Yesterday we took a jaunt to Paranapiacaba, a village founded by a British railway company about 60 KM southeast of central São Paulo. I’d been told to visit this place by lots of friends and students, so we thought we’d check it out on a cloudy Sunday (just to get really into the British vibe). It’s a really pretty little village, surrounded by hills and forest, apparently good for hiking (but I didn’t have appropriate footwear, which is a great excuse not to be dragged up a steep incline). The town was by all accounts founded in the middle of the 19th century by British owned São Paulo Railway Company. A zig-zaggy railway line had been built there to export coffee beans through the hilly terrain to Santos port, and the village was built around it. It thrived for 30 years until machinery replaced the funicular (cable railway) for transporting goods, which was very labour-intensive. The population then declined and buildings were abandoned, but it’s now a bit of a tourist attraction.
The little cottages where the 4000 British workers previously lived are made of brick and wood, and there is a big fancy Victorian house up on the hill, which is where the chief engineer lived. The whole vibe is very cute and quite British-looking in some respects, although the misty weather definitely helped. You can take a little steam train themed bus around the village to see the workers houses, market hall, band stand, library, doctors surgery and the railway station clock tower which was inspired by Big Ben.
The village has a beautiful church (Portuguese style) and there’s a museum and tourist information centre, along with lots of nice places to eat. It wasn’t THAT difficult to get to, just two metros, a train and a bus, equating to about two hours travel time (obviously if you have a car, life is much easier!). There is apparently a direct train from Brás (São Paulo metro) to Paranapiacaba which takes you on a beautiful scenic route, but it cost R$70 each, as opposed to our R$16 return. We’re stingy like that.