losmorris (losmorris) wrote,

A Day in the Mountains - Petropolis & Itaipava

As you may have noticed, all of my Brazil postings have been from the city of Rio de Janeiro – we haven’t yet travelled outside the “Cidade Maravilhosa”. We were constantly travelling while in Peru so what’s up? Well, there are a few answers. First, the city is so darned pretty and there is so much to do here – why leave? Secondly, our car is still awaiting license plates and Rio is a city that actually enforces some of its traffic rules so travelling without tags is risky business. Third, the airfares are much higher here than in Peru so we may do less in the way of air travel in Brazil. And finally, I have just been plain lazy and haven’t arranged any travel yet. I will get with the program soon enough and offer up more country-wide travel info. In the mean time, I did sneak away for a day of sightseeing, shopping and dining with some new friends from the International Club and visited Petropolis and Itaipava.

Petropolis’ claim to fame rests both in history and modern times. The city is known as The Imperial City of Brazil because it was the summer residence of Dom Pedro II, the Portuguese emperor of Brazil who ruled for 58 years in the 19th century. I’m told that summers are beastly in Rio and Dom Pedro II wisely decided to get out of town during the summer and head to the highlands. Being the emperor he had the ability to bring the entire government as well and the foreign embassies and their diplomatic missions followed. Since he apparently didn’t love the heat, the court was often in residence from November until June. The city of Petropolis thus has the Imperial Palace, fabulous churches, neighborhoods with beautiful official ministry and residential buildings and the air of a very classy European capital city.

The modern significance is that Cariocas (Rio residents) regularly follow the good emperor’s example and head for the hills in summer as well. As a result, the city and nearby communities have all the shops, restaurants and other goodies that summer residents might want/need.

In a later post I will fill you in on more of the history – this trip is about shopping. Hey, a girl has to play some times!

The trip up is 45 miles and passes through beautiful lush scenery – heavily forested hills and small villages in the valleys below. Since we were on a mission and fog was popping in and out, those pictures will have to wait for our next trip up. After a drive of about an hour and 15 minutes we arrived in Petropolis which sits at about 2,600’.

First stop was the Casa do Alemão (http://www.casadoalemao.com.br/site/) where Mary, Jackie and I enjoyed a breakfast of German sausages and Brazilian coffee. It’s situated right at the entrance to Petropolis and provides great sustenance to provide strength and energy to tourists and shoppers alike. The exterior is very alpine in appearance and fitting with the name.

The interior is spacious and light and the food (including the sweets and pastries) is very good.

Fully sated and caffeinated, we headed on with a quick tour through the Petropolis neighborhoods. Here is a sampling of the beautiful architecture the city has to offer.

Quick City Tour photos

A former chalet and hotel which today houses residential condominiums – likely for the summer residents.

The Imperial Museum, formerly the Summer Palace:

Horse drawn carriages provide tours of the city and local guides – I’m hoping to lure Richard into this when we return.

A former ministry building and perhaps today a museum:

The Crystal Palace which was made in France and shipped to Brazil. This building served initially as the imperial ballroom and is an exhibition hall today.

Orchid Shopping – As I mentioned, this trip’s purpose included shopping, and very specialized shopping at that. We were looking for orchids and bromeliads and found them in abundance at the Orquidário Binot Limitada in Petropolis. The last time I had an orchid was probably on a prom dress in high school. But here in the Brazilian tropics they grow everywhere and I succumbed to the temptation. This orquidário was most impressive and well worth a visit (Rua Fernandes Vieira 390, Retiro, Petrópolis). Let me share a bit of the beauty.

The facility is enormous with several open air growing houses:

As well as display areas for the beautiful selection of flowers:

The selection is excellent

But really – aren’t the ladies every bit as beautiful?

And finally the kind orchid master who guided us through the facility and helped with our purchases.

Cerâmica Luiz Salvador - So now we were the proud owners of quite a collection of orchids and bromeliads. But the hunt was not over – flowers need pots that are equally as beautiful. Since the 1950’s the Luiz Salvador (http://www.ceramicaluizsalvador.com.br/lojaslocalizacao.htm) ceramic shop and factory in nearby Itaipava have met the needs of local residents, tourists and day shoppers. The selection of serving dishes, full dinner services, pots, accessory pieces and so on is incredible and the quality is terrific. The factory has since moved from this location but the shop is extensive and fun.

Funghi D’Oro - With purchases in hand we were now ready for lunch and was it ever a treat. Mary’s favorite restaurant in the area is Funghi D’Oro, a fabulous mushroom centered restaurant and mushroom farm in the Rocio area of Petropolis. (http://www.funghidoro.com.br/ )

The restaurant sits in a lovely wooded valley with a charming exterior and interior and a very European feel.

Decorations within the restaurant include mushrooms in their natural, pre gourmet dining state.

The food is fabulous and the drinks ample and delicious. The selections all have a mushroom base combined with meat, seafood and pasta. I had the risotto and it was fabulous.

The restaurant was founded and is run by Isabel and Ricardo who have been cultivating various types of mushrooms on the property and decided a few years ago to expand the business and share the taste of their cultivated product. The chef, Lea Lischte, brings years of experience from restaurants including those at the Copacabana Palace and Le Méridien. For the restaurant alone, this is well worth the side trip from Petropolis.

As an added treat, we received a tour of the farm from Ricardo and quite an education in mushroom cultivation. So let me share….

First the growth medium of dirt and saw dust and perhaps another magical mixture is ground and sterilized on site.

Then it is injected with mushroom spores and chilled for a bit.

When they are ready to grow the yummy fungi, they are moved to the growing room where they blossom into tasty mushrooms. The room has hundreds of mushroom breeding pods that look a bit other worldly.

Finally the little fungi are harvested and find their way to a lovely plate in the restaurant. Whether or not you wander into the growing area, the grounds are lovely and the setting is delightfully tranquil and colorful.

Now fully sated we headed for home and found Rio traffic and noises and an energy level different than the highlands. It is always good to be home but this time I had the treat of bringing new friends and great memories. Meet some of my friends (while they are still thriving).

For those of you coming to Rio, this is a side trip well worth taking. We will be heading off on a field trip to look at the historical sites in Petropolis – stay tuned for the history elements of this lovely highlands community.

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