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Pop-Up Travel: Paraty, Brazil

My trip to Brazil is almost a distant memory now, but there is still one part of the trip that I haven’t told you much about. In between Christmas and New Years my family and I spent three days in Paraty — a small town turned tourist hot spot — a couple of hours from Rio. (See my previous post about an amazing Paraty bag shop where I found the perfect camera bag.) Paraty became a busy port city when gold was discovered in Brazil in the late 1600s. But a new road built in the 1720s circumvented the need for Paraty’s port, and the town became isolated as it was only reachable by water due to the extreme geography surrounding it. The town fell into a sleepy decline until 1960, when a coastal road from Rio was finally connected to Paraty. (Read more on Paraty’s interesting history led to an interesting result: The town’s colonial architecture and cobblestone streets have survived almost completely intact into the 21st century, turning Paraty into a popular tourist town. Paraty was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1966. We loved Paraty although it was extremely crowded the week we were there. I struggled to capture good pictures of […]

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Pop-Up Travel: Ilha Grande, Brazil

At the end of my recent trip to Brazil, my family and I spent two days on an island called Ilha Grande. Ilha Grande is reachable only by boat (ferries to Ilha Grande leave from the town of Angra, about an hour-and-a-half from Rio) and there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island. Lots of boats. No cars. Ilha Grande is known for its unspoiled natural beauty and we were expecting a deserted island kind of vibe. But we happened to visit during the week between Christmas and New Years, which I’m guessing is the busiest week of the year on Ilha Grande. The island was crowded, especially in the main settlement of Vila do Abraão where we stayed. So our time on Ilha Grande was more about people-watching (and animal-watching), eating, and drinking than it was about laying on deserted beaches. The church in Vila do Abraão. This was the most delicious platter of seafood I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the restaurant where we ate it. A man making caipirinhas on a Vila do Abraão side street. That’s my sister in the shadows, petting one of Ilha Grande’s ubiquitous dogs. Holiday-makers. My favorite Instagram from the trip to Brazil. […]

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I Found the Perfect Camera Bag

I passionately love my old Domke camera bag, which I inherited more than four years ago from Jon. It’s the strongest, trustiest bag I’ve ever owned. But it’s been hovering on the verge of death for a long time now. I loved my Domke to death. I’d been looking for a new bag forever. In fact I even bought one last year, on sale at a camera expo. As soon as I got it home I realized I’d made a mistake. It was too stiff and despite its uncomfortable bulkiness it didn’t have space for all my stuff. That bag is still sitting on a table in the corner of my kitchen, unused. I continued to use the old Domke despite the broken zipper, frayed straps, and potentially lethal bent metal catches. Deep down, I was afraid to let the Domke go. It meant too much. I was still carrying the nearly dead Domke three weeks ago, as I walked down a cobble-stoned street in Paraty, Brazil. Then I spotted Casinha da Lona and I knew my life was about to change. Sueli stands in the doorway of Casinha da Lona on Rua da Lapa in Paraty. I hurried past Casinha da Lona on our first morning […]

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Pets of Brazil

One of the best parts of traveling, in my opinion, is observing domesticated animals in different places around the world. (See my post on cats in Ghana.) Brazil has a particularly interesting animal culture and my sister and I spent a lot of time instagramming the animals we came across on our recent trip there. Here are a few highlights. My sister Susanna with some painted dogs in Rio. This shot was in my previous Rio post but I think it warrants a repeat appearance. Dogs are more prevalent than cats in Brazil but most of the cats we saw had a distinct look about them — broad, triangular faces and big bodies. Dog in a Hat, Ipanema Beach. We saw lots of cute dachshunds in Rio. Heather with Dog in a Hat. Dog in a Hat seemed very accustomed to posing for this shot. (Photo: Susanna Mason) Egyptian-looking cats in Jabaquara, a little beach hamlet near the Brazilian town of Paraty. “Anybody home? It’s Horse.” (This horse roamed freely around Jabaquara. I later saw him/her eating from a trash bin.) Chicken-crossing in Jabaquara. Cute cat behind a gate in Paraty. We spent the last two days of our trip on an island called Ilha Grande. There were dozens, if […]

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My Top 10 Moments in Rio

I finished 2014 on a new continent, spending eight days with my mom and sister in Brazil. We were in Rio for Christmas and then spent a few days in other parts of Rio de Janeiro province. I need to get going on my Brazil posts before Joburg steals my attention again. So here are my top 10 moments from three whirlwind days in Rio. 1) Santa Claus at the Copacabana. Christmas in Rio, baby. We stayed at the Atlantis Copacabana Hotel, conveniently within walking distance of both the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. On my first morning in Rio, 23 December, we walked up and down the Copacabana’s famous mosaic sidewalks and checked out the scene. Santa was a highlight. 2) My first caipirinha A favela caipirinha. That afternoon we took a tour of two favelas with Marcelo Armstrong’s Favela Tours. I had mixed feelings about the tour as a whole, but the caipirinha I bought in Villa Canoas favela was the most delicious beverage I’ve ever consumed. The caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink, is made from a sugarcane brandy called cachaça and most bars use a mysterious brand of cachaça called 51. I don’t know what makes caipirinhas taste so good but I think the 51 has something to do with […]

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