Things That I Have Learned In Rio, Brazil

Things I Have Learned In Rio, Brazil

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” Unknown

Rio is named for a river that doesn’t exist. According to tradition, it was first visited in January 1502 by Portuguese explorers, who believed the bay they encountered (now called Guanabara Bay) was the mouth of a river. They named the area Rio de Janeiro, “River of January.”

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Rio was capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960, when that role was transferred to Brasilia.

Rio’s locals are called carioca (a name also sometimes applied as an adjective to the city itself). It may have come from kari ola, or “white man’s house” in the indigenous Tupi language.

The food scene in Rio is laid-back. ( feijoada)

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You can happily grab some fried bar snacks and a caipirinha to enjoy on the beach, or head straight from the beach to a rodizio (all-you-can-eat). The tropical influence is also evident in the many choices of fruit juice stands (on every corner in Rio), and the abundance of açaí.

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Cariocas  have a habit of putting mustard and ketchup on their pizza. There are also amazing five-star and cool trendy restaurants with delicious food.

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In Brazil, there’s soccer (or futebol) and then everything else. Brazilians are obsessive, diehard fans and just about everyone plays, especially at the beach. Even for the Americans who now grow up playing soccer, your skills are no match for the footwork and volleying on display at the beach in Rio. Even the younger groups of kids are able to pass the airborne ball back and forth, using every part of their bodies from their heads to their shoulders to their knees, like its nothing.

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Rio explodes with energy and color during the five days before Ash Wednesday, when millions take to the streets for the world’s biggest Carnaval. The party starts on the Friday, when the mayor hands over the keys to the city to a man crowned as King Momo, a mythical jester who acts as the head of the festivities. Rio’s Carnival features hundreds of booze-soaked bandas (riotous street parties, often with specific themes) and elaborate balls. The party reaches its height at the Sambódromo, when the best samba schools in the country compete for top prize. On Ash Wednesday Carnival is officially over, and King Momo goes home.Carnaval has been called one of the seven wonders of the world.

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In 2014, Rio de Janeiro legalized street art on many types of city property, turning the already colorful city into an outdoor art gallery. Street artists are allowed to decorate columns, walls and construction siding so long as they’re not historically designated. The city has even created a quasi-government agency, Eixo Rio to regulate the city’s urban artists, and celebrates an official Graffiti Day on March 27—the date Brazilian graffiti pioneer Vallauri Alex died in 1987.

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Carmen Miranda conquered the silver screen as a singer, dancer and actress in both Brazil and America in the mid-20th century. The Carmen Miranda museum  is filled with memorabilia including her trademark platform heels and towering turbans of plastic or sequined fruit.

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Rio de Janeiro became a World Heritage Site in 2012.

Rio is where you will find two of the world’s most famous beaches – Copacabana and Ipanema. Ipanema isn’t as hectic and the waters are cleaner.  When you’re in Ipanema make sure to stop into Garota de Ipanema as it is where the famous song The Girl from Ipanema was written.

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The Art Deco Copacabana Palace built in 1923 faces the beach. It has hosted the rich and famous for ninety years. You definitely feel old Rio when you are there even though it has been completely redone.

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.There are two great places to get away from the craziness in Rio de Janeiro.The Botanic Gardens covering over 130 hectares is extremely peaceful and home to over 6,000 types of plants and trees. The Tijuca forest is the largest urban rainforest in the world. Here you can go on hiking trails, admire waterfalls and much more. (Tijuca forest)

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Museu de Arte de Rio (MAR) is Rio’s newest art museum. It is part new modern building linked with a traditional building  by a canopy supported by pillars. The views of Guanabara Bay and the massive Rio-Niterói Bridge from the top floor are amazing. There is classic and contemporary art as well as an interesting exhibit on the history of Rio.

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The Museu del Arte Moderna is another incredible building designed by architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy.

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It houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Brazilian art in existence and interesting temporary exhibitions as well.

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The Biblioteca Nacional is the largest library in Latin America, In addition to the books, visitors can also delight in the library’s stunning neo-classical architecture and intricate Corinthian columns.

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Brazil’s most famous dance – samba – has its origins from the African slaves that worked in the plantations in the State of Rio de Janeiro There are more than 200 samba schools in Rio.

Lapa is known as the best place in Rio to experience nightlife.  This fun and unique neighbourhood comes alive at night, when Samba music can be heard pouring out of nearly every doorway and locals can be seen swinging their hips away while sipping on tasty cocktails. It is filled with row after row of live music venues, tapas bars, and thumping clubs.

I have to thank my guide Gabriel Morand who went above and beyond to make sure I had an amazing time in Rio. I saw everything I wanted to see, ate well and bought everything I needed to buy. I loved Brazil and can’t wait to return.

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Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

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Food In The Amazon – Belem Part One or How Did They Figure Out That Tucupi Had To Be Cooked For Seven Days To Not Be Poisonous?

Food In the Amazon – Belem Part One or How Did They Figure Out That Tucupi Had To Be Cooked For Seven Days To Not Be Poisonous?

“I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime “associates,” food, for me, has always been an adventure.” Anthony Bourdain

When you think of eating food in the Amazon, your mind pictures a few scantily clad natives drinking from coconut bowls. That may happen deep in the Amazon but in the city of Belem they are taking the flavors, food and traditions of the Amazon and serving it to locals, Brazilians and tourists like me from all over the world.

Each of the dishes, ingredients, flavors, and aromas invite us to discover the mixture of the Portuguese, European, Hispanic, Indian, and African influences. Among the typical specialties of Belém you can find “Pato no Tucupi”, made with duck cooked in cassava juice and seasoned with “jambu. (restaurant La Em Casa)

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“Vatapá” is a dish made with bread crumbs, ginger, pepper, allspice, peanuts, coconut milk, palm oil, and onion, with a creamy consistency. it is usually served with shrimp, fish, or beef and accompanied with rice. (La Em Casa)

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The region’s rivers and rain forests provide an endless supply of exotic ingredients, and nowhere else in Brazil will you find so much indigenous influence. (Ver O Paso Market)

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Belém is the Amazon’s culinary capital, and the city’s signature dish, tacacá, is a fusion of the region’s key ingredients. When you mention that you have been to Belem (named for Bethlehem) to a Brazilian they always ask if you tried the tacaca. I was glad I knew what it was. Tacacá is is a soup . It mixes shrimp with tucupi, a thick yellow liquid extracted from the roots of the manioc plant, and jambu, a creeping plant whose leaves when covered with tucupi cause a pleasant tingling and numbness of your lips.

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Manioc is also called cassava, yuca ( which is not yucca) or tapioca and is a staple of the Amazonian diet.  The soup is served hot in cuias (hollowed-out gourds) and I brought some of the bowls home.  One of the best places to have it is on the street at the stand of Dona M Do Carmo. It was amazing and one of the most delicious things I have eaten in Brazil.

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Tucupi (which is cooked for some 12 hours to remove poisonous components) shows up in a lot of Amazonian dishes, such as pato no tucupi, an aromatic duck stew, and maniçoba, the Paraense (Belem is in the state of Para) equivalent of feijoada ( Brazilian signature dish). Different portions of pork and sausage are cooked together along with jambu the dark-green leaves from the manioc plant. (La Em Casa)

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The story goes that the manioc plant has to be cooked for seven days to get rid of the toxins. This involved a lot of group discussion of how that came to be. When someone died after eating it the first day, did the natives decide to cook it for two days and when more died did they decide to try for three etc? How many people died before they came up with seven days and why did they keep trying? Were they using it on their enemies and then it did not work? Did someone forget to turn the fire off and got hungry?

The manioc dough  (it’s a tuber) is pushed through a long woven basket like instrument called a tipiti to get the liquid out. You can buy them in Ver o Peso market on the Amazon River along with my bowls. Such dishes are often accompanied by arroz de jambu (rice flavored with jambu leaves) and farinha d’água, manioc flour that, having been left to soak in the river, has a soft, fluffy consistency.

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The man holding the tipiti was our wonderful guide in the Amazon Osvaldo.  I have many photos of Osvaldo’s hands holding something edible he picked up while we were in the  market or rainforest. Unfortunately I was unable to make notes on my photos of what they were. I knew this would happen. I said I was going to include photos of his hands.

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I am happy to say that  all the tucupi i ate  at every meal was cooked correctly. I am grateful to the Amazonian chefs for doing that .But how did they figure out that it took seven days to get the poison out?

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ