Travel flashback: Ponta Negra, Brazil

When you say a holiday in Brazil, people automatically think of Rio de Janeiro. When I went to Brazil, we went to the state of Rio Grande do Notre which is in the Northeast of the country, about 3.5 hours from the capital. We were on the coast and because we were there in the height of the Brazilian summer, only 6°C below the equator, it was blistering hot. Over 40°C each day, it feels even hotter being that close to the equator, let me tell you! Having come from -5°C and snow in Scotland, it was a stark difference.

We flew direct from Gatwick to Natal, Portuguese for Christmas, and took the Via Costeria (Coastal Highway) to Ponta Negra where we stayed bed and breakfast at the Visual Praia. It's a cute little 4* hotel that overlooks the beach and if you walk from there towards "Bald Man's Hill" you get to a stretch of restaurants and shops. For restaurants in-land, hotels are happy to arrange with the restaurant to send over a (free) car to pick you up and drop you off again.

One thing we were told - which we naturally ignored - was not to travel on public transport with the locals. But, after getting a taxi that had its door hanging off, no seat belts and swerving into the other side of the road, we were happy to take our chances. We only used the bus to visit some shopping malls in Natal, which were good for cheap clothes, but for the usual holiday knick-knacks the shops at Ponta Negra beach were more than fine.

The seafood from Ponta Negra beach is absolutely incredible. We ate so many tasty freshly caught fish dishes whilst we were out there and it was all so ridiculously cheap. Botero, our favourite, has some of his paintings actually hung on the walls and we ate like pigs on the last night to try and get rid of our money but still had plenty of R$ left over. It was very cheap when we were there.

Brazil is also famous for their Rodízio restaurant service, but since Campbell was veggie at the time I never got to experience this. Abede's, the most expensive restaurant on the strip, was OK but nothing special. It did provide entertainment though watching the local prostitutes trying to look interested in the sleazy Italian men who had hired them for the night... OK, so the one bad thing about the area is that it's rife with this kind of activity but the locals were friendly towards us and we were never made to feel uncomfortable, despite the world's oldest profession been on our doorstep. There are also some bars, restaurants and nightclubs a few streets from the beach which were livelier and open later than those on the beachfront.

For a two weeks holiday in which we only had our breakfast taken care of, we spent just under £200 each and that covered some pretty full-on meals (and drinks), lots of shopping purchases and excursions. I'll talk more about the excursions another time, but one purchase that I made - OK, I came home with four pairs - was Havaianas. I have bought these flip flops ever since Brazil. My love of caipirinha is another takeaway from that holiday.

With scorching weather and cheap, delicious food, it was a great getaway, but it's an interesting culture. Football and surf-obsessed, with Brazil you do sometimes wonder if they are trying to be European, American or just plain Brazilian. The culture comes across as a little confused at times as Brazilians draw influences from here, there and everywhere but, despite this, Brazil is still definitely one of my favourite holidays. x

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