The colourful Quadrado: Trancoso, Brazil

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We’ve been fortunate to do a fair amount of traveling over the years and have been to some incredibly beautiful and beguiling places. There have been cities, towns, and villages; mountains, beaches, forests and deserts. It’s not easy to pick favourites – they are all remarkable in their own way. There are a few places, however, that have won our hearts over the years. They are the places with heart.

Many of these special places have a town square or piazza at their centre — a place where the locals congregate to converse, to play, to shop, to eat, to love, to laugh, or just to hang around. There is a tangible sense of community in these places and it always draws us in. We do our best to participate but mostly we enjoy observing the people and their interactions. Sometimes we look on with envy, wishing we could speak the language and genuinely join in.

Trancoso is one of these places and at the heart of this wonderfully tranquil and welcoming town is the ‘Quadrado’ — the square of Trancoso. A rectangular patch of grass, it is lined on its long sides by huge Monkeypod trees and colourful adobe houses, and punctuated at its far end by the all-white São João Batista church. It is the meeting place for everyone in town: young, old, rich, poor, singles, families, locals and tourists alike. People gather here to sit, to play, to chat, to eat, to shop or to stroll around the sandy path edging the grass. The Quadrado is remarkably quiet during the day with shutters closed, picnic tables empty, and its football (soccer) pitch vacant. It comes to life every evening as the hot sun dips in the equatorial sky and the locals appear for a game of football while the sun-seekers return from the golden sand beaches at the base of the cliff behind the church.

This has been our hangout for the past few weeks. In the mornings we amble lazily through the Quadrado on our way to the beach, passing familiar faces along the way — Kiko, the man with the voice so deep it scares the kids, the funny guy on his bicycle who always calls to Marlow, the man selling grass hats, the woman with the colourful bird mobiles and the guy with the dream catchers. Many of them are local artisans with their wares attractively splayed out in the shade of the biggest trees. They greet us with a warm ‘bom dia’ and smile as we pass. In the afternoons we make our way back from the beach and find the Quadrado teeming with life: the football is in full swing, the capoeira is being practiced, the shop keepers have opened their shutters and the restaurant owners are setting their rustic wooden tables with vases of tropical flowers. Some days we stop for a sweet tapioca crepe at the edge of the Quadrado before walking home, bellies full of Nutella and hearts happy.

On other days we skip the beach and extend our schooling with an art lesson in the Quadrado. We find an abandoned picnic table in the shade, get out our paint brushes and try to capture the colorful houses and banana trees. If we stay long enough we’ll watch as the sky darkens and the Quadrado awakens. The sounds of conversation and laughter fill the air. Live music seeps out from one of the cafes and the pretty lanterns hanging from the big trees start to glow, making the whole place sparkle with light. It’s probably time to get the kids home for dinner, but we linger longer. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be.

In Trancoso we have found somewhere slower. Its Quadrado is one of the most special places we’ve ever been. It is simple, rustic and unassuming, and yet it there is something indescribably magical about it. You are reminded here that life does not need much to be completely fulfilling.

We wish we could stay longer in Trancoso. But, just like our first visit to Positano (one of our other favourite places), we know we will come back again and again.

16 thoughts on “The colourful Quadrado: Trancoso, Brazil

  1. Congrats for the beautiful family you have and your special, delicate way to observe things around you, as in your photos, as in the way you put it into words. Im brazilian and i got delighted by how you described Trancoso. You totally got it! Please keep enchanting us with your travels. Hope you guys have the best time! xx

  2. This town is so beautiful! Now I’m dreaming of my own visit. I have a feeling I’ll feel the same about many of the places you’ll visit on your trip. Can I ask, how did/do you decide where to stay while travelling? I imagine it would be tricky to narrow down where to spend long periods of time when there are so many places to visit!

  3. Loving following your journey here and on Instagram. Seriously considering how we could offer our children these experiences with our jobs/finances. Inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Oh so lovely to see the bigger picture of those jealous-making photo on your instagram. Like the pink house which match your ace&jig skirt, the real green house beside the white one that all the kids drew before and that house #210. They are all so lovely, Courtney. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I’ve commented before on your writing style, Courtney, but am compelled to say similar again. It’s so apparent that you studied journalism and your attention to detail – even without your photos – is so rich in detail and evokes a real sense of place and being. Speaking as a secondary school English teacher whose first love was journalism, I hope this blog takes your words to an even higher plane. Safe onward travels xx

  6. my favorite pic is the one of Marlow with her tongue licking her mouth she is adorable!!!!!! Loving the adventure!!! XOXO

  7. Glad to hear you’re enjoying my country! I don’t know where you’re heading next and you probably have everything right for now but if you find yourself in Brazil someday again, please take time to visit Mato Grosso do Sul. It’s so worth it and knowing how much you and your kids love water and hot weather, you sure will enjoy it there!

  8. This is so gorgeous–another “to visit” spot added to my travel wish list! Thanks for sharing your family’s journey. Such a breath of fresh air!

  9. Hi Courtney,
    I am so pleased that you are enjoying Brazil. Trancoso brings so many memories for Roland and I. We were there ages ago before kids and had a great time. We can’t wait to go back. I love the idea that you are eating all this amazing food like Feijoada, Tapioca and all the fresh tropical fruit Brazil has to offer. I have to say i am a bit jealous! !
    In London the cold has started. We just finished half term and tomorrow we are back to our busy school time. We are not going to Brazil for Xmas 😢this year so it is quite nice to follow your adventure there. It brings a bit of warmth to my heart 😊. Lots of love to you, Michael and the kids and I can’t wait for your next post. Beijos grandes from all of us. xx Fe

    • Hi Fe!
      You’re so sweet to leave us a comment. Being here in Brazil has made us think of you all!
      We have loved this beautiful country and can see why you miss it.
      Hope all is well back in London and at the school. Looking forward to catching up when we’re in London next spring!
      Beijos grandes from muggy Rio! xx

  10. Thank you Courtney for sharing these moments and thoughts! Deeply like the way you think and what life means for you… I’m eager to follow your next adventures 😉

  11. Dear Courtney, My name is Bruna and I’m a brazilian moving to Mexico. You have just made me cry with your beautiful and delicate description of just one of the beautiful places in my country. I think that this is one of the things that makes me proudest of being brazilian, no matter how rich or poor, brazilians always find a way to happiness. Thank you so much. I’ll take these words always and I hiper that you come back many times.

  12. I love how you are able to write so beautifully and truthfully about the simple joys around you. That last photo of Marlow is to die for. Can’t wait to see where your travels take you next. xx

  13. Great write up, love your use of town squares as the heart of a place it is urban design 101 Gordon Cullen 😉 maybe his serial vision drawing excercise would be a good one for the kids.
    Thanks for being so inspiring.

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