Brazil - Gramado and Canela
Famous within Brazil as one of the few locations in the country that occasionally gets snow in winter is the town of Gramado in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul (RS). The state is famed for its “gauchos” – cowboys whose range extends from Argentina through Uruguay to RS. Visitors, passing through the stone and wood portal at the entrance to Gramado, would be forgiven for thinking they had somehow been teleported from Brazil to Bavaria. The town of Gramado has a population of 35,000, many descended from German or Italian immigrants, but has year-round tourism that boosts its numbers significantly.
Our pousada, on the outskirts of Canela, seemed to be hidden on a quiet lane amongtall trees. After the check-in process, which was concluded quickly, we ordered food from a takeaway restaurant since the pousada’s restaurant was used only for breakfast. We ordered pancakes: a “Gaucho” which was filled with chopped beef and a “Rio” whose filling was shredded chicken. Really nice and just what we needed after a day of travelling without a decent meal. After eating we showered and slept.
The pousada comprised a main bungalow with reception, kitchen and dining area, and a collection of five chalets – each of which had two accommodations. Our room being half a chalet, had a double bed and a single bed that had another mattress underneath thus allowing 4 people to sleep quite comfortably. The room had an en suite bathroom with shower. It also had a “lareira” – a black metal wood-burning fire in the corner of the room, next to which was a stack of wood ready to burn if we felt moved to use it which we did on the last night.
All of the chalets were set in a flower filled garden of azaleas, magnolias, snapdragons, alyssum, and local plants. Towering above the property were the spreading arms of araucaria pines – a protected species that exists in the south of Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina – and a couple of other species of pine tree. The pousadawas located in Canela’s neighbourhood of Vila Suzana, a quiet residential area where the calls of parrots, wrens and tanagers providethe most noise during the day, while cicadas broke the night silence.
The towns of Gramado and Canela are walking distance apart, though not many people would walk even if undertaking a door to door visit to the chocolate, clothes or leather shops that sit between the two towns. Total distance is about 7 kms.
Gramado is the richer of the two. It is filled Bavarian-style buildings containing high end clothes stores, shoe shops, chocolate shops and restaurants that serve traditional brazilian barbecued meats, fondues, soups, pizzas or pasta.
The roads are well made, traffic well conducted and polite to pedestrians. Parking is possible on the roads, subject to purchase of time-based tickets, at a rate of about Rs5 (£1.20) per three hours. It may take a few minutes to find a parking place but all are close to the shops and restaurants.
Places to go include the chocolate outlets, Lago Negro, Igreja Matriz de Sao Pedro with its statues of the 12 apostles, and Rua Coberta, a road covered by a canopy topped with vines. The latter featured an exposition and sale of orchids in addition to the restaurants and bars it has under the cover.
A word about the chocolate factories and outlets: there are numerous shops that sell their own chocolates. Most have quite a range of chocolate bars, truffles and liqueurs. Several are contracted by Nestle and/ or local mass market vendors though their names are not visible other than in supermarkets. The base chocolate recipe varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but the products are similar. One, Florybal, also has a theme park outside Canela.
The town of Canela is more residential than Gramado, but it has its own charm and several tourist locations such as the Catedral de Pedra (StoneCathedral). A number of attractions are located outside the centre of the town – all just a few kilometers distant. One of these is a park with a waterfall, quite pretty but not, in my opinion, spectacular. Well worth a visit though – the park contains grassy areas between tall Araucaria pine trees and a path that overlooks the waterfall. More about both Gramado and Canela in future posts.