Brazil, all this and even more
Before travelling to Brazil this summer,I was told “Brazil is another world…Brazil is dangerous, Brazil is intense, sexy and beautiful… Brazil is all this and even more.
One of the world’s most captivating places, Brazil is a country of powdery white-sand beaches, verdant rainforests and wild, rhythm-filled metropolises. Brazil’s attractions extend from frozen-in-time colonial towns to otherworldly landscapes of red-rock canyons, thundering waterfalls and coral-fringed tropical islands. Then there’s Brazil’s biodiversity: legendary in scope, its diverse ecosystems boast the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on earth. There are countless places where you can spot iconic species in Brazil, including toucans, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, capybara, pink dolphins, sea turtles and thousands of other living species.
No less entrancing is the prospect of doing nothing, aside from sinking toes into warm sands and soaking up a glorious stretch of beach, with a caipirinha – Brazil’s national cocktail – in hand.
Brazil’s most famous celebration, Carnaval, storms through the country’s cities and towns with hip-shaking samba and frevo, dazzling costumes and parties that last until sun up, but Brazilians hardly limit their revelry to a few weeks of the year. Festas (festivals) happen throughout the year and provide a window into Brazil’s incredible diversity. The streets are carpeted with flowers during Ouro Preto’s Semana Santa (Holy Week), while in the north, Bumba Meu Boi blends indigenous, African and Portuguese folklore. Several cities, such as Recife, Fortaleza and Natal even host Carnaval at other times of the year. I think I definitely want to come back for Carnaval.
Wherever there’s music, that carefree lust for life tends to appear – whether dancing with cariocas at Rio’s atmospheric samba clubs or following powerful drumbeats through the streets of Trancoso. There’s the dancehall forró of the Northeast, twirling carimbó of the Amazon, scratch-skilled DJs of São Paulo and an endless variety of regional sounds that extends from the twangy country music of the sunbaked sertanejo to the hard-edged reggae of Maranhão.
And the food….
Thanks to a diverse population stemming from Portuguese colonization, a long history of slavery, and large groups of immigrants from Europe and Asia, Brazil has an interesting and rich food heritage. Because the country is large and diverse, regional dishes vary greatly from one area to another.
Feijoada (pronounced fay-zhoh-AH-dah) is perhaps Brazil’s most famous dish. This popular meal is the best known regional dish from Rio de Janeiro but Brazilians in much of the country enjoy a version of feijoada, especially on weekends when the family gathers for a slow meal, perhaps while enjoying music or a soccer match.
Several components make up feijoada. The main part is the bean stew, typically made from black beans that are cooked slowly with pork and/or beef. Salty dried meat and pork sausage are usual additions, but some feijoada includes pork trimmings or smoked ribs. The black bean stew is served with white rice, collard greens, farofa (toasted manioc flour, which provides a crunchy texture to the feijoada), fried bananas, and orange slices. And we loved the Bahian dish, the Moqueca, we tried different ones for dinner in Trancoso. And we loved the desserts, Brazil offers so many cakes and sweets.
We went to Brazil for one month and came back, different people. Brazil inspired us like we could never have imagined.
Find my recommendations below for an amazing time in Brazil
São Paulo is a monster. Enormous, intimidating and, at first glance at least, no great beauty. It’s a difficult city for the traveller to master and one that may not seem worth the sweat. Even the most partisan Paulistano – resident of São Paulo city – will rail about the smog, the traffic, the crumbling sidewalks and the gaping divide between poor and rich. We loved Sao Paulo
Stay at the Fasano! There is no other hotel in Sao Paulo. This is the one and only.
I met Catherina Johannpeter in London at a private Brazilian sale event organized by my friend, Alix Duvernoy. In Sao Paulo, I paid a visit to her newly opened store, Pinga.
Whilst originally from Rio, she has left her home-city, relocating to São Paulo to open Pinga with her business partner Gabriella Paschoal, trips back to Rio are frequent though. Catherina told me that “The idea of Pinga was to represent Brazilian designers that are creative and make unique items”. They carry Wai Wai, and Betina de Luca, both brands are represented by our showroom, they also just launched Alix.Rio.I love how they are saying “We are much more focused on slow fashion and our aim is to represent Brazilians.” Actually, there are not that many cool stores showcasing Brazilian designers. When I left them, I thought to myself, I really hope they succeed, they have such a lovely energy and are clearly trying something new in Brazil. Next, I think they will develop their online presence. I am watching you, Ladies.
Luca and Jack
Like most things in Brazil, I discovered Luca and Jack by word of mouth, Ana Strumpf ( Super talented illustrator and creative director ) and Gisela ( Cofounder of super cool and high-end Brazilian eyewear brand Lapima ) both recommended separately that I meet with Carolina, the co-owner and co-founder of this store-brand.
Luca & Jack is a clothing line for babies, kids and mamas founded in 2015, by designers Carolina Glidden and Nina Sander. For ten years with a successful woman’s wear collection in Brazil, the designers created Luca & Jack as mini versions of their mainline, with a combination of excellent quality and creativity. Luca & Jack, little clothes are modern, with a distinctive bohemian style… at the same time luxurious and understated. The line is produced in small scale by artisans in São Paulo. The concept is to make clothes that have a traveler’s feel, mixing ethnic fabrics with a contemporary style, away of the “bohemian obvious”. We visited Carolina’s delightful boutique and Paloma selected a few skirts, pyjamas, she had a couple of dresses made to order et I selected a dress that Carolina offered to retouch swiftly and deliver to my hotel and I fell in love with a beautiful coat.
Lane Marinho’s shop-atelier
I discovered this lovely shop again by word of mouth, Ana Strumpf offered to take me there and to introduce me to Lane Marinho.
The Bahia native, now based in Sao Paulo, worked in the shoe industry for many years, especially with big brands where she saw closely the amount of garbage generated and the products that were left over. In 2013, she decided to venture into her own project, having a small workshop and participating in the entire process of creating and producing the beautiful merchandise she designed, believing that fashion does not have to keep up with the hectic pace of today’s world and that, yes, it can be sustainable. She now has a small team and develops, at her pace, around thirty pairs per month.
Lane is a fashion, art, nature and Brazil. Her work is colourful, natural stones such as jades, pearls and corals, or porcelain pieces developed by Lane herself, can be applied to the client’s taste, who assembles her shoe by choosing between model, heel, string and fabric colours and available applications, thus having a custom shoe that, after being chosen, will take around 40 days to be ready. In addition, she creates also necklaces and straw bags. I ordered a bespoke pair and will receive them soon in Paris. Just like the shoes, the customer service is also personalised. Lane receives her clients, like myself in her beautiful shop-atelier, that she shares with two other designers, one customer at a time, so that she can give full attention and show the limited pairs of prompt delivery that she has available. Proof that Lane’s handcrafted business model works well is the list of customers she has already conquered, shipping shoes all over Brazil and abroad, and growing popularity.
Perhaps calmer, personality and preciosity is what we need now.
Rua 25 de Marco
Yes, it is crowded and hot, but the ’25’ as fondly known by Brazilians is a fun place to shop. Best to arrive before the shops open, most do at 9am and you just go for it! A good store is Armarinhos Fernando (3 stores in this street), there you will find anything at reasonable prices. If you are after souvenirs, walk to the back streets, near the flower shops. Quite good deals there. Be careful with your belongings and aware of your surroundings. I’ve noticed an increased police presence which makes you feel safer. I bet it is a lot of fun at peak times such as Carnival, Christmas, school holidays, but possibly a little dangerous and to be avoided if you don’t like crowds. It is a street that shows what Sao Paulo is about: a multicultural crowded city that is not afraid to embrace its contradictions. Highly recommended. We went there on our last day with friends, and it is definitely better to go with locals. I found colorful chita fabrics by the meter and Paloma was treated to a cheap fun wonderwoman fancy costume, we bought lots of fun tat for 30 rials.
It is a truly unique experience!
These were our favourite restaurants
Rustic-chic Maní will astound you. Run impeccably by the 2014 Veuve Cliquot World’s Best Female Chef,Helena Rizzo, it’s often rightfully touted as Sampa’s best Brazilian restaurant. The inventive slow-cooked egg (1½ hours at 63°C) is more famous, but the house-cooked potato chips topped with filet mignon, or hearts of palm taglierini with creamed Tulha cheese are true culinary coups.
A casa do Porco, where I celebrated my birthday sharing innovative and tasty pork bites. Lovely attentive service too.
Dona Onca, we also had to queue but it was worth the wait.
Braseiro da Gavea, we loved this institution, we went on Saturday, it was packed with families, eating at big tables, there was a long queue but we had beer and linguesa to wait.
Our meal was absolutely scrumptious.
My definite favourite place was Museu Afro Brazil and I think I will write a full feature on it afterwards. It blew me away.
Do not miss The Museu de Arte, designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi, go and see loads of graffiti art around Beco do Batman, have a nice afternoon in Villa Madalena, it is such a nice neighbourhood. Visit Itau Cultural, I loved it, I went on my own, don’t forget.
There is so much to do in Sao Paulo, Sunday at Parque Ibirapuera is fun. One of my other favourite places was Lina Bo Bardi’s house, loved the peaceful atmosphere and the simple sophistication. I would have loved to spend more time there.
Rio’s beaches have long seduced visitors. Copacabana Beach became a symbol of Rio during the 1940s, when international starlets would jet in for the weekend. Hogging the spotlight these days is Ipanema Beach, its fame and beauty unabated since bossa nova stars Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes introduced the world to its allure in the 1960s. For cariocas the beach is Rio’s backyard – a playground that’s free and open to all, offering endless enjoyment in the form of football, volleyball, surfing, snacking, drinking or simply relaxing amid the passing parade of people.
Whether you call it joie de vivre or lust for life, cariocas have it in spades.
Shopping at Cassino Atlantico flea market, that was upon a recommendation from a carioca friend, the market takes place in a shopping center, it is not a beautiful place but it has its charm, I found a few gorgeous hand painted porcelain zodiac sign pendants there, an old lady was selling jewellery there, she definitely showcased quite a few treasures.
Do not miss Instituto Moreira Salles and The Botanical Gardens,
We loved having a stroll on Copacabana beach on Sunday, is a “full on” spectacle in itself. Go to Niteroi to see Oscar Niemeyer’ iconic contemporary Niteroi Art Museum. When in Rio, we saw an amazing exhibition about Brazilian Samba at the MAR museum.
Our favourite eateries in Cidade Maravilhosa were these two:
On our first night in Rio, we went to Espírito Santa, a beautifully restored mansion in Santa Teresa. We sat on the back terrace with its sweeping views and feasted on rich, expertly prepared meat and seafood dishes from the Amazon and the northeast.
Zaza Bistro Tropical, inside an art-filled and whimsically decorated converted house, Zazá serves beautifully prepared dishes with Asian accents, and uses organic ingredients when possible. Favorites include chicken curry with jasmine rice, flambéed prawns with risotto, and grilled fish served with caramelized plantain. We loved the cocktails and left this atmospheric gem of a place, quite tipsy!
When Dutchman Wilbert Das first came to Trancoso in 2004, he immediately knew he wanted to settle in Bahia’s most colourful and bohemian paradise. His initial, rather humble plan, was to transform one of the 15th-century fishermen’s cottages overlooking the village square into a private retreat. But, as you’d expect from the creative director of Diesel, this quickly became more ambitious. He realised he could help preserve historic Trancoso by expanding his project to include 3 more Quadrado-facing houses and several other buildings scattered nearby, most recently a treehouse and a garden hideaway with a rooftop pool. And his insistence on recycled materials, and tenacity in the sourcing of Brazilian vintage furniture, was fundamental to keeping the UXUA project in harmony with the local environment. With just 11 guest quarters scattered around a lantern-lit garden, this posada set discreetly off the main square makes a high style of rusticity. Casas have thatched roofs, cement and/or wood floors, king-size beds with fine linens, and a catalog’s worth of vintage furniture and Bahían folk art. Sumptuous bathrooms incorporate reclaimed tree trunks. At the beach, a five-minute stroll away, the hotel runs a lively bar and lounge, where locally crafted daybeds front a gorgeous strand. We had the most relaxing week there, in Trancoso.
Try the moqueca at Silvana and Cia, we kept going back for more.
Chez Silvinha | Espelho Beach, Silvinha is a MUST, delicious set menu with fresh grilled fish and all its sides dishes, condiments. And on a peaceful dream-like beach, one of the best beaches in Brazil.
You can find some lovely souvenirs at Divinos but it is quite an expensive place, you can also ask at Uxua, if you happen to stay there, they may have beautiful handcrafted objects sourced from the tribes, ask to see hand beaded jewellery, feathers headdresses, woven garments etc
Try and spend a few days in Caraiva, it is magical! No cars, no internet, very relaxing. Lovely lovely locals!
We spent a weekend in picturesque Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais.it is a very pretty place but rather quite touristy.
In Ouro Preto, I would recommend to some lovely condiments and jams at Sabor da Escadinha and you may also buy gemstones, especially imperial topazes but exert caution if you don’t know much about gemstones.
Whilst in Ouro Preto, have lunch at Chafariz do Paco and dinner at Bene da Flauta. These places were wonderful.
In Belo Horizonte
We only stopped for one night and dined at Xapuri, it ended up being one of our favourite restaurants in Brazil,
Dona Nelsa’s local institution features fabulous mineira food served at picnic tables under a thatched roof, with hammocks close at hand for pre-meal children’s entertainment or post-meal relaxation. The traditional wood stove blazes up front, while colorful desserts are attractively displayed in two long cases.
We stopped by Belo Horizonte as we had dreamt of visiting Inhotim since we discovered an article in an art magazine a few years back.
For those who have not heard of Inhotim, it is a giant open-air art gallery set amid 500,000 acres of botanical gardens in south-east Brazil, two hours from Belo Horizonte. Its grounds are dotted with sculptures, art pavilions and over 4,000 plant species. On arrival, you are given a map that shows the attractions, spread far and wide, and then you pick your route. You can either get around on foot or, for a about £5 per person, in a chauffered golf cart. Either way, you’ll never see it all; some art enthusiasts buy multi-day passes.
The Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim was founded by mining magnate Bernardo Paz and designed by the late landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx, Paz′s friend. It opened to the public in 2006. The collection is a mix of works from Brazilian and international artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Doug Aitken, Vik Muniz, Anish Kapoor and Adriana Varejão. Many of the pavilions are works of art in themselves – one resembles an igloo, another a floating block of concrete. And the exhibits range from the mesmerising (a labyrinth of mirrors camouflaged into the forest so well that saucer-sized butterflies keep bashing into the glass) to the absurd (a row of garden shoes).
Much of it is interactive, too. On a hillside clearing, you can spin Olafur Eliasson’s kaleidoscopic telescope around to look at the trees. In another room, there’s a pool of water in the centre, where a sign I presume to be a caution turns out to be an invitation to swim. Paz has built the complex’s largest gallery for Tunga, the celebrated Brazilian artist fascinated by alchemy, rituals, and the organic products of nature and the human body. In one installation, nets hanging from the ceiling contain beakers filled with urine, dinner plates, and giant crystals. A series of drawings showcase an elaborate suruba, the Portuguese word for an orgy with phallic gemstones incorporated as props.
There are also a variety of restaurants, from hotdog kiosks to a chic bistro and a pay-per-kilo Brazilian buffet.
Inhotim has been called an art zoo, a cultural Disneyland, and, tenuously, a Jurassic Park for contemporary art. It’s also a money pit. Paz employs over 1,000 staff and says keeping it open costs him R$2m (around £500,000) every month. Ticket sales (priced £5 to £8 per head) make minimal returns – especially as there’s free entry on Tuesdays, a deliberate move to ensure it stays accessible to locals and students.
The experience was unforgettable.
Beautiful Brazil, Extraordinary Brazil, we will be back soon!