I suppose I'm behind on updating my dear blog, but such is life. Time gets away from me.
For this post, I'm returning to the past and back to December 2015, which is when I visited the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
My friend, Thassia, and her family invited me to stay with them in the capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. Brazilians are incredibly warm and have a tendency to welcome strangers in to their homes and treat them as though they are close family. Thassia's family was no different. Her dad woke up early and went to the padaria for fresh bread for cafe da manha, and her mom insisted on feeding us the whole time we were there and gave us lots of hugs. We spent as much time around the table as we did exploring the area. It felt like home.
On my first day, we went to Ouro Preto, which means black gold. It's a former mining town, but it's now mostly supported by the tourist industry. It's not only super cute; it's full of history. We spent the day exploring the churches and eating good food. Perhaps it is a Catholic church tradition (worldwide; not just in Brazil), but one of the most memorable things in the churches for me was that the nativities were missing the baby Jesus! In our home growing up, Jesus was present in the nativity during the whole Christmas season. Unfortunately, we ended our day in the emergency room. During a crazy thunderstorm, Thassia's dad, the hero, went to the car to come back and pick us up from the warmth and dryness of a church. Ouro Preto is full of brick, uneven and slippery roads, and he fell and broke his foot while running to get the car. Poor guy. My best advice for tourists: take it easy on the roads in Ouro, especially when it's raining.
On my second day, we woke up early to take the bus to Inhotim. Inhotim is magical. It's 5,000 acres of art exhibits and botanical garden, the vision of a former mining industry guy who has a last name of Paz, which translates to Peace in English. Paz invited Brazilian and international artists to have as much space as they needed to create their contemporary art exhibits on the land. It's magical. We saw monkeys, laid in hammocks in a room that had Jimi Hendrix music playing, and sat in the middle of a room and listened to a forty-part motet. The lunch we had was one of the best meals I've had in Brazil, and the staff in the park were hip and lovely (instead of carrying their cell phones around, we caught them reading books). If you're really in to art, you'd need more than a day there. I hope to return before I leave Brazil.
Finally, on my last day, we explored a little of Belo Horizonte. We went to the hippie feira and saw some lovely views of the city. Belo is surrounded by mountains, so it's very pretty. The hippie feira was cool, but it seems it's geared mostly to locals vs. tourists due to the overwhelming amount of clothing and shoe vendors (vs. souvenirs).
I would certainly return to Minas Gerais in the future, but I'd want to experience more outside of Belo Horizonte. It's so green and beautiful -- rolling hills, mountains and a nice escape in to nature.