Sep 27, 2010

New Year´s Eve is on your doorstep…where are you going?

Fazenda da Lagoa´s swimming pool

by Antonella Kann

Have you already made plans for Christmas and New Year´s Eve? Ever considered spending a couple of weeks in Brazil, for a change? Well, I can tell you the good news and the bad news.

The bad ones is that this time of year the rates of whatever you may think about are at least twice the price they used to be. I mean from hotel rooms to car rental or a simple beer on the beach.

The good news is that this is the right time, just the right time, for you to find searching for a place which suits both your taste and budget. And still find it memorable. Just look at the room right in front of you...I have been receiving a few emails from a couple of resorts and pousadas, offering affordable packages for the end of 2010.

the beach at Corumbau, right in front of the pousada
As it will not fall other than on weekends, not many people will be able to take two whole weeks of vacation without calling them “vacation time”. What I mean is, if X-Mas or New Year´s would have fallen on a, let´s say, Wednesday, every excuse would do for you to forget there were Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday from at least one week.

This is the Fazenda São Francisco de Corumbau, it can´t get any better...
I can´t do the homework for you, since there´s no clue whether you´d prefer beach or mountain, silence or parties. What I can do write down some of my favorite hubs and particular spots where these dates can be enjoyed. Most of them are on this blog, so you can always go back a few clicks and find more details about them.

This week I will begin with very popular places by the sea, as well as resorts and pousadas which are – unfortunately – high rated, top of the list, and therefore may not even have availability anymore. Of course, you never know until you pick up the phone and speak to the manager. That´s what I do when I REALLY want to be there on a certain date. There´s always someone who cancels, right?

The Quadrado in Trancoso, the famous "square"

Let´s begin with peace and calm in the south of Bahia: near Ilhéus, try the Fazenda da Lagoa and in Corumbau, near Porto Seguro, the pousada to go is Fazenda de São Francisco It´s absolutely tourist-free and the beaches are yours. Of course, luxury and privacy never come for free.

pousada Etnia, a quiet place after the fireworks
For those wishing to spend every night out and watch the sunrise, Trancoso, also near Porto Seguro, is the perfect haven. Though I would rather sleep a bit outside the Quadrado, because at some point you´ll definitely need to shut your eyes. My choice would be the charming and comfortable Pousada Etnia.

Fernando de Noronha at sunset: the most beautiful show
Going up northeast, Fernando de Noronha is everyone´s dream island, although be prepared to spend a small fortune. If you can, it´s worth it. Nothing compares to its beaches and there´s a limit of less than 500 tourists a day. So, basically, you´re on your own. The always-will-always-was Pousada Zé Maria is a fair choice, not cheaper, but adequate. Reservation for this time of year is – to say the least ! – complicated. Worth trying, though.

Warm waters, beautiful scenery, almost on your own...That´s what an island is for.

Beautiful stretches of sand, long hikes on the beach.

The most famous "post card" from Fernando de Noronha

kite surfing is one of the many outdoor activities in Jeri
Again for party lovers, Jericoacoara, also up north in the state of Ceará, is fantastic. There´s plenty of activities and restaurants, and kite surfing, and long hikes. You can bet there´s still room available in the beachfront pousada Vila Kalango

The charming village of Jeri has many restaurants, bars and a nightlife for those seeking parties.

the Vila Kalango hotel, right on the beach

While you try to make up your mind, I will sort out some off-the-beaten path destinations where there might be a chance for you to find rest and peace or fireworks and music. In the meantime, let me know if your browsing was successful.

Sep 16, 2010

Instituto Moreira Salles, a cultural space a stone´s throw from Gávea´s busy neighborhood.

by Antonella Kann

I realize that I should be writing more often about Rio, but as I focus on the city in the Portuguese version of the blog, it slips away among many other destinations. I do apologise for not mentioning it more often in English and promise I´ll make up for it. So, this one is specially for readers who have an inclination for photography.

It´s been some time since I had last visited the Instituto Moreira Salles, a charming cultural haven nestled in the midst of Gávea´s neighborhood. I was there for lunch with some friends at the cozy Café Galeria, their small restaurant where they serve delicious salads, quiches , pastries and pasta dishes. The menu is not very sophisticated, but the options are tasty.

There´s always something going on inside this imponent modern building, which was designed in 1940 and for several years served both as the residence of the respectable Moreira Salles family as well as the meeting point for important political and social events during the last decades of the 20th century. All this before being transformed into a low profile (but sophisticated) cultural hub.

Since 1999 until nowadays, following some refurbishments, the IMS became "the place to go" for any out-of-the-beaten-path exhibit, a cultural centre in general and a permanent reference for photography shows. You´ll find two spacious venues and the most incredible collection of images from Brazil, but most of all, from Rio de Janeiro.

Works by Marc Ferrez, Marcel Gautherot and José Medeiros are some of the photographers who have their works preserved and often exhibited for the public. Special techniques have allowed the IMS´ specialists to perform amazing restorations on many endangered historic images.

On the other hand, if you are a movie fan, you can splurge into the weekly selection of the IMS´ films. There´s a small theater/cinema where they regularly come up with those unforgettable titles – think the “Noir” series, b&w classics, and even more recent hits, like Scarface …remember???

Ok, let´s say movies are not your cuppa tea, so try browsing the library with hundreds of titles regarding photography and the life of photographers, Brazilian History and even stationary gadgets and ceramics. So you can even do some cultural shopping and go home with an original gift.

But you can also just step in to stroll around, have a glance at the latest exhibition, and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the terrace, by the pool, sipping a coffee and reading a book. The IMS has a green area surrounded by great views of the Pedra da Gávea , where you´ll feel secluded and really out of reach.

Instituto Moreira Salles
Rua Marquês de São Vicente 476
Tel. 21 3284 7400
opens from Tuesday to Friday from 13h to 20h and Saturdays , Sundays and holidays from 11h to 20h. Free entrance.

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Sep 6, 2010

Pipa & Tibau do Sul for the sun and simple life!

by Antonella Kann

This year´s New Year´s Eve is certainly not to be cheered: it´s just a simple weekend, so if you fancied a looooooong one, call this a Saturday and Sunday, with (maybe) a twist on Friday after lunch. That will, naturally, make you avoid thinking about making plans for a faraway destination. And you will now think it´s much too early to worry and, even if you would be the most creative person living on this planet, there wouldn´t be enough creativity to stretch the days – no matter how long they are in summer.

All this to tell you about one of the few places that deserves a handful of sacrifices and time consuming, even if it means spending ONLY a weekend. To tell the truth, I would rather conceal the existence of Pipa and Tibau do Sul, two small villages nestled in the northeastern state of Rio Grande do Norte, not far from capital Natal…

Why ? For the past decade, this place has been my favorite haunt and quite often chose it as the perfect hub to spend my husband´s birthday. It´s the ideal destination for so many reasons that I can only think of the most precious one: sun and simple life.

For the rest, just take a good look at these images and then reach your own conclusion. How much exactly would you endure to…

Imagine many stretches of pristine sand framed by high cliffs of pink sandstone which seems as if they will slowly be wiped away by the constant breeze…And the sea, so warm that even I spend half of my beach-not-to-bother-time in the water, trying the old “boadyboarding” exercise. In case you are not familiar with this sport, it consists on sliding down ( very gently) on the waves, using only your body as a support. It´s a delicious sensation. And kids love it.

But you can, of course, surf, windsurf, walk for miles, enjoy the great outdoors and many other activities which are offered either by nature or in the villages Pipa and Tibau do Sul.

Though only apart 4 kilometers from each other, the two villages differ in almost everything. Though both have an exceptional location, the beaches in Tibau are exceptionally deserted, even during high season. On the other hand, there´s not even a glimpse of the glamour that you´ll find in Pipa, a niche for good restaurants, luxurious hotels, boutiques and shops lined along the main and only street.

An unknown fishermen´s village a couple of decades ago, Pipa also attracted surfers and hippies, until these two gems were discovered by the human predator (tourist). You may not think of yourself as an eco-conscious, but when you get to know this paradise, a inner voice will tell you that those many new condominiums should have been banned from the stunning landscape in the first place.

And that cars should also be banned from the main street, mostly during weekends and high peaks. Crowds of tourists, many Europeans ( yes, the Old Continent is aware of Pipa´s existence and nailed it so precisely on the map that a Portuguese carrier introduced very successfully daily direct flights from its capital!)

On the other hand, Tibau kept its characteristics of a simple fishermen´s hub and became the dream retreat of those who want to have the best of both worlds. No nightlife, no main street buzz, no shopping malls, just a couple of very charming hotels ( but I would add that luxuries can be translated into many things and therefore cannot be compared) and a provincial atmosphere.

So, the best of both worlds is staying in Tibau and once a day, or every other day, or just when you feel the itch to go, drive for ten minutes into Pipa, preferably after 7 p.m , and choose one of the cozy restaurants to have dinner. Then stroll back and forth on the main street, appreciate the world-go-by and the beautiful people. When you get tired, pick up your car and drive back to Tibau. Everyone in the village is fast asleep, and so there´s no noise, no loud music or hangovers-on-the-road to disturb a quiet night.

So, it may make you purple with envy, but as I was mentioning about New Year´s Eve, I must confess that I will be in Tibau during the last Saturday and Sunday of 2010. And for the previous weekend too…and the following one. Well, I did the impossible: I stretched the last weekend of the year into 10 simple days to be spent under the sun in paradise, swimming with dolphins by my side.

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Sep 2, 2010

Curitiba, a southern taste of Brazil

by Antonella Kann

It was my first time in the capital of the state of Paraná. Unfortunately, I only had one night and one day – Sunday evening and a Monday!

But, on Sunday evening, when I arrived, the best restaurants in town - the starred Durski, elected the best in the south of Brazil, the French L ` Épicerie, the German Cantinho do Einsbein and the Italian Villa Marcolini - were closed. We ended up in a very busy, popular and quite good Japanese ( Taisho) devouring traditional sushi.

Yes, you must have noticed that there´s a pot-pourri of nationalities in this town. All European immigration leaving their footprints in the gastronomy. By the way, Curitiba is also famous as one of the gourmet capitals. And also about their architecture and local culture.

But this is a small town – some label it as provincial - compared to other capitals in Brazil and therefore the week begins on Tuesday and ends on Saturday night.

The same happens about museums, which would have been a good alternative for a Monday morning. But the interesting Museu Oscar Niemeyer ( R. Marechal Hermes,999) was also closed.

Fortunately, the day was sunny and warm ( much too warm for this time of the year, mind you, it´s still winter!!) so I decided to go for a stroll in the Historic Center, or, “Old Town”.
The very charming 18th century Largo da Ordem, a public place with a fountain, where farmers used to come and offer their fresh produces. Nowadays, there´s a market every Sunday morning, which sells artcrafts and hand painted ceramics.

At ten o´clock in the morning, there wasn´t much to do besides going into every small café or shop which would eventually be opened. I ended up sipping a coffee in the Depósito da Ordem, visited the sympathetic Solar do Rosário. Inside, there´s a restaurant, a small library and an art gallery.

By mid-afternoon, before going to the airport, I went to the Botanical Garden and this green area is really amazing. Many people come just to have a look at the manicured gardens – called French Gardens, a kind-of-Versailles-outfit – but mainly to feel the romantic and inspiring atmosphere. I´ve never seen so many couples kissing and hugging as in this park

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