Brazil

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 Brazil is a country that I have always wanted to visit, since I was a child. Bright colors, beautiful foliage, excitement, fresh fruit, breathtaking scenery….I could go on and on. Truly blessed geographically, Brazil and specifically Rio de Janeiro, are places you must visit in your lifetime. If you love life, Brazil is the place for you. There is a party for everything here, and with style. The cultural and people are what make each city I visited so great. I took two weeks and visited the main design and architectural sites of Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia. Follow me on my journey…

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Living in Miami Beach, flights to South America can be very inexpensive if you plan accordingly. Brazil can be the rare exception. We opted to go off-season, just after Carnival ended to get the most bang for our buck. I hope to one day make it back for Carnival. Inter-city flights are also a must. The country is deceptively large and flying takes a lot of the inconvenience out of traveling by land. I highly recommend it.

Using points on American Airlines, we were able to upgrade (remember to sign up for every Frequent Flyer program you can). We used TAM Airlines for all our inter-city flights. They have a TAM Brazil Airpass that allows you to make multiple stops at a discounted rate. Just make sure it actually is a good deal. In our case we were able to book 4 one-way flights for less than $550.

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Brazil is a country of extremely expensive hotels. Just because your budget might not afford you to stay there doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all the perks of a hotel guest! In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo we stayed in Airbnbs in great, walkable neighborhoods (Ipanema and Jardins, respectively) and in Brasilia we stayed at the Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada resort, right near the official residence of the President of Brazil. Hotel culture is a must in Brazil and below are the hotels I would recommend to eat, drink, spa, pool and enjoy! In Rio: Arena Copacabana, Fasano Rio de Janeiro, Hotel Santa Teresa, Copacabana Palace. In Brasilia: Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada. In São Paulo: Hotel Unique, Emiliano, Fasano.

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Though Brazil seems so close in culture to Miami, it is actually almost 9 hours by plane. Luckily, we got a great deal on a red-eye flight plus upgrade so we arrive refreshed. I will never forget driving in the taxi through the city outskirts to Ipanema. Mopeds swerving in and out and just the sheer number of people on the road that morning heading to work. We check into our Airbnb and head straight to the famous Ipanema Beach. People love the beach here and it’s a great equalizer between the very segregated wealthy and poor populations. After lunch, we decided to walk to the next door neighborhood of Leblon and enjoy the rest of the night. 

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We found a great company that does adventure tours and also helps you navigate the busy tourist sites. Cannot recommend Rio Adventures: Tours, Expeditions and Adventures enough. On our private tour, for the morning we started with a hike up Pico da Tijuca. It was a fun hike and the first time we got to see Rio from the sky– an absolute must. We added on the Corcovado tour and it was such a time-saver. Our guide was able to easily get us to the front of the line and quickly saw Christ the Redeemer. Really fun place to people watch. I love hiring private tour guides and think it’s the best way to spend your budget. There is no hassle getting to the places you want to see, you get to see the city from the viewpoint of an experienced local and they are usually amazing people. It’s also great to do the first full day you are in town so you get a good feel for the layout of the city. We get dropped off at Copacabana Beach just in time for the sunset and check out the famous Copacabana Palace and Fasano Rio de Janeiro.

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Up early again and we head to the historic center of Santa Teresa. They have an amazing mixture of colonial mansions, graffiti art, local characters and the beautiful Hotel Santa Teresa. After a few hours walking around and taking photos, we decide to grab lunch at Térèze Restaurant. A few caipirinhas later, we decide to go see more sites. We continue our graffiti art tour near the Jardim Botanico do Rio. The gardens are beautiful and a wonderful late afternoon retreat from the heat. We stop in one of the nearby botecos for some empadinhas. Back to our Airbnb for a quick nap before a nice Italian dinner at Zuka in Leblon. 

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Our last full day in Rio and we decide to head to Niterói. With a combination of metro, bus and walking it’s a beautiful walk along the coast to the Museum of Contemporary Art by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Amazing museum on a beautiful site overlooking Rio de Janeiro and a great primer for our flight to Brasilia tomorrow. You cannot miss this when you come to Rio! We head out for early drinks and dance the night away in Lapa at Rio Scenarium.

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One last jog on Ipanema Beach up to Leblon before our afternoon flight to Brasilia. Once we land we decide to go to the pool at the hotel and enjoy the resort amenities. We decide to turn in early for a full day tomorrow. Every multi-city tour requires a day of rest.

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Meet very early with our private guide for our only full day in Brasilia. Brasilia is the city of architect Oscar Niemeyer, so I am excited to see a lot of his works in such a concentrated area. First stop is the Congresso Nacional.  Our guide got us into a few restricted areas which was very exciting! Next stop is the Museu da Ciudade. We stop for ice cream and enjoy the views of the grand plan that is Brasilia. We walk to the famous Catedral Metropolitana. Stunning building and you have to go inside and check out the structure. Lunch time, so we jump in the car and get some traditional Brazilian churrasco. After a satisfying lunch, we go up to the Brasilia TV Platform. From here you can see the entire city and it’s interesting to see the grid from above. Completely opposite from the organic flow of Rio city planning that we saw from Mount Tijuca. We get back in the car again to drive through parts of the residential area which has very interesting architecture and then to another church, the Santuario Dom Bosco. The interior is of particular interest. Last stop of the day and we make it to the final tour of the President’s residence, the Palacio Alvorada. This was another one of my favorites of the entire trip. Interior and exterior just exude Tropical Modern architecture. Another dip in the pool and enjoy the rest of our night. It was a long day!

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Last day in Brasilia before we catch our flight in the early evening to São Paulo. We decide to take the bus back into the center, near Congresso Nacional and walk and observe the architecture. We stop in the Museu Nacional and explore the art exhibits. There are so many amazing buildings by Oscar Niemeyer, but since most serve a governmental function you can only really get into the lobby before a security guard asks you to leave. I really recommend Brasilia for a few days if your trip allows. It’s an amazing sight to see as a complete vision for a city. Nearing one of our last flights of the trip and we are excited to get to São Paulo, the “city that never stops”.  

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We arrived after midnight to our Airbnb, so we decide to sleep in a little bit and then take the metro/walk to the Mercado Municipal. It was packed and I loved all of the fresh fruit. We had a few things to share. It’s famous for it’s Mortadella sandwiches, but those are a little too meat heavy for me. We walk it off and explore the city center more. We happen upon the Edificio Copan. It’s famous for having the  largest floor area of any residential building in the world and what’s even more amazing when you see it in person is how dense the surroundings are. This area is extremely crowded, so we jump on the metro and head for nature. Casa da Vidro is in the district of Morumbi and is a bit of a trek, but if you are interested in Brazilian modernist architecture, this is an excellent example. It is the personal archive of Lina Bo Bardi and her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi, so you can explore for hours not only the architecture and surroundings, but their artwork, designs and inspirations. After a long day, I’m ready for a Brazilian steak dinner. Figueria Rubaiyat is in the Jardins district near our home base, so we decide to walk there. The atmosphere is beautiful (entire restaurant is built around a live fig tree) and food and drink was great! Afterwards, we walk across the street to Bar Numero. It is a really swanky lounge, designed by Isay Weinfeld, and it is one of the best bars I have ever been to. Just make sure you dress the part!

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Today is museum day! One of my favorite things to do when travel is visit local museums and art galleries. First stop is the Pinacoteca. It is the oldest art museum in Brazil and was renovated in the 1990s by Paulo Mendes da Rocha. They have a great display of Brazilian art and the architecture mixes the original building with new building technology in a seamless way. The cafe is also a great stop for a strong espresso pick-me-up.  We have lunch at KAA, one of the most beautiful restaurant interiors I have ever been in. I love the garden walls, the food and ambience are also excellent. They have a great lunch menu. Good trick for very expensive restaurants is to dine there for a late lunch and save the rest of your money for another budget item. We head back to the Jardins for lunch and take long walk to the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture (MuBE). Predominately a sculpture and three-dimensional museum, the architecture of the underground building/garden by Burle Marx was my favorite part. The main building was also designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha. We walk back to the Jardins area and stop to see the fantastic Fasano. We go back to take a quick nap before dinner at Hotel Unique. This is truly a 5 star international hotel and the prices reflect that. We went up to the amazing view at the rooftop pool and enjoyed some bites and sips. Early morning tomorrow.

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We decided to get some exercise in at the Botanical Gardens. It is right in the center of town and has great flora, fauna, buildings, and running paths. Great to see in such a dense city. We really enjoyed being around the Fasano yesterday, so we walk back to that area of the Jardins. São Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so there are many great sushi places. We have some nice bento for lunch and happen upon the Livraria da Vila. I love reading and always try to stop into local bookstores whenever I travel to find something unique for my library. This place you could explore for hours. Designed by one of my favorite Brazilian architects, Isay Weinfeld, the architecture really sets this building apart. We explore more in the Jardins, and stop by another 5 star hotel, the Emiliano before heading out for dinner at Spot. Another great atmosphere and right off Avenida Paulista, very close to our Airbnb.

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Our last full day in Brazil before our red-eye back to Miami and we head off to the races. I have always been fascinated by horses and to see them in Brazil is amazing. The Jockey Club was founded in 1875, so there is a lot of history here. Just to see the building and how it has been preserved is a wonder in itself.  Fun place to kick back with a caipirinha and enjoy the sunshine. There is no admission charge and it makes a fun and relaxing last afternoon before our flight. Back to our upgraded seats on American Airlines for the 9 hour flight. Hope to return again and witness Carnival first hand!

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Many people feel Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful countries in the entire continent. It is the second largest city in Brazil, and was the capital city up until 1960. Christ Redeemer, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is located in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

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Around 60 percent of the Amazon’s rain forests are located in Brazil. In total, about 25 percent of the entire world’s rainforests are located in Brazil. Experts estimate that there are four million different species of wildlife. Brazil has the highest number of species for all mammals, plants and fresh water fish.

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Brazil is enormous. Brazil is the largest country in South America and in Latin America. This is the fifth largest country on the Earth. Brazil is the longest country on the planet, registering 2800 miles from its south tip to north tip. This country has the eighth largest economy in the world.

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Millions of people travel from all corners of the world to visit this festival before the start of Lent in February. This cheerful, colorful and bright holiday is celebrated with the sounds of the samba and the scent of delicious food.

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