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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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Alone Time

I'm one of those people that adores having friends and spending lots of time with them, but equally I need my space and alone time every now and then.  I think that comes from my boarding school background where I spent a lot of time travelling alone. I relish waking up and knowing that I have a whole world to explore at my little feet and that it's just me against the world.

Recently I've spent a lot of time in London for work so I decided to make a weekend out of it. There's something liberating about being able to spend time alone in a city you don't know very well and just getting to explore.  

The first London struggle (aside from the Tube) is finding a nice but not overpriced place to stay.  Looking at hotels in London can be so overwhelming.  However, I'd heard good things about Citizen M in Bankside so decided to just go for it and it turned out that it was the prefect place to check in for some downtime.  

The rooms are simple and clean (but not in the hospital style à la Travelodge), the bed stretches the whole expanse of the room and with the fluffy pillows it's the perfect place to rest your weary head.  To top it off the room is controlled by a tablet and you can change the mood lighting of the room.  I'll be back for sure!

I'd never been to Southwark or Bankside before but it's a part of the city I really enjoyed. When I've been in London for work it's always been Central London or Kensington which sounds more fancy than it is.

I had the perfect Saturday first heading to Borough Market in the shadow of The Shard. I ate the best vanilla custard doughnut from Bread Ahead, it was so good I didn't even think to snap a picture for Instagram which says it all really. Borough Market was already quite busy in the early morning and I don't think I saw a single 'real Londoner' but it's still well worth a visit.

My next stop was St Paul's on my way to the Tate. It's a magnificent building, even more when you think about how it miraculously survived the Blitz. It's well worth taking the walk on the Millennium Bridge and seeing the cathedral poke out from the modern city buildings.  I love how old and new sit so comfortably together in London.

The main focus of my day was my first visit to The Tate Modern.  I grew up with my mother taking me to art exhibitions to show me important pieces of work from Picasso or Matisse so it's something I like to take the time out to do by myself now that I'm older. 

It's free to get in to the Tate (you do have to pay for special exhibitions), and it's really a joy to be able to see pieces from Picasso, Max Ernst and Andy Warhol without having to pay at all.  Modern art is a bit hit and miss for me, there were some pieces which I didn't like at all or understand but it's well worth a visit to the Tate for the amazing space of the old power station, and the view from the coffee shop on the 5th floor.

The day ended with me scoffing down some frozen yoghurt on South Bank whilst reading one of the books I picked up from the Tate gift shop. Whilst I was in London there was a great food festival going on so I had plenty to choose from, but after a day of walking (I managed to avoid getting the Tube), some frozen yoghurt went down a treat.

On Sunday I had a lie in, enjoying every second in my cloud bed before I dragged myself out of my cocoon room for brunch with some old school friends who now live in London.  I suggested The Breakfast Club, but it already had a huge queue so in the end we went to The Table which was delicious and highly recommended for any Southbank dwellers.

All in all it was the perfect weekend, it gave me a chance to catch my breath and spend some quality time with myself.  I think everyone should go on a mini break alone every now and then, it does wonders for my self esteem and contentment levels.

This post is a scheduled post because I'm currently flying over the Atlantic towards Brazil, so catch you later!

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

These girls born in the 90s' are dangerous

Jeans: ASOS 
T-shirt: Zara
Jacket: Vintage
Bag: Primark
Shoes: Dune
Sunglasses: River Island

How is it already August and how come I've blogged so little? The answer is probably that I've been so busy with work that once I'm home the last thing I want to do is sit behind another computer screen and start typing away again.

A mini life update: I got a pay rise and a promotion, I've been in London with work almost every week (exciting and exhausting all at the same time), I'm going to Rio de Janeiro for 2 and a half weeks on Wednesday and I'm generally very happy with my life.

I feel like my sense of happiness has suddenly crept upon me.  I'm not even sure where it suddenly came from. I don't know whether it's because I've succeeded in my little milestones, for example getting a promotion or finally being able to run 5km in under 30 minutes (not every time but most times and that's what counts).

I also feel like my happiness is really showing in my self and personality.  It's an odd sense of being 90% content with my life.  The balance used to tip more towards the 'unhappy' side so I'm savouring this feeling and trying not to jinx it.

Rambling post but more exciting Brazil themed posts will follow shortly no doubt.

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