There is an energy and soul in every country, city, and space. Brazil is a place that is fully alive. There is a pulse unlike anywhere I've been before....an electricity of purity and grit. It is a country of immense joy, celebrations like Carnival, world-famous New Years, and the every day celebration of being alive.
I spent Christmas, New Years, and all of January in Brazil with my boyfriend and his family. We began our journey in Sao Paulo, the epicenter of art, business, and culture in Brazil. Imagine Brooklyn, NY meets Venice Beach, meets a South American paradise. Filled with incredible graffiti, the most insane restaurants ( including the best pizza I've ever had in my life), gorgeous parks, and historic neighborhoods, Sao Paulo is unlike anywhere else I've ever been. It is a gorgeous clash of old world charm and new world revolution, and it could not blend more beautifully.
Where to eat :
Dona Vitamina : The cutest little spot tucked away behind a garden of fresh herbs. My favorite spot for fresh juices, organic smoothies, healthy wraps, salads, and delicious acai bowls. A must try while in SP.
Braz Elettrica : BEST PIZZA OF MY LIFE. And I'm not a huge fan of pizza ( to my boyfriends dismay and one of his life missions to change ), but this place won my heart and taste buds. Hand made, pure ingredients, simple pizzas, and home made beer to top it all off. We got the margarita pizza and doused it in their house-made chili oil...I am still dreaming about it.
Coffee Lab : This place takes coffee to the next level. Each coffee experience is an"experiment", crafted in new ways and inspired by ancient rituals and flavor combinations. Frozen frappucino served with dates, coffee with fresh cacao...the list is endless.
Where to shop:
Void General Store: Think Supreme meets American Apparel meets LPA meets Vans meets Lisa Frank...from street wear and contemporary fashion for men and women, from shoes, unique jewelry, Cassia Watches, Vinyl records, to one of a kind pieces only found in Sao Paulo, this place has everything you want, and nothing you don't. Not to mention there is a full bar, rooftop hangout, and outdoor patio to chill and hang after shopping. Honestly, this store put Abbot Kinney to shame and redefined what being "cool" is to me. Do more. Care less.
What to see:
Beco de Batman : In the neighborhood of Villa Madalena, the budding artists have created a haven in back alleys, transforming them into a living art gallery of murals. An incredible place to go get inspired, and take all the instagram pictures.
Next we traveled to Buzios, which is an island off of Rio. The trip by car from Sao Paulo to Rio is around 8 hours - more or less equivalent to driving from LA to San Francisco. The highway takes you through jungle roads overlooking water falls, and highways much like the 405. Buzios, the most beloved island of famous actress Bridget Bardot, is a truly magical place, filled with crystal clear waters, the most charming town square, and incredible fresh food. We spent New Years here, where it is tradition to wear all white, and at midnight jump in the ocean, making a wish as you jump over each wave. We stayed up till sunrise, bringing in the new year with the sun, and slept away the after noon at the water's edge.
Our next adventure was a cruise that took us up the Northern coast of Brazil. We traveled to Bahia, a mystical realm of Brazil...the home of Capoeira, the martial art inspired dance fighting that was inspired by the slaves who were first brought to Brazil from Africa. We stopped in the port town of Salvador, which looked like something out of Colonial England - with gorgeous architecture dating back to the 1600's. Salvador was the first slave port in Brazil, and their heritage is both celebrated and mourned daily by their people. Slave living quarters ( jail cells carved into the cave side under massive colonial mansions ) greet you as you step into the city. There is a heaviness, but there is a solidness as well. A solid realness of what had happened, and yet joy in living.
Next was the island Ilha Grande, a cosmic realm of little islands making up a slice of heaven in the ocean. A big destination for Europeans, Ilha Grande feels a little like Sayulita or Bali - with yoga shalas, fresh markets, hikes through the rainforest, and getting everywhere by boat. The energy here was electrified with joy, pureness, and a state of contentment in the slowness of life - something we miss here in America.
Brazil, you forever have my heart. Thank you for showing me what it is to live and what it is to trust. I am forever grateful, and I will be seeing you again soon.