Ilhabela Part 2 – Anna Arrives

We were quietly reading at the end of the dock (I was in the shade of course) when Anna spotted us; “Hilaryyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” she yelled as she, Stefano and Julia came towards us. Hugs and intros were made, then immediately to business! A round of strawberry/lime caipirinhas were ordered and a giant fish dinner was going to be prepared! (side note: strawberry/lime is my new favourite).  We all went for a swim, sipped on drinks, caught up on stories and celebrated our reunion in Brazil!! A fantastic afternoon if I say so myself.

Before dinner was up, Anna invited us to come check out the new home her family was building. Although her grandparents already own a large home on the hillside, this new place is where they’ve always envisioned their dream home; and oh my god a dream home it is! This is a place for family and friends to gather, just minutes up the hill from the hotel, and it has a breathtaking view of the ocean and island. Although still in construction, they are hoping for the house to be livable by Carnaval (less than a week away). But even unfinished, you can see how perfect this place is going to be.  There’s a beautiful wood entrance with a walkway over a fishpond to start.  You can see right through the house to the view from the other side. Giant peaked ceilings make up the common room that is big enough for a great party! It will be fully equipped with a billiards table and an area for people to congregate. Then there’s the state-of-the-art kitchen, the giant bar with a beautifully tiled floor, and the lavish infinity pool that looks out over the edge of the mountain towards the sea. The pool had just been filled that afternoon so we took advantage and were the first people to swim in it! It was incredible!

Then, every family member has his or her own bedroom, each with an en-suite bathroom and a gorgeous wooden porch with a view! As well, there are several equally equipped guest rooms, one of which is 100% wheelchair accessible just in case (Foresight from Anna’s sister who is a geriatrics doctor). Even the maid’s quarters were spectacular with a quaint little “American” kitchen and lovely bedroom. Her parents have the best room (obviously), which is on the top floor and overlooks the pool. They have a private hot tub area as well as a bathroom that shames the one we have in our hotel suite! Their walk-in closet is about the same size as my bedroom at home, and the peaked ceilings with wooden beams gives the place a modern looking log cabin feel – with the most unreal view of a tropical island. All in all, the place has 12 bathrooms and, to be honest, I lost track of the number of rooms. But I would KILL for a house like this! As her father puts it, “it’s Anna’s mother’s dream house and his nightmare house” as I’m sure the cost of the place is out of this world – but worth every penny.  Congrats Anna on the wonderful place, I promise I will be back to visit when it’s all completed!!

After checking out the house, we got a call that dinner was ready down at the hotel bar. A wonderful meal of fish and rice and salad, the 6 of us (Anna, Stefano, Julia, Anna’s mother, and Adam and I) sat in the bar, stuffed our faces and told stories as the sun went down over the water. We stayed well into the night drinking beers and cosmopolitans and, we had so much fun that Adam and I were easily convinced to stay another night. Rio can wait one more day for us!

So the next day, we got up early and headed out to the dock to go boating. Anna and Stefano already had everything organized for the trip; the boat was filled with gas, the cooler was filled with drinks and the wake boards were loaded up!
  The 5 of us jumped on, and headed on our way. We were off to the opposite side of the island (about an hour and a half speedboat ride away), which is, essentially, a deserted expanse of white sand beaches and bright green water. Apart from the occasional tiny home for fishermen, and a restaurant managed by the owner of the Ilhabela yacht club, the place is empty. It is only accessible by boat, or by a couple hours of extreme 4X4ing through dense jungle – which is what makes it such an idyllic paradise.

So we sped through the water towards our destination, blasted some tunes and enjoyed the sunshine. The trip was gorgeous. Dozens of small, uninhabited islands were scattered around the inlet. Thick, leafy jungle sprawled across the landscape, and misty clouds hung around the peaks of the hills. Large birds circled overhead, and once again I felt like I was an extra in a Jurassic Park movie.

When we arrived on the other side of the island, we pulled up to the restaurant and Anna asked the two men working there to make us some lunch. They had already heard we were coming and were preparing a big feast for us all!  Apparently this restaurant serves the BEST and freshest fish in the whole of the Ilhabela, so we were excited to try it out. As we waited for lunch, we opened up a few bottles of champagne to celebrate and went for a swim. Within no time, a man in a dingy came out to our boat to bring us ashore for food. The place smelled delicious! There was rice, beans and salad, with my new favourite palmito on it, then roasted potatoes with rosemary and a huge fillet of fresh fish for us all. The guys brought out cervejas and we ate until we could hardly move (or I did at least).

After lunch, it was time to wakeboard! Anna and Stefano were clearly pros and showed off all their tricks. Adam was a rockstar, obviously, and figured it out first try.  Showoff.  He even had an amazing moment where he jumped a wave, got some pretty good air and then, with all limbs in different directions, crashed into the ocean sideways. Haha! I, on the other hand, am about as good at wake boarding as I am at charades! On the first try alone I sliced a finger on my left hand open and bruised three other knuckles. Great start!  By the third try, I almost had it! Then the fourth try I smashed my right hand, thought my left middle finger was broken and had to go back to the boat to ice it. (Even 4 days later I have a good chunk missing from my left hand, my middle finger is twice as wide as the others, and every muscle in my back feels whip lashed).  Not that I’m complaining! I had a wonderful time taking photos and one day I will defeat the waves!

After we all had our turns we headed back to the Hotel Mercedes exhausted. Up to the room for naps and quiet time before dinner. Sadly, this was our last evening on the island. This was by far the longest stop we’ve had in one place, and it was wonderful!

 

Stefano, Me, Adam, Anna, Julia

If anyone would like to see more photos of the hotel we were at, you can check out the website at www.hotelmercedes.com.br (under accommodations you can click “suite VIP” for pictures of our room).

 

Ilhabela Part 1: Paradise and Hemorrhoid Cream

Image

View from our balcony

I knew it was going to be a good day when I woke up Monday morning, after a great night’s sleep, and had an amazing cup of coffee! We were off to the Ilhabela to stay at my friend Anna’s hotel for a few days. Anna has been unconditionally helpful to us on the trip so far. She has booked us flights, phoned hostels, and put up with my endless emails asking her to translate Portuguese so I can organize Carnaval accommodation. On top of all that, she is the manager of an amazing 4 star hotel, called Hotel Mercedes, on an island off the coast of Brazil, and has reserved us a room for the week!
 

 

The morning continued successfully when we arrived with perfect timing to the bus station.  We got our tickets for a cheaper price than expected, and I finally found a dress that I had long been searching for (at 50% off, might I add). It took us about 4 hours to get to the island, including the quick 15 minute ferry from Sao Sebastio. We easily found a cab that took us right to the hotel, and was greeted by a bellboy who grabbed both our bags to take to reception.

 

We already realized we were outside our comfort zone. There’s no way we are classy enough for a place like this. It is absolutely unbelievable. As I told Anna, I could have slept on one of the couches in the lobby and been on cloud nine! 
Adam and I decided the place was medieval castle meets Caribbean luxury resort! A unique combination of stone walls and large, dark wood furniture combined with modern looking white and blue accent pieces and splashes of bright tropical color. The place has it’s own private beach and bar with a swimming pool, a long dock with a plethora of sun chairs and a refreshing breeze! We checked into the hotel, and the bellboy brought us, and our bags, through the hotel to our room. It is quite a walk through the place; we passed a large common room with a huge 52″ TV in it, a reading room with tables and chairs to relax in, and walked over a small river with waterfalls that runs right through the middle of the grounds. We were escorted up to a floor that needed a special key just to get on to, walked to the end of the hall, and was led in to our suite… OH MY GOD!

 Image

This is hands down the nicest place I’ve ever stayed in. We had the most VIP suite in the entire hotel. Our bathroom alone was bigger than my bedroom at home, with a his and her sink, a two person Jacuzzi, a walk-in shower that could fit 11 people (Adam at 6′ could lie down in the shower and have a good foot and a half to spare before touching the walls!). Our bedroom had a 46″ plasma TV in it, a two person couch that sat in front of a king sized bed, a fully stocked mini fridge, a lounge chair and a whole desk area full of stylish magazines. Our deck, which was on the corner of the building, looked out towards both the ocean, and across the property. We had a little glass table with chairs for a morning coffee, or a crib tournament in the evenings, and a big round lounge chair to curl up and watch the sunset (my favourite place in the room). We were absolutely floored by the place! Anna, if you’re reading this, you are an angel. You have outdone yourself, so thank you to you, Stefano and to your family sooooo much!
 

 Image

Image

After settling into our room, we went down to the pool for a swim. The pool was like bath water and was a perfect way to unwind, watch the sunset and nibble on a bruschetta appy! We then walked around the area checking out the neighboring beaches and the nearby restaurants (we definitely have the nicest beach area). Then afterwards, off to town for dinner! This is the first time on our trip that I actually look like a girl! With the dress I bought earlier and the fact that there is a shower with pressure AND a hairdryer in our room, I actually managed to look presentable for dinner! So we bussed into town and found a lovely restaurant with live music and a great atmosphere. We shared a large fish dish that was delicious.  This was also the first time we’ve ordered seafood on the trip, so that made me happy.  After dinner we stocked up on beers, and the mixes needed for delicious caipirinhas, and headed back to the room for another crib tournament.

 Image

Image

The next morning, after an amazing sleep in our air-conditioned room and king-sized bed, we went to breakfast. For breakfast we were spoiled again. It was served, buffet-style, in a giant hall and had everything under the sun: fresh fruits and pastries, rolls, croissants, cereal, frittatas, coffees, juices, various meats and cheeses and two whole tables of desserts! There was apple crumble, chocolate cake, cheese cake and so many more! This is definitely a change from the stale bun and dolce de leche we have been getting at our hostels, so we took FULL advantage of the feast! 


 

But after breakfast, you’ll be sad to hear, our day got very stressful. We went out to the dock, set up lounge chairs and umbrellas, grabbed some icy beers and homemade caipirinhas and sat there for 6 hours. Decision-making was difficult… Should I hold my beer in my left hand, and have the breeze blow cold condensation on my stomach, or in my right hand where it is more difficult to write my blogs? Should we listen to Matchbox 20 or Third Eye Blind on Adam’s speakers? It’s frustrating that the beautiful cruise ships are in the way of my otherwise uninterrupted view of the mainland mountains. It’s equally upsetting that I can’t spend the afternoon picking out shapes in the clouds… because there aren’t any. Should I tan my back, or my front? Read or listen to music? Swim in the ocean or the pool?  Luckily I don’t have to worry about going to the bar for beer, or keeping track of money, because the bar staff will bring everything out to us, and just charge it to the room… But that’s really the only thing we have going for us. 

 Image

Image


Either way, after 6 hours in the sun, even with sunscreen, I was a lobster from head to toe! We’d been drinking steadily in the sunshine for several too many hours and I needed to go inside. So back up to our suite we went! Sadly, once we got there, we missed being at the pool, so we decided, in our inebriated state, to have our own pool party! 
I honestly don’t think it is humanly possible for any other male / female duo to make this honeymoon suite LESS romantic than Adam and I did. We first filled our two-person Jacuzzi tub with icy cold water (to ease my burn) and added Adam’s laundry “camp suds” detergent to make tonnes of bubbles. Then we grabbed a family sized bag of Ruffles chips, cracked a couple more beers and belted out, old school Third Eye Blind songs (with the speakers on full blast) for the better part of 2 hours.  We then high-fived at the realization that we were probably the only people to have ever done this in such a VIP suite. Once again, clearly not classy enough for a place like this. 


 Image

After the Jacuzzi party, we headed back into town for dinner. We went back to the same restaurant, since they had amazing deals on food before 8pm. Our two main problems for the evening were money and sunburns. We had just enough cash on us for dinner, some after-sun lotion, a case of beer and the bus home with 3 dollars to spare, and so, Adam ran to the bank during dinner to get cash. Unfortunately that particular bank would not work with either of our cards. So after dinner, we went to the only other bank in town; BOTH machines were out of order. Great.

 

Even with our limited funds, my sunburn was stinging so badly that I stopped in the pharmacy to grab some aloe. I couldn’t see any on the shelf, so tried to ask the man behind the counter. I did one of those “I don’t know your language, so I’m going to attempt to describe my issue via charades” act… The man handed me hemorrhoid cream. Clearly I’m not cut out for charades. Turns out, the cream was ALSO useful for sunburns, but no one mentioned that it will also turn your skin a streaky beige colour. At this point I would have tried anything: so I buy the lotion. Then we wait at the bus stop, I’m covered in hemorrhoid cream from head to toe, and we have a combined total of $3 to our names. The bus comes and we jump on. Turns out, this is the turn around point for this bus, and we start going in the wrong direction from our hotel. The stop buttons aren’t working, and we don’t know where we are going, so, 4km in the wrong direction, when the bus makes its first stop, we jump off. Now we have $2 to our names, we are in the middle of nowhere on a random island, and I am STILL covered in hemorrhoid cream. Luckily, within a couple minutes, a bus drives by; we chase it down and cross our fingers it’s going where we need to go. It does! We head up to the room, I take an Advil and try to sleep while Adam watches a movie in Portuguese. Rough day in paradise.
 

 Image

The next day we decide to do nothing again. Breakfast in the morning, beach in the day! Only this time Adam won’t let me in the sun. So I am forced to stay in the shade of an umbrella and sulk while I watch everyone play in the sunshine. It is, however, another perfect day. Cool breeze, flying fish jumping out of the water on all sides of us, big turtles coasting through the waves, and a perfectly sunny afternoon! We once again sit for hours reading, lounging, and sipping on cool beverages: a much-needed vacation after a month of travel.  Honestly, traveling is tough! At the end of the day, we are much more relaxed, albeit still broke. The ATM’s were still out of service, so we decide to leave the issue for “mañana” – such a South American mindset already!
 

 Image

When mañana arrives, we head to the big town of Ilhabela to find a working bank machine. It’s our major excursion for the day, and after three days of nothing this seems like an impossible task. But we guess the bus system correctly this time, so the trip is fairly straightforward. I even find some real aloe vera at the supermarket! Then back to the beach (where I’m again banned from the sun) to await Anna’s arrival!