Apr 26, 2010

Itaúnas, in Espírito Santo state: dunes, forró and neverending party

by Antonella Kann

A couple of years ago, by the end of November, we decided to spend New Year´s Eve with the family in Itaúnas, some 250 kilometers from capital Vitória. Any other place would be fully booked, but not that small seaside village in the state of Espirito Santo. Also, I was pleased to find that the package rate wasn´t a rip-off as in any other resort on the coastline of Brazil.

Underneath these dunes lay the old town of Itaúnas, entirely buried by the sand since the 70´s.
Not quite famous as its baianos´ neighbors, it´s best known for its old town, entirely buried underneath the immense dunes which frame the new town. Until a decade ago, you could still see the top of the church. Nowadays, nothing is left from old Itaúnas.
beautiful walks along the beaches, crossing the river by boat

It´s not a trendy-sophisticated-upmarket destination in Brazil, and far away from being one in the top-ten. But that´s why it´s unspoilt and full of charm.

But don´t get me wrong: you´ll find pristine - read, deserted - beaches and a marvelous atmosphere to relax and party, as it´s the “capital” of the forró. I´ll translate: it´s a particular rhythm or , let´s say, a sensual way of dancing cheek to cheek ( and altogether very closely) from sunset to sunrise.

Also, it´s affordable, from accommodations to restaurants, and a very good option if you want to stretch your vacation budget in Brazil. Off-season, let´s say, after Carnival, it´s even better. But, naturally, don´t be choosy as there´s nothing gastronomic. But the local pizzas can be really very tasty and you won´t be disappointed.

Forró time: anytime, anywhere, no dress code!

But remember that Itaúnas is inside a National State Park, so beware of the strict environmental rules to preserve natural sites. Don´t miss a boat ride along the river, as the scenery is gorgeous. 

You´ll have to climb the dunes to go back in town

There are few pousadas which I can recommend, all rustic but with a bit of charm. Pousada dos Corais is one of them. But don´t go to Itaúnas for the comfort. Go to chase away the stress.

Apr 16, 2010

Porto de Pedras, in Alagoas state: icoaré or...do nothing!

by Antonella Kann

The small town of Porto de Pedras, in the northeastern state of Alagoas, is located on the coastline between Maceio and Recife, and is almost surrounded by water from all sides. Framed between two rivers, the Manguaba to the north and the Tatuamunha to the south, I would say that the reason why the place remains unspoilt is due to its natural borderlines.

The 8 kilometers of isolated sandy beach have as many labels you can name: Laje, Gibaba, Tatuamunha, Pataxo…On all its extension, bordered by coconut trees, you´ll spot local fishermen duly looking for their daily catch and, at low tide, several natural pools which become an ideal place to splurge yourself into. Water is clear and warm.

the sururu, a regional delish
But everyone has to adapt to the whims of nature, as long walks can only be done when the tide is low. And even a dip into the gentle sea should be avoided at some peak hours of the day. And be careful if you want to walk barefoot: small shells and stones can easily hurt you.

For those who enjoy exploring, set sail on one of those rafts called jangada, to get to further natural swimming spots where the water is translucid. You´ll be able to snorkel and observe marine life. But remember that tides rule every move and activities of the small communities which are located on the shoreline, including your outdoor schedules.

relax by the pool at Beijupirá´s 
Just off the beach at Gibaba, some happy visitors may be fortunate enough to float besides a manatee, or sea cow, a large mammal protected by environmental laws. They usually swim freely between the river and the sea with high tides.

the swimming pool at Pousada Aldeia Beijupirá

Expect to find a mild climate in this region, as even in summer it will never be suffocating and the constant breeze brings the temperatures down. In winter, apart from a few rainshowers, it won´t get cold either.

Besides long walks and snorkeling, eventually going for a horseback riding journey on the beach, there´s not much more to do, except relax in one of the very comfortable pousadas, nestled as close to the beach as possible. By day 2, you´ll be just happy to sip your cashew caipirinha by the pool and enjoy the flavours of the ingredients which are typically from Alagoas, such as carne seca, a kind of jerked beef, and sururu, a seafood which tastes special.

Plus all sort of tropical fruits, fresh caught prawns, langoustines, grilled fish…

One of the best local pousadas is called Aldeia Beijupirá  with very spacious and charming “malocas” ( individual huts) facing the sea. Or try the Pousada do Toque which offers private pools in its more luxurious and exclusive bungalows. Then, just lean back and relax , complying with the local saying, ico aré, which means “ to do nothing” in the indigenous language tupi-guarani. Difficult? Just give it a try.

Apr 7, 2010

Búzios off season: a seaside oasis

by Antonella Kann
Set on one of the most beautiful peninsulas on the southern coastline of Brazil, only 190 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro, Buzios was discovered by French actress Brigitte Bardot in the sixties. Since then, its charms have attracted visitors from all over the world and, in the blink of an eye, this once quiet little fishermen’s village has leapt to international fame.

During high season, which runs from December till Easter, the town overflows with visitors. It´s almost impossible to find vacancy in the numerous hotels and pousadas without making reservations well in advance. Huge cruise liners spend the day and off-load hundreds of passengers onto the beaches at Armação and Ossos. Traffic is jammed and no matter where you are, parking is complicated.

The pedestrian mall, Rua das Pedras, is the busiest meeting point after dark. On both sides it bustles with shops, boutiques, bars, mini shopping centers, restaurants and art galleries.
But all one has to do is wait until the end of summer, when Buzios goes back to its old atmosphere ( or almost…)

As from April, the town is an oasis of calm, providing a pleasant combination of high quality infrastructure with the air of a small fishing village. The large cruisers delete the spot temporarily, the beaches are not invaded by day tourists, there are no queues at the high end restaurants, prices go down everywhere.

Thanks to its micro climate, temperatures remain agreeable all year-round, and in winter you will easily wrap yourself in warm clothing after a nice sunny day spent at the beach. There are also plenty of appealing activities, like boating, horseriding, walking, hiking hidden trails in the surrounding hills, and even going to the downtown cozy movie theater can fit in a busy schedule.

The fantastic beaches, each with its own characteristics, are what really attract visitors to Búzios. Geribá cannot be beaten for surfing and all other water sports, as well as socializing; the tiny Forno is intimate and the sea is always calm, ideal for swimming, as well as Ferradurinha. Rasa and Manguinhos still retain something wild and the latter now hosts several seaside bars where you can eat fish and all kind of seafood caught in the morning by locals. Think lobster, prawns, clams….

Praia da Ferradura, welcoming despite its size, attracts a more chic and conservative public. A massage at the water´s edge is something to be experienced. The enchanting Ossos is the favorite of Buzios´ pioneers. Olho de Boi, a nudist beach, can only be reached by foot through a steep pathway.

There are several others to talk about, and just their names are worth mentioning: Tartaruga, Azeda and Tucuns ( Turtle, Sour and Palm Trees) are all lovely, so the best thing to do is visit them all and pick your own.

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Apr 6, 2010

Lion's Club, São Paulo's club du jour, in the Old Downtown

 Lions' large terasse which doubles as smoking area

If there is one club making headlines in São Paulo today, it's Lions Club.

The owners are well-known nightlife mavens Cacá Ribeiro (Royal) and Facundo Guerra (Vegas) and lawyerAugusto de Arruda Botelho.

It's located in São Paulo's Centro, or Old Downtown, which is unusual... and makes it all the more interesting. Vogue Brazil's style editor Fabrizio Rollo did the décor, which is quite theatrical and beautiful.

In theory, it's a members only club, but nothing that can't be resolved by showing up well-dressed and in good company...

The V.I.P. area...

Lions Nighclub: Av. Brigadeiro Luis Antonio, 277

Photos courtesy of Lions nightclub

Zena Caffè, in São Paulo's Jardins district: great neighbourhood Italian

By Alexandra Forbes

There's nothing fancy or pretentious about Zena Caffè, owned by chef Carlos Bertolazzi.
But sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered: a casual meal, well-executed.

And the place is charming, with plenty of tables on a leafy terrasse, which also doesn't hurt...

The food is Italian and the best thing on the menu is this thin, crackly focaccia bread stuffed with gooey stracchino cheese:

Nice, classic carpaccio:

The gnocchi is the chef's pride and comes with a cheesy foam on top:

Trenette with pesto, also nice:

Even the burger is Italianized... served on focaccia bread!

Silky pannacotta:

Chocolate mousse laced with rosemary and olive oil:

All in all, a nice dinner in a charming ambiance!

Zena Caffè: Rua Peixoto Gomide, 1.901, São Paulo, Tel: 3081-2158