Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

Back to dance

I’m back from my well-deserved yet short vacations. I had a lovely time in Southern Brazil then headed for unbelievably hot Rio de Janeiro for some beach/culture time.

But then this is Christmas week and with it comes that holiday feeling, which means less working and even more unwinding.

What shall we do? Enjoy it with some music:

The Suzan is a Japanese all-girl electronica pop group with a twist of CSS I’m delighted to listen to.

Japan has in the past produced quite a few good pop acts, such as the unforgettable Pizzicato Five. Who remembers this song?

To start the week on a happy note.

Multifaceted bridges

I have always believed that prejudice is caused by lack of knowledge.

Once one truly gets to know something that is different, it has a chance of becoming familiar and thus much less frightening.

I went to an exhibition on Islamic Art last weekend in Rio and it was very obvious how little people know about its multiple cultural aspects. We westerns tend to group Islam under a single mass of people – which couldn’t be farther from reality.

Not only does Islamic Art excel in its use of geometrical shapes and floral patterns, it also shows a delightful emphasis on calligraphy and the importance of handwriting in its presentation.

I love the way modern artists draw inspiration from these sources – scarcely known in western societies, I dare say.

Like Shezad Dawood:

This contemporary British artist cleverly uses elements commonly associated with the modern world with century-old artistic heritage to create art that questions general views on Islam and on religion.

Although religion may play an ambiguous role in the shaping of societies and even in the spreading of prejudices, it is undeniable that it is a reflection of culture as much as it is part of it.

Knowing its various sides can help us all build a world where people are more important than what their belief system might be.

As for the arts, as M.I.A. once said: trend-setters make things better.

Look out

With a greater concern over the latest trend rather than what History bequeathed, Brazilian cities are spaces where all kinds of architectural influences can be found.

Nowhere can this be seen more readily than in Rio. The former capital and once most important city in South America, the city is home to a myriad of styles, influences, tastes and ideas, all cramped together – sometimes side by side.

From organic shapes and historical Brazilian Baroque to monstrous concrete blocks and wholly inappropriate glass buildings, Rio is a surprising treat on the eye of the curious.

Some of my favorite :

It is so relieving when one learns to appreciate what’s not obvious – life does become more beautiful when one finds beauty where one least expects it.

Rio de Janeiro is a great school for that.

Loving Rio

In the end, I chose going to the coast for a relaxing time.

Well, not that relaxing because I ended up in Rio, a city so vibrant one can hardly find calm – and that’s ok.

I’m sorry about not being creative, but every time I’m there I sort of hear bossa nova music everywhere, so I decided to post this song in an attempt to illustrate how it feels like being in Rio:

I’m in love (again) with the Marvellous City.

The Rio series ends in music

To end the special series of posts about Rio, there’s nothing more appropriate than talk about the city’s most wonderful and internationally known cultural product: its music.

There is life beyond samba and bossa nova (both of which originated in Rio) and many are those who have discovered that the mix of rhythms and cultures can be used for making good tunes.

My favorite Brazilian indie rock band comes from Rio:

Funk carioca is another type of music which has only recently gained admirors. It is a direct product of the favelas and many say it has the same impact as samba did when it first became known.

The favelas are the slums hanging from hills where most poor and black Brazilians live. Favela on Blast is a really cool initiative which explains it and shows what Funk carioca is about very well.

Anyway, is truly great for the dancefloor:

Finally, one of Brazil’s cleverest and most creative and important singers comes from Rio. Marisa Monte is unparalleled also because of the research she does on Brazilian rhythms, including them in her recordings:

Just dance.

Rio-Iceland, nature-art

As said before, Rio is all about nature. Not only because of the temperatures, but also because of the breathtakingly beautiful combination of sea, mountains and forest which is so present everywhere in the city.

In every direction you look, there will be something in the city that reminds us of mother nature, even if humanity tries to hide it by erecting such tall and unnecessary buildings.

Interestingly, this importance (ever so present) of nature and its impact on the Cariocas got me thinking about another place I know where people are truly connected to their surroundings: Iceland.

By looking at a selection of works by Icelandic artists, I couldn’t help but notice the need Icelanders have to express themselves using or showing nature.

Hrafnkell Sigurðsson is one of the Nordic contemporary photographers that really caught my attention:

from the Mirrored Landscapes series

The multitalented Ólafur Elíasson is another great example. His use of landscape and the even more famous studies using light is so inextricably connected to Icelandic nature it is impossible to miss the reference.

Lava Floor, by Elíasson

Going back to Brazil, who can ignore the impact use of color has in Brazil’s most important contemporary painter, the carioquíssima Beatriz Milhazes?

Only when one has been to Rio can one understand the source of such colorful influence.

Nature and art.

Rio, heat & style

I know I have already mentioned how hot it is in Rio and I’ll do it yet again, for not knowing this can really interfere with you fun while you visit the city.

Heat will ruin your well-being if not handled well. So, how do cariocas cope with it? Simple. They just spend the hottest times of the day in the shade, most likely in wonderful city hide-aways, such as:

When there, take your time, find a nice place to seat (in the shade) and sip something ice-cold. Cariocas love mate, a type of tea made from South American herb which goes really well with Rio. A good caipirinha will also brighten your day up.

But not everything is that easy. Many fashionistas, especially those who live in tropical countries, worry about dressing stylishly when wearing little. I assure you it is possible. Another suggestion, this time by Dries van Noten:

dress (little) to impress

As a clever woman once said: “there are always ways to look good, you just have to have style”.

The Rio series: what to wear

If you think you can handle real heat, you have got to go to Rio to put yourself to the test.

As I mentioned here, Rio de Janeiro redefines heat. It is constantly scorching there, and if you happen to be in the city during the official summer, you’ll find out you can sweat in ways you never thought possible.

Such melting temperatures have their consequences on lifestyle, fashion choices and  and thus, tourism.

Some basic rules:

  • avoid walking between 11am and 3pm. Everything should be done by taxi or anything equipped with an air-conditioning system;
  • wear only bright colors, most specifically white;
  • cotton is your best carioca friend;
  • pants are forbidden – anything long becomes a burden to be worn in Rio;
  • hats are in again and become a must in the tropical sun.

The combination of tailored shorts & shirt is the best choice for tropical trips. Worn with nice shoes (which must be walkable) or stylish sandals, casual becomes chic in a blink of an eye:

Julia Watanabe, spring 2010

Julia Watanabe, spring 2010

But remember, when it’s 40°C outside, less is always and desperately more.

Rio Week: definitions

Rio is the most famous Brazilian city and its image is the one foreigners most often connect to the country.

The truth is, Rio de Janeiro is quite unique, it is like an entity of its own.

A very famous line in a Brazilian song about the city goes:

Rio is the hot-blooded capital of the best and the worst in Brazil.

How accurate.

Nonetheless, before one embarks upon a trip to the Marvelous City, there are aspects to be considered. The main ones are threefold:

1. Rio is unbelievably hot all year long (I’m talking about 40°C/104°F);

2. Rio is all about beach and nature (despite being the country’s 2nd largest city);

3. Rio is always extremely casual and shuns all kinds formalities (including efficiency).

If you plan your trip around these three very important and constantly present factors, your time there will be fun-filled and stress-free.

To remind you of how lovely the spontaneousness of the city is, here’s my all-time favorite Bossa Nova song:

To be enjoyed sippng a caipirinha.


The reason for my absence here is that I took a short trip to Rio de Janeiro, which was very rich in many senses.

I went there to solve some issues but also to relax and do some research.

I shall reveal some of the conclusions I came to over the course of this week, which will be dedicated to things connected to Rio and its overwhelmingly tropical soul.

Rio is unparalleled.

Rio with July

After a long, busy and tiresome day, all I can think of is my trip to Rio the day after tomorrow.

The thing is, I have been so tired lately I’m barely gonna have the energy to do anything other than reading (and maybe a nice stroll along Ipanema at sunset, at most).

Rio is so much more than just the wonderful beaches. There is so much culture, so much history it is impossible to see it all. My friends make fun of me because I rarely stay by the ocean, relaxing – I’m always looking for cultural things to do.

Two days from now

This time I guess I’ll just do what they have always told me: take it easy and read a book by the ocean.

It will be a good chance for me to finish my favorite book of the month: Miranda July‘s No One Belongs Here More Than You.

I can’t help but increase my already great admiration for this woman. What a true artist she is and such an interesting writer. Hats off to her.

The Carnaval Report

It is quite hard for non-Brazilians to understand the size and importance of Carnaval in this country. To start with, here are some facts that might make it easier to grasp how big it really is:


  1. has its origins in religious rituals;
  2. lasts only four days (the weekend before Shrove Tuesday – aka Mardi Gras, and the Monday before it);
  3. is a bigger event than both Christmas and the National Day (Sep 7th);
  4. is not celebrated in the same way everywhere in the country.

In the olden days, Lent was a period of prayer, fasting and penitence. For the forty days before Easter, Catholic people used to refrain from drinking, eating red meat, having sex and partying in general. Thus, the last day before Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of Lent) was a day of heavy partying, drinking, dancing and flirtation. Since the forbiddance of eating meat affected everyone, these celebrations got the name “carnaval”, a blend of the words carne (meat or flesh) and festival.

Although it may seem to last for a long time, it is officially just one day. Most Brazilians choose to work overtime other days so they can take the Monday before the holiday off. Carnaval then becomes a four-day holiday much appreciated by everyone, who often travel to the coast or the countryside to party.

Why is it bigger than both Christmas and the National Day? Well, maybe because many people for many reasons don’t like Christmas, simple as that. The National Day is a different story. September 07th commemorates the date when Brazilian Independence was declared from Portugal. The thing is, this important fact did not happen by the hands of the people, it was the apparently greedy for power Portuguese crown prince D. Pedro who declared independence to seize the power and then become a monarch. Not such a popular day then.

Street Carnaval in Ouro Preto

Although Rio has got the biggest reputation for Carnaval celebrations all over the world, it is not what the real party about. The samba parade in Rio is mainly for tourists, most people don’t take part in it. The most fun and interesting celebrations take place in the streets.

The way the majority of the people across the nation like to celebrate Carnaval is by dancing to basically three Brazilian rhythms in the streets. Traditional samba is very big in Rio and in the big cities in the informal street parades. Axé is the type of music most people enjoy, for it has a very strong appeal for the youngest generations. Lately, Brazilian funk has become quite big because of its beats and sexually charged lyrics.

The mixture of Catholicism, Brazilian hot climate (it’s summer in February), African elements (music and dance in Brazil are all of strong African influence) and the lack of a true national day that brings everyone together has made Carnaval so big.

It must be said too that during the long years of economic and political difficulties, this date was probably the only time of the year people could really be happy, forgetting all their problems and just joining the party.

Fun is the word du jour.


A new year begins with a renewal of hopes, ideals and plans. I feel this is going to be the year to make things happen.

So much has changed since the same date last year; I’ve accomplished so much. Now it is the time to walk on the way I’ve paved so that all of this can be thoroughly enjoyed.

On a cultural note, I couldn’t help but feel so grateful to live in a country with such warm-hearted people who are always so open and uncomplicated. And, let us be truthful, maybe because of that, people who do know how to party.

New Year’s Eve is my favorite collective celebration of all. It is the middle of the summer here, everybody is about to go on holiday and feel so glad to celebrate a new beginning. During those long years of recession and pessimism, the eve of the first day of the new year was a moment to be hopeful, to dream about future possibilities, even if they were far from becoming real. It is this feeling of overwhelming hope that fills the night with such positivity for us.


Let us do our best to make our lives lighter, happier and more joyful. As I said, let’s make things happen

Less on clichés

People questioned me on my views on Mario Testino‘s new book. Just so everyone knows:

I don’t dislike Testino, I actually think he’s very nice, a nice person.

I don’t dislike Rio, I actually think it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.

I don’t dislike hot people, I actually need to have a look at beauty to strengthen my resolve sometimes.

The usual view of Rio

What I do dislike, though, is cliché. Rio has so exhaustively been shown as the land of the sexy that it just bores me to be faced with yet another batch of its people sexiness.

I truly expected more from MaRio de Janeiro Testino.

As Miranda Pristley once said: My God, I live on hope. On hope for novelty.

Scorching heat on the table

My French neighbors are currently on a visit here in the country. It was more than lovely to see them again and I especially appreciated the fact that we more than once got drunk with plenty of caipirinhas during lunch.

We had a nice time here in the city, but then they had to continue the tour while I had to stay and study and work. They are now exploring Rio.

Mario's Rio

Although I love the city and its magic, I’m not so fond of the people there. They are so open and so outgoing it almost shocks me. Yes, they do have a reputation for being hot, but we know how it usually goes: the prettier and hotter, the dumber and shallower (forgive me for the cliché).

Following the same train of thought, I’ve recently taken a look at Mario Testino‘s new photography book, MaRio de Janeiro Testino (Taschen, 2009). Although it’s really nice to look at the pictures and to notice and enjoy the view of those people’s sexiness, that’s about where it ends, just it where it begins.

Of course I love beauty, but there’s got to be more.

For everyone who does not care about this, just have fun and display this one much-too-shown side of the city in a nice little spot on your coffee table.