The nice encounter with Rafa is one of those in which the time seems to have stopped since the last farewell. The memories, jokes and excited smiles surround us for a moment within the same magic that we shared years ago, as we walk already to the entrance of Café com Letras. Upon entering, the strong smell of various and unknown ingredients opens up our appetite and reminds us that we have reached the midmorning. The bar, full of books, has a nice atmosphere and spacious corners where there are often exhibitions, cultural projects, evenings enlivened by dj's and presentations and book signings. The inhabitants of Belo Horizonte love to celebrate culture and this is a fact we can notice here, mixed with the smell of coffee. We look quickly for the menu so Rafa can enjoy a good espresso and we order two cappuccinos that, as per our friend’s recommendation, we accompany with the traditional cheese called queijo de minas with doce de leite, a sweet made of milk and sugar. Although a caipirinha is the first option that comes to our mind, we prefer to wait for the night to enjoy the truly and original one, with jazz music, as it is announced in the posters displayed on the wall’s place.
For Rafaela, the best ambassador of Belo Horizonte, this is a great city that feels as a small town thanks to its people, its food and its warmth. As she recommends us an itinerary, she mentions that BH is known in Brazil for its beautiful women and amazing nightlife in bars and nightclubs. However, the city also offers other kind of places we cannot miss, like the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1943, which was widely criticized in its early years for its bold design, but today has become the artistic icon of the city. The temple is situated in the Pampulha Lagoon, an artificial lake that holds three more buildings designed by famous architect: theIate Club, the Casa do Baile and the Pampulha Art Museum. Also the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Mineirão Football Stadium, one of the future scenarios of the World 2014. Is due to these buildings and its architectural relevance that Rafa recommends us the lagoon, but according to her we should not miss either the Central Market and its interesting variety of items and food and the Station Square with sculptures and dancing fountains in front of the renovated train station that now houses the Museum of Popular Arts. Despite all these places, our friend’s favorite and the one that seems to offer a special charm above all is the area of Sierra do Curral. In the mountains you can do climbing and reach the Praça das Mangabeiras, that offers one of the most spectacular views of the city. To do this the help of a guide is needed and it is better to visit it during the day as at night hours it becomes a rather dangerous area. Another place in the margin of the Sierra is the Praça do Papa or Pope Square, also with lovely views. Originally Praça Israel Pinheiro, its name changed popularly when in 1980 Pope John Paul II offered a massive Mass with more than 850,000 people in which he said: "From here you can see the mountains and Belo Horizonte, but it is especially when I look at you all is that I can say: what a beautiful horizon!". Nice and spacious, this is the ideal place to enjoy a picnic at sunset.
Maria das Tranças restaurant offers us a warm and friendly atmosphere like that moment when one returns home to enjoy the grandmother's typical recipes. Although Rafa loves burgers at Duke'n'Duke Restaurant, where they serve the best ones in the world for her, today she wanted us to try the typical dishes of her country and nothing better than this restaurant where have already found the table perfect for us. In this traditional environment, Rafa orders chicken with okra (vtype of vegetable) and feijao tropeiro, a typical dish made with a special type of beans. Heavy food to follow the rhythms of samba that we will still have to enjoy in this particular country.
Our day is ending between jokes and newly discovered flavors. The time to return to reality slowly approaches Rafa, indicating that a new goodbye and its duty to stop again is arriving. We then get invaded by a sensation that has no translation; saudade, the feeling of longing for what is about to get lost. However, with the energy and warmth of the people of Belo Horizonte, given to us by our friend through her pretty smile, we drown the melancholy in doce de leite, and without the bitter taste of sadness our eyes get blinded by the rays of the sun as we try to see the horizon that, as even told by a pope, is indeed the most beautiful in the world, thanks to the people of Belo Horizonte.