Minas Gerais is a beautiful state in the southeast of Brazil. Known for its culture, impressive landscape and amazing cuisine, the state is surrounded by mountains and shows its best characteristics in small historical towns along the state.
Among several places worthy visiting, my favorites are São João del Rei (my hometown), Ouro Preto and Tiradentes.
São João del Rei is a beautiful historical town founded in the 18th century. The colonial architecture is breathtaking, and so is the local culture. The town has thirteen churches featuring Baroque architecture, and the bells toll in a different way to announce masses, funerals, weddings and other celebrations.
The traditional cooking is done using soapstone and cast iron pans, giving the food a very particular flavor. You can smell the meals being made as you walk around town, sometimes with bells on the background inviting to the mass. The slow pace of town makes you want to take your time in the narrow streets, where shoemakers still have an occupation, and housewives sit in chairs outside of their doors to make conversation.
Ouro Preto and Tiradentes are also colonial towns where religion and culture come together. The churches and museums are outstanding and it really gives you a great sense of the rich history of Minas Gerais. One of my favorite things to do in Minas Gerais is to visit arts and crafts stores. The art quality is impressive, and some artists make their living on the streets, selling their craft to tourists and showcasing their best pieces in front of the churches and other historical sites. Everything is handmade; every piece has a story, and crafts are passed to the younger generations with pride.
Sometimes I miss that lifestyle... Living in New York is just the opposite of my life in Brazil; here time is everything and we can't appreciate the moment as much. Growing up in a small town in Minas Gerais, I learned to observe. I was raised in a routine, knowing everyone in the community, going to religious celebrations that didn't change much throughout the years. But looking at all that today, I realize how lucky I am to be part of such a beautiful culture, that values the traditions and invent the future without forgetting its roots and values.
I invite you to pick a camera, your sense of adventure and visit Minas Gerais; I promise you a voyage.