Life is a Beach | Robin Sparks

Life is a Beach

I am at Tartaruga Beach, one of twenty beaches on the Buzios peninsula. In Brazil, going to the beach is the raison d’ etre – everything is planned around it – and so when in Rome…

The long curved sliver of sand is lined with chaises, umbrellas, and vendors who stand with their wares waiting for today’s tourists to be unloaded from the boats pulling into the cove.

I sit at my laptop placed atop a plastic table under a beach umbrella, and as silly as this looks, out here where people don’t even bring cell phones, I work anyway, because it beats writing inside.

I look up suddenly to see a boy emerging from the water carrying half a dozen platter-sized fish on a hook. A small boat bobs just offshore, its blue and red paint faded and peeling; white letters on its hull spell: Helena Francisca, Buzios. CF. The boy returns to the sea empty-handed and swims to the boat. I’ve been fumbling for my camera all these seconds. He slings himself over the side, a man pulls up the anchor, and they putter back out to sea. No photos. You’ll just have to take my word on this one.

Vendors approach and stand aside silently waiting for me to look up. “Would you like some gems? How about some beach towels, bombons, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, bikinis, blankets, rugs, paintings…? I look at each item briefly, appreciatively and say no obrigada, to which each vendor replies softly, “No problem”, gives me the thumbs up, and a wide smile before moving on. In this way, Brazil is way different from Bali where vendors hound tourists relentlessly.

My friend, Eduardo, an expat in Buzios, from Argentina, greets these beach vendors day after day. They are the people who live in his town, they are his friends. Several are old acquaintances from Argentina who were hit especially hard by the recent economic crisis. I watch admiringly as the vendors approach total strangers in hopes of a sale, and I think about the fact that they are doing this not so that they can make a payment on a car, or add to their IRA, but to buy food.

And then I look at me at my makeshift office on a beach in Brazil thousands of miles from home, waves rolling in just short of my feet, a sea breeze cooling my skin, powdery sand cusioning my feet, an aqua blue umbrella over my head…

Remind me please, to never, ever complain again.


High on a bluff, windswept, crashing waves, granite cliffs, grassy knolls, superb vistas, few if any tourists. Argentine expatriates sun on the grassy knoll above the beach discussing tonight’s River vs. Boca futbol match. One expat tells me jokingly that Brava is the geriatric beach. Excellent restaurant with fresh fish brochettes, grilled while you wait and the best fruit sucos in town. A young man gives massages down on the beach. Surfers ride the waves.

A mile long horseshoe of golden sand. On cloudy days, the gentle waves fill the air with mist. A line-up of beachside shacks serves up great food and drinks including one new restaurant called the Fishbone – a classy place, open to the sea, where parties are held every Thursday night. During high season this beach is one big family dining room packed with tables surrounded by friends and loved ones.

It’s the walk to this beach that makes it spectacular. Begin at the end of the main harbor of Buzios, go up the hill where you will pass an old church on your right built in 1784. Beyond the yacht club on your left, you’ll see one of the best views of the Buzios harbor with its dazzling toy boats. Fishermen row in and out of the harbor. You’ll also be able to see the stretch of Orla Bardot (named after Bridget Bardot who made Buzios famous) with its boutiques and restaurants. As you continue walking down onto the beach, you’ll feel a change – you’re no longer in tourist town, but in Old Buzios with cobblestone lanes and classic Brazilian houses (and prices to match – one house for sale has an asking price of $600,000).

To get here, walk the length of Ossos Beach and continue up a steep cobblestone street past modest cottages alongise massive mansions. Take a left turn down a dirt path and there you are. Stunning vistas of diminutive Acedinha Beach in the distance, the open sea, and Aceda beach below., A rowboat restaurant, sometimes beached, at other times floating near the shore, is topped with a tangerine umbrella and serves up savory drinks and snacks. Patrons wade through shallow water to place their orders. Vendors ply the beach shouldering sizeable platters of fresh oysters.

Continue walking the length of Aceda Beach and trek for a dozen yards or so on a dirt path, past scalloped rocks that melt into the sea, and over a small hill. There you are – face to face with your own Gilligan’s island paradise. With its hidden wedge of yellow sand, rocks on which to sun, palm trees swaying overhead, and calm, clear water for swimming, you’ll feel like only you and three or four other people know about this place. No restaurant here, but no problem. Waiters hike over from Aceda Beach to take your order and then come back to deliver. AMAZING!!!

I forgot to mention that when I left the beach, it was with three paintings, one men’s wallet, a bag of cashews, a headband in a psychedelic print, and several pairs of earrings. None of which I needed. And all of which I probably won’t have room for in my luggage. But I grew tired of saying “Nao obrigada.” It felt downright good to say, “Yes, I’d like to buy one of those lovely pairs of earrings.” “Maybe I could use a wallet,” and “Wow, let me see those paintings…”

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