Friday, February 8, 2008

Carnaval: Day 3, Part 1

It had quit raining Monday morning when Eric and I got up, so we decided to do a little sight-seeing around São João Del Rei for the morning. The other two couples wanted to sleep in and relax, so we ventured out on our own for the day.
We walked around the city and looked at all the old churched in town (most were built in the late 1700's) and did a little shopping. I know we post a lot of church pictures, but they really are the defining feature of these old colonial towns and we find them beautiful.

This first one cracked me up. Not because of the church, but because of the people. All the people sitting and standing around the church were enjoying some 9:30 am cerveja (beer!)

This next one was our favorite, but I think it was mostly because of the landscape around it-just gorgeous!

What's another day in the life of my blog without a transportation picture, right? This truck was smaller than any I've ever seen in the USA. Smaller than a Ford Ranger, those little old Isuzus...seriously, it was tiny (and hauling 2 Port-A-Potties...uphill!)

About 11:30 we had pretty much seen all that São João Del Rei had to offer, so we hopped in the car and drove about 15 minutes over to a neighboring town, Coronel Xavier Chaves. We had read about an old cachaça (sugar cane liquor) factory that was still operating and read that they offered tours. We thought it would be interesting, so we set out to find it.
Lunch was our first stop and we ate at the only restaurant we found in the little town. It was an adorable tiny Ma and Pop place that was attached to the couple's home. It had a lot of character and the couple's kids and grandkids walked through a couple times. (Another family with a small child came in to eat after us and the husband ran into the house and brought back a highchair-that his grandkids use, no doubt-to the table for them.) It seemed so personal; it felt like I could have been eating at my Grandma's house (if my Grandma were Brasilian that is!) After coming out and asking us what kind of meat we wanted, the grandma went back into the kitchen to cook our meal. The grandpa brought it out to us. It was a great experience. The food was served family style and we ate on pink floral antique-looking china. And oh, man was it good stuff! We ate enough for four I think(and still had tons left over! A lot like my Grandma's come to think of it...)
After lunch we set out to find our cachaça factory. The guy at the restaurant told us where it was, but on our first drive by, we didn't think it was the place we were looking for, so we set out driving around the back country roads for a little "Sunday" drive (on Monday.) We saw tons of little farms. It was a really pretty dirt road drive!
This first picture looks back into the little town (off in the distance).
Every so often we would pass over a cattle gate in the road. At first it seemed strange, but then as we saw tons of cows and horses walking in the road grazing the ditches, all made sense!

After a while, we decided that the place we passed must have been the factory, so we drove back there. By the sign, maybe you understand why it wasn't quite the 'factory' we were expecting!This is the shed where they husk the sugar cane (by hand, no less!)

And here's a little shot of the inside where they make the stuff. Hmmmm...makes me glad that it is alcohol. (That kills germs, right?) It was a cute place and the only person working when we got there told us that not much of anything has changed in the last 250 years that they've been making cachaça there. He said they make between 35,000 and 75,000 bottles per year here, depending on their sugar cane harvest (they grow their own). They weren't cooking any last week, as they were waiting on more sugar cane to mature in the fields.
Below is the "tasting room" we read about. We enjoyed a little taste and then bought a bottle of 2007 cachaça for R$12 (or US$7). They had some as old as 1985 for R$200! A little rich for our blood, especially because we really wouldn't know the difference between the good aged stuff and the newly bottled.
This is a shot from the outside, it was a pretty place.

We have some great pictures from that night, but it is going to have to wait for the next entry. Since our dining rooms chairs were delivered yesterday and we are a little more set up for entertaining, we are having company over for supper tonight and I need to get a few things started. Hopefully I'll make it back online this afternoon to post Part 2!

No comments: