Escaping from Belo Horizonte

Let’s be honest, Belo Horizonte is not so pretty, but it wasn’t always the way, not so long ago, it was nicknamed ‘The Garden City’. BH was once filled with one storey houses, gardens and parks. But it seems soon after it was constructed and called the capital of Minas Gerais state, they decided not to copy the Europeans any longer with their boring low-raise city skyline, but instead opted to be like their powerful American neighbours, thus houses were leveled and soaring skyscrapers put up in their place.

But it’s not all bad, one part of BH that has been saved from the American type city is Santa Tereza, where the law protects its old bungalow style houses. A neighbourhood filled with artists, funky bars, and restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to spend a Saturday afternoon, eating typical Minas Gerais dishes, and sipping beer, while listening to live music sing a selection of  Bossa Nova,  Samba and Minas Gerais music; delicious!.

But if you are looking to get out of the city altogether, there are plenty of places to visit, skyscraper and car free. The state of Minas Gerais is rich in its offerings of old Brazil. It has many fantastic short weekend away treats, some of them only a stone throw away from Belo Horizonte.  One of these little gifts is the tiny village of ‘Lavras Novas’, a mere 130km from BH. It’s a district of the city of  ‘Ouro Preto’, one of my other favourite weekend away-ers. Lavras Novas is a tiny country village basically. There is only one cobbled street which is lined by one storey old colourful little houses, which continues until it reaches a small white church. Behind the church, the little village continues up and out, but just a little. The cute little houses are used as either little restaurants, shops, home-made crafts shops, houses to rent or where the locals live themselves. Probably just how Belo Horizonte used to be.  Maybe it sounds a tad boring, but the delicious little thing about Lavras is that it’s very high up and thus surrounded by wide open mountain scenery. It’s a gorgeous little place, super tidy and the air is crisp and clean, exactly what your lungs need from living in a city.

Massage anyone?.

Massage anyone?.

We checked into our guesthouse. I quickly assumed it was a family run business, because from what I could see everyone looked the same, from the kids to the grandparents, and moreover they were all  working there, well maybe not so much working, but they were all standing around, smiling and chatting with themselves.

Cobbled streets, little colourful houses..and good looking women.

Cobbled streets, little colourful houses..and good looking women.

We then walked around the town and was surprised to find some very creative home-made crafts shops, so much so, that we actually nearly  bought some items. Well, c’mon, these places  are usually shit. But seriously, there was some really imaginative stuff being made. We promised about 3 places that we would return the next day and purchase some things. Of course, we didn’t, but the next time, I swear. God, I feel that mayor and his metro.

We found a restaurant, we ordered a delicious plate of sausage and fried manioc, and it was washed down with the help of 3 or 4 very cold Brahma beer, I stretched out my legs, and kicked off my havaianas and there we stayed for the next 3 hours, amid the mountains and the sun. We were on top of the world, it seemed like we could touch the sky or even heaven, maybe we could have, sure God’s Brazilian, he was bound to be close by.

Sausage, fried Manioc, cold beer, sun, mountains = bliss.

Sausage, fried Manioc, cold beer, sun, mountains = bliss.

I could have stayed there all day, but I would have been very drunk, and I could do that any day of the week in BH. We wandered back to the pousada and had an afternoon nap, something I haven’t done since my days in Barcelona, it wasn’t planned, but it was lovely. When we woke, we showered and went for dinner in this place we has passed earlier on in the day.  A’Dvinho had invited us in to see his restaurant and his artwork, he even went on to show us some of his non finished pieces in his workhouse at the back of his house. His house was really cute, and he obviously was doing well for himself, he was in the middle of renovating the balcony, his plan was to put in some more tables. When its finished the view of the mountains will be spectacular. Obviously he was doing his sales pitch, but he was just so friendly and chatty, that he was hard to say no to, in fact it was hard to say anything, jaysus, he wouldn’t shut up, I reckon he could talk the ear off a concrete elephant.

After we sat down, he informed us that the restaurant hadn’t been open for very long. So he still didn’t have a very extensive menu. No wonder he had no menu outside like all the other restaurants, and he waited until we had sat down to tell us!…sneaky fecker, he must have worked in sales before or maybe even politics.

Just soon after we had finished eating, a small woman appeared literally out of nowhere and started to have a chat with us. If any of you remember the “Dungeons and Dragons” cartoon when the wizard would magically appear at the end of the cartoon, or even ‘Mr Benn’, when the shop keeper would pop up out of nowhere to take Mr.Benn back to the real world, it was like this, we had no idea who she was and where she had come from. While she talked with my wife, I hopelessly looked around for a secret little door she had popped out of.  When she didn’t stop talking for nearly 2 hours, I guessed that she was related somehow to A’Dvinho. But I wasn’t complaining, she was very sweet, born and bred there in Lavras Novas.  She gave us some local insights, and gossips. We sat there for hours, sipping red wine in front of a fire, listening to the tales of her life. A lovely night.

After me not getting any sleep due to the 2 dogs who insisted on talking to each other all night, we got up at 10, had breakfast, (very much let down that they didn’t serve any Pao de Queijo!..feckers) and headed for a little hike.

Taking in the view in Lavras Novas

Taking in the view in Lavras Novas

It was a dream to be walking in the mountains,  our bodies were being siphoned clean with its air. We didn’t really know how to get to our destination, the mother-of-all-talkers from the night before informed us the path was well signposted..I had my suspicions at the time, Brazilian don’t believe in road signs so I doubt very much there was going to be any type of instruction on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, Mount Everest is probably bettered signposted. But lo and behold, there was two, although they were a little battered and needing repair, it was better than nothing.

What was our destination I can hear you all asking with bated breath?, well, when you have a country that has a hell of lot of mountains, you must therefore have waterfalls, and Minas Gerais is full of them, and some are truly a sight to see.

Cachoeira Três Pingos / 3 drops waterfalls.

Cachoeira Três Pingos / 3 drops waterfalls.

It’s not the rainy season, so it wasn’t bucketing down like it normally does, so maybe it doesn’t look much, but trust me, I tell you no lie,  saving your morning shower to have one in a waterfall is purifying. We stayed for just over an hour, we couldn’t get enough, and for a time, it was just the two of us. It was gorgeous.

We left Lavras Novas, but we’ll go back for sure, its a perfect weekend away, even if its to fulfil our promises we made to the shop keepers. So, maybe I was a little critical about Brazilian cities, maybe my eyes are actually closed or they should be closed, maybe it’s the Governments secret plan to keep the cities polluted and dirty and therefore force it’s residents and visitors to escape from them from time to time and enjoy the glorious natural wonders of this immense country, maybe I should just hop on board and walk like a Brazilian. Accept that this is the way it is here.

And finally this;

Um Bênção Irlandesa / An Irish Blessing

An Irish Blessing

 “For every storm,

God will give you a rainbow.

For every tear, a smile.

For every care, a promise,

and a blessing for each test.

That for every problem,

life brings someone faithful,

with whom to share it.

For every look, a sweet song,

And an answer for every prayer”.

We found this in one of the craft shops, coincidence or what?.

6 Responses to “Escaping from Belo Horizonte”
  1. Eduardo Aquino says:

    Aaaaah, Lavras Novas, que saudade!!! Adorei o post, Keith! Um beijo grande!

  2. Peg says:

    I just found your blog through Expat American Living in Brazil and I’m looking forward to reading more.

    I’ve added you to my list of Expat blogs in Brazil, hope you don’t mind.

    Happy travels!

  3. Ediney says:

    Fantastic! Reading these comments, it’s so easy to like this place and to like you, Irish Man.
    Thanks a bilion, Ed

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