Aug 26, 2010

Fishing and riding in Bahia´s deserted beaches of Santo André

by Antonella Kann

You can only reach the small town of Santo André by ferry. It´s a very short journey across the bay of Cabrália, away from the bustle of Porto Seguro, in the south of Bahia.

Land of deserted beaches, and surely one of the loveliest landscapes, the area is the habitat of the marlin, an enormous fish which can reach up to 300 kilos. A haven for fishermen , who are sure to have a jolly good time.

Another attraction are the natural pools of the Araripe reef, and sailing boats as well as tourist boats take visitors for a dip into these limpid waters.

Also, surf championships are held in the neighbouring town of Belmonte, only a half hour drive to the north.

The sea can be rough sometimes, or very calm for a long period. There is 7 kilometers of beach that stretches from Santo André to Ponta de Santo Antonio, close to the river which bears the same name.

Fishing can also be put together with horseback riding within the same holiday package. There is one of the most exclusive resort in the region, the Toca do Marlin ( which offers its guests the opportunity for good rides on the beach.
Actually, it´s a stud farm where fine Lusitanian horses are bred. Even those with little experience can enjoy this combination of riding watching a maritime scenario. If you have never galloped on a deserted beach, give it a try.

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Aug 21, 2010

Monocle's Tyler Brulé goes gaga for Brazil in his FT column

Funny how life is full of coincidences... Take, for example, Tyler Brulé, the very well-known London-based editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine and founder of Wallpaper, where he worked previously. The high-profile newsman listed in his latest Financial Times column the many reasons why Brazil is by far his fave of the BRICs. To name but a few: Trancoso, havaianas flip flops and Bebel Gilberto.

This brought a smile to my face because it served as yet another reminder of how small the world really is. It turns out Tyler, in a previous incarnation, lived in a small Quebec town called Hudson, just West of Montreal, and was friends with one of my oldest childhood friends.

Now I live in Montreal and vacation in Trancoso (in my havaianas...) while mr. globetrotting media magnate Tyler left his Montreal 'burb faaaar behind and is just back from my home turf: São Paulo. So it all connects, in a strange way.

Of course Tyler loves the Fasano hotel (so do his Wallpaper buddies and all minimally cool foreign journalists, for that matter). Of course Tyler was whisked away to the Shopping Cidade Jardim and came away thoroughly impressed. Of course he loves architects-du-jour Marcio Kogan and Isay Weinfeld - so does Wallpaper. Of course it's no coincidence that Weinfeld is the man behind the Fasano hotel that so pleases mr Brulé.

"Much of this has to do with the meticulous planning executed by the hotel’s founder Rogerio Fasano and his architect sparring partner Isay Weinfeld. The former is the man behind one of Brazil’s most respected hospitality powerhouses, and Weinfeld is the man who virtually every Brazilian billionaire wants to commission to build their beach houses and city compounds."

Don't get me wrong: I, too, love the Fasano (and its eponymous restaurant, where I've had family dinners since childhood), the Cidade Jardim (although the boutiques are outrageously expensive), and also the beautifully sleek houses and boutiques designed by Marcio Kogan and Isay Weinfeld. But I just think that it's time that these magazine editors who fly in and out started looking beyond the obvious (or obviously cool) and venturing further, instead of always marching to the same drumbeat. God knows they're in Brazil often enough for that - it's just a matter of willing to do a bit of that ol'fashioned thing called.... reporting.

Here, the link to Tyler Brulé's column about "brand Brazil" in the Financial Times. 

Click here for more posts about Wallpaper magazine on this blog.

Aug 17, 2010

History, culture and art in the colonial town of Olinda

by Antonella Kann / photos AK and Maria Donato

Only 10 kilometers away from Recife, Pernambuco´s capital, on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, lies Olinda, a small and charming little town which dates from colonial times. More precisely, from 1535.

In Portuguese, the word Olinda is an exclamation by itself, and means “oh, beautiful!” . You´ll agree with me that this place deserves its name.

Nowadays it's a World Heritage Site and attracts many visitors due to its colonial architecture and for being a very important artistic hub. Art in all shape and forms is spread along colorful façades. The most famous street is the Rua do Amparo. Try number 224 for primitive sculptures and number 91 for a typical drink, the Pau-do-Indio. During the weekends, in the Alto da Sé, you can also shop for souvenirs among several outdoor vendors.

In November and December, in order to show their work, many artists open the doors of their ateliers to the public. Usually, it also happens to be their own home. During this period of the year, art is literally dripping in every corner of Olinda.

In the meantime, if you are passionate about the authentic “way of life”, you´ll enjoy strolling along the streets paved with irregular stones, and browse into the narrow alleys. On the way, you´ll also spot a few well kept churches which date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The entrance is free.

Olinda retains a nostalgic feel which will make you smack your lips in delight.

Be prepared to find good restaurants, regional food and exhibitions shown even inside the premises. But beware about the central market, a kind of tourist trap with not much to buy. On the other hand, don´t miss the Museu do Mamulengo, ( Giant Puppet Museum) a very peculiar and unique museum with exhibits of the giant puppets created specially for the Carnival parade. During this event, Olinda falls under the spell of the “frevo”, a frenetical rhythm which is highly contagious…and involves everyone who happens to be in town.

An typical "portrait" carved in wood.

Aug 10, 2010

Atol das Rocas : untouchable hell or heaven?

by Antonella Kann

When I look at those pics, I always remember this friend of mine who was telling us about his wonderful trip to the Atol das Rocas, a small atoll stranded 81 miles away from the island of Fernando de Noronha (which belongs to the State of Pernambuco) and 144 miles from the city of Natal ( capital of the State of Rio Grande do Norte).

He described his diving and swimming in an extraordinarily transparent sea, surrounded by tens of species of fish, some of which he also targeted for dinner time.

And feasted on lobsters freshly caught. He also pointed out that there were lots of fishermen´s boats around, and the men were catching sea turtles with their nets. Oh, yes, by the way, of course this friend was also aboard, though just a sailing boat.

This story is true, but – and a BIG BUT – took place almost 35 years ago.
By this I mean that, today, these scenes would be absolutely impossible to witness, as the Atoll is now a Biological Reserve submitted to the severe rules of the IBAMA , a governmental organ which is responsible for the environment.

But, when browsing at the pictures, your first thought is that this place is absolutely stunning and could be a reflection of a perfect destination in every detail. Wildlife, an uncommon transparency of the water and white stretches of deserted sandy beaches.

Paradise? At first sight, truly saying, yes. But when you think that there´s no fresh water whatsoever and no shade ( under a year-long temperature of over 40ºC) except under a palm tree which actually has been recently “imported” from the continent to this oasis, you´ll probably believe it otherwise.

That if God had created the world to look like this Atoll, then he would have made us with wings…..

Sorry, but you won´t find a mention of the Atoll in the main guides ( though you can certainly find excellent travel and photography books on it), as nowadays it´s almost out of reach and certainly unconceivable as far as a tourist destination is concerned.

And should I add, inaccessible even if you manage to get close to it – which would be by boat, but even if you do throw your anchor one mile away ( the authorized distance) from the Atoll, and consider yourself “in loco”, you wouldn´t even be allowed to take an innocent dip in the warm pristine water.

Aug 4, 2010

Lençóis: in Bahia state…with no beaches

by Antonella Kann
Can you imagine Bahia without a beach? I agree, it´s hard to make the (dis)association. But believe me, this state has more than sand and sea to offer to its visitors.

History tells us that Bahia is a melting pot of culture and arts and always emphasizes the magic of its pristine beaches, so not everyone is aware that its mountains, canyons, green meadows and spectacular waterfalls are as impressive as its coastline.

Lençóis (nothing related with the Lençóis Maranhenses I talked about a few weeks ago), doesn´t even appear on its own in most guide books. But this little gem town is a fantastic retreat-kind-of-place located in the Chapada Diamantina, a National Park in the heart of the state of Bahia.

Though it´s not an uncommon destination, Lençóis is the perfect choice for the adventurous traveler who wants to enjoy the great outdoors, as the luxurious twist lies in the environment, spectacular and unique.

Still, even if you are a city slicker and prefer to stay put, you´ll find in this charming colonial town a handful of comfy hotels and good restaurants, as well as a range of festivities and events year-round.

For instance, the Festival of Lençóis which takes place in September will offers a range of shows, dances and plays.

But the adventurous traveler will relish the opportunity for fantastic hikes, and challenging itineraries, some which can last for days.

You could explore the surrounding area of the Chapada and nature lovers would make it a trip of a lifetime. Photographers will also be able to spot incredible images.

Life still goes on as in the past, with colonial buildings preserved and local atmosphere calm and relaxed.

Although less mentioned, Lençóis is a special place, and easily connected through Salvador by plane. Check with Brazilian airlines Trip. (

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Aug 2, 2010

Álvaro Siza's Fundação Iberê Camargo, in Porto Alegre: a masterpiece

By Alexandra Forbes

“In a building, I like the light, but I also like the half-light and even the darkness – they’re complimentary things,” says Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. 

His project for the Fundação Iberê Camargo, in Porto Alegre, Southern Brazil, is a study in how to tame light.

Sunrays penetrate through only a few small windows (some bean-shaped, some rectangular) facing west at skewed angles and providing just enough illumination on the inside.

From the outside, the central idea that guides the art foundation’s gleaming form, inspired partly by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York, is rather simple. A ramp system circles around an empty core from top to bottom; at times, it’s contained within the building structure, at others, jutting out beyond the façade, the zig-zag adds texture and movement to an otherwise stark exterior. Here and there, windows reveal stunning vistas of the vast Guaíba River below. And at various points the ramps lead to galleries that house a collection of more than 4,000 works by renowned Brazilian expressionist Iberê Camargo, who died of cancer in 1994.

In designing the building, the Pritzker-prize laureate contended with greater obstacles than the harsh tropical rays. He had to work with a very narrow strip of land, facing a busy expressway and perched on a bluff overlooking the Guaíba. In an engineering tour de force, he carved an access to the museum and parking lot out of the rock underneath the noisy road. He drew the building tall and narrow enough that the steep cliff at the back, blanketed in thick tropical forest, could be left intact. As a result, the bright white structure – built of tinted cement – pops beautifully against a green canvas.

Although Siza is not particularly known for energy-saving initiatives, the museum is in synch the times through various integrated systems as well: rainwater is captured and reused in the bathrooms, and gardens are irrigated with water from the building’s own treatment plant. Rock wool insulation keeps the building comfortable, while the ramps are cooled with water that runs through thin plastic tubing. Yet it is its sculptural shape and angular whiteness that has locals talking. It may not boast the enormity and shine of a Guggenheim Bilbao, but the Fundação trumps Oscar Niemeyer’s Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art as the most iconic museum in Brazil.