Friday, June 20, 2014

Road trip! - Minas Gerais

A really blank gps screen...where are all the towns? Dunno.

On Thursday morning, on the holiday of Corpus Cristi (please don't ask me what this holiday is about--yes, body of Christ and all that, but what? Don't know), we loaded up the Beast (BH's Volvo SUV) with twin boys age 7, BH's 19 year old and 22 year old kids and me and BH. We took off on an 8-hour odyssey to Ouro Preto, Brazil. Why would we do such a thing? Well, the joy of a road trip, of course (and the avoidance of overpriced World Cup-era airline tickets).

When we entered the lottery for World Cup tickets, we entered it only for cities to which we could drive--Belo Horizonte was the farthest afield at about 8 hours from São Paulo. Our great fortune was winning 8 tickets to the same game (and weirdly we are all seated together in spite of entering in two different groups--max of 4 tickets per group), and winning the tickets to see Messi, one of my sons' favorite players. Never mind Iran which is the other half of that challenge. 

When we won the tickets, I immediately got on the internet to look for hotel rooms. They were all incredibly expensive or even sold out, so I began to think about Ouro Preto, a beautiful colonial town about an hour and a half from the city of Belo Horizonte. And searching further netted us a lovely four-bedroom colonial mansion on one of the stone-paved roads leading away from the main square. Sold.

So my sister and brother in law and parents in law drove over from Piracicaba and we were meeting up with them from São Paulo.  I cannot tell a lie: it is a very long drive. It was about 8 and a half hours, plus the stops for restrooms, food and organic strawberries sold roadside. Surprisingly, the 7 years olds behaved well (god bless Steve Jobs and the ipad) and it was only in the last hour that we all got fairly anxious to get here.

We skipped the part of Rodovia Fernão Dias (the highway that goes direct from São Paulo to Belo) that is closest to São Paulo. It's my least favorite highway ever in that hilly portion--if you want to read an old blog on it, you can see it here. We picked it up from Atibaia, and the first part of our trip was foggy and dripping. Not lovely. 

But soon the sky opened up blue and poofy-clouded and we curved and climbed through the Serra de Mantiqueira, while avoiding the enormous trucks that chugged in the slow lanes. The Atibaia-Betim portion of Fernão Dias is in the running for the most beautiful highway I've been on here in Brazil--giving even Anhanguera close to Ribeirão Preto a run for its money. 

Roadside views

Green hills, huge bamboo clumps by the roadside, colonial houses selling coffee for 20 cents, and all you can eat lunches for US$5, something that you find roughly never in the big city. Everyone was friendly, most of them completely nonplussed by the two kids conversing in English, especially the one with light-blond hair. 

Coffee stop at a colonial house with flowering trees

Pre-sweetened coffee in a glass, hot sauce and a meat pastel. It's what's for breakfast

After taking an extremely ugly ring road around Belo Horizonte, we went back into the hills surrounding the colonial towns of Ouro Preto and Mariana. Absolutely gorgeous. Finally we were in Ouro Preto, the most beautiful of the colonial towns, and braking down the steep stone streets and in front of our rental house. 

More on Ouro Preto tomorrow. No, that's a lie. Tomorrow we head off to Belo Horizonte to watch Argentina take on Iran at 1 pm at the Mineirão stadium. Go Messi (oh, how BH suffers with us cheering for the Argentinians. Or rather, AN Argentinian).

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