Saturday, 12 September 2015

Autumn is Coming

Tea samples C/O Blue Bird Tea Co.
Autumn is coming!!! 

Extra exclamation marks are needed because this is my favourite time of year. I think it's the changing colour of the leaves, the weather becoming cooler and the nights growing dark are all part of a bigger picture reflecting change and transition.  Last summer was incredibly difficult for me so that might also be part of the reason why I'm relieved summer is over.

As a homebody I also love autumn because it gives me the perfect excuse to stay inside and be cosy  with a cup of tea and Netflix in my little flat nest.  So Blue Bird Tea Company pretty much read my mind when they got in touch to see if I'd like to give their autumn collection a whirl.

Bluebird Tea Company was set up by Kris and Mike in Brighton who are incredibly passionate about how fun and versatile tea can be.  The company motto is 'Spreading happiness, one cupful at a time'.  They are also the only tea company in the UK that specialises in developing their own unique and exciting flavours.  A quick look at the website will confirm this, there are flavours that I would have never even thought about.  I'm passionate about supporting independents and unique business so this is right up my street.

Nuts About You - is a rooibos based tea with almond and cinnamon.  I've tested this out on friends and we've all agreed it's delicious.  It's a light but flavoursome tea that reminds me of marzipan.  Best enjoyed with a cinnamon roll.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie - it seems that for most the arrival of autumn is heralded with Starbuck's infamous pumpkin spiced latte.  Not a Starbucks fan myself, this tea is the perfect way of celebrating autumn.  This is Bluebird's limited edition and you can pick up a 150 gram refill pouch which will make you about 100 cups of tea for a mere £9 (probably around 3 Starbucks drinks?) and is far superior to the overly sugary Starbucks version.

Kung Flu Fighter - I'm always the one in the office with a sniffly nose and feeling sorry for myself. I'm hoping this herbal tea will be able to keep the winter cold bugs at bay.  In the office we have dreadful PG tips tea so I'll be making a big thermos flask of this tea to power through my long days at work.

Pudina Chai - I'm guilty of playing it safe (or boring?) and sticking to the original Mr Grey.  Earl Grey that is.  But this cup of tea is quite something else.  Pudina is Hindi and Urdu for mint which is a popular Ayurvedic herb used in traditional Indian recipes for everything from rice to tea.  This is the perfect cup of tea to accompany me when I'm day dreaming about far off places and packing up my suitcase.

I can't recommend Bluebird enough.  They have such a wide variety of teas which come in different quantities so whether you just want to try some new teas or stock up your favourites in bulk, there's something for everyone.  Bluebird also stock all the apparatus you need to make your perfect cup of tea, from tea infusers to beautiful glass teapots.  If you have a tea addict in your house this should be your first stop off point in the run up to Christmas (apologies for the C word so early!).

With my well stocked tea cupboard I'm now ready to face autumn and all the change that it will bring.  Come at me autumn, I can't wait.

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Thursday, 27 August 2015


Just 68 kilometres outside of Rio de Janeiro lies Petrópolis, also known as The Imperial City.  It's a beautiful drive out of Rio, away from all the overwhelming hustle and bustle of the city.  The drive up into the mountains isn't for the weak hearted with all the twists and turns but the coconut pit stops and the views make it worth it.

The town's name ("city of Peter") honors Emperor Pedro II, the nation's second monarch.  The city was also the summer residence of the Brazilian Emperors and aristocrats in the 19th century, it was the official capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro between 1894 and 1902.  Currently it's a very popular winter holiday spot with my Rio de Janeiro locals owning holiday homes here.

Catedral de Petrópolis

Historically German settlers from the Rhineland were encouraged to settle here which explains the in parts, Germanic feel to the town.  The town also has many beautiful coloured holiday villas where most of the Brazilian aristocracy lived during the 19th Century

I was most excited to visit the Casa Stefan Zweig.  Stefan Zweig was a famous Jewish Austrian author who fled Austrian following the rise to power of Hitler.  Zweig and his wife fled to the UK, then New York before eventually settling in Petrópolis.  Here they lived for 5 months in a very small house in the middle of the jungle entertaining local creatives and others who had fled Europe following the rise of National Socialsim.

Zweig and his wife desperately sought some solace and peace after their turbulent exile but the peace in Petrópolis became lonleliness and deperession.  5 months after their arrival Zweig and his wife Lotte were found dead on their dead holding hands, having taken an overdose of barbiturates.

Seeing their home was deeply moving in understanding their struggles.  As a German I'm very conscious of the great devastation that WWII brought, seeing the way they lived really hit home and the visit has stayed with me since.

Also well worth a visit is the Palácio Rio Negro.  It is one of the official residences of the President of Brazil, of which is has hosted 16, but it was mainly used as a country retreat.

The palace was used more frequently when Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil.  But in 1960 the capital city status was transferred to the newly founded capital city of Brasília in a bid to bring progress to the interior of Brazil.  The palace was not used at all in the 1970s and it is still rarely used by the President of Brazil.

For a visit it is very interesting, it's free to enter and it's fascinating to see the mix of interior styles, many of them are very European but with a South American flair.

It was a really interesting day and great to get out of Rio for a little bit.  Rio is overwhelming, you almost want 10 pairs of eyes so you can look at everything and take it all in.

Tomorrow we're off on a little 'Bank Holiday' trip to the Iguazu Falls which boarder Argentina and Brazil  It's amazing to be able to see South America and I have to pinch myself that this is real and not a crazy vivid dream. 

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Friday, 21 August 2015

Rio de Janeiro - Cidade Maravilhosa

The last time I was in Brazil was at Christmas and I thought about Rio de Janeiro every single day when I was back in the UK. There's something amazing about this city that I just can't put into words.  I'm so thrilled to be back.  

Today was my first real day of being out and about in Rio de Janeiro again. I arrived on Wednesday evening but my jet lag laid me low on Thursday, plus I had to go and get my yellow fever vaccine as well so it's been a double whammy and I've felt pretty useless.

My parents have finally settled into their amazing flat  just off Ipanema beach, and have got a nice little routine going.  On Friday mornings my mum heads to the market to stock up on all the fresh produce that we need for the weekend.  As I shot out of bed at 5:30am again this morning (09:30 UK time) I was ready to help her do her rounds this time.

The market is unlike anything I've ever seen.  The stall holders tempt you in by giving you free samples of all sorts of fruit.  My Portuguese is non existent so I smile and accept whatever I'm being offered to avoid being rude (curse my adopted British behaviour!).  The result is mixed.  The strawberries, mango and pineapple are out of this world, but there are some more strange local fruits that I can't quite get to liking (looking at you papaya and other fruits I don't know the name of).

Not only do the stall owners lure you in with free fruit but they love to charm you.  Going off from my basic Spanish everyone was convinced that my mum and I were sisters.  For their efforts my mum relented and bought some amazing strawberries the size of my fist.  Brunch is going to be a treat this weekend.

You can buy everything at this market, form fresh meat (the lack of hand sanitation did concern me), to every type of chilli imaginable and exotic flowers which cost less than a bunch of daffodils in Cardiff.

After stuffing our bags (and faces...) Mum and I happily trotted home in our Havaianas with our bounty and prepared for our afternoon adventure.

At Christmas I'd only managed the trip into 'Centro' once.  At the moment there's an amazing Picasso and modern Spanish artists exhibition so that was the main reason for our venture.

'Centro' is the heart of Rio and comparable to downtown New York.  It's the financial district with Petrobras, amongst others, having their head offices here.  Centro is exhausting.  It's loud, it's busy, cars are driving down roads they shouldn't be driving down and you're ver likely to get hit by a bus or taxi.  I love it.

Not only is it busy and you see all sorts of people, but the architecture is fascinating.  It's a paradoxical mix of modern high rises and old colonial buildings from when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil.  Sadly most of the beautiful old houses are completely derelict and are being torn down to make way for shiny and impersonal high rises. 

Nestled amongst the high rises and colonial builds is an absolute gem - Confeitaria Colombo.  A tea room built in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants it was initially a pastry shop. All the glass, decor and 4 meter high mirrors in the tea room are original pieces which somehow survived the journey on a boat from Belgium to Rio de Janeiro.

The ambiance is amazing and you feel like you're in a Woody Allen or Wes Anderson movie.  Sadly there is almost always a very long queue for a table and the pastry isn't quite up to scratch but it's well worth at least one visit so you can scratch it off your bucket list.

Centro is a pretty cool part of town but at the end of the day I was more than happy to head back home to Ipanema to nap off my stupid jet lag. 

Tomorrow we're taking a little day trip out of Rio and then next weekend we're off to Argentina (!) to see the Iguazu Falls. There will be plenty for me to blog about and share with you but for now I'm having another nap before we head out for tapas.

Até logo!

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