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Gareth Leonard

Three Reasons I Love Belo Horizonte

I walked up to a young man standing in the doorway of his juice shop and asked him if he knew which bus to take for Praca do Papa (Pope’s Square).

He thought for a minute and then yelled down the street for assistance.

An older gentleman walked over wearing a suit and carrying a stack of papers and I repeated the question to him.

The man gave a similar pause and then signaled me to follow him.

The three of us walked four city blocks until we figured out exactly where I needed to go. When they knew I was on the right track, they wished me good luck and said, “Enjoy the city.”

This was my first impression of Belo Horizonte.

I arrived at Praca do Papa about an hour before the sun was scheduled to set so I found a comfortable place on the grass to wait and watch.

After all, the staff from my hostel said that this was the best place to see the cityscape and mingle with locals.

Within 15 minutes, three girls in their mid-twenties came up and sat down on the grass next to me.

I overheard them talking about another viewpoint, so I awkwardly chimed in for more details.

I was hoping for a better location because the sky was a bit overcast and an earlier rainstorm kept the after-work crowd away.

They told me that they were going up to another spot called Mirante Mangabeiras and without hesitation they asked if I wanted a ride.

On the short drive up the mountain for a better view, they each gave me their perspective on “BH” and suggested the best things to do.

We reached the lookout deck just as the sun was setting on the city and I stepped back to admire the generosity thus far.

As night took over the sky, the girls drove me back to my hostel and suggested I meet them out later to dance.

I confirmed and ran inside to get showered and changed.

Naturally Brazilian, I showed up on time and found myself waiting for about an hour before the girls arrived.

While inside, I grabbed a beer at the bar and played the wallflower role as the club filled up.

Within 10 minutes, a skinny guy in a loud shirt came up and asked if I was alone. I told him my story and he proceeded to introduce me to all his friends who worked at the bar.

He deejayed here on the weekends, but tonight he just came for a night of Forró dancing.

We talked nonstop until the girls arrived and then we all grabbed a table next to the dance floor.

It was my first day in a new city and I was dancing the night away with friends that I felt like I’d known my whole life.

I could have written about the huge public market, famously delicious regional food or lavish art galleries, but many places have those things.

To me, the local relationships leave the longest impression and because of these simple encounters, Belo Horizonte instantly became one of my favorite Brazilian experiences.

Have you ever had interesting experiences traveling around Brazil? Share your stories

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