jaunt chats: trancoso, brazil

my friend, derek, recently traveled to trancoso, brazil for his honeymoon with his lovely wife, brandace.  i hadn’t heard much about trancoso, but vaguely knew of bahia.  his photos floored me and i begged him to write about his trip for jaunt.  thankfully, he agreed, and it’s safe to say that most of you will add trancoso to your travel list before you finish reading.  enjoy!


making your honeymoon your own…for better or for worse

when you became engaged, you are not only committing to a lifelong marriage but also to months of stressful wedding planning.  perhaps that is why the honeymoon has become the quintessence of unwinding.  luckily for me, my future wife and mother-in-law assumed most of the tasks of sorting through flower arrangements and table linens, thus leaving me with my favorite hobby: travel planning.

for me, thoughtfully arranging a vacation with my new bride was just as important as arranging our wedding itinerary. i began exploring options by visiting popular travel websites, “top 10 honeymoon destinations” slideshows, and other married friends’ facebook albums.  every location promised secluded romance, tropical beverages, and beautiful seascapes to take the obligatory “feet on beach” instagram.


i settled on a spot that would deliver all of those requisites and much more; however, you would not find trancoso on any “top 10 honeymoon” list.  in the remote discovery coast of bahia, brazil, sits a half-century old fisherman’s town that only received electricity 15 years before our arrival. the inherent risks to choosing a place like trancoso for a honeymoon included all of the possible nightmares of foreign travel: 18 hours of planes, airports, dodgy roads, poor plumbing, and a language barrier. but doing a little homework would ease those fears and trancoso would prove to have come a long way over the last decade.

brazil – my own

my mother is brazilian and i have always considered myself half brazilian; that is, until i was forced to deny my dual citizenship in order to obtain a tourist visa, otherwise face the long battle of renewing a brazilian passport used only once as a toddler.  nevertheless, i was determined to explore a slice of my heritage and share the experience with my wife.  also weighing on the decision was the upcoming world cup, which would be hosted by brazil in the days following our departure.  for the locals, the anticipation of the world cup provided an air of excitement that outweighed the woes of preparation.

trancoso-brazil-resortthe eventual winners of the world cup would not miss the enchantment of the discovery coast, either.  in brilliant tactic, the german national team set up “camp” just north of trancoso so they could adapt to brazil’s weather conditions and train in relative privacy.  their accommodations seemed to fit the building code of coastal bahian living: natural wood framed, open-air bungalows equipped with modern luxuries.  no one who sees pictures of bahia’s beach-lined villas would say that these people are roughing it.  quite the opposite, the wealthy and fortunate vacationers have discovered a style of living that could only be achieved in coastal bahia.

trancoso – paradise discovered

the road to trancoso was not originally paved in gold.  in fact, the roads arriving to trancoso are still not paved at all.  the town and its locals seem to cherish some of its oldworld feels in spite of the recent renovations.  when the mode of transportation is not by foot, locals find a dirt bike or the rare pickup truck sufficient for traversing the 3-mile wide city.  for tourists, trancoso is mostly confined to your private villa resort and the town square called quadrado.  what you will not find confining in trancoso are the endless beaches. except for the few beachfront pousadas (private inns) and restaurants, you could easily stroll the main 1-mile stretch of beach without passing another person.


trancoso has become a popular vacation destination for wealthy brazilians and urban youth looking to party.  during carnival and other summer holidays, trancoso will transform from a quiet hideaway to a 24 hour sun-drenched nightclub, a “paradox and dream” amongst urban brazilians and free-spirit bahians who have witnessed the intermingling of their complex and simple worlds.  more often, the locals are required to adapt to the draw of their own private paradise.

our honeymoon happened to land during the “off-season” (based on brazilian standards) when most beach-going brazilians choose not to put up with chilly 75 degree days and the occasional rainstorm.  for that reason, we were able to experience trancoso during its quiet season. we felt as though we had the beach and villa resort to ourselves.  and with all that space to yourself, you find it natural to want interaction with whoever crosses your path.  often that interaction was only with local staff or bartenders, and despite the language barrier (we created our own portuguese-spanish hybrid dialect), the conversation was always pleasant.


when planning the trip, i understood the key to a tranquil honeymoon was to keep the itinerary open and flexible.  we knew of a handful of activities offered by local groups but resisted scheduling anything more than a day ahead.  when the weather forecast called for rain the next day, we booked a canopy-covered, outdoor couples massage.  when we were bored of the beach, we booked a quick round of golf.  when we got tired of the same scenery and routine, we hired a car service to take us to another unique beach.

by the end of the trip, our minds and bodies were in perfect harmony with the trancoso way of life.


for better or for worse

making a vacation experience your own forces you to takea leap of faith.  the risks of traveling a less beaten path often means you will make new discoveries.  some good and some bad, but it’s usually the obstacles we overcome while traveling that give us the longest lasting memories.

after about two days of unwinding it had become clear that the memories my wife and i were making were always going to be our own.  a blank itinerary with only a room reservation and a return flight home gave us the freedom to face new challenges together.


the “top 10 honeymoon destinations” lists will probably never bear the name trancoso.  truthfully, we (and the locals) do not care if it ever does.  it’s difficult to say whether our stories and pictures will ever inspire others to book a trip to trancoso.  but we hope that more couples make travel a mode for self-realization rather than just fulfilling a predetermined checklist.

after all, your honeymoon will always and only be your honeymoon. and much like your marriage, you have committed to a lifetime of building your own memories for better or for worse.  you have the opportunity to write the first review.

my jaunts: buenos aires, argentina

9 de julio avenue - the largest street in buenos aires

9 de julio avenue – the largest street in buenos aires

my best friend and i try to travel internationally every other year (money well spent!), and our very first trip was to chile and argentina in 2008.  buenos aires was an obvious stop, and it captured my heart.  such grandeur – the architecture, the food, the tango…it was not at all what i had been expecting (i lived in venezuela for year and naively thought all of south america – yes, an entire continent – was similar).  i returned to buenos aires last year for work, and the city’s hold over me was confirmed: this place is the real deal.

a few of my must-sees (and my hope-to-again-sees):

  • shop/dine/drink in palermo – kim and i stayed in palermo at the lovely otra orilla bed and breakfast (i do hope it is still around).  the area is a bustling, leafy, cobble-stoned district with narrow streets lined with shops, restaurants, bars, etc.  bar 6 and olsen were two of my favorite bars, though there are many to choose from.  and definitely try a parilla, a brazilian steakhouse.  the steak is fantastic (argentines claim the best in the world, but argentines claim a lot of things :)), and is delicious with a bottle of malbec.  just don’t go too early – not much is open before 9pm (difficult if you’re there for work!).
vodka and bites from olsen in palermo

vodka and bites from olsen in palermo

  • trolley ride – i have this crazy thing for trollies (if you’re ever in dallas, you really must take the mckinney avenue trolley through uptown to the arts district), and buenos aires did not disappoint. we took the a-line and i was transported back into a much more glamorous age.
  • recoleta cemetery – words cannot adequately describe this place, though ‘magical’ may be a start.  rows of crypts, mausoleums, crosses, stone paths, giant  memorials to those of the past, locked to visitors, but with glass doors that afford a glimpse inside to the stained glass windows, alters, crucifixes, marble stairs leading downward into a subterranean shelter – some hold photographs, some are covered in cobwebs with floors of dirt and leaves, others are new, shiny, marble, carfully polished, well-kept.  the area is four blocks and one could get lost in the narrow paths.  eva perron is buried here, within the duarte family mausoleum, and followers place flowers within the door in remembrance.
strolling through the recoleta

strolling through the recoleta

  • dirty war protestthe dirty war occurred in the 70s and 80s, and the government is still silent on the killings of many of its people, most of whom were left-wing activists, journalists, students, and geurillas.  mothers of people killed in the dirty war still march through the plaza de mayo every thursday demanding information and closure.  the madres have had a bit of scandal in the past several years, so march with them at your own risk, but it’s worth a visit to see them march, hear their stories, and learn a part of history that isn’t in all of the textbooks.
the protest march path of the mothers of plaza de mayo

the protest march path of the mothers of plaza de mayo

  • san telmo market – read more from my “favorite markets” post here.
  • malba – the latin american art museum of buenos aires is incredible.  i adore latin american art, especially that of frida kahlo, diego rivera, and fernando botero.  i  found at the malba new artists i enjoyed like leon ferrari, carlos federico saez, and maria teresa ponce.  i sat for awhile at the museum, listening to music from the 1920s, and then walked the streets surrounding the museum that are lined with lush parks and embassies.
the malba museum in buenos aires

the malba museum in buenos aires

who should go: culture junkies, those who wish they were around in the 1920s and 1940s

what to pack:  nice clothing – argentines are sophisticated and fashionable.  leave the beach gear at home and instead bring some chic walking shoes

what to watch: nine queens (nueve reinas)


the main path at recoleta cemetery in buenos aires

the main path at recoleta cemetery in buenos aires

my jaunts: valparaiso, chile

quote from f.g. lorca as seen on the streets of valpo

quote from f.g. lorca as seen on the streets of valpo

a few years ago, my best friend and i traveled to chile and argentina over the thanksgiving holiday. we visited valparaiso, chile, which instantly stole my heart. an unesco world heritage site, valpo (as it’s referred to by the locals) is a study in color, frivolity, and joy. read below a snippet from my travel journal from my day trip to valpo:

“valpo was simply perfect – reminded me of a clean puerto la cruz or a large murano – colored houses in bright hues, steep hills with slopes only ascended by funicular, unique boutiques, friendly residents, and everywhere a gorgeous view of the sea.

brightly hued buildings of valpo

brightly hued buildings of valpo

we visited pablo neruda’s house (one of three), la sebastiana – loved – very narrow passageways, staircases, nooks, sweeping views of the ocean, four floors, different bright colors on each wall, pictures/art everywhere, etc. the bar was fabulous – so perfect with its eclectic mix of plates, glasses, and more. stained glass doors,too. how content he must have been with his quirky designs and unbelievable view.

view from la sebastiana of the sea

view from la sebastiana of the sea

we strolled through valpo with the pretty views and bright colors, and ate lunch at el gato tuerto – what a giant view of the pacific – where i ordered gazpacho with scallops (yum). we strolled through the open air museum with murals (very into murals these days, it seems), and down a funicular – what fun! we hailed a random bus, which happened to be going to viña del mar – held on for our dear lives as we sped through valpo taking turns at an ungodly speed!



we meandered through viña del mar – very much like spain – and ended up at the beach, where we sipped coffee at the sheraton on a giant patio overlooking the water – very nice. we took the subway back to the bus stop, where a quite nice lady and her daughter directed us to the station. caught the 830 bus and had to run to catch the last metro to santiago – barely made it. :) we’ve ordered pizza and off to bed.”

who should go: writers, the young at heart
what to watch: il postino, based on the life of pablo neruda while exiled in sicily
what to bring: your camera, comfortable shoes

the beach at viña del mar

the beach at viña del mar

valpo, as seen from a funicular

valpo, as seen from a funicular

looking up the funicular path

looking up the funicular path



my favorite: bed & breakfasts

the inn at cooperstown

the inn at cooperstown in cooperstown, new york

i’d like to start a section titled “my favorites” and use it to explore my favorite things from around the world. this week: the b&b. i used to be a bit leery of bed and breakfasts. sometimes the floors creak, you can hear your neighbors, and you may be forced to talk to someone over morning coffee (not good for me). after having a few really wonderful experiences, though, i’ve done a 180 on the b&b and like to seek out the great ones. here are a few i’ve stayed at recently that were truly exceptional:

  • cass house inn, cayucos, california – this was our first stop on my husband’s and my first anniversary trip last summer. cayucos is a sleepy beach town on the central coast, and cass house is just across the street from the pier. a young couple own the inn, which is housed in the former victorian abode of the cass family (photographs of the family line the walls). the staff are amazing, and the personal touches are great (a glass of wine and a blanket to enjoy the chilly night in their gardens greeted us upon arrival). but if you do find yourself in cayucos, you must eat dinner at the cass house restaurant. the husband is the head chef, and the ever changing prix -fixe menu with wine pairings and ingredients from the garden out back is not to be missed.
  • la otra orilla, buenos aires, argentina – my best friend, kim, found this b&b in the heart of the palermo district of BA. close to shopping, restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife, we couldn’t have asked for more. the lush gardens and european decor provided for many great photo opportunities, and the breakfast in the morning was delicious and filing (not the case in all b&bs). we weren’t even disappointed when we were rained in one afternoon.
  • the inn at cooperstown, cooperstown, new york – my husband and i stayed here during our trip to see the baseball hall of fame. this b&b is walking distance from the hall of fame, as well as the cute downtown area (i recommend alex and ika restaurant – so good!). a long porch stretches across the front of this colonial house, and it was sitting in one of the many rocking chairs, sipping ice tea while enjoying the warm night, that i somehow met babe ruth’s granddaughter. in town to speak at the hall of fame, she and her husband were staying at the inn, and happily chatting with the other guests. delightful!

i’m interested in hearing your thoughts – do you have a favorite b&b you would recommend?