end is hostel (20 reals a night); there are also beds in cabanas with en-suite bathrooms (about 40 reals). The main building is beautiful, with superb food and a well-decorated lounge area. The staff is helpful and will arrange 4-hour rafting expeditions (about 80 reals).
But it is the jungle that you come to the Serra dos Orgaos to see. Our trip included an early morning walk in the forest led by a guide who spoke no English. Another guide, Marcelo, translated for us but even she had difficulty understanding his thick accent and was often completely baffled. They took us into the park at 6am. Our first obstacle was a boulder-strewn river. A rope was thrown across the river and, one of our group, a 70-year-old Melbournian, did us proud by swinging across the river. Then through an enormous grove of bamboo and parallel to a stream where otters poached trout. All around us were birdcalls and the whoops of howler monkeys. Our guide pointed out the plant-life including natural pineapples and flowers that my mother buys at the nearby garden center back in Essex. Wait till I tell her that I have seen the originals in the Brazilian jungle.
Our 2-hour walk finished at a photogenic boulder-strewn river where huge spiders hung cobwebs across the trees. The guide overturned a log to produce a huge red-kneed tarantula that wasn't pleased at being disturbed so early in the morning. The park also includes armadillo, agouti, and peccary, which are preyed on by ocelot. There are no jaguars in the park.
I asked whether there were any piranha. No, but a member of staff had seen a 10-foot anaconda in the vicinity the previous week. With that in mind we backed up, scuttled down the trail, and headed back to the minivan.
This is the Brazilian equivalent of Hampton Court or Versailles, an attraction which draws visitors away from Rio or Buzios for a bit of gentility and culture. The beautiful city of Petropolis is high in the interior's jungle-clad mountains and not far from the Serra dos Orgaos NP. It's renowned as one of Brazil's classiest cities, with that touch of European elegance--rather like Florence or Bath--which stems from the fact that it was the royal capital of the Brazilian Emperor.
We visited after spending a night at the Serra dos Orgaos NP on the SouthAmericaExperience bus (see Ilha Grande journal) on our way to the coastal resort of Buzios. It looks very European--almost Bavarian architecture. For the Brazilians it's a chance to experience what they think of as real cold, as it's very high up and during the deep part of July/August the temperature can reach 10-degrees Celsius. The pousadas here play up the European ambience with open fires and mulled wine, making it one of the most expensive Brazilian towns to visit. Trains and buses leave Rio's rodovavaria and central railway station up to six times a day making this a perfect day or overnight trip from Rio, Niteroi, or Buzios.
I thought it was beautiful. Little streams meander through the center of Petropolis, which is lined by palms and classical architecture. In 1808, Napoleon invaded Portugal and the Braganza royal family had to flee to their gigantic Brazilian colony. After Waterloo, some of the family went back but others stayed to create the Brazilian royal family who were first centered on Rio then onto Petropolis. They declared Brazil independent in 1808 and the city was the seat of power until Brazil declared itself a republic in 1888.
Our guide, Marcelo, was particularly proud of Petropolis as it gives her country historical roots. She pointed out the Germanic architecture and the freestanding glass-and-iron Crystal Palace (a miniature version of the one built in London in 1851). But the big attraction is the Paco Real (Royal Palace) which stands in extensive palm-dotted grounds on Rua da Imperialtraz. For 5 reals, you can enter this scarlet-and-white-striped building (see below photo); felt slippers are fitted over your shoes upon entrance so that you don't damage the parquet floor of this national treasure. It is quite fun sliding over the floor or negotiating stairs just wearing tiny bits of felt on your feet.
Marcelo really came into her own in this palace and gave us a good run-down on the family history of the Braganzas. She led us through ornate dining rooms, suites of bedrooms, and the throne room. Every room was covered in portraiture mainly showing Emperor Dom Pedro and his bearded father. It was a very informal court where the Emperors lived in a kind of regal scruffiness with books and paraphernalia scattered about. More interesting were the watercolor landscapes of colonial Rio. The needle peak of the Corcovado loomed above the bay and streets now buzzing with skyscrapers were just mud-tracks. One massive portrait had Dom Pedro looking every inch the imperial Emperor with bushy beard and gown. And who would have thought that the Brazilian crown jewels would be bigger then that of Windsors.
This is the most visited attraction in Brazil and there are lines around the block at Christmas time to get in. I loved it, as it gave me my fix of culture and history which is an antidote to the beaches of Buzios. There were lines of Brazilian school children while we were there. One of our group, Sandra, was trapped in the toilet with hundreds of schoolchildren waiting for her to finish. And of course they want try out their English on you: "Where are you from?" followed by laughter as they make up their own jokes.
Why do schoolchildren say the same things all over the world?
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