Paraty, Brazil


You can fall in love at first sight with a place as with a person. ~Alec Waugh

Halfway between São Paulo and Rio on the Costa Verde is the perfectly preserved Portuguese colonial town of Paraty. ( pronounced pa ra chee)


In the seventeenth century,it was decided that all merchandise shipped to Portugal would pass through the state of Rio de Janeiro. Paraty’s whole existence was based on shipping gold mined from further inland Brazil. Huge finds of gold in the mines of Minas Gerais led to soaring tax incomes and the town quickly expanded with the new wealth. It was during this period that most of the houses you can see today were built. Paraty (which means “river of fish” in the Tupi language) became an important gold port and was the end of the infamous “Gold Trail”.


Walking those streets is like entering a time capsule. Cars are not allowed in the historic city center. Horse and carts stand around like it is the eighteen hundreds.


The huge cobblestones were from the ships coming to load up gold. Slaves pounded them into place, at least the ones who were not mining. Portuguese engineers deliberately constructed Paraty so that the high tide could enter the streets at full moon, flooding the streets and taking the garbage out to sea.


Never wear heels. The cobblestones are uneven and difficult to walk on even if you have lived there all your life. It is even harder when they are wet.


With mines running dry of gold in the late 18th century the importance of Paraty diminished. A lucrative slave trade continued, labour was needed for the ever-growing coffee plantations. When that ended so did Paraty´s importance. Production of cachaça, the Brazilian sugarcane grew considerably. and the name Paraty became synonymous with the liquor. At one point there were over 150 distilleries in the area.


There are three colonial era churches, each with their own splendor and history. One for slaves, one for free mulattoes and one for the élite.


The town stayed pretty quiet after that until 1973 with the opening of the highway BR-101 which started a tourist cycle that continues today. ( We ran into a Portuguese- African holiday celebration- tourists and locals)


The historic town center is about thirty blocks filled with stores, restaurants, galleries and history.


The buildings are painted white with the doors and window frames painted a particular bright color.


Mail can still be delivered based on writing down the color of the doors.


Doors always invite you to imagine who lives behind them and who enters through them. Rules about remodeling these Unesco houses are strict. Doors can be windows. Windows can not be doors.


The first International Literary Festival of Paraty in 2003 put Brazil, and Paraty, on the map of international literary festivals. I stayed at Posada Literatura which has a book store attached, a reading room and  books in your room.




We had dinner and a cooking class and the home of Richard and Yara Roberts. Richard began with a caipirinha lesson followed by Yara’s delicious food from Bahia.


Their knowledge of Brazilian cuisine and history made the evening both delicious and fascinating.


Their house and art is beautiful as well. It was a wonderful way to spend a rainy night in Paraty.

Paraty is a beach paradise.


If the weather is good take a day boat tour of the islands and beaches in the Bay of Paraty.


Though there are no really good beaches in walking distance, there are sixty-five islands and three hundred beaches in the bay.


There is always fresh fish for lunch.


and snorkeling.


The boats range from about nine dollars to private yachts and everything in between


Being on boat, going to these beautiful beaches makes life feel pretty easy.


Gabriel, thanks for the interesting history lesson and for sharing the stories of the place where you grew up.


Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,


The First Thanksgiving


“Taking Mum’s hand, I whispered “Are we really safe, here?” Alwyn Evens, Walk In My Shoes

I thought I would repost this one in honor of Thanksgiving and to remember that unless we are Native American, we all came from somewhere else.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Originally posted on Travel Well, Fly Safe:

The First Thanksgiving

“If you’re going to America, bring your own food.”     
Fran Lebowitz

I overheard a conversation between four immigrants.  They were discussing Thanksgiving  with  the confidence of people who had celebrated all their lives.  “My wife makes the turkey but we always do Israeli cous cous, salad and hummus to to go along with it, “ said the Israeli man.  “I have to have rice. I like to put my turkey on the white rice and eat it, replied the Vietnamese woman.  “ We make the turkey more spicy. My family likes spicy”, added the Colombian woman. “My friends and I go out. I love my turkey on Thanksgiving “, said the man from Budapest. I listened to the different accents discussing the best way to cook a turkey. It was clearly their holiday.

Most of them learned about the tradition from their kids. It is the same…

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Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.” Tim O Brian

The justification for terrorist killings is that there are no civilians. The people in a country pay taxes and fund anti terrorism. According to the terrorists, we are all at war. Terrorism is an abstract noun. It is hard to be at war with an abstract noun.

Terrorism happens when one group faces a much more powerful group where they have no chance of winning. Instead they attack other targets in the hopes that will put pressure on the governments. They attack the powerless. They create fear and chaos. They go after people on planes returning from a holiday, people in restaurants, watching a concert, at work or at a soccer match  –  all different ages, races, nationalities and in all different cities. The terrorists convince themselves that their targets are less than human. They use religion, history, past offenses, current offenses and always the bottom line is the pursuit of a more important goal than human life. Is it easier to kill when you don’t call it murder?

The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong. There is no argument and no excuse that can ever make it right. Terrorism is not part of faith.

We need to stop supporting the countries who fund terrorism. We need to stop our own  secret torturing, killing and cover ups. They don’t seem to be doing any good and give reason to the creation of more terrorists. We do need to defend ourselves.

Turning away refugees, xenophobia and fear of immigration is not an answer either. Didn’t we once return the persecuted back to Germany and Europe? Did we learn anything from closing our borders or putting the Japanese in camps  during World War II? We need to find a way to deal with the threats while honoring our ethical and moral obligations.

There was a surreal feeling in watching the footage of the events in Paris. It wasn’t a movie. People were dying who were just going about the business of life. The blood was not fake. The pregnant woman hanging on the wall saying she couldn’t hold on anymore was not acting. The guy hopping down the street was really shot in the leg.

I have always been fearful. I have the kind of brain that could put together hundreds of worst case scenarios on the way to anywhere. I mourn with the people of France. But fears in hand, I’m still going to Paris in the Spring. I realize that it is important to be aware, but to give in to the fears that random acts of violence create, is to let the terrorists win. #Dontbeterrorized.

Fly safe,

Travel Things That You Will Probably Do Only Once In Your Lifetime

Travel Things that You Will Probably Do Only Do Once In A Lifetime.

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

There are many things I would like to do again in my lifetime, go back to Croatia and Turkey, spend more time in the Amazon, eat street food in Thailand and sushi at Tsukiji etc. Then there are things that I know I will only do once. (Croatia)


Climb to the top of the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument , etc. Any monument that you climb is a “one and done” for me. (Washington)


Shop at Harrods in London or Ginza Mitsukoshi in Tokyo. The largest department store in the world is a one time visit – especially for the food areas. i can’t focus enough to buy anything. There are better places to be in these cities. (Tokyo)

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Climb to the top of some big mountain like Kilamanjaro, Everest or the Matterhorn. If you are capable of doing this, it is great for your quadriceps but words like summit and base camp are frightening to me. (Kilamanjaro)

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Visit the coffee shops in Amsterdam. If that is where you are spending all your time in Amsterdam, you have a problem.

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See the Aurora Borealis.

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Walk the Camino de Santiago.

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Take a gondola ride in Venice. I had every intention of doing this but after getting woken up every morning to gondoliers singing Volare, I felt like i had done it and took a boat instead.


Visit the Grand Canyon – still have not done this

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Walk the Great Wall of China.


Visit the Acropolis, Stonehenge, the Colosseum, Ephesus, Delphi, the Moabs or other famous ruins. They stay the same just a bit older.


Go to Oktoberfest in Munich, Carnaval In Rio, Running With the Bulls In Pamplona, La Tomatina in Spain, Kumbh Mela in India ,Burning Man in Nevada, Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico, Chinese New Year in China and the International Balloon Festival in New Mexico.

I still have a lot to do.

Fly Safe,

Things I’ve Learned In Sao Paulo, Brazil

Things I’ve Learned In São Paulo, Brazil

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne

Metropolitan São Paulo is more that 3 times the size of Moscow and 6,5 times the of
size of New York. With almost twenty million inhabitants, it is the biggest city in both Americas and the Southern hemisphere.

I guess that is why they have some really bad traffic jams.

São Paulo is inland. Los Angeles is on the ocean. They have the same air pollution.

There is coffee on almost every street corner in São Paulo. Brazilians love a coffee after lunch. (non Brazilians also at Casa Mathilde)


Manhattan has many skyscrapers and tall buildings. So does São Paulo.

Between the tall buildings, traffic, air pollution and coffee, I felt right at home.

Parque Ibirapuera is the city’s largest green space and one of the largest city parks in Latin America. The name means a rotten tree in the Tupi language and despite the unfortunate name there are many beautiful trees.


There is plenty to do here…paths to walk or bike or people watch, museums, Niemeyer architecture, a lake, and more.


It is rated as one of the best urban parks in the world.


Most of the buildings are designed by Oscar Niemeyer and the landscaping is by famed landscape artist Roberto Burle Marx. (The Auditorium by Niemeyer)


The opulent park is so big that you can easily forget you’re sitting in the middle of one of the most populated cities in the world.


The São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM) is located in the park. It was built in 1948 and modeled after the Museum of Modern Art in NY (MOMA).(lunch at MAM)


It has over 4000 mostly Brazilian works of art. The commissioned mural in the front is by graffiti artist Os Gemeos.


The Marquise is a large covered construction by Oscar Niemeyer that links several of the buildings together. Every day, skateboarders, cyclists, athletes, families and friends gather there.


It provides a shaded paved area for young people to roller blade, roller skate and skateboard.


It is very crowded on Sundays and people sell food, drinks and crafts as well.


Many streets in Sao Paulo  are named for Portuguese explorers and Brazilian Revolutionaries.

Uber is banned at the moment due to protests from the taxi drivers unions. The mayor is hoping to find a middle ground that appeases both parties.

People who live in the state of São Paulo are called Paulistas. People who live in the city of São Paulo are called Paulistanos. Paulistanos love Pizza.

MASP is one of the cities best art museums.

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On Sundays, the area around MASP on Avenida Paulista hosts two great outdoor markets. The space under the museum becomes a huge antiques market, and the space across the street is a handicrafts market where great street food is sold

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The world’s largest gay pride parade takes place here in May/June. It’s also supposedly the most expensive real estate in Latin America. The whole avenue runs along a subway line and so easily reached by public transport. (Kobra paints on Avenue Paulista)


Another lovely museum in São Paulo, the Pinacoteca houses a huge collection of Brazilian art that serves as a visual story of the country’s history and cultural evolution.


It is the oldest gallery in São Paulo and visited by many school children.


The venerable public art museum was masterfully restored in exposed-brick style in the 1990s by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The museum has a beautiful café downstairs and is connected to Parque da Luz, a public park that includes outdoor sculptures and a European-style garden area.


There are dividers between “good and “bad” parts of the city. The Pinacoteca is located across the street from the Luz train station.


Estação da Luz is a beautiful 19th-century train station with high ceilings, intricate ironwork and narrow walkways  which separates the park from one of the worst drug areas in São Paulo.


It is called Cracolandia or Crackland. Prostitutes line the walkways in search of customers. Crack cocaine has become a big problem in Brazil It is the second biggest crack epidemic since the US in the eighties.

In the City Center, keep your eyes moving, put away your cell phone and camera. Keep your money hidden and walk with a purpose like you know what you are doing. ( just like growing up in NY)


Se (cathedral) is located in the historic city center ( where the city was founded).


The Neo-Gothic building took fifty years to complete because two world wars made it difficult to get materials from Italy. I have no exterior photos because see above.

The Patio do Colegio was the original center of São Paulo.All that remains of the 16th-century building are the doors and a stretch of clay wall. It is now a historical museum the gardens of the museum is a pleasant café.


The old center with its beautiful architecture and churches is still more homeless and drug infested than gentrified. There are a few good coffee places so change is near.


Casa Mathilde is a great Portuguese bakery that serves the famous pastel de nata.


I  have not been to Portugal ( where it is called pastel de Belem) but from the lines and conversations these are probably the best pastries outside of Portugal.


Mocoto is located in Vila Medeiros, a neighbourhood in the north of São Paulo. Chef Rodrigo Oliveira attracts food-lovers with his distinctive take on Brazilian cuisine from the north-eastern state of Pernambuco where  his family is from. ( mocoto broth  – signature dish from original recipe, rice and beans, Brazilian dried, salted beef)



Mocotó is also a cachaçaria, selling more than 500 cachaças.


Alex Atala is the chef at D.O.M. who became famous for using Brazilian ingredients in beautifully executed contemporary dishes. It is the ninth best restaurant in the world.

Gastromotiva is a Brazilian organization which uses gastronomy to promote social change for at risk students.They have a vocational education program for eighteen to thirty-five year olds who are passionate about food and cooking who’s families make below a certain income.


They have also instituted a cooking program in the prisons but there is a lot of bureaucracy in Brazil when it comes to prison change.


We were lucky enough to spend some time with the students and have a delicious meal cooked by students and alumni. It’s a great organization for foodies to get involved with.



São Paulo is considered one of the best cities in the world for the development of creativity in street art.


The city’s streets are filled with wonderful examples of street, especially in the city center.


For some of the best, visit the area Villa Magdalena, especially Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley).



Vila Madalena is an artsy neighborhood with rows of pastel colored townhouses. There are nice art galleries, arts & crafts shops, bookstores and great nightlife in its restaurants, corner bars, and botecos (small bar/restaurants). Come here for samba, or just mingle with locals enjoying live music and petiscos (tapas) at the botecos.

Botecos are everywhere. The doors open to the street, tiled walls and floors, a counter stocked with fried stuff, and sometimes peanuts are served. You can make a quick stop for a coxinha and a soda, or sit down for a prato feito with a bottle of cold beer. Most botecos are very simple, but there are also “modern”ones.

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Brazil has the largest number of Japanese living outside Japan of any country in the world, and many of these Japanese Brazilians live in São Paulo. The Japanese neighborhood, called Liberdade, is a fun place to explore and see how the influence of Japan has influenced Brazilian life here and, of course, try some great food. On Sundays, an enormous market takes place in the public square of Liberdade, and thousands of people from around the city attend.

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São Paulo is a huge city. I believe that you do what you can and next time I will see more. Thanks so much to our guide Arthur Simoes (who likes that painting) for his  sense of humor, energy (we had some long days), patience and knowledge of São Paulo. Obrigada until the next time.


Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,


How To Sleep On A Plane

How to Sleep On A Plane

“Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with long uncomfortable flights and losing your luggage.” Regina Nadelson

I hate hate hate people who can sleep on planes.

I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. During the day I’ve been the tired friend, mother, partner, student, employee who is drinking coffee to stay awake. At night I’m someone who makes ridiculous sleep deprived decisions, does crazy internet shopping, sends weird incoherent emails, googles everything, signs up for online classes and watches
reruns of shows that I would never watch when they were on. Once I cut bangs. Another time i joined an online dating site while i was dating someone. Now I write blogs like this one.

A plane just makes it worse for me.

Obviously the best way to sleep on a plane is to travel in first class, followed by business class, three seats together in coach, two seats together in coach or an empty middle seat. New Zealand Air has “couch,” three coach seats for two people.

The next choice is the window seat. It is definitely better for sleeping. But I don’t like feeling locked in so I have to take the aisle.

Make some kind of footrest and take your shoes off. Use your carry on luggage if you need to. It is helpful to have your feet raised.

Come prepared. Bring something to block out the noise – ear plugs that you buy in the airport or toilet paper will suffice in a pinch. Noise canceling headphones are a good investment if you fly a lot.  While you still have Wi-Fi, and before you put your phone on airplane mode, download a few relaxing songs and apps. Sleep Machine and Ambi Science Pure Sleep are recommended apps. Anything that can calm down your brainwaves will work.

Bring an eye mask to block out the light. Yes it will mess up your hair but the chances of looking great after a twelve-hour flight are not good anyway.

The neck pillow is controversial. There are certain people who don’t like to look dorky in an airport carrying around a blow up neck pillow. I get that. But it is worse to wake up with a creak in your neck and you will sleep better if your head is not rolling around.

Keep warm. Bring extra socks, a blanket, a snuggly or a shawl. Airlines like to freeze you out and if you should fall asleep, you will wake up if you are cold.

Wear something comfortable on the plane. Or if you are a person who likes to look cute in airports (single) bring something comfortable to change into. I do that as soon as I get on the plane. Sweats and cuddly socks are always in my carry on for flights over six hours. It is not as easy as you think to change in those tiny bathrooms. I don’t recommend tight jeans.

Eat something before you fly so you are full but not bloated. They say healthy soup, kale and salmon are good for this. But they say that those foods are good for everything. You can not sleep if you are hungry. You definitely don’t need those salty snacks that make you feel bloated.

It helps if you schedule flights when you are actually tired. An early morning flight without coffee is good and if you stay up late the night before packing, you have a chance of falling into an exhausted sleep. (a trick my son uses)

Make sure to fasten your seatbelt over your blanket. Stewardesses who may never talk to you otherwise will wake you up for this. Then try to get back to sleep.

Everyone should smell neutral on a plane. Why do I even have to include this? Are their cultures, religions or countries that don’t believe in showering before flying? I don’t think so. Do we really need to be smelling your perfume from three rows behind? I am allergic to perfume so it is a problem for me.

Many people love to drink alcohol on planes to relax. It does help at first but then you wake up with low blood sugar, have bad jet lag and sometimes a hangover. It’s a personal choice.

I’m not sure if you are supposed to advocate pharmaceuticals in a blog. As a non sleeper I have tried everything. A rule of thumb is do not take anything that puts you out until the plane is in the air for a bit – especially if you are a snorer or a drooler. I think snorers and droolers should not fall asleep in a public place anyway. One time there was a problem with the plane and we had to get off after everyone was seated. They had to wheel off a famous person snoring loudly with drool all over her face. It was frightening. I live in fear that total strangers will see me like that. I never take anything strong enough to put me out.

Homeopathics and prescription medications that you have taken before can be useful. I use melatonin and valerian root, Melatonin sometimes gives you bad dreams so make sure you have taken it before. I had to fly two weeks after 9/11. The few people on the plane, stewardesses and pilots all looked terrified. I took ativan. It helped. I took it for a few years every time I flew after that. Now I meditate and only take it on long flights to help me sleep. I’ve tried Nyquil, Tylenol PM, Sleepy Time tea, warm milk, downloaded weird guided meditations, taken strange things from the health food store, a sleep remedy from a Mexican pharmacy and I once took something that was only legal in Canada. None of that works for me but feel free to try them.

The best thing is to do whatever it is that alleviates stress for you and relax. That will help you sleep.
“Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up smoking”.

Fly safe,

Acai In The Amazon Gets Its Own Blog Post

Acai In The Amazon Gets Its Own Blog Post

“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” Hippocrates


As froyo begins to lose ground to kale smoothies, the trendy. spendy acai bowl continues to gain in popularity. (Pinkberry gets in the game)


Though there is no scientific proof, acai is the new superfood because it is high in antioxidants and it tastes better than wheatgrass (an old superfood). It is more expensive than blueberries and raspberries (which also have antioxidants) and usually added to healthy smoothies or served in a bowl.


The acai outside of the Amazon region  is frozen puree and mixed with banana or strawberries, soy. almond or coconut milk. It is served with oatmeal, granola, nuts or fresh fruit and is definitely a fun ice-cream like breakfast alternative.


We as  Americans who mostly only speak English are poorly equipped to pronounce foreign words. Acai is Portuguese and is particularly difficult for us. The pronunciation in Brazil is Ah – Sa – Ee.

In the Amazon region, acai is not a superfood, it is just food. It is grown in the forest on the acai palm and harvested between July and December. (acai palm)


It was definitely acai season and we ate it a lot.  (Osvaldo finds acai in the jungle)


Till recently acai was a staple food for the poor in the Amazon region. A porridge of acai and manioc flour was not full of nutrition but cheap and very filling. Many families who live on the river now harvest acai.


It is always made fresh from the berries found in the Amazon rainforest. In Marajo, when a fresh batch of acai has been prepared, red flags appear on the road. If you see a red flag, it means that they are selling acai nearby. When the batch is sold they take the flags down.


We bought bags of fresh acai juice.


It is a good idea to check and make sure that is made with filtered water or what kind of water they use to clean the berries or the equipment.


Belém’s most famous açaí market, the Feira do Açaí, near Ver-o-Peso market building, bustles before dawn as wholesalers stack baskets of the fruit on the cobblestone square.

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Acai is  also made fresh here from cylindrical machines known as batedores de açaí, “açaí beaters,” that remove the thin layer of fruit from the pit. ( ‘acai beater”, acai pits, bracelets made from acai pits)




When the merchants are ready they hang red signs to show that açaí is for sale.



As in towns throughout the region, in Belém residents pick up pulp by the liter to have with lunch or dinner. (acai to go menu)


My first taste of fresh acai was acai ice cream mixed with the tapioca ice-cream and it was creamy delicious. There is no comparison between something made with fresh acai and what we get in the States. (Cairu –  best ice cream in the Amazon region)


We had  fresh acai at several meals. It is often served with dried tapioca. (La Em Casa)


Purists say that acai should be eaten without sugar but it is a personal choice. I had it without sugar and I liked it. It is hard to explain the flavor –  kind of like a refreshing, earthy berry. If you mix it with the manioc flour (which most do), it gives it a grainy consistency.

Point Do Acai is a restaurant in Belem known for serving acai.


You can have it as a juice, dessert or in bowl as a side to fried fish. (different tapioca flours)




In the Amazon region people think it is funny that acai is the new energy drink. They say that they usually have it with their midday meal and fall asleep after.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,