a Janela de Marcia Bed and Breakfast

Bed and Breakfast Canto da Lagoa – Florianopolis – SC – Brazil

Archive for March 2010

Love at first sight!

I discovered the beautiful neighborhood of Lagoa da Conceiçao on the island of Florianópolis, where Janela de Marcia is located, in 2003. I’d been living in the United States for many years by then—New York, Austin. Then one day I realized I was missing Brazil, my native country. I felt concerned that my children, who were born in the United States, would never learn to speak Portuguese like native Brazilians. I realized that unless I took decisive steps to remedy the situation my children wouldn’t even know the culture and ways of their ancestors.

So I decided to act. I resolved to spend an year in Brazil and reconnect with my native country after twenty-two years in the USA. I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, but I knew that Rio was too urban and violent for me to move there with my children after the mellow life we had in Austin . So looking around at all the beautiful cities in Brazil, I chose the island of Florianopolis, the capital of the southern state of Santa Catarina. It seemed like a perfect place for us. Forty two wild beaches, a big city with the feeling of small town, great climate and several Waldorf Schools*, just perfect considering that all three of my children attended Waldorf schools back in the US. My children would be able to continue their schooling without having to adapt to a new pedagogical system.

Before I made the big move I decided to spend a week in Florianópolis looking around, getting to know the island, and hunting for a furnished house that would serve as a base for my new life in Brazil. But it was difficult to decide where in Florianópolis to stay.

Each part of the island is so different. The island is divided into four main regions. The north of the island is more developed with bigger buildings and, in the summer, crowds of South American tourists. It is an area with lots of hotels, a huge resort, and crowded beaches with warmer water and smaller waves

In the south of the island, by contrast, you find genuine Azorian houses and typical fishing villages. The south is still very wild and authentic with great restaurants on the ocean and amazing oyster farms.

The center of the island is where you´ll find the public market, built at the end of eighteenth century. The Centro, as it´s called in Portuguese, is the focus of commerce and business and is always busy and bustling.

What I wanted was something mellow and funky, close to nature, but lively with lots of people around and things to do. Then one day, while driving toward the south of the island, I passed through the neighborhood of Lagoa de Conceiçao which is located in the eastern part of the island. It was love at first site. Here was exactly the neighborhood I had been looking for—wedged between two gorgeous lagoons, and beneath the lush mountain called Morro da Lagoa, the neighborhood dazzled me with its luxuriant nature. Beyond the lagoons rose the hills of Praia Mole and beyond them a smooth, blue sea dotted with islands scattering out toward the horizon. In the years since then I have not tired of this beautiful scene and every time I see it I feel my heart fill up with happiness. I think of the lines from that famous Bossa Nova song—“the joy in your heart.”

Lagoa, I was happy to learn later after I’d move there, is far more than just a neighborhood surrounded with natural beauty. It also has shops, restaurants, and a happening night life. In addition, Lagoa is the sort of “Brazil” I really wanted my kids to grow up in–a Brazil where people of all backgrounds and income levels mix freely and happily. This was not some guarded enclave of the rich. Nor was it a poor fishing village. Instead, it is the urban center around which the south of the island gravitates and so it is the meeting place of all social strata. If you visit the little marina in the center of Lagoa you will find not only the fishing boats used by traditional fishermen, but also speedboats and cabin cruisers.

Just outside of Lagoa is a small bridge and then Rendeiras Ave with its many bars, restaurants, and even– hidden in the dunes– a rugby pitch used by the local rugby teams. (The Florianopolis ladies seven team includes many of the Brazil national seven a side women’s team that competed in the last World Cup.) At the top of Rendeiras you can rent all sorts of boats and kayaks and peddle vessels to row out into the lake. In the summer time this is a great place to swim, have fun, and then enjoy delicious grilled fish or shrimp in the restaurants just across the road.

In Lagoa one can also catch a boat – a water taxi that serves the coast around Lagoa. This is one of the most scenic areas of Florianópolis and can only be reached by foot or by boat. This wild coast is dotted with little hamlets where life has remained much as it was before Florianópolis became an international tourist destination. You can stop at any of the landings, have lunch, swim, and then return to your hotel by nightfall.

So, to make a long story short, love at first sight turned into a long and enduring romance. There is no place I would rather live in Florianópolis than Lagoa and so that’s why I decided to open Janela de Marcia there. What is best about the B&B is that while it’s just a short walk from all the town’s attractions, it is still in a quiet residential neighborhood and so you have the feeling of actually living in this beautiful town, rather than just being a visitor. Added to that it the special hospitality that we offer here at Janela de Marcia. Taken all together, you will have the sort of experience I want for all visitors to this country—to feel the warmth, joy, and fun of life in Brazil.

* Waldorf education is a pedagogy based upon the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner

The Beginning of Janela de Marcia

Raindrops are tapping the window panes of Janela de Marcia today. Carnaval is over now. The tourist season is entering its last lap. The tourists have mostly gone home, taking the summer heat with them. Life is returning to normal. I feel the need to look back at the long path that led me to this moment, to retrace the steps that led me to starting Janela de Marcia, and see how my grand plans have played out in reality. The spark of inspiration that eventually led to my creation of the Janela de Marcia actually took place thousands of kilometers away in the French Alps in July of 2008.

I was at a crossroads in my life, at the beginning of a new era for me. I had to find a new way of life.

I was staying at the villa of a friend in a small French town. It was a beautiful house with so many bedrooms. The idea came to me suddenly: wouldn’t it be interesting to own a bed and breakfast, to meet all the interesting people that would come to stay with me, to hear their stories, to get to know them, even if only for a while? I have always loved entertaining, showing hospitality, opening my home to others. Then it emerged again the next year, 2009.

I had been invited to a Meeting of Elders on the Hopi-Navaho Reservation in Arizona. I was honored to be invited and also proud to be acknowledged for my heritage of the Arara people of Acre in the western Amazon. It was a closed gathering and the elders spoke about the need to connect the older generation to the younger generation. They also spoke about the growing divide between the head and the heart. It was a subject I’d been thinking about for a long time.

I had always tried to bring people from Brazil to the United States—so that “people of the heart” (Brazilians) could meet “people of the mind” (Americans). I had been thinking of returning to my native Brazil for some time and then it struck me, perhaps I could bring people from the United States to visit Brazil, so that they could experience the warmth and generosity, the spontaneity and liveliness of Brazilians. The idea of the bed and breakfast shone in my mind once again. What if I could offer people a chance to know the real Brazil, the Brazil of samba and Carnaval, the Brazil of joy and bliss?

The idea lingered and quietly grew inside me. I wanted my children to know Brazil, to know Latin culture, to know a world beyond America. Together with my dear friend we sent our children to an overseas programs in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and they returned with a much broader understanding of life lived in other countries and the experiences of people whose lives are completely different.  I resolved to return to Brazil. I packed up my home in Austin, Texas and was gone within a couple of months. That’s just how I am. I love to travel. I’ve seen so much of the world and feel at home everywhere. So where easier to move than back to my own country?

In Brazil, in Florianópolis , I could breathe again. The air was full of the scent of trees and forest, the soil, the earth, the ocean. Everything was beautiful and everything was alive. I was thrilled to be home again, playing maracatu with my group in Lagoa, dancing and having fun in the way that only Brazilians know how. I wished that my American friends in Austin and New York could know this joy. The idea of the bed and breakfast resurfaced once again and I knew it was time to make this vague fantasy into a practical reality.

I quickly found the right place to launch Janela de Marcia. Soon people began to appear and accept the hospitality that I was offering. It has given me great satisfaction to see the smiles on the faces of these visitors to the island of Santa Catarina and, in quite a few cases, to give them the first-hand experience of the joy of life in Brazil.

One pair of guests stands out in my mind: a young couple from Ireland that came to Florianópolis for Carnaval. I saw this as an opportunity to open the doorway to the real Brazil, to the party that Brazilians wait for all year long. I took them with me to a performance of the maracatu group I belong to: Grupo Arrasta Ilha. There are about fifty of us drummers and when we all began to drum together, as one person, I saw the faces of my Irish guests couple light up. This is what they had come to see. This is what they had wanted to be a part of in Brazil.

Later I took them to drink beer in the little boutequim—or bar—just off the park. It was just a simple place, but the sort of bar where Brazilians feel at home, let themselves unwind, relax and enjoy one another. Other friends from the samba school joined us there and we drank and talked and laughed and cracked jokes until the early hours of the morning. After all, it was Carnaval! It was time to celebrate. Afterwards, my Irish guests glowed with happiness. They had found what they had come to Brazil to find. The long journey, the expense, the uncertainties of travel, had all been worth it.

Now the summer is ending. The rain drops are tapping at the window, turning into tiny rivers that run down the glass pane. I feel that my moment of unexpected inspiration in the French Alps has become reality. I have been able to show my guests the way into Brazil—the real Brazil of boutequims, samba, and felicidade geral!

Written by mpirmez

March 4, 2010 at 1:28 am