Brazil & All Its Magic

5 years ago, leaving Brazil and coming back to the United States, after meeting some of the most fantastic, beautiful folks I’d ever met, I knew I was going to have to return to do it all over again…and again after that. A week isn’t enough for most places in this wide world. Finally, with a group of amazing Passport Required travelers, I returned.

The beach, the favelas, the beautiful people, the food, the views from the mountains, the waterfalls – even in this insane pandemic – were just as soul-stirring as the first time.

Six of us flew into São Paulo, rented a car, and immediately made our way north to Rio de Janeiro where we’d climb into the hills to get one of the greatest views of the Atlantic Ocean through our window at Vidigal Varandas Hostel (Rua Madre Ana Coimbra, Casa 3, Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro). Clemilda, Andie, and Serge poured us wine, danced with us, taught us enough Portuguese to get by, and allowed us to make their place our home during our stay. I’m forever grateful for folks like them!

Of course we did as many of the Rio de Janeiro things as we could before making the 7 hour drive south to the small island paradise, Ilhabela.

Places To Eat:
La Carioca Cevicheria Ipanema (Rua Garcia d’Avila 173 Loja A, Rio de Janeiro)
Meat Leblon (Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 1174 – Leblon, Rio de Janeiro)

There’s a mango tree still producing fruit in the yard of Alebahli, our island hostel with the backyard campground. I must have eaten 10 in one sitting, pulling string after string from between my teeth. I’d have had 10 more if I didn’t feel so judged by the vacationing Brazilians nearby.

Dear Mosquitoes of Ilhabela, your days are numbered. My ankles have been destroyed, but my soul is smiling because everything else was perfect.

We hopped in a jeep to ride across the rough terrain to the other side of the island so we could take a dip in Praia Castelhanos and hold our heads under waterfalls. I ate whole fish and drank caipirinhas until I was almost too ashamed to remove my shirt. I played in the rain and loved every second of it.

Then I ate more. And more.

Ilhabela’s waters were blue, the greens were vivid as fu**, and the seafood was fresh. The bananas tasted like they were raised by both parents and grew up with dope siblings, and the beautiful people loved our presence. Making it a stop on the Brazilian road trip was a no-brainer.

Places To Eat:
Pimenta de Cheiro Restaurante Ilhabela (Av. São João, 86 – Perequê, Ilhabela)

Tears filled our eyes when it was time to hop back on that ferry to the mainland for the 3.5 hour drive back to São Paulo.

But please don’t mistake me – São Paulo is beautiful and if there is any place – in my opinion – worthy of following Ilhabela, it’s here. Hustle’s younger sister, Bustle lives here. The buildings stretch for clouds and stars and capybaras walk along the sewage for the world to see. The parks welcome our soles, the graffitied walls long for our eyes, and rooftops become theaters. It was Johannesburg and New York and London and Berlin all over again and I was grateful. Our rooftop pool at our 911 Sky Centro apartment didn’t upset us one bit. Well, the water was cold, but the sun was high.

One of my favorite humans and nomadic spirits, Jenn K. and her bump-on-front met me for lunch and laughs and talks about existing as us. Familiar faces in new places add days to my life. Thanks for the glow, JK! The art in Vila Madalena was amazing, but you were the best part of the day!

Places To Eat:
Padoca do Mani (R. Joaquim Antunes, 212 – Jardim Paulistano, São Paulo)

And I boarded my flight back to NYC with moqueca and coconut water sloshing around in my stomach, James Vincent McMorrow in my ear lamenting about his first love, and wet eyes. I pulled my journal from my backpack and wrote letters to past loves and birds and friends who have enough time to exchange their Quintanaroo and Tulum tickets for someplace maintaining its magic – like Brazil.

Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.