If you’re not bothered about what we have spent the last week doing and just want to know what the title is all about I’d suggest scrolling down the page until you get to the quiz section. For those that are left here’s our quick update.
On 9th September we left Porto Alegre and took a 2 hour bus journey north to Gramado which lies in the mountains of the Serra Gaucha region. As explained in a previous blog entry Gramado received an influx of German and Italian immigrants in the 19th Century who had a significant influence on the town. The resulting resemblance to a European Alpine resort is striking and is completed by a plethora of artisan chocolate shops and fondue restaurants.
With the hot sun and clear skies giving an unseasonable warmth on the day we arrived combined with the European architecture it felt somewhat surreal getting off the bus, particularly after what was a rather wet and cold week in Porto Alegre. A surreal start soon gave way to excitement though as we breathed in fresh mountain air and admired the pristine town centre.
Gramado is a high profile tourist destination, having been voted by Trip Advisor as the 2nd best destination in the whole of Brazil after Rio. A bold claim for a country that houses the bulk of the Amazon rain forest, as well as hundreds of miles of paradisaical beaches but regardless on first sight we were impressed by how clearly well cared for the town is. What with the tourists, the Alpine architecture and a very apparent love for Christmas there could be a danger the town drifts into tackiness but actually we found it upmarket and classy clearly appealing to well-heeled Brazilians (and us).
In Gramado we were staying through AirBnB at Casa Marlene, an annex to a house located about 10 mins walk from the centre of the town. It was Marlene herself who greeted us on arrival and who subsequently provided us with the best hospitality we have enjoyed so far in Brazil – opening up her kitchen for us to use, ferrying us to the zoo and bus station and playing with / cuddling Amber (maybe we should start charging for that…)
Anyway here’s some of the highlights of our week in the mountains:
Black Lake takes its name from the trees imported from the Black Forest in Germany that line the banks of the lake and is situated just south of the town centre. With the temperature in the mid 20s and a cooling mountain breeze it was just about as picturesque and serene a place as we could have wished for. Amber loved watching the swan and pirate ship paddle boats drift around the lake while her parents tried to take Instagram friendly photos to wow our fan base (all 66 of them).
Sequencia de Fondue
From serenity to gluttony. On Monday we decided to visit one of the many restaurants around town offering the intriguingly titled Sequencia de Fondue. For just 42 Brazilian reals each (just over £10 a head) we were treated to a gout inducing 3 course cheese, meat, chocolate feast. Starter was classic fondue – a huge bowl of melted cheese accompanied by bread and potatoes. Main was a plate of raw meat – pork, chicken (bit weird), sausage and beef – which we then cooked on a hot slab of stone placed at our table. Desert was chocolate fondue – a huge bowl of melted chocolate accompanied by a variety of fruits. Banana and strawberry were obvious favourites. Chocolate covered melon less so. It wasn’t much fun in our room a couple of hours after all that but at the time it was a meal to savour.
As the name suggests this seemingly incredibly popular attraction contains a range of model replica landmarks. Forget hoping to see Buckingham Palace or the Golden Gate Bridge though, this was one for the purists with a range of highly obscure forts and castles from Bavaria and Switerland. The inner geek in me derived a worrying amount of pleasure in watching the little replica train make its way around the site and we were generally impressed by the sheer attention to detail that had gone into the models. Plenty to keep Amber entertained as well with the highlight being a hug with a bear (this was one of the rare moments the bear wasn’t stood leaning against a fence looking bored).
On our penultimate day we visited Gramado Zoo and it quickly became one of the highlights of our trip. We (well, mainly Claire) sometimes have strong opinions of zoos and after a particularly upsetting visit to Berlin Zoo where we were genuinely shocked by the apparent disregard for the animals’ well being we have generally avoided them. Gramado Zoo is a little different – it only houses animals native to Brazil, animals that for the most part are not fit to re-enter the wild, possibly due to wounds, illness, etc. Upon entering we immediately found ourselves in an exotic bird enclosure with beautifully coloured parrots and other birds (although we share Leicester as a birth place I am clearly no Attenborough) flying around us. It was wonderful and something Amber absolutely loved. The rest of the zoo was very well put together, with mostly large enclosures and more of a safari feel, particularly in the way it used the natural landscape to create wide open spaces for the animals to roam.
Gramado or Gramano?
Now the bit you’ve skipped straight to or have spent the last 5 minutes grinding through our update to get to.
To demonstrate the slightly surreal Alpine qualities of Gramado below are 3 photos and the challenge is to decide if these photos are from Gramado or not. Answers at the bottom.