Saturday, 15 March 2014

Brazil goes mainstream in Tesco

If proof was needed that any form of association with Brazil has hit the mainstream in the UK, then this is it: Tesco has based its clothing collection F&F on Rio. The supermarket’s spring/summer 14 campaign was shot, according to the press release, in “authentic Rio”. I’m not sure there is another kind, but perhaps this was Tesco’s way of referencing the favelas, which featured in the some of the shots, notably Santa Marta.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Beatles make an appearance at Rio Carnival

A Brazilian friend of mine recently got in touch on Facebook to tell me she'd found something that was "a cara do" Born in Brazil. It's a tricky one to translate if you want to get both the meaning and tone across. "Cara" means "face" or, more appropriately, "mug". So, this something has the mug of Born in Brazil. You see the problem. Essentially, it means that it's the epitome of what it is describing; it's just like it. Or, as another friend put it, using Friends language, "it's SO Born in Brazil". Anyway, she was right.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The real Brazil: change to come from the next generation

Jean Wyllys
During the Christmas break, some friends of my parents from São Paulo stayed with us in Bristol. It was lovely to catch up with them but it was also a stark reminder of how many of us in the UK have little idea of what lies behind the seductive images of beaches and samba that we see in magazines, social media and television.
These friends are planning to move to the UK. Part of their reason is the search for a better quality of life - and these are well-educated, affluent Brazilians. They were telling me about the lovely house they live in, with its swimming pool and surrounding oasis home to monkeys, which are often spotted among the trees. But this São Paulo "condominio", with its gated community protected by armed guards, offers only a fake sense of freedom.
It made me feel sad that, for all its recent economic growth and public promises of improved infrastructure and social mobility, Brazil still has a long way to go. But then yesterday, I felt a little hopeful again when I read The Observer's special report on Brazil.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Luxury hotels in Brazil are on their way, but where are the bridge brands?

The Selaron Steps in Santa Teresa
It doesn't matter if you're planning to go to the World Cup or watch the matches from your living room; travel websites and sections of magazines and newspapers in the UK are full of tips on where to go and what to do in Brazil. 
I read an interesting piece in Wallpaper magazine's recent Brazil special on the lack of boutique hotels in the country. The article promises us that there are plenty of new developments in the pipeline, in a country where such offerings are lacking. 
It's true; for such a sexy place (in the eyes of tourists, at least) and one that has been under the spotlight for several years now, Brazil has very few boutique hotels.
But I'm not so reassured by Wallpaper's optimism. As the article points out, this limited offer won't be a problem in 18 months' time, but their high prices likely will.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Boutique hotels in Brazil...there aren't many, but they're all here

When I went on a month-long trip to Brazil in 2010, I was surprised – and disappointed – by how few mid-priced, boutique hotels there were in the south of the country. In terms of style, in Rio for example, you could either stay at the super cool, super expensive Fasano (and risk having no budget left for the rest of the trip) or somewhere like the Arpoador Inn (where I stayed): well-located but basic, and certainly not cheap. Sadly, there wasn't much in between. 
Even as recently as last year, when I wrote a piece for The Times, the situation was only just starting to change. At the time, I’d interviewed Tamara Heber-Percy, co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith hotels, who said new boutique hotels were in the process of opening in Rio. Among the ones due to open is Le Paris, and its founders also own La Suite and La Masion. I recently came across the latter on a website called – the long-winded reason for writing this post.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Brazilian books, art and music invade UK this weekend: Flipside, Mira Schendel, The Fontanas

One of the highlights of my trip to Brazil a few years ago was Paraty (pictured, left). It’s a colonial town a few hours from Rio and so pretty that it sometimes didn’t look real. It was while staying in the Pousada da Marquesa that I learnt Paraty played host to FLIP, an annual literary festival – the hotel’s walls were covered in photographs of authors, including Paul Auster and Margaret Atwood, who take part in the festival and stay at the Marquesa. In fact, the entire hotel is filled with participating authors during the August festival. I remember thinking how unlikely a setting Paraty was for an international literary festival – the town is tiny and several hours from Rio. But you couldn’t wish for a more picturesque location. I said I’d go back during FLIP. I haven’t managed to yet, but turns out FLIP has come to me; FLIPSIDE is taking place right now in Suffolk

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Brazilian dirty dancing

You know that scene in Dirty Dancing, at the start of the film, when Baby carries a watermelon to the dancers' off-duty dancing quarters? Well, I was reminded of that on Friday night when I walked past The Church on Exmouth Market in London late after dinner. I could hear Brazilian music playing so I peered through the window (that's the picture you can see) and saw couples dancing to Forró, a type of music and dance that originated in the north east of Brazil.