I wear skirts. And heels. Often together. And I love the city I call home. But it only took 6 hours, in a small one-horse (actually there were perhaps 3 horses) town in Brazil, to reconfirm what I know but from time to time question – cities aren’t for me.
With Cape Town as an exception, cities are too busy, too many people crowding my personal space. Too many cars, too many options – just too much.
We arrived in Parati (or Paraty, depends what guide book you’re reading) after a 4 hour costa verde bus (and Star Trek movie) trip from Rio. The Paraty bus station – a sandy, dusty, crowded area of pushing and shoving. This, is the new town. After dragging our suitcases (I’m still undecided whether a backpack trumps the wheelie suitcase) to our beautiful serene guesthouse in the suburban part of town and taking a casual stroll down the canal towards the picture perfect old town, I noticed my walk slowing down, my tension subsiding and I breathed that deep holiday breath. The one where you start to let work and stress and all that has been bothering you in your home country slip away. Where you really start to enjoy.
I don’t do that in cities. I don’t breathe. I don’t relax. My fists are clenched (mostly out of fear that my engagement ring will fall off, or be forcefully taken from me). But here, in the cobble stone streets of a forgotten Portuguese village I slipped into holiday mode and began unwinding.
If I could, I’d do everything boutique. Give me a boutique resort or hotel any day over those large chain type hotels. I feel the same about towns. The personality of a small quaint town makes the memory of visiting it remarkable. Paraty, like the others in my favourites list – was no exception. Colourful doors and (really actually after a while quite exhausting to walk over) cobble stones make Paraty picture perfect and everything that the internet says it will be. And also expensive. For a town that Brazil supposedly forgot, they certainly didn’t forget how to inflate their prices. I guess so much beauty and uniqueness comes with the tourist trap price, but I’m not reviewing paraty, I’ll do that another time.
The feeling you get however from a town where after walking around for an hour you have the layout committed to memory and you know where everything is, where you can stop and photograph street corners or old signs or the old man who is simply sitting in his window watching the world go by (the Brazilians do this a lot we’ve gathered) – this feeling is something that surpasses the bright lights, cabs, efficiencies (or inefficiencies), the metro system, the shopping and even the buzz of a city.
Give me a one horse (or three horse) town any day.