July 25, 2013: Ouro Preto

Robin has a coxinha

We had planned to spend a day at Ouro Preto, since it’s close to BH and is kind of a popular tourist attraction. It was an important gold mining town in colonial times, and was the site of the first attempt toward Brazilian independence from Portugal. The leader of the independence effort was a dentist, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as “Tiradentes” (tooth-puller). He was hanged and quartered for his efforts in 1792. But the town is very pretty, full of old churches and cobblestone streets, with lots of little artsy shops.

We told Claudia that we were planning to go, and she said I should talk to her in the morning about our travel plans. When I got on Facebook in the morning, she suggested that she could drive us. We were happy to accept, since we’d missed a chance to spend time with her the night before because of the crazy traffic, etc. So she came by our hotel and drove us to Ouro Preto.

We stopped at the Casa dos Contos, which is the old colonial mint, now a museum of coinage and local history. The work at the mint was done by slaves, and the slave quarters are part of the museum, along with shackles and various tools used by the slaves. It was interesting, and there was also an exhibit by two artists in the region who make sort of 3-D shadowbox icons out of toothpicks and various other media. It was really cool; I include here a pic of one that had a mermaid in it, for Cabell’s benefit.

Artwork in Ouro Preto

We spent a little time walking on a nice brick path along the river in the town, where of course I looked at birds. My list from Ouro Preto:

House sparrow
Black vulture
Bananaquit
Social flycatcher
Sayaca tanager
*Gray-headed tody-flycatcher
*Cliff flycatcher

Peggy got to see the bananaquit this time; she’d missed a couple earlier. She also saw the cliff flycatcher — in fact we all watched it hawking from a TV antenna, catching bugs and returning to its perch. I didn’t figure out what it was until later, but I took notes of what we observed so that I could make the ID from my book.

I was the only one who saw the gray-headed tody-flycatcher. The others walked ahead on the path talking, and I stopped because I saw a bird hopping about in a small tree. This was a pretty easy one, as the first thing I noticed was the bright yellow lores, which is a defining character for it.

We had a light lunch — see Robin above with her coxinhna and coke — and bought a few trinkets. Okay, and Robin bought a sodalite necklace that was a bit more than a trinket. Happy birthday, honey! All in all, a nice day, and on the way home we stopped at Claudia’s house and spent a little time with her, her husband Rodrigo, and their son Max. We all sampled cachaca, a traditional sugar cane liquor. Max gave us presents — mine was a little soapstone bird from Ouro Preto, because I’m crazy about birds.

By the time we got back to the hotel, the fireworks had slacked off to maybe one every fifteen minutes or so.

*Life birds for me marked with the asterisk.

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