Modern Brasília

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I took a trip to Brasília on my recent holiday to Brazil.

Brasília is Brazil's capital city, deep in the interior of the country.

But Brasília is barely 50 years old, all built between 1957 and 1960.

The whole city is built in the superbly modern shape of an airplane. Its central fuselage is a long ceremonial boulevard surrounded by amazing modernist buildings like these in the photos.

Brazil's Humble Plastic Chair

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One of my favourite things about Brazil is the way they use humble plastic chairs. I see it as very Brazilian.

 To us, they're simple garden furniture. In Brazil, these plastic chairs come in all sorts of colours, sometimes branded with company logos.

They're at bars, restaurants, a party can be pitched up anywhere. They're arranged haphazardly. It's not important to be neat, to be formal, what matters is somewhere to sit, to eat, to drink, to talk, to joke, to see what's going on around you, to be together with friends or family.

So for all the wonderful symbols of Brazil - landmarks, caipirinhas, flags, flora and fauna -  the simple plastic chair looms large for me.

Rio de Janeiro streets

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Rio de Janeiro does not have one main shopping street - unlike Buenos Aires or Istanbul.

While it might seem like Rio's beaches are the hub of all energy, there is still lots of life and activity to please people-watchers in Rio.  As I walked around the city, here's what I saw...

  • A poodle wearing four bright blue socks
  • A thin hipster-ish man wearing skinny jeans and a smock shirt playing a picalillo in middle of traffic
  • A middle-aged man fainting on the street, with people crowding around trying to help
  • A young dude working the door of a restaurant checking out every guy that passed him by
  • A mother calming her truculent little boy, saying "tranqui, tranqui!"
  • A good-looking man walking along a busy street wearing only a skimpy sunga. Only in Rio!
  • A young teenage boy pleading through tears and wails with a shop security guard
  • A tiny old lady clutching her phone to her face and conspiratorially covering her mouth
  • Guys carrying used drinks cans in fishing nets, a modern update on a traditional economy.
  • A man selling books in the middle of traffic while wearing a bright grass green suit and carrying a huge sign. 

Bustling Buenos Aires

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Every city has its zones: the political quarter, business quarter, entertainment district.

One of the first things I'll do in a new city is head for the main shopping street to watch the comings and goings.

In Buenos Aires, that main street is the Calle Florida, which has been partly pedestrianised for more than a hundred years.

As I walked along, here's what I saw.

  • A man furiously spraying the air with an aerosol
  • A woman with a full head brace
  • People positioned every few yards along the street saying "cambi cambi cambio" in every manner of refrain.
  • Adverts for the McTriple, meat-obsessed Argentina's answer to the Big Mac (three burgers in one)
  • A woman carrying a 7 foot tall lampstand and shade wrapped entirely in bright lime green plastic
  • A man playfully tussling his girlfriend's long blonde hair, so much so that it ends up splayed across the ice cream cone she's eating.
  • A group of Orthodox Jews handing out boxes of Channukah lights
  • A blonde woman in a bright baby blue dress walking two pink painted poodles
  • A woman walking hand-in-hand with her two young daughters, all three of them wearing the same sparkly silver shoes
  • A big burly black man carrying 15 flashy handbags on one arm.
  • A man power-walking to work wearing a  tracksuit, football shirt and carrying a formal leather briefcase 

Hot Xmas

Monday, February 02, 2015

I recently spent Christmas and New Year in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

Christmas in hot climates is pretty surreal, seeing decorations in sweltering sunshine or against bright blue skies.

Christmas lights and decorations vary from pretty and good to ridiculous and tacky. Overall though, for us in Europe, they light or cheer up the darkest time of the year and bring a little glitter to the gloom.

Not so in the southern summer, but they were rather entertaining and fun for me to see how Christmas traditions translate in different climates.

My favourite sight - which I saw from a car so no time to photograph - was of a Christmas tree on a beach, made of clear and green discarded plastic bottles.