The guys are selling entrance to the tower that overlooks the valley but since we already paid at the gate, we decide to take a look around and continue walking down the path. Why does this short narrative make my blog you ask? Well, there were several people walking down the sidewalk with us and each of them made some comment about how they already paid to enter the park. None of them want to pay again as they complain that this is how things works in Brazil. Always trying to have people pay more, but I think this is how tourism works as there are many places in the United States where you pay to enter only to find a part of the attraction requires more money to participate (Georgia Aquarium, Arnold's Park, Stone Mountain, just to name a few). But, back to my day... soon we come across a observation deck that extends out about twenty feet over a valley. As we get on the platform I quickly realize why we have come
to this particular park. Luiz had mentioned a waterfall he wanted to show me and this is where the waterfall is and it is like no other waterfall I have ever seen. Oh yes, I have been to Niagra Falls, and it is spectacular, but this Cascata do Caracol (Caracol Waterfall) is spectacular in a whole different perspective. The Caracol River comes roaring over the edge and drops at least forty stories (426 feet) onto rocks below. I say an edge as the basalt rocks of the cliff which are behind the waterfall follow the plunging water for about twenty stories and then recede. A huge cavern then takes the rocks place behind the plunging water and the water continues plummeting with nothing but air behind it until it hits the rocks below. Well nothing behind it immediately as there is earth somewhere and trees are growing at the edge in the cavern creating a backdrop. The Caracol Waterfall happens to be the second most visited tourist spot in Brazil and I can see why. (thanks wikipedia)
snowmen on the corners, holly decorated street lanterns, and other "winter" decorations all about the city. Then I realize again, that it is winter here and they could have had snow recently. (how quickly I forgot last night's cold temperatures) This is definitely a tourist draw for this little community. Snow in June? Quite a bit different then what I was expecting and there are signs all around the city waiting for the people and the little white flakes. Thank goodness the weather forecast is for warming temperatures and no snow.
At the end of the main street it is impossible to miss the Catedral Nossa Senhora de Lourdes (Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes) or also known as Catedral de Pedra (Cathedral of Stone). This spectacular structure built of the local basalt rock -- towers into the sky 215 feet (65 meters). Construction in English Gothic style, construction of the church began in 1941 and as far as I can tell was finished in the late 1980s. One fact about the church I found interesting was that the tower houses 12 bronze bells (known as "independence bells") imported from a foundry in Crespi Italy. They took their home in the tower in 1972 and some time after that they stopped working. The bells spent around twenty five years without producing a sound until 2005 when they were repaired and today they chime for all in the surrounding area to hear. (facts thanks to wikipedia and a Brazilian website - I hope my translation was accurate.) The interior of the church has the usual spectacular stain glass windows complimented by some incredible artwork. A grand church and a must see if you are in the area.
Little chocolate shops litter the city of Canela with their fronts screaming for travelers to stop for a photo opportunity. The shops compete for the travelers with a variety of life size chocolate statues. We stop at a cute shop and I quickly fill boxes with chocolate of all kinds for my American friends. The cashier tells us to make sure we head upstairs to see what is up there before retreating to our car. Of course our curiousity is heightened and we head up past
the chocolate waterfall and life size chocolate figures. We come to a room with music playing. After futher investigation, we see two kids ice skating, but this is no regular rink - the kids are skating on chocolate. Yes chocolate. I watch a while and think of putting on a pair of skates myself, but it is a small rink and we have more of Canela to see. (OH - by the way the chocolate I bought in Canela was deliscious)
Salty and sweet, cheese and bread, meat and starch, are soon filling our table ready for a taste. The experience is unlike a buffet as it is all there at your fingertips. The meal is wonderful and I can put this in the books as another pleasurable eating experience in Brazil.
As the afternoon clicks in, it is time to head to our next destination Porto Alegre so we say goodbye to the Rota Romatica region of Brazil. As we drive the first few miles I wonder if I will return someday to see it during the hydragia season (October - December). Miles of roads framed with hydragias in full bloom. It must be spectacular but for now I will have to be satisfied with the post cards we purchased. The drive to Porto Alegre takes a few hours and I have to admit I sleep a bit so it is very quick for me. As we arrive in Porto Alegre it doesn't take long to realize that this is a good size city. We manuever to the downtown area which is bussling with people. At one point we turn down a street that is absolutely full of people and I wonder how we are going to navigate it. The people reluctantly move as we drive no more then one mile an hour and they don't really have another choice. (thank goodness it is only a few blocks) My first impressions of Porto Alegre is that it is full of wonderful architecture, history, military importance, people, and the city must rely on the waterfront for a lot of its character.
Off to find a hotel, we end up stopping at a few hotels before settling on a nice hotel with heat. Since the sun is about to set we quickly unload the car and head back to the waterfront. There is a famous spot to watch the sunset located near the old power plant that has been turned into a tourist center. As we park and cross the street, there is a band playing while a man sings. It takes a while for us to figure out what he is saying as his English is very poor. Junior and I laugh a minute as neither one of us can understand him.Cross Country Travel - Day 4
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