Nov 23, 2009

Alex Atala reclaims helm of Dava e Dito restaurant in São Paulo

The number one term searched by those who visit this blog is "Alex Atala", and I'm sure that's no coincidence. He is, in fact, the country's top food ambassador and in the past couple of years acquired the status of celeb-chef, showing up in mobile phone ads, multiple magazine covers and on the 50 Best Restaurants list.

So I feel I should give an update on his much talked-about second restaurant, Dalva e Dito. A while after a scathing review in Veja São Paulo, Alain Poletto, the French chef who'd been put in charge of the place, was pulled out (he says he left to pursue a new challenge, but don't they all say that?).

In Poletto's place, Atala very intelligently put... himself! :)

He understood that the public had turned against something they saw as a pricey exercise in branding, rather than a project that Atala actually had his heart in.

So now Atala's steering the ship, and he's thought up a new menu filled with real homey classics that every São Paulo native knows from family meals. Genius: the Brazilians go for comfort food, the gringos go to discover what real home-made Brazilian food tastes like. Hopefully, the execution in on par with what is expected of him.

I've decided to reproduce here the menu in its entirety, since I've gotten a few requests from readers. Voilà:

Dalva e Dito

Brazilian Food

Prix fixe lunch 47 Reais (or 72 reais on weekends and holidays with the dessert of the day)

Dalva e Dito salad: greens, tomato, fresh heart of palm, onion

Sides: white rice, brown beans, black beans, crisp potatoes, wilted kale, farofa

Enjoy a choice of:

Contrafilé steak,

Pork tenderloin

Roast chicken


Crispy Saint-pierre

To start...

Cuscuz paulista (traditional cornmeal terrine with tomatoes, peas and eggs)

With shrimp and salad

Salad of cavaquinha (Brazilian langoustine)

Slow-poached sous vide and served with heirloom cucumber, tomato, citrus and a bisque vinaigrette

Salad of fradinho beans and pulled beef tendon

The meat is slow-cooked until tender, served shredded and tossed with onion, green pepper, brown beans, parsley and green peas.

Fresh heart of palm salad

Cooked and raw wedges of rustic heart of palm, diced pienaple, marinated shrimp, herbs, cream and cinnamon.

Lambe-lambe clams

An homage to the classic seafood stew served at the beach restaurant Dalmo Bárbaro

Oysters from Santa Catarina state

Garnished with lime and salt

Cod brandade

With black beans and julienne of wilted kale

From land and air...

Red rice from Northeastern Brazil with skewer of coalho cheese and grilled vegetables

A rice dish typical of the arid countryside paired with the charred cheese that is the quintessential Northeastern beach snack

Pig in a can with potato mash and pequi

Confit of pork ribs slow-cooked in a can combined with the exotic flavour of the pequi, a fruit that grows in the plains of Central Brazil

Oxtail with and canjiquinha

A classic of Minas Gerais state, a hearty mix of slow-cooked oxtail, crunchy watercress and white corn porridge

Roast chicken with homestyle risotto

Roasted and soft chicken made by our Rotissol. Only it knows how to do that

Quail stuffed with dried bananas and cashews

A very Brazilian stuffing enhances the flavourful bird. On the side, a lighter and tropical take on the risotto: less creamy and made with the common agulhinha rice instead of arborio.

Skewer of picanha beef, Gaucho style, with farofa

The classic from Rio Grande do Sul state: 300 grams of prime steak grilled on the spit, served with the traditional farofa (toasted manioc flour)

Beef tenderloin with sautéed onions, topped with a fried egg, and white rice

A São Paulo classic, served at most family tables

Steak milanese with potato salad

Another classic: generous portion of crisp, breaded deep-fried meat and a cool salad as contrast

Rack of lamb with crispy potatoes

Lamb prepared gaucho style on the spit and served pink, with chimi curri sauce and potatoes.

Rack of goat with broccoli tossed in olive oil, and baked onion (for two)

From the water…

Pirarucu a la plancha with Brazil nut vinaigrette and ratatouille of vegetables from the Northeast

The largest fish species from our rivers, farmed sustainably, paired with diced and roasted manioc, maxixe, jiló, okra, sweet potato and jerimum squash

Surubim with jambu and lemongrass, white rice and manioc flour

Also farmed sustainably, guaranteeing even quality and flavor, the fish is served with jambu, a herb from the North which is unique in that it makes the tongue tingle

Salt-crusted catch of the day with crispy potatoes

Whatever is best at the market. Please allow a 35 minute preparation time.

Bahian moqueca with white rice and fish porridge

Badejo steaks in a traditional palm oil and coconut milk stew (for one, 45 reais)

(fresh chopped cilantro is optional)

Capixaba moqueca with white rice and fish porridge

Light, delicate and tasty. The moqueca typical of Espírito Santo state

Shrimp in the pumpkin

A Brazilian classic: shrimp in a thick and creamy Catupiry cheese sauce served in a pumpkin, with white rice on the side

Shrimp a la plancha with mandioquinha mousseline

Extra-large shrimp served sizzling and topped with chopped parsley and lime, with a silky purée of Brazil’s tastiest root vegetable

Dona Dalva cod

Top-notch Dias salted cod served in a casserole with stewed tomatoes, potatoes and onions and the best Portuguese olive oil

Octopus with manioc mash

Grilled tentacles served with chunky concassé of roasted manioc

In homage to the cookery of Brazilian grandmas, aunts and mothers...

Homestyle risotto

Not at all like the Italian version: baked casserole of rice, peas, tomatoes and carrots, au gratin

Manteiguinha beans from Pará state

The name of these beans translates to “little butter” – and for good reason...

Roasted Pupunha heart of palm

A great ingredient, baked whole, in the palm trunk

Mousseline of mandioquinha

A silky purée of Brazil’s tastiest root vegetable

Ratatouille of the Sertão

Diced and roasted exotic vegetables from the Northeast region - manioc, maxixe, jiló, okra, sweet potato and jerimum squash – finished with a drizzle of manteiga de garrafa, Brazil’s version of the Indian ghee butter

Crispy potatoes

Fried whole, rustic and delicious

Potato salad

Diced potatoes tossed with eggs, chopped onion and mayo


Toasted manioc flour

Broccoli tossed in olive oil and baked onion

Potato mash with pequi fruit

Classic mashed potatoes laced with the exotic scent of Brazil’s heartland

Manioc mash

Chunky concassé of roasted manioc

To sweeten life...

Selection of farmstead compotes

With fresh cheese

(As traditional as it gets)

Romeo and Juliet

The pairing of guava paste and Catupiry cheese got this name because it is a match made in heaven. To our version we add guava cream and guava sorbet.

Açaí with banana, guarana, spices, tapioca ice cream and granola

A dressed-up preparation of the Amazonian fruit, served unsweetened as is the custom in its place of origin.

Papaya cream with a drizzle of catuaba

Papaya whipped with vanilla ice cream and topped with drops of catuaba liqueur

Brazilian fruit sorbets

Exotic even to Brazilians, although they shouldn’t be...

Cashew fruit, graviola, and papaya with pitanga

Fruits of the moment

Chocolate and priprioca custard

Single-origin cocoa in a silky cream laced with the essence of an exotic root from Pará state

Crème caramel

Brazilian-style and in a generous serving, to overcome my childhood yearning

Ambrosia with passion fruit jam

A classic dessert made with milk, eggs and sugar. Souvenirs of my father

Flambéed strawberries

Served with cinnamon ice cream

Mango mousse, coconut ice cream, ginger syrup

The only sugar in this light dessert is the fruit’s own

Raviolis with banana and passion fruit stuffing, tangerine sorbet

Baba à la cachaça, golden egg custard

Dalva e Dito
Rua Padre João Manuel, 1115, Jardins, 3062-6282

And more Alex Atala on this blog:

And also, two videos I made at D.O.M.:

Pirelli calendar is out, photographed in Trancoso, Bahia

It's on today's WWD blog... The new Pirelli calendar is out! And it was photographed in Trancoso, Bahia, at the Uxua, a great little hotel we've been talking about here for a while...

Here's the press release about the 2010 Pirelli calendar:

"Pirelli Calendar 2010 by Terry Richardson

London, 19 November 2009 – The 2010 Pirelli Calendar, now in its 37th edition, was presented to the press and to guests and collectors from around the world, at its global premiere in London. The much-awaited appointment with ‘The Cal', a cult object for over 40 years, was held this year at Old Billingsgate, the suggestive late 19th century building on the banks of the Thames, where from 1875 to 1982 it housed the capital city's fish market.

Following China, immortalized by Patrick Demarchelier in the 2008 edition, and Botswana shot by Peter Beard a year later, 2010 is the year of Brazil and of American photographer Terry Richardson, the celebrated "enfant terrible" known for his provocative and outrageous approach.

In the 30 images that scan the months of 2010, Terry Richardson depicts a return to a playful, pure Eros. Through his lens he runs after fantasies and provokes, but with a simplicity that sculpts and captures the sunniest side of femininity. He portrays a woman who is captivating because she is natural, who plays with stereotypes in order to undo them, who makes irony the only veil she covers herself with. This is a return to the natural, authentic atmospheres and images of the ‘60s and ‘70s. It is a clear homage to the Calendar's origins, a throwback to the first editions by Robert Freeman (1964), Brian Duffy (1965) and Harry Peccinotti (1968 and 1969). Terry Richardson, like his illustrious predecessors, has chosen a simple kind of photography, without retouching, where naturalness prevails over technique and becomes the key to removing artificial excesses in vogue today to reveal the true woman underneath.

The rooster, the sabre, the jets of water and the old tyres become the punctuation marks giving rhythm and harmony to the tale told by Richardson, where suggestions of the Pop Art that inspired some early editions of the Calendar merge with an Eros typical of this American photographer, that Eros which in the 2010 Cal is evoked only slightly, through allusions which Richardson uses to mock convention, giving form and carnality to things taboo.

This is a Calendar which Francesco Negri Arnoldi, former Art History Professor at the University of Salento in Lecce and University Tor Vergata in Rome, considers Pop. He defines it as "totally new, in its return to the past; absolutely original, in its consolidated tradition, and capable of rediscovering the charm of all-natural femininity". With the return to Pop Art, the language adopted is an essential and immediate iconographic language, understandable by all and contaminated only by daily life.

The 2010 edition is a clear expression and Terry Richardson is its interpreter: he portrays figures without frills, removed from complicated and artificial contexts set by fashion trends. The setting has no showy backgrounds or schemes, in line with the photographer's simplicity and focus on the essential. "A great photographer," says Richardson, "captures the moment – that's why I shoot without extra equipment and without assistants.

"My technique is the absence of technique: the lens is my eye, my charisma, my ability to capture moments of truth, whatever they may be, picture angles, use of color, light, scenery – these have always been the essential aspects of my photographic art."

Eleven models appear in the Calendar: Catherine McNeil, Abbey Lee Kershaw and Miranda Kerr of Australia, Eniko Mihalik from Hungary, Marloes Horst of the Netherlands, Lily Cole, Daisy Lowe, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley from the UK, Georgina Stojilijkovic of Serbia and two Brazilian natives, Gracie Carvalho and Ana Beatriz Barros."

And here, a few photos from the Richardson shoot.

Trancoso, Bahia: index of posts, by subject

  1. Uxua, a new luxury boutique hotel in Trancoso
  2. Uxua's Casa Seu João: see photos
  3. Jacaré do Brasil: my favourite Trancoso pousada
  4. A complete listing of hotels and pousadas that I recommend
  5. Terravista: one of the world's most beautiful golf courses
  6. Trancoso: all the best restaurants
  7. Trancoso and Espelho: top 5 things to do
  8. A slideshow of my favourite Trancoso photos
  9. Tauana hotel, in Corumbau, South of Trancoso

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Nov 21, 2009

Oscar Niemeyer's Auditório Ibirapuera, in São Paulo: stunning concert hall

“I am not naïve enough to follow those who think themselves extraordinarily important and predestined to make history. (…) I know well how precarious and illusory things seem over time, which dillutes and forgets all”, says Oscar Niemeyer. Yet time has done nothing but extol the Brazilian architect’s genius. A case in point is the Auditório Ibirapuera, a concert hall he designed half a century ago which was finally inaugurated in 2005, with much fanfare.

A trapeze-shaped white façade of white-painted concrete frames the entrance, accented by a lipstick-red tongue (stunning, but which does little to protect patrons from inclement weather). The foyer is pure Niemeyer: a white expanse anchored by a coiled ramp to the left, leading to the audience, and an oversize sculpture (also lipstick-red) by famed artist Tomie Ohtake blanketing ceiling and one wall like a bird’s wing. The auditorium, wedge-shaped in profile, is two-in-one: a 20-meter wide door behind the stage opens at the touch of a button, exposing the lawn and trees behind it. The artist can either perform to an indoor audience of 800 or turn around and face the park and a crowd of up to 15,000.

The concert hall was the missing piece in a much larger oeuvre: the Parque do Ipirapuera, São Paulo’s grandest park. Inaugurated in 1954, its grounds are studded with modernist structures designed by the the Pritzker Prize winner, including the upside-down semi-circle Oca, which houses an exhibition hall, and the light-filled Museu de Arte Moderna, Latin America’s largest museum of contemporary art. Each building is part of a harmonious whole and was erected according to plan - except for the auditorium. At the time, planners ran out of money, and couldn’t overcome mounting political hurdles. Plans were finally ressurected in 2002, and modified only slightly, to become wheelchair-accessible and allow for up-to-date sound and light equipment. The wait was well worth it: the Auditório is not only accoustically impeccable, but portcard-perfect.

Auditório Ibirapuera: Portão 3 (Gate 3) of the Ibirapuera Park.

And here is a slideshow of the Auditório's own P.R. shots:

More sightseeing and attractions in São Paulo:

Assouline launches book on Oscar Niemeyer at Miami's Art Basel

The man is nearing 103 years of age, yet is still unstoppable: architect Oscar Niemeyer is launching yet another book. This one, however, is the most ambitious ever.

OSCAR NIEMEYER from the Assouline LUXURY COLLECTION is a limited edition, hand-made volume that is the most complete and lavish exploration of Niemeyer’s 101-year life and career.
It contains sketches and original photography by author Matthieu Salvaing, and
contributions from Tadao Ando, Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid.

The book will be launched at the upcoming Miami's Art Basel, next month, with a posh fête.

More on Oscar Niemeyer on this blog: the Auditório Ibirapuera, in São Paulo

Nov 18, 2009

Serra Verde Express: Brazil's first luxury train

The Serra Verde Express goes from Curitiba to the port of Paranaguá, criscrossing forests and the beautiful Serra do Mar making stops in quaint towns like Morretes and Antonina.

It's no Orient-Express but hey... it's better than no train at all! :)

Curitiba to Paranaguá, stopping at Túnel Roça Nova, Santuário do Cadeado and Estação Véu da Noiva.

Here's their top-of-the-line section:

Nov 15, 2009

Réveillon in Boipeba beach, Bahia: New Year's packages

Luca Martucci is an Italian who lives in Brazil and owns a bespoke travel company: Cultour. He's offering a six-day trip to beautiful Boipeba, in Bahia's Dendê Coast, for New Year's (Réveillon). Here's what it includes:

Wed 30.12 – Salvador/Boipeba

Private transfer in a van to Graciosa, where a speedboat will take the group to unspoiled Boipeba Island, part of the Arquipélago de Tinharé, South of Salvador.

Sunset at Boca da Barra beach, at the mouth of the Rio do Inferno.

Thurs 31.12 – Boipeba – CULTURE DAY “BYE BYE 2009”

Schooner ride to the Praia de Bainema, to swim in the natural pools created by the coral reefs. At night, party at the “Coqueiro” bar, on Boca da Barra. Fireworks and champagne on the beach at midnight.
Friday 01.01 – Boipeba

Hangover day.
Sábado 02.01 – Boipeba

Speedboat tour to Ponta dos Castelhano (deserted beach) and Coroa Alta. Lunch at fishermen's village.
Sunday 03.01 – Boipeba

Trekking along the Banheirinho, Tassimirim and Cueira beaches. More swimming in natural pools created by the coral reefs.

04.01 – back to Salvador


Pousadas Alma Viva e Casinha Amarela
3.500 Reais (double occ.)

Pousada Rhydayam
3.150 Reais (double occ.)

To book, call Luca at Cultour: +55 71 88216855
or email him at

Rio mayor hires Madonna to sing at the Copacabana New Year's Party

Não estrague o Réveillon mais bonito do mundo, governador

By Ricardo Freire, a.k.a. The Professional Tourist, author of the
Viaje na Viagem travel blog and guides

Here's a disclaimer for those who might be reading this without knowing where I stand:

1) I love Rio more than the city where I was born, the city where I live and more than anywhere I've ever visitted.
2) I find the New Year's celebration in Copacabana (Réveillon de Copacabana) the most beautiful thing ever
3) I support the Rio 2016 Olympics in a nearly unconditional way

BUT: who knows what Rio mayor Eduardo Paes was thinking when he announced he'd hired Madonna to sing at the 2011 Réveillon.

Hello, mr. Mayor: without Madonna, millions of people already show up at the beach for the year end celebrations. With a free Madonna show, the whole country might set up camp there.

It's irresponsible - I repeat: ir-res-pon-si-ble - to create a monster demand for an event that, as it is, can not accomodate any more spectators than the ones it usually draws.

The actual purpose of the beach shows during the Réveillon should not be to attract more poeple, but rather, to entertain those that are there anyways. It's more of a fun samba night, no need to call up mrs. Jesus Luz.

Réveillon with Madonna, besides spoiling the experience for those who like to spend New Year's in Rio, will increase tenfold the safety problems - and, in the worst case scenario, lead to mob pushing and pounding like those that happen in Meca.

Want to hire Madonna to sing, despite the opposition of the locals, who are sick and tired of megashows at the beach? Fine, but do it on a night when the beach would otherwise be empty, and not on a night when every single Brazilian is off work and looking for a fun place to be in at the countdown to the new year.

Want to tell the world how amazing Rio's Réveillon is? Then invite Madonna - or any A-list pop star - to attend the party as a guest. He or she could even take part in some of the traditional rituals, such as dressing in white, hopping seven waves on one foot for good luck or sending presents out to see to Iemanjá, the sea goddess. Então traz a Madonna, ou qualquer outro pop star de primeiríssimo time, para assistir ao Réveillon. Heck, get her a biodegradable Kabala to throw out to sea, if that's what it takes. There.

That'll be enough to get Rio's Réveillon in the headlines all over the world, without actually ruining the fun.

More Rio on this blog:

Dining and bars (botecos)

  1. Roberta Sudbrack: the best chef in Rio?
  2. Terzetto Café: great breakfast spot in Ipanema
  3. The best restaurants in Rio according to the experts
  4. Bráz, Carlota... São Paulo restaurants open Rio outposts
  5. Where to eat bacalhau (cod): the best Portuguese restaurants
  6. Le Pré-Catalan at the Sofitel: when hotel dining is done right
  7. Bráz, São Paulo's best pizzeria, opens outpost in Barra da Tijuca
  8. The best cafés, pastry shops, finger foods and chocolates in Rio
  9. Academia da Cachaça, in Leblon: the best spot for pairing cachaças and traditional Brazilian food
  10. Aquim: elegant restaurant with great food in Leblon

  1. The best hotels in Barra da Tijuca
  2. Sheraton has the best spa in Barra da Tijuca
  3. The Ouro Verde, in Copacabana: and old classic has gone downhill
  4. La Maison, in Gávea, is one of Rio's best places to stay
  5. The best hotels in Leblon, Rio
  6. The best hotels in Ipanema, Rio
  7. Hotel Fasano Rio, in Ipanema: the best in town
  8. The best hotels in Copacabana, Rio
  9. The best hotels in Santa Teresa, Rio
  10. The hotel Santa Teresa, in Santa Teresa, Rio: a full report with photos

Fashion and Shopping
  1. Best shops in Ipanema: Lenny, Mara Mac, etc.
  2. Fashion Rio, the biggest fashion event
  3. Rio's best beauty addresses
  4. 2009 Oi Fashion Rocks: Versace, Marc Jacobs, Lenny et al on the runway, Diddy, Mario Testino, Donatella and Mariah in attendance

Attractions/ Sightseeing
  1. Rio Ferris wheel opens in Copacabana
  2. Artists Nuno Ramos and Vik Muniz open shows in Rio
  3. Corredor Chopin: new art hub nextdoor to the Copacabana Palace hotel
  4. Museu da República museum shows contemporary art
  5. Yves Saint Laurent at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB)
  6. Livraria da Travessa, in Barra da Tijuca

Nov 14, 2009

Cruise down the Negro and Solimões rivers aboard Spanish cruise ship

The Amazon, king of rivers, is fed by a myriad smaller rivers which compose the Amazonian basin, a full 50.000 km of them navigable for medium-sized vessels. It measures an incredible 320 km in width where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. The two main rivers that merge to form the Amazon are the Negro and the Solimões.

The Iberostar Grand Collection is a 2.200 ton luxury ship with 72 cabins and two suites, distributed among three passenger decks.This ship also has two restaurants, two bars, a ballroom, two pools, a gym room and, best of all, it's all adults-only!

Three nights down the Rio Solimões
Includes trekking in the Manacapuru region, motorboat rides along wetlands, piranha fishing, gator spotting, game viewing, visitting local villages.

Four nights down the Rio Negro
Includes a visit to the Arquipélago das Anavilhanas, one of the largest freshwater archipelagos in the world; pink dolphin watching; riding at night in a motorboat to observe wildlife; visitting an Indian village, folklore show.

IBEROSTAR Grand Amazon
Porto de Manaus, Amazonas
Tel: (55-92) 2126-9900

Uxua hotel in Trancoso, Bahia: photos of the Casa Seu João "suite"

The small and exclusive Uxua hotel in Trancoso isn't news to readers of this blog: I've written about it before, here. As the press release explains, "UXUA (pronounced ooh-shoo-ah) is a tropical utopia composed of nine unique houses offering total privacy with the added comfort of five-star hotel services. This stunning and unique destination enjoyed a May 2009 grand opening and has already hosted the likes of 11 world-famous supermodels and photographer Terry Richardson during the 2010 Pirelli Calendar shoot, as well as well-known Brazilian socialites and celebs.

UXUA, which in local native Pataxó Indian language means marvelous, is under the ownership and direction of long-time Diesel Creative Director Wilbert Das who realized the project as a tribute to the area of southern Bahia which he loves. Over three years Wilbert tapped Colonial, indigenous, and Afro-Bahian histories, arts and customs, and collaborated with local artisans using traditional building methods and recycled materials."

I just received some amazing pictures of one of its "casas", or suites - the Casa Seu João - which made me want to hop on a plane and just go. Be in Trancoso. Wake up facing the Quadrado (the town green). It's got to be my favourite spot in the world!

The Casa São João is one of a few original fisherman's houses which were bought and renovated by owner Wilbert Das. As the press release puts it, "accommodations at UXUA are found in nine extraordinary casas, each exquisitely outfitted with all of the accoutrements and special services that bring the property to the five-star level. Each has an indoor / outdoor living room, a full gourmet kitchen and sumptuous bedrooms (1-3 depending on the casa) with ensuite bath."

Well, the Casa Seu João, specifically, is exactly what the doctor ordered. It feels like a private beach house, with rustic armoires:

And a tub with a faucet fashioned out of a reclaimed tree branch:

Trancoso being warm year-round, there's not much need for walls:

I especially love the super cute and rustic kitchen:

Above the canopied bed, wooden shingles:

The bed faces the casa's private pool and garden:

Where there's a table for al fresco brunches:

And a pool all your own:

And right next to it, a daybed for lazy post-beach naps:

And, last but not least, an outdoor shower disguised as a tree trunk:

Rates per casa, per night start from $541 during low season (March through November) and $706 during high season (December through February).

Guests fly into São Paulo, Salvador, or Rio, and connect via numerous national and international airlines with multiple direct daily flights to Porto Seguro, a 1hr. cab ride from Trancoso and UXUA.

UXUA Casa Hotel: tel. +55 73 3668-2277

Photos: Fernando Lombardi

And more Trancoso on this blog:
  1. Uxua, the newest luxury boutique hotel in Trancoso
  2. Jacaré do Brasil: my favourite Trancoso pousada
  3. A complete listing of hotels and pousadas that I recommend
  4. Terravista: one of the world's most beautiful golf courses
  5. Trancoso: all the best restaurants
  6. Trancoso and Espelho: top 5 things to do
  7. A slideshow of my favourite Trancoso photos
  8. Tauana hotel, in Corumbau, South of Trancoso

Nov 13, 2009

Cheap packages to Pernambuco state offered by Brazilian tour operators

Photos © Alexandra Forbes

It almost sounds too good to be true, and in principle I do hate package deals, but.... the quoted prices on the press release below are simply incredible and I just had to share them with you.

I'd never recommend any of these package tours to anyone who already knows Brazil and/or can speak a bit of Portuguese, but for first-times who like travelling with a group, or for young open-minded types they could be a good bet. Here is the press release I got:

"Brazil Tour Operators Offer Deals for Winter for Only $392

New York, NY, November 12, 2009 – A sleepy state on Brazil’s northeast coast is starting to attract Americans. Relatively undiscovered until now, Pernambuco has much to interest visitors including 116 miles of pristine coastline, charming 16th century architecture, delicious seafood and terrific toe-tapping music. So while Rio has been getting the lion’s share of attention up till now, that may change as savvy travelers head for Recife (pictured above) and Porto de Galinhas.

Lying on almost two miles of white sand beach, the capital of Recife has a laidback vibe that recalls the Miami Beach of yesteryear. And it offers fabulous dining – the city’s restaurants are rated second highest in the country.
(ed note: NOT TRUE! RESTAURANTS IN GENERAL ARE MANY NOTCHES BELOW WHAT YOU'D FIND IN RIO OR SAO PAULO) The Portuguese settled in Pernambuco in the 1530s and with the riches from sugar cane built beautifully ornate churches.

Set on a hill next to Recife is Olinda, a UNESCO World Heritage site with dozens of beautiful 16th and 17th century churches and monasteries.

Lining the town’s cobble stone streets are art galleries, restaurants, bars, boutiques and charming pousadas housed in centuries-old mansions.

Just down the coast is Porto de Galinhas, its warm crystalline waters drawing surfers, divers and kite surfers. Brazilians have voted it the country’s most beautiful beach – for seven years in a row!
(ED NOTE: IT'S NICE BUT OVER-BUILT AND TOURISTY, and I have no idea who voted it Brazil's most beautiful beach) (...) And everywhere – in the beach bars and clubs – is the infectious beat of the local country music, called forró.

Members of the Brazil Tour Operators Association are offering some great deals this winter. From now through December 19, Borello Travel & Tours is offering a seven day/six night “Escape to the Beach” package to Recife, Olinda and Porto de Galinhas that starts at only $392 per person, double occupancy. It includes: three nights at the 3-star Best Western Manibu in Recife; a full-day city tour that includes Olinda; a half-day cultural tour with a museum visit; a tour of an artist’s workshop and a catamaran sail; three nights at the 3-star Armação Hotel in Porto de Galinhas; full Brazilian breakfast daily; roundtrip airport transfers, and hotel taxes. Borello Travel can arrange air from Miami for $661.70 and from New York for $682.70; both include $170.70 in taxes. From January 4 to March 30, 2010, the cost of the package will be $598, per person, double. Package is subject to availability, and prices are higher for the Carnival period (February 12-17.) Call: 1-800-405-3072

Just Brazil Vacations by Hotur is offering a six-day/five-night Pernambuco packages starting at $2,489 per person, double occupancy (January 7 - March 30, 2010) which includes roundtrip airfare from Miami, six nights accommodations: two nights in Recife at the five-star Atlante Plaza, two in Olinda at the Pousada Sete Colinas and one at the Nannai Beach Resort in Porto Galinhas; daily Brazilian breakfast, half day city sightseeing in each city, a walking tour of historic Olinda, local tour guides and hotel service charges and taxes. Prices through December 23 start at $2,799, per person, double occupancy. Higher rates apply for Carnival. Call: 1-877-468-8707

Brazil Nuts is offering a “Delights of Olinda” package for $995 per person, double occupancy that includes roundtrip airfare from Miami to Recife, three nights at the charming Sete Colinas in Olinda, daily breakfast, roundtrip airport transfers, hotel taxes and a private half-day sightseeing tour of Recife. The package is available until December 15 and from January 3 to March 31, 2010. Prices are higher for the Carnival period. Call: 1-800-553-9959 The Brazil Tour Operators Association aims to raise awareness of its active members as Brazil travel experts and heighten visibility among North American travelers for all the destinations in Brazil."

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog has not tested the packages or the hotels proposed and cannot vouch for their quality. The packages are quite inexpensive, and usually, as anywhere else, you get what you pay for...

Graffiti art on show at MASP museum in São Paulo, starting next Wednesday

São Paulo has one of the world's most vibrant graffiti art scenes in the world. And, at long last, the big museums and institutions are taking notice and introducing these artists to the mainstream. An example? The "De Dentro pra Fora, De Fora pra Dentro" show, opening at São Paulo's MASP museum. It's a site-specific installation by artists Zezão, Titi Freak, Daniel Melim, Ramon Martins (pictured below) and Carlinhos Dias which has taken over the museum's basement and mezzanine.

“Visitting this show will be like strolling through São Paulo’s streets, in a way”, says Baixo Ribeiro, owner of Choque Cultural art gallery (specialized in street art), the mastermind behind the show.

“Brazilian graffiti is different in that the major artists actually paint. And paint amazingly well, in works of large dimensions", says Ribeiro. "And what's interesting is that these specific artists are incredible muralists".

Photos: courtesy of Baixo Ribeiro

To learn more and see more by these graffiti artists, click here.

MASP: Av. Paulista, 1.578 Tuesdays-Sundays. Tickets are R$ 15 (and free on Tuesdays) Tel. 55- 11 3251-5644
(Please note that the actual permanent collection of the museum is closed to the public for extensive renovations and rearranging).

More on art in Brazil on this blog:

  1. The best of Brazilian street art on show at Choque Cultural gallery
  2. Choque Cultural gallery and a show of American art
  3. Osgemeos open a show in Rio
  4. Vik Muniz opens show at the Masp, in São Paulo
  5. Artist Iran do Espírito Santo opens his house in São Paulo to the blog
  6. SPArte, Brazil's most important art fair
  7. Vik Muniz's wife Janaína Tschäpe shows at the Fortes Vilaça gallery

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