Archive for the ‘Hot Spots’ Category

Hot Spots: Olinda, Brazil

December 3, 2009

Olinda, located a mere 6 kilometers north of Recife’s old town, offers tourists yet another opportunity to experience Brazil’s wide array of lively culture, exciting nightlife, and first-class restaurants. Olinda is considered to be the birthplace of Brazilian culture; it is almost literally a living museum that showcases the culture and history of this amazing country. Olinda’s colonial buildings are one of the best preserved collection of Portuguese architecture that exist in Brazil which is as large as the continental United States. At Carnaval, people dance in these colonial streets as they did 150 years ago an no one knows who is who for the masks that cover everyone’s faces. It is only DNA testing that can resolve who are the parents of Carnaval babies.

Hot Spots: Recife, Brazil

November 20, 2009

The Fastest Changing City in the Northeast State of Pernambuco

Often called the ‘Venice of Brazil,’ (I would like to know who in the world applied this non-sequitor to any place in Brazil) the breathtaking city of Recife still retains some of its Old World charm amidst all of the modernity of its high growth posture of the last years. The city is known for its artistic and folkloric traditions, music, dance, sculptures and paintings and I took the trouble of carrying so many of these back so that I still have them to enjoy and they are really different from any for vacation rental line those beaches and are generally of a higher standard than those of Rio.

When you decide to take a break from the wonderful yet over stimulating downtown Recife experience, you must visit the leafy suburbs which lie north of the center and which are dotted with fantastic museums and parks. To the south there is the modern beachside district of Boa Viagem. Other beaches are conveniently located both north and south of the city. Recife also offers animated, exciting nightlife which one would expect from a city of nearly two million. Boa Viagem has many bars, discos and dance halls. Forró, a local music expression, is an experience not to be missed and can be seen at Boa Viagem square or at Pavao Leao street. Boa Viagem is a safe and relaxed place, largely frequented by tourists (except on weekends, when the beach is thronged by attractive, interesting locals). The liveliest district is the Recife Island at the old town where you are guaranteed to have a good time. For those bar connoisseurs, definitely take a visit Rua do Apolo and its unique array of bars. Recife also offers excellent opportunities for shopping. From traditional handicrafts to modern conveniences, visitors can buy all of these and more at the many markets and malls around the city. The Casa de Cultura, a former prison that now houses handicraft and souvenir shops, is as enticing as it’s origin is bizarre.

If Recife has left you with remaining energy, put your feet to good use and take a walking tour of the city’s ancient monuments. There is no better way to see them. I met a friend on the beach who invited me up to his family home were they lavished me in all kinds of northeastern recipes, literally waved palm fronds over me while I was eating, were super anxious for me to try out every last kind of alcoholic beverage native to the area, and still write to me these many years later. Their sense of humor is not to be beat.

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Hot Spots: São Paulo, Brazil

November 13, 2009

brazil_sao_paulo_city_pracabandeira_south_americaSão Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the chosen base for nearly 75% of all fairs and conventions held in the country. It is known throughout the country as the “business capital” and although this is technically a well-deserved title, it does not reveal all of the wonders that this great metropolis has to offer. São Paulo is known for its restaurants, intense nightlife, and busy artistic calendar. From the bar on the corner to the most refined restaurant in the Jardins districts, from the snack served over the counter to the famous pastas in Italian cantinas, from the hot dog to the most varied international menus – culinary options in São Paulo are varied, unbiased and completely cosmopolitan. As a starting point for your visit to São Paulo, there’s no place better than Paulista Avenue, one of the city’s famous landmarks. Home to nearly 30% of the São Paulo financial centre, it is one of the districts most loved by its residents. When it comes to entertainment and art, the city of São Paulo never fails to impress. It has nearly 300 cinemas, more than 100 theatres, a dozen cultural centers and 70 museums, and many diverse historical buildings. There are also theme parks, countless leisure areas, and two large stadiums. For those tourists who bring their need for speed on vacation, São Paulo also has the Interlagos Speedway, home of the city’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. In a city this size, shopping is not only part of the itinerary, but also one of the main attractions. With its countless shopping malls, streets with specialized commerce and arts and crafts fairs, the city guarantees options to suit every taste.

Hot Spots: Boca de Valeria, Brazil: A Coboclo Experience

October 30, 2009

Boca de ValeriaBocadeValeria1bocadevaleria2This beautiful city is an entrance to the Valeria River and located on the south bank on a 400 foot hill overlooking the Amazon. Boca de Valeria, literally the “mouth” of the Valeria River, is a colorful Caboclo (a word meaning person of mixed Brazilian Indian and European ancestry) village consisting of a few wooden houses and an abundance of local wildlife, including monkeys, birds and several varieties of Amazon type plants. If you are visiting Boca de Valeria as a stop on your cruise itinerary, you will have the unique experience of having canoes, manned by the local inhabitants, greet you in the River’s waters. Since it is not possible to go ashore, your ship’s tender (a small boat used to service a larger ship) will take you as close as possible, where you can observe the very different life of an Amazonian up close and barter for local crafts (most of them worthwhile). If you have ever played the computer game “Amazon Trail” you have a (virtual) idea of what this experience is like! Be prepared to feel less like a tourist and more like a good-intentioned conquistador. Truly another world, this tiny Indian village is hidden within jungle lakelands where the screeches of colorful parrots fill the air and will drown out all of the anxieties that you left at home. All around you the trees stand waist high in an awesome display of what we will probably lose to global warming.

Hot Spots: Belém, Brazil

October 22, 2009

BelémWhat often surprises tourists about the city of Belém is the unique way in which nature is integrated into modern urban life. Everyone I know who visits Belem is completely taken aback at the small enclosures of gardens resembling the nature of the Amazonian forest and the surprising manner in which they merge with the unceasing movement of the city. You will never forget the backstreet scenes that go on in that city. Belém also offers visitors with an interest in the culinary arts the chance to sample traditional cuisine, which happens to be some of the most authentically Brazilian or Amazonian you will find on your vacation to Brazil. Dishes such as duck dressed with tucupi, maniçoba, tacaca, crab shellfish, fish soup and turtle sarapatel are some of the delicious dishes that illustrate a regional culinary art rich in flavors.

At the picturesque marketplace of Ver-o-Peso in Belem the fascinating mixture of colours, fragrances, flavours and exotic dishes are just as feverishly devoured by the eyes as they are by the mouth. A spacious, open, free market, Ver-o-Peso is a place where thousands of people visit daily to both shop and indulge in enriching social interactions. In the numerous huts you will find all the delicious fruits of the region (pineapple, papaw, bacuri, cupuaçu, uxi, tapereba, açai, pupunha, etc.), as well as a wide variety of fish, meat, vegetables and plants used in traditional medicine from the forest. You will also find a mystical and magical touch to the list of possible purchases, all sorts of potions and remedies from infusions to cures for a mere toothache, to flasks (garrafadas) containing concoctions of plants and animals’ parts destined to tame “free-spirited” husbands.

By Jennifer Bunin

Hot Spots: Paraty, Brazil

October 12, 2009

ParatyParaty is one of our favorite Ports  in all of Brazil and is often wrongfully considered a city that can be seen in one day. Many tourists think that its attractions are concentrated only in the Historical Center with its preserved colonial architecture, and while this is certainly one of its great enchantments, Paraty hides a natural unmatchable beauty. The Paraty Bay, with its still wild beaches and islands, is one of the most beautiful places on the Brazilian coastline. Its clear and calm waters, full of colorful fish, beckon tourists to dive and experience Paraty’s natural marine wonders. While diving and fishing are common activities among the tourists, there is one other must activity: a visit to the absolutely charming fishing village of Trindade. This village has a rich history and seven fantastic and romantic beaches. Evenings and nights are moments to enjoy the Historical Center. Take a stroll through all the small streets and observe each house with its colonial architecture. Indulge in the small pleasures such as a street show or having your caricature drawn; go in every shop and take in some of the beauty of Paraty through the local craftsmanship. Re-fuel yourself after a long day of adventures in Paraty by visiting one of the terrific restaurants of the city and enjoy some live music in one of the bars. Be sure to reserve a night to watch one of Paraty’s world-famous, endlessly entertaining puppet shows. Paraty is also a very important cultural and artistic location, so don’t forget to see the different forms of artistic expressions that exist in the city. If there is a traditional party in the city, we highly recommend you attend it. These events are can get rowdy (in the best way possible) and generally have food stands and shows with performances by local bands.

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Hot Spots: Laranjeiras Beach, Brazil

October 9, 2009

laranjeirasLaranjeiras, or “orange trees” in Portuguese, is considered one of the most beautiful beaches of Santa Catarina. Located 15 kilometers south of Paraty, the calm transparent waters of the Laranjeiras Beach are greatly sought by those who have an interest in water sports. It is 750 meters (2,460.63 feet) long and offers visitors a variety of bars and restaurants as well as nearby hotels and rentals. Another exciting attraction of the beach is the fact that it is located on an archeological site in which three-thousand-year-old fossils were found. It is possible to get there from the Interpraias Park or through cable car which is connected to the LARANJEIRASCentral Beach. During the cable car descent, which takes around 15 minutes, it is possible to see several beautiful natural landscapes. Visitors can also stop and practice tree-climbing in the areas of Atlantic Forest of the Aguada Hill. There, you will find trails and belvederes that offer a full view of the sea.

Hot Spots: Santarem, Brazil

October 8, 2009

SantaremA wonderful and unique place, Santarém is most definitely a must on your list of Brazilian cities to visit. Santarem is located in the state of Pará in Brazil where the Tapajós River joins the Amazon River. Situated right along Amazon, Santarem is the home of a visually stunning and interesting natural phenomenon. Both rivers run along the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. The Amazon’s milky colored water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós’s water is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. It is a feast for the eyes! It is know by the locals and savvy travelers as “the meeting of the waters” by the locals. Being less populated than neighboring ports, it is easy to visit and explore the forest and there is a greater possibility of experiencing the wonders of Amazonian fauna. Santarém is not considered a tourist centre, so you may be able to make authentic contact with the local people and even expand your social network to include Brazilian natives!

By Jennifer Bunin