We’re back on the Latino holiday trail. Licence plates are 50% out-of-state Brazil, 40% “República Argentina,” 8% Uruguay and 2% Paraguay (that’s a hell of a drive but hey, when you live in a landlocked country, you’re desperate for a beach, I guess).
Florianópolis is this kind of place where Portunhol—a mix of Spanish and Portuguese—is widely understood, which is great because I’m fluent in it. The supermarket proudly sells “Argentinian empanadas”—twice the price of a Brazilian pastel de forno–and you can even buy “medialunas argentinas” on the beach. A live band butchers Losing my Religion in an Australian pub with Brazilian staff and next door, the sushi restaurant is packed. Half of the city walks around with sunburns and most drivers don’t really know where they’re going because they’ve just rented a car and it came without GPS.
Florianópolis is exactly the place we needed after Rio and we only realized it after we landed. I feel like I’m in Chile and it’s not just because suddenly, everybody seems to be white—it’s business as usual, normal workdays, safe enough and friendly enough. Streets are quieter and cleaner and the local mall has super fancy bathrooms—I don’t normally care notice toilets but frankly, after two weeks of walking by and smelling hundreds of “special event” portable toilets in Salvador and Rio, I find no-touch flushing absolutely amazing.
I needed a dose of normal after Carnaval.
Of course, this is another state so minor differences are to be expected. New supermarkets chains, different drinks and cigarette prices, opening hours and popular foods, but I can deal with it. In fact, it’s refreshing. We’re starting from scratch and preserving the memories of Rio, unique and exhausting Rio.
We didn’t have a post-Carnival plan. There were several options—bussing to São Paulo, checking out beaches around Rio de Janeiro, anything easy and relaxing, really. But after a very hot week, stormy weather was coming. We ran away from possible downpours. “Floripa” became that easy option, even though we had to fly otherwise it would have been a long 14-hour bus trip.
Florianópolis is the capital and second largest city of the state of Santa Catarina, composed of Ilha de Santa Catarina and a continental part. We’re staying on the 54-kilometre-long island, although unless you’re on Beira-Mar Avenue, along the seaside, you quickly forget you’re on an island. Floripa is your typical Brazilian city with a colonial centro deserted at night and long, steep avenues bordered by a wall of multi-story buildings.
This isn’t an easy-to-navigate city. The tall buildings are all the same height so you can’t really see where you are. I use the many Postos Ipiranga, handy and busy gas stations with a big convenience store, to know where I am. Otherwise, the main “landmark” is the large Beira-Mar Shopping, a modern mall and hangout place when everything closes in centro.
Fortunately, Florianópolis is one of these places I explored so much I have plenty of data stored in my brain and I find my way easily. Up and down Rio Branco, along Rua Almirante Lamego, from the Hippo supermarket to the fancier Imperatriz Gourmet that closes later, at 11 p.m.…. I’m not lost and it feels great.
Now we have to find the best beaches outside the city.