Taking on many of the characteristics of a Swiss ski mountain village, Campos do Jordão in South East Brazil sounded misplaced and a little bizarre. I had to see it for myself.
This little town with its wooden chalets and quirky independent gift shops and cafés is a popular holiday spot for the wealthy, particularly in the wintertime. Colour is splashed around the place, chocolate shops abound and prices are high. A river runs through the town, brown and chocolatey and I start to imagine Willy Wonka and his oompaloompas working behind the scenes.
Everything feels cute and a little too constructed for my personal preference. It’s probably a lot to do with the fact that I love European winters and log buildings and open fires and, well, this place just confuses the hell out of me.
But I love the chocolate. Stacked high in shop after shop after shop, fat, round lumps of melt-in-your-mouth goodness tempt window shoppers. My friend Glyn insists that we buy some. I take a bite from a dark chocolate crocante truffle and it’s so dense and rich that I’m not sure I can finish it (of course I do).
Post-food and chocolate indulgence we walk around the town. The chair lift (miniférico), the first in Brazil, is closed. It’s been raining and the multi-coloured chairs swing in the breeze, drip drying. A group of guys sit chatting on board a brightly painted, open-sided tourist tram, no takers for the town tour.
The sun breaks through and we sit a while in the park, chatting and eating chocolate truffles and ice-creams, and I realise that Campos do Jordão is a place of indulgence: fancy restaurants, rich chocolate and the high life.
I’ve enjoyed tasting it, but I don’t want to get used to it. For now, I’ll go back to bread and water.