We have the great good fortune to have friends here in Brazil who own a fazenda (a large ranch, in this case a tree farm) a little less than three hours from São Paulo. It is an incredibly beautiful oasis from the crazy overpopulated mess that is city life. We rent from them a house called the Casa de Alemão (German house) which looks like the below photo and has a view from the front door of the above photo (the mountain is Pico do Selado, near the tourist town of Monte Verde, Minas Gerais). It is without doubt one of my favorite places in the world.
This was a four-day weekend here in Brazil kicked off by the Corpus Cristi holiday. I admit freely that I have no idea what the holiday means mostly because I am not Catholic, and also because it sounds rather grim (Body of Christ? Thanksgiving sounds better for a four day holiday). Most companies give their employees a "ponte" or bridge that allows the Thursday holiday to be bridged through Friday to Sunday. We went with another family to the Alemão.
The name Casa de Alemão came from the fact that our friends bought the house from a German guy. This is the way of the nicknames here. In fact, one of the owners of "our" fazenda is British, so the larger fazenda on which the Alemão stands is called the Fazenda do Ingles or Fazenda of the English guy (in spite of the fact that it has an official name and a co-owner who is Brazilian). Nearby there is a fazenda that is called the Fazenda do Japones. The owner is Brazilian of Japanese descent. Do not attempt to ask for directions to any of the fazendas with official names--you will get a blank stare. But everyone knows the Fazenda do Ingles.
On the fazenda, euculyptus trees are grown and theoretically cut, though we have yet to be there during a cut. We have rented for five years now and it hard to imagine what the hillsides will look like when the trees do get cut. Our friends have done an amazing job of re-introducing original "Mata Atlantica" or Atlantic Forest trees and plants to the area. When they do eventually cut the trees at the appropriate time, I am guessing it will not be clear cut but rather specific trees to thin out.
The fazenda has no phone service or internet. You can forget your cell phone about 45 minutes away--there just is not going to be a single bar. So for four days, we relaxed and enjoyed the forest sounds--large monkeys live in the nearby trees, a golden eagle nests behind the house, and birds chatter in the morning sunlight.
We are fortunate to have this escape. Now back to São Paulo.
Casa do Alemão (the German house)