ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM PROMOTES TOUR TO BRAZIL
By Ingrid Coifman
Photo by Neno Vianna – Ouro Preto city, Minas Gerais
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) travel division tailored a unique trip to Brazil that included a visit to a native tribe in Amazon rainforest. They also visited and attended such sites as; a Capoeira Afro-Brazilian martial dance presentation in Salvador, architectural tours through world heritage sites in Minas Gerais, stops at the magnificent statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio and Iguacu’s spectacular waterfalls in the south. After a 15 day-journey, its travelers are still mesmerized at what they experienced.
This jaw-dropping journey to Brazil provided some of the most exclusive experiences, highlighting history, art, and architecture. They took a boat ride to an Eco Lodge to explore the rainforest and the mighty Amazon River. The travelling party took a jungle survival crash course and later enjoyed the mind-boggling ‘Meeting of the Waters’, where the Negro river joins the Solimoes river.
Their second stop was Salvador, the first capital of Brazil for over 200 years with the most African influence anywhere outside Africa. They explored the city and had a chance to attend a live performance of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art dancing.
According to Yolande Baldachin, one of the volunteer coordinators of ROM Travel Group, felt safe walking around the downtown area. “We saw police cars most of the time and didn’t feel harassed by street vendors. The feedback from our group was great and many of us would like to repeat the experience. Food was excellent and the hotels were beautiful,” recalls Baldachin.
On the south side of the country, Iguaçu Falls was the highlight, located just above the meeting points of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Iguacu is South America’s most celebrated waterfalls, a glorious combination of 240 cascades, furious white water, rain forest, and diverse wildlife.
The trip finished in vibrant Rio de Janeiro, one of the most culturally dynamic, visually breathtaking cities in the world. It is the site of the 2014 World Cup of Soccer and the 2016 Summer Olympics. “Iguacu Falls along with Christ-the Redeemer statue just took our breath away,” says Yolande.
HISTORY, ARCHITECTURE AND ART
In Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, the group went on an architectural tour and then proceeded to Ouro Preto, a UNESCO world heritage site, with cobblestone streets, baroque churches (18th century) and huge colonial buildings. There, a homogeneous architectural ensemble is mostly composed of one and two-story dwellings with clay tile roofs and whitewashed walls; their wooden structural elements and ornaments are painted bright colors.
Ouro Preto is a university city with an intense student life. A number of former gold mines in the city offer tours to tourists. One of the most popular is the Mina do Chico Rei (Little King Mine), near the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao.
In fact, the city was one of the stops that most pleased the group. “We saw places that tourists in general don’t have a chance to see. Brazil is not only made up of Sao Paulo and Rio. We were amazed at the colonial, opulent and rich Ouro Preto. Our group didn’t want to see the ‘usual’ in an amazing trip like this,” continues Yolande.
In Ouro Preto, the group also had the opportunity to meet Mayor Angelo Oswaldo de Araújo Santos and to spend time at the Museum da Inconfidência, which traces the Inconfidencia independence movement. That was a great point of interest for them, whose interest in art makes it a natural option to include visits to important museums around the globe in their tours.
ROM: 60 COUNTRIES IN 25 YEARS
“A breathtaking trip like this requires almost 2 years of preparation,” says Yolande. Lots of research and promotion had to be done carefully by each coordinator of the ROM Travel committee. In total, there are 600 members in the Department of Museum Volunteers working in 25 different committees.
She has been involved in organizing ROM trips to places such as Egypt and has travelled extensively to Brazil. India is being planned for 2012. Only ROM members can sign up for the trip and those who come on board have to make a donation of $300 to the museum. Each trip usually accommodates 20 people. There are around 55,000 ROM members – many of those have visited more than 60 countries over the last 25 years.
IN HIGH DEMAND
These signature packages are becoming trendier for the exclusive experience they offer to its travelers. Lewie Gonsalves, president of Worldwide Quest International and his company specializes in experimental travel to distinctive destinations around the globe for targeted groups, such as museum members, lawyers, history buffs, among others. “We take people on journeys to discover unique places. About 80% of our clients are repeat clients or come to us by referral,” says Gonsalves, who has been partnering with ROM groups for the last 15 years.
To customize a package, Worldwide takes into account the duration of the trip, accommodations required, and the taste of its various groups of travelers. In providing this type of journey to Brazil, Gonsalves made partnerships with local tourism agents to make sure English was spoken during sightseeing and boarded the plane himself along with the group. “We only recommend trips to places we’ve been before. I’ve been to Brazil many times and recommend going back as many times as possible. It’s a huge country with so many amazing places to explore.”