D was a brave man bringing me to Ouro Preto on Valentine's Day. The town, named ¨Black Gold¨ in Portugese, was the centre of gold mining in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was so much wealth here that the catholic landowners and their African slaves were able to build 22 churches in the small hillside town. Now, of course, the town thrives off another type of mining - tourism, delving deep into the pockets of those poor hard working men dragged by their ears into one of the millions of jewellery shops that line the impossibly steep streets. Fortunately for D, being on a budget and not wanting to carry any valubles means that he was excused from any grand gestures and I settled for half a pizza and a bottle of Skol instead!
I know that it is becoming a bit of a habit for us to compare the places we have visited with towns from back home but I have to mention that Ouro Preto is the identical twin of Ludlow in Shropshire - minus a few Michelin star restaurants and old English pubs of course. Brazilian restaurants are not hugely vegetarian friendly. In the churrascarias (all you can eat meat restaurants) waiters bring huge animal limbs directly to your table and slice bits off, blood dripping, onto your plate. Another type of restaurant is called ¨kilo¨ where you choose food, mainly meat based, from a self service buffet and pay according to the weight of your plate. Suffice to say that D was in heaven and I was hungry. It didn't help that we were now in a country where we couldn't really translate the menus.
Fed up with watching D's eyes light up at the plate in front of him, I decided that I'd had enough of this fussy vegetarian malarky, I was going to eat some meat. Not wanting to let the opportunity to corrupt me pass him by, D ordered something randomly from the menu which turned out to be little bits of deep fried chicken. I gingerly tore off a piece the size of an ant and put it into my mouth, however, the second the meat touched my tongue, my stomach practically turned inside-out and the chicken regained its freedom. It tasted digusting and I can't believe that some people actually consider KFC to be a treat! D is still quietly confident he'll turn me into a carnivore by the time we get home but I'm not sure that this lady is for turning.
Ouro Preto boasts that it holds the most traditional small town carnival in Brazil. The streets are decorated with bunting made from coloured rags and there are stages and sound systems set up on every street corner. Although the official opening of the carnival was not until late on Friday night (when we would be on our way to Rio) there was a pre-carnival street parade in which one of the local samba bands was performing. At nearly 11pm the narrow lanes were jam packed with supporters wearing the team colours of red and white, waiting for the musicians and dancers to make their way up the hill. We briefly joined in with the dancing, excited to be getting a whiff of what the carnival atmosphere in Rio would be like. Later, from our room, we could hear the evening's revelleries going on until about 5am - and that was before Carnival had offically opened! I suspected I would need to take a thermos of very strong black coffee with me into the Sambadrome if I was going to last the distance.