Captivating Voyages: Victoria Lacoste’s Intimate Brazilian Travel Memoir
In an exclusive heart-to-heart, actress, producer and creative Victoria Lacoste reminisces over her most treasured travel memories, and how they helped shape who she is and her view of the world today.
When people think about traveling, they usually look to the future: fresh sights, new sounds, flavors, and experiences, while venturing into completely unexplored territories. It’s an escape in many ways – from the lives we’ve built, our history, roots, and from ourselves. But when I travel, I usually prefer to go back to old, familiar moments and memories, and to feelings that encapsulate the essence of home.
If I could take off to any destination right now, there’s only one place I would want to go, and that would be Armação dos Búzios. Located three hours from Rio de Janeiro and blessed with beautiful beaches, this small town on the east coast of Brazil has transformed from a rural seaside perch to a bustling luxury destination with modern sensibilities. However, the magic of my childhood remains, and it is this magic that still influences my sensibilities as an adult.
In the late 80s, my father decided to build a house there, much to the surprise of the locals. He was heavily involved in the design process, and accessibility was a challenge at first. The build took a long time, given minimal resources – at that time, even our drinking water was imported. In this world that at first felt so far from my own, I found my main source of entertainment in the lush tropics and empty beaches. I believe my current obsession with flowers and tangled tropical greenery came from that era. In fact, the hibiscus flowers on my patio now are the same ones I used to see scattered across the landscape in Búzios.
The house my father built was big and beautiful, but not overtly extravagant. It was built into the mountain, making it a sturdy and safe place for a young child like me to escape the challenges of a home life caught up in the currents of estranged family feuds and school bullies, just to name a few of the things I was escaping. I remember the aroma of the home more than anything else – a mixture of wood, humidity, and what I later recognized to be a popular local cleaning mixture that held a hint of hazelnut.”
Whenever I walked through the doors of that home, I instantly felt a wave of familiarity and calm wash over me, imbuing within me a sense of safety. Despite living in multiple countries and cities throughout my life, this house was the only place that truly felt like home to me all the way up until the one I currently live in.
Armação dos Búzios was a blend of worlds, people, spiritualities, and ways of communicating. There was a physical way of interacting with both the people around us and the natural landscape. Things, people, and ways of life that seemed so different from one another had a way of harmoniously intermeshing in a motley assemblage that was both unique and entirely organic. It was in this mix that I felt safe to be whomever I wanted to be. Our deep connection to the local community fostered a peaceful familiarity that only comes when one’s roots reach down to a certain level. Yet, at the same time, the place felt surreal, as if anything was possible.
Although much has changed over the years, the magic of the place remains. The world is forever changing, but magic often has a way of lingering, regardless. Tartaruga Beach, and Praia de Manguinhos were my preferred beaches as a child, with far fewer beach umbrellas and sunbathing tourists back then. And even today, visiting these beaches overwhelms you with the synthesis and symphony of water, sand, and sun – a feeling that resonates more in your heart and sinew than in your eyes.
The creperie, Chez Michou, where I used to visit as often as possible with my brothers to indulge in copious chocolate crepes after a day at the beach, still stands to this day, offering just as much of an experience as it used to. The crepes melt on your tongue, encasing your entire mouth, warming your heart as much as they fill your belly.
Búzios possessed – and still does possess, a beautiful blend of religions and diverse walks of life, all coming together to create its own blend of spirituality. Each year, as Easter approached, a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus unfolded on the bustling streets, a spectacle that left an indelible mark on my young mind. Amidst the fervor of this annual event, a subtle undercurrent of wonder flourished, as if the boundaries between the temporal and the sacred momentarily blurred.
Another practice that etched itself upon my memory was “Festa de Yemanja” – a ceremony dedicated to Yemanja, the revered goddess of the sea and fertility, and protector of fishermen and sailors. Rife with rituals including dressing in white and offering of flowers, fruits, and jewelry as well as an ongoing hum of chants, songs, and drumming, the townspeople would release small boats (or jagandas) into the water, decorated with flowers, candles, and other decorations that symbolized hopes and prayers, carried by the water to the realm of Yemanja.
These events encapsulated the very essence of the town, creating a harmonious blend of belief systems that resonated deeply within me. I discovered a world where faith knew no boundaries, where different spiritual narratives converged and enriched one another, leaving an enduring impression on my heart and mind.
My gratitude towards Brazil knows no bounds, as it played a pivotal role in shaping my childhood and influencing the way I perceive the world today. It has become an intrinsic part of my identity. The religious and spiritual rituals of the area had a profound impact on me, infusing a sense of magic into my being and contributing to my own distinctive sense of spirituality and my deep connection with water, lush foliage, and flowers is all intertwined with this experience. Every time I visit the beach, I make it a ritual to greet the ocean – a personal tribute to the spiritual journey that began in this captivating place.
In the journey of life, we often seek adventure and new experiences through travel, anticipating the excitement of uncharted territories. However, for me, the true essence of travel lies in revisiting the past, in retracing the steps of my childhood. This small coastal paradise, once a rural haven, has transformed with time, yet the magic of my youth remains etched in its very fabric. The memories of my father’s resilient efforts to build a home there, surrounded by the captivating beauty of nature, evoke a sense of familiarity and safety that no other place has ever matched.
Búzios was a place where cultures converged harmoniously, fostering a profound connection to the community and nurturing the freedom to be who I truly wanted to be. Though circumstances eventually led us to part ways with the house, its essence remains ingrained in my being, shaping my spirituality and altering my perspective on the world. Búzios is more than just a place; it is a feeling. Although life’s currents have carried me to various destinations, I continue to seek that unmistakable scent, the connection to my angels, and the feeling of being home – a feeling that will forever be tied to Armação dos Búzios.