A travel journal
to Belo Horizonte by daviebee
Quote: It was in the pursuit of the love of a good woman that I first travelled to Belo Horizonte, returned three times, and will eventually be living there. This is a journal of my travels to Belo, which I hope will encourage you to visit this relatively unheard of city.
A more intelligent person could no doubt write an essay on the reasons for Belo’s anonymity, but I would argue that it’s certainly not for a lack of things to do. Admittedly, I can see why newcomers to Brazil would opt for Rio’s famous beaches rather than a little-known city to the north. However, for the returning tourist or anyone wanting to experience a purer form of Brazilian culture, Belo Horizonte is the place to go.
The city’s charms are not immediately obvious. To the European eye accustomed to the grandeur of Paris, Rome, or London, its buildings are largely unattractive. But Brazil is not about beautiful buildings - it’s about energy. And that’s something Belo has bags of. From its bustling centre to its quiet parks, from street entertainers to the Palacio das Artes, from street cafés to chic restaurants, there’s always something happening. It may not have a beach, but the inhabitants of Belo are proud of what they’ve got – and quite rightly, too.
Precisely because Belo is not a popular tourist destination, the city is relatively unprepared for tourists. There are very few signs in English, and waiters and waitresses don’t always speak a large amount of English, if any. While it’s not necessary to speak fluent Portuguese, having a few basic expressions prepared is a good idea. Don’t worry, though, Brazil is one of the friendliest places on Earth. You’ll be welcomed with open arms – no matter how you pronounce, Eu quero um Coca Cola, por favor.
For those less enthusiastic about walking, the city’s bus service is of a good standard. The buses are usually on time and you can travel any distance for around 30p (.60). A word of warning, though – despite the laws of physics and the health and safety regulations that apply in other countries, there is no limit to the number of people that can be squeezed onto a bus in Belo Horizonte. No one is ever refused entry because the bus is full. Be prepared to get intimate with the person standing next to you.
If you’re feeling flush, there’s always a taxi passing by that will get you to your destination in a short amount of time. There’s a reason that taxis in Belo arrive at their destination quickly and it’s very simple - they drive incredibly fast. Seatbelt use is strongly recommended!
The restaurant's specialty is fondue, which is served on its own little stove with skewers and a selection of dips. The fondue is more than enough for two people, so unless you have a huge appetite, I'd skip starters and save yourself for dessert.
If you fancy a dance afterwards, Chalezinho now has its own club. I recommend putting your name on the guest list at the same time as you reserve a table in the restaurant, but it is possible to turn up after your meal and wait in line with everyone else.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 25, 2005
Alameda de Serra,18- Seis Pistas
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Prices vary from £2 ($4) for events in the smaller theatres to £15 ($30) for events in the main theatre. The Palacio das Artes often runs a promotion where customers pay a greatly reduced ticket price if they bring 2kg of food for charity. Information about this promotion is usually printed on leaflets for particular shows. There is a bar in the downstairs concourse that serves drinks, hot snacks, and sweets, and there’s also a bookshop that sells a wide variety of "alternative" books and CDs.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 27, 2005
Palacio das Artes
Avenida Afonso Pena 1537
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 28, 2005
Parque das Mangabeiras
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
In my opinion, there are three major factors that determine your enjoyment of any eating experience and many of Belo’s bars and restaurants score highly in each.
The first is obvious. If the food isn’t good, you might as well eat at home. Fortunately, Belo’s establishments take great pride in their fare and whether it be Comida Mineira (traditional Mineiran cuisine) or pizza, you’re guaranteed a fresh and tasty dish.
The second factor is service. In keeping with Brazil’s reputation for friendliness, staff members are polite, attentive, and efficient. Nothing is too much trouble, and if there’s even a hint of a problem, it will be dealt with quickly, no questions asked.
Lastly, and often underrated in my opinion, is the decor. It’s important to feel relaxed and comfortable when you sit down to eat and in a busy city like Belo; bars and restaurants have become very good at shutting out the hustle-and-bustle of the streets. Whether you're in an open, cool, and airy bar or an intimate, candle-lit hideaway, you’re sure to feel at home.
Add to this variety, value for money, and frequent live music, and it’s easy to see why it’s worth eating out every night. Not to mention the fact that cold drinks are actually served COLD – a novel experience for us Europeans!
For more information on different types of restaurants and specific restaurant recommendations, see my other journal entries.
A churrascaria often comes in the form of a rodizio (hodjeezeeio), which is basically an all-you-can-eat restaurant where the waiters wander round the tables offering you food. You can indicate that you want a break by turning a little card on your table with "no" written on it.
Brazilians have very high standards when it comes to meat, so most restaurants serve better meat dishes than you might find in other countries. I particularly recommend trying a cut of meat called picanha (peecanya) and a type of meat called carne do sol, which has been left in the sun for 24 hours before cooking. The phrase "melt in the mouth" springs to mind!
In Belo Horizonte, I visited a particularly good churrascaria called Adega do Sul, which offers a rodizio barbeque and a salad, hot dish, and dessert buffet. For about £4 ($8), you can eat as much as you like and the meat comes straight off the skewer and onto your plate. The restaurant is spacious and cool and is therefore more suitable for a group visit rather than a romantic dinner for two. The restaurant’s address is Avenida do Contorno 8835.
It’s called self-service. The idea is that you go to the buffet counter, fill your plate, have your plate weighed, and then pay for what you’ve taken. It’s simple but incredibly sensible. You don’t have to worry about getting your money’s worth, it doesn’t encourage gluttony like all-you-can-eat offers, it reduces waste, and you can choose from a wide variety of dishes instead of being limited to one. Rather than leaving the restaurant feeling hungry or uncomfortably bloated, you leave with the rather pleasant and all too uncommon feeling of satisfaction. I realise that this system may be common in other countries besides Brazil; however, it doesn’t exist in the UK and so was new to me.
There are hundreds of good self-service restaurants in Belo, and most offer salads, fruits, and a wide variety of hot dishes and meats as standard. Many places also offer barbeque or dessert on a self-service basis, although the price per kilo is usually higher for these. Depending on the quality of the establishment, prices range from £3 to £6 per kilo ($6 to $12), and many of the restaurants at the lower end of this scale are still very good. I’m a 23-year-old male of average height and slim build and I eat roughly 300 to 400g for lunch each day. I usually spend around £2 ($4), which buys me lunch, dessert, and a drink.
I’ve been to many good self-service restaurants in Belo, too many to recommend them all here. However, one of my favourites is called Gula Galope, which isn’t far from Alfonso Pena, the main street in Belo. It’s nicely decorated, has a peaceful outside area, and the food is always fresh. Look it up when you’re in the centre.
When a city contains a very rich and a very poor group of people living in close proximity, it’s not surprising that crime can be an issue. Almost all houses in rich areas have electric fences, CCTV, and large dogs, and in my experience, crime is often at the forefront of local inhabitants’ minds. It’s hard to tell, however, how much of this is due to fear of crime and how much is based on experiences of crime. Whatever the explanation, it’s wise to take precautions when you’re travelling around Belo, especially if you’re white and don’t speak Portuguese, and particularly at night. I recommend not taking your whole wallet when you go out. Instead, carry your credit card and only slightly more cash than you think you will need. Divide the cash into a larger and a smaller amount and keep them in separate locations, so that if someone asks for your money, you can hand over the smaller amount--don’t bother discussing it with them. Apart from that, the rest of my advice is just common sense–-don’t walk down dark alleys on your own, don’t get into cars with strangers, and don’t flash your wallet, phone, camera, or expensive watch all over the place. I’m happy to say that during the year in total I’ve spent in Belo, I have never had any problems. So, at the same time as being sensible, don’t worry about safety so much that you can’t enjoy your stay.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom