Paraty, in southern Rio de Janeiro state, seemed almost too picturesque for its own good. The cobbled streets, flanked by white-washed colonial houses, were neat and clean, doors and windows freshly painted in bright, eye-catching colors. The streets closest to the water are periodically flooded by the rising tide, and the shallow water left behind reflected the white housefronts and the gaily-painted doors and windows with mirror-like precision.
A painter in a smock stood by the water's edge, solemnly reproducing the low colonial church, while at his back tropical islands rose out of the haze. A small child swam across the channel, one arm raised to hold a pink kite above the water. Lazy cats dozed in the warm sunlight.
During the weekend, the town bustles in a discreet, understated way, but by late Sunday afternoon it was quiet again. The only noise to break the silence was the buzz of engines, as weekend visitors from out of town took off from the small airfield to fly home to Rio de Janeiro in their private planes.