14 March 2007
With a large contingent of our travelling party looking decidedly ill and suffering the effects from the night before, 2 full vans set off for Ilha Bela from Mercure Jardins São Paulo at 10.30am.
The journey to Ilha Bela took around 3 hours, through some gorgeous countryside and along some windy roads hugging the coastline. We arrived at the wharf to catch the ferry across to the island in good time (my van mates either slept or talked quietly amongst themselves throughout the journey) and once on board, we piled out to stretch our legs. 30 minutes after the crossing, we arrived at Hotel Itapemar, our home for the rest of the week (albeit feeling a little queasy after a very bumpy ride along the very unevenly paved road).
We checked into our rooms – my roomy Gauri and I found ourselves in tight quarters but still looked forward to getting to know each other better – before heading down to the bar for a cool beer with the rest of the group. By this point, Patrick and Dean (best man) had also arrived at the Hotel – Patrick hired a car and drove from São Paulo to Ilha Bela, and they soon joined us for some beverages.
3 beers later, and the group went in search of some lunch. It was around 3pm by this point, and most of us were starving. We headed in the direction of the wedding venue (away from the ferry wharf to the mainland) and found ourselves in a little village with a few boutique shops, restaurants and bars. After some aimless wandering, we eventually settled at a bar at the front of the village square. Caipirinhas were ordered, along with more beers, before someone in the group wised up and ordered much needed food to soak up the alcohol.
My memory becomes a little hazy from this point onwards – I recall a lot more caipirinhas and beers being ordered, a thunderstorm bringing some cleansing rain before blindly stumbling back to the hotel with a jetlagged best man in tow. I was reliably told the following day that I made my staggering exit around the 9pm mark, although it did feel a lot later at the time.
15 March 2007
Due to the early exit from the night before, I was one of the early risers the next day, minus the pounding hangover. My roomy was a little dusty (having returned around midnight after bar hopping through Ilha Bela with the rest of the crew) and we made our way down to the restaurant for some breakfast. The weather was turning on another scorcher for us, and by 10am, we had migrated back to the pool for a cooling dip.
Julie still had some errands to run before the wedding day, and she needed to head into town for these errands. I offered to keep Julie company as I needed to get more cash from an ATM that recognised my card. In the end, Gauri and Patricia came along for the ride as well. The original plan was to walk into town (it would have been a 30 minute walk) but the heat became too much for us, and I was treated to my first bus ride on a Brazilian bus. To say the least, the bus drivers were even more kamikaze than the taxi drivers and by the time we reached town, I was grateful to be on solid ground.
An idea was floated by Julie that the evening’s festivities should commence in the lovely outdoor area outside the Bridal Suite. We all agreed it would be lovely to have everyone gather in the one place before we set off for the bars, and set off in the supermarket in search of provisions for the function. Beers and snacks were purchased, as well as my private stash of Red Bull, before we headed back to the hotel to notify the others.
After unpacking all the provisions in the Bridal Suite, Julie, Gauri and I sat down to a well deserved beer and relaxing spa and spent some quality time chatting away. All too soon, it was time to get ready for the evening’s festivities and Gauri and I headed back to our room to shower and change.
By the time we arrived at the Bridal Suite again, almost all of the wedding guests were already there and the party was well underway. I made plenty of new friends that evening with the London-based crew, and demolished the better part of a litre of Baileys before heading out to the bars. Plans were made by some of the group to hire a cruiser the following day to take in some sights, which my very limited budget was unable to be stretched to accommodate. I would have definitely loved to have gone, and wished them all the best day on the water.
As we headed out, Gauri chose to have an early night, and we left her at the hotel to recharge for the boating expedition the following day. The rest of the group headed out to a few bars, including a revisit to a great little place much further into the village. The bar was tiny but cosy, with an outdoor area that had large swings hanging from the trees and the beams of the pergola. I met Thati and Marco, Julie’s long time friends and fellow wedding guests, who were at the bar enjoying a few drinks when we arrived. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with them and drinking copious amounts of caprioskas (my system was beginning to reject the cachaça in the caipirinhas) and mojitos, before doing the usual stumble back towards the hotel at around 1am.
A quick dip in the hotel pool to cool down after a hot and humid day, and it was off to bed for the tired and weary souls.
16 March 2007
Twas the day before the wedding, and more wedding guests were expected to arrive in Ilha Bela today. A dozen or so of the wedding guests set off for a day on the water after breakfast, but the day was already too hot for me, and I chose to stay behind and snoozed the morning away to the sounds of Brazilian chat shows in my air conditioned room.
I woke around lunch time, well rested but famished, and headed to the restaurant for a bite to eat. The only thing I recognised on the menu was a Caesar salad, which I ordered by pointing and smiling and repeating “obrigada”. I managed to order a bottle of “água sem gás” (a bottle of still water) in Brazilian, before retreating into a corner to read my book and wait for my salad.
10 minutes later, the world’s biggest salad arrived – served in a terrine! I was so impressed by the size of this salad that I was completely speechless for a few minutes before heartily tucking into my lunch. I was about half way through when Julie and Anthony spotted me on their return from the beach.
The bride and groom were originally set to join the boat trip, but chose to stay behind at the last minute to have some down time to themselves and to greet the soon to arrive guests. As I was finishing my lunch, Anthony recited the names of the guests who had just arrived and laid out their plans for the afternoon – to go to the best seafood restaurant on the island (well past the village) to have a sumptuous lunch.
I joined the group – the soon-to-be Williamses (Ant and Julie), the Denoons (Alex and Rachel), the Franklins (James and Heather), the Wongs (David and Viri), Gaynore and Sandor for the bus ride to the restaurant, where we were joined by Eric and Will. More travel “disasters” were relayed: David and Viri’s luggage were enjoying their own holiday in Madrid, and Gaynore’s hotel rooms in both São Paulo and Ilha Bela were cancelled, but not by Gaynore. David and Viri borrowed some fresh clothes from Ant and Julie when they arrived at the hotel, and Julie managed to find a hotel room for Gaynore at a nearby hotel just down the road from where we were all staying.
The rain had just started when we arrived at the restaurant, and it fell steadily throughout the afternoon. We ordered plenty of good wines and loads of yummy dishes and ate and drank and ate some more. With so many of us on the island (with only Jason to arrive), by the end of our lazy late lunch, we agreed to meet in the hotel bar for a few drinks before heading out for the evening.
By the time we got back to the hotel, the “cruisers” had completed their trip and were back at the hotel awaiting further instructions for the evening’s activities. As we were getting ready, the skies opened and down came the rain. Most of us had made it to the hotel bar by the time sheets of rain were being poured all over the island – the road had turned into rivers and you couldn’t see more than a couple of feet in front of you.
Drinks in the tiny hotel bar were loud and crowded, until a few of us found the pool table in another part of the hotel. A couple of games ensued before we headed back to the main group. Time ticked on as the downpour continued, and a small group of us decided to try the food at the hotel restaurant. I had decided not to head out with the bulk of the group by this point and the Denoons and the Wongs were of the same opinion. The main group headed out to the village bars around 10pm, and after our meals, the diners retreated to our respective rooms to rest up for the big day.