London Olympics come to Rio

Wow – the Olympics are finally here! Maybe it’s because I’m so far from home, but I have to say there were times during the opening ceremony where I found myself getting a little choked up. Sometimes you need some distance from your country to fully appreciate its good points (…and forget the bad stuff!).

It has been interesting watching the build-up to the Olympics here in Rio. In the same way that London watched Beijing especially keenly, so Rio has been watching London and wondering how they will cope with the same challenges. And with the Football World Cup coming here in 2014, the phrase imagina isso na copa (imagine this during the World Cup) has become the common response to traffic jams, bad weather or a myriad of other problems.

One of the most prominent aspects to the Olympic build-up here in Rio has been an advertising campaign from the main Sports station here, SporTV. SporTV, part of the Globo empire, have four channels that are being fully dedicated to the Olympic coverage. Their advertising campaign has been built around bringing London to Rio. And what says London more than the iconic red double-decker bus?

Rio Metro London bus

Is that a Metro train or a double-decker London bus?


Read more

Filming in Vidigal

One of the nice things about blogging is that once in a while some interesting spin-off opportunity comes along. A little while back I was contacted by a British television company who were looking for information about the restaurants and food scene in Rio. They were preparing to make programme in which a celebrity chef would travel through a selection of countries, learning about the local food and taking part in various cooking challenges. We had a couple of meetings, went for some drinks, I offered some suggestions and a few months later we were filming!

Vidigal from Leblon at sunset

Filming took place in the neighbourhood of Lapa and also in Vidigal, a favela next to Leblon. This is a shot of Vidigal taken from the beach in Leblon at sunset.


Read more

No one should have to drive past this on their way to work…

Life isn’t all fun and games when you live in Rio you know? Some of us have to work for a living! I mentioned recently that we are planning to move because my new job in Barra means that it can take 2 hours to get to/from work. Without wanting to moan about it too much (because in reality I’m very grateful to have a decent job that pays the bills) I will say that the long journey can be pretty exhausting. If we take the example of my journey home after a long day in the office, it goes something like this:

Leave the office around 7.30pm and walk 10 minutes to the bus stop. Wait up to 30 minutes for the bus to arrive. Depending on traffic, the bus to Ipanema will take 45-60 minutes. Arrive in Ipanema, walk down to the Metro and take the train for 8 stops. Come up from the Metro and walk up a very steep hill. Total journey time: 1.5-2 hours. And that’s why we’re moving!

The journey home in the evening can be especially boring as (at this time of year at least) it is totally dark, so I can’t even see the scenery. But then on days like today, being able to see the scenery isn’t always 100% positive:

São Conrado and Pedra da Gávea

São Conrado and Pedra da Gávea, glimpsed from the bus as it whisked me along the spectacular Avenida Niemeyer this morning.


Read more

How to avoid looking like a gringo

The word gringo is an interesting one. It exists in both Spanish and Portuguese and generally means foreigner. In some places it refers specifically to someone from the US, but in Brazil it basically means any foreigner. That said, it isn’t an exact science – someone from say, Japan, for instance can be called a gringo (gringa for a female), but in general the term fits better for Europeans and North Americans.

The origins of the word are also open to some discussion. Several Brazilians have told me that the term evolved from the English expression Green Go (this being either a call for foreign armies, generally dressed in green, to leave the country, or an observation that when foreigners arrived in the Amazon, the green (trees and other valuables) was taken away.

The reality is far more likely to be that it came from the Spanish word for Greek, Griego – someone speaking a language that isn’t understood. As in “it’s all Greek to me”.


gringo shirt

It’s like you’re walking around with a sign that says gringo… Thanks to Fly Brother for the image!


But what is the real meaning behind this word? Should you be offended if someone calls you a gringo? Is it a sign of falta de respeito (lack of respect)?

Read more

The Cheery orange sweepers

One of the first things that struck me when I returned to London at the start of this year was how naked all the trees looked. I don’t miss the cold British winter much, but there is something rather amazing about the way all the leaves drop in autumn and then return in spring.

bare tree in winter

March 2012, London. Ouch! I always felt sorry for trees in winter. But then they look great when they get a brand new set of leaves when spring comes round.


The fact that Rio doesn’t have winters cold enough to make the leaves drop presents a situation that hadn’t occurred to me before I came here. Instead of the boom-or-bust leaf fall situation of a temperate climate, Rio has a steady rain of leaves throughout the year. And that means that there are always leaves to sweep!

Read more

Canjica – exactly what I was looking for!

Anyone know what this is?

canjica hominy

It looks a bit like a pile of broken teeth doesn’t it? In Brazil they call this Canjica, in other countries it is known as hominy.


To use the official name, this is Nixtamalised maize. Apparently, Nixtamalisation is the process of soaking a grain in alkali solution and then removing its husk. Although that sounds worryingly like messing with food in a bad way, Nixtamalisation was developed by the Aztecs and Mayans more than 3,000 years ago and actually makes maize more nutritious!

If, like me, you had never heard of this stuff, you may be wondering what you do with it. Well, all sorts of things actually!

Read more

The bad behaviour of Brazilian bees

One day when we were shopping for something completely different, I spotted a hummingbird feeder for sale. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I love birds and I find hummingbirds particularly wonderful. As soon as I saw the feeder I lost interest in everything else! On the way home I was already googling how to make the sugar solution and where best to place the feeder.

Before long we had several hummingbirds visiting regularly and I started taking photos (you can see the results here). All was peace and harmony in the garden until one day, this happened:

Bees on hummingbird feeder

A couple of bees discovered that there was free nectar on offer. Guess what happened next…


Read more

More Hortifruti Word-Play

Do you remember all those great adverts that Hortifruti were running a while back? They put fruit and vegetables into famous film posters using excellent word play skills. Edward Scissor Hands (Edward Mãos de Tesoura) became Edward Mãos de Cenoura, Moulin Rouge became Melão Rouge (melon) and Shrek became ChuChuRek (chuchu) – take a look at my post about it to see the brilliant film-poster adverts.

Regular readers will know I have a weakness for the art-form (yes, art-form) of the pun, but whoever worked on that advertising campaign was a genius. And isn’t it nice when smart adverts are created for a product you really like? Hortifruti is easily my favourite food store in Rio – if you’re looking for fresh fruit and vegetables and a great selection of other really high quality ingredients, Hortifruti (OR-tchee FROO-tchee) is the place to go.

After their last campaign (fruit/veg transformed into super-heroes) things have been quiet for a while. And then look what I saw this morning!


Read more

My favourite word in Portuguese

Back in 2009 when I was planning my 4 month (ha!) trip to South America, I started taking Spanish lessons. Back then there were no plans to visit Brazil and so Spanish was the obvious choice. A couple of friends and I found a lovely teacher and we would spend a very enjoyable hour each week having lessons. After a few months we were discussing how the lessons were going, what we thought of Spanish as a language, what we liked about it and so on.

portuguese words

Words, words, words…


My favourite word in Spanish

At some point a question came up: What’s your favourite word in Spanish? I hadn’t given it much thought before, but I knew my answer immediately:

Read more

Looking up

I’m feeling a bit wistful at the moment – perhaps some saudade even. It’s because we have reluctantly made the decision to leave our lovely big apartment in Santa Teresa and move a bit closer to my work. A young couple came to look round this morning and they loved it – the looks on their faces said it all: “You guys are mad to be leaving this place”. Maybe they’re right. It’s just that it takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to get to my place of work. And when you spend 4 hours sitting on a bus each day, you don’t have much time left for anything else.

We will probably end up in a much smaller apartment and it almost certainly won’t have the roof terrace and amazing views we currently enjoy. This morning I woke up with a bit of a heavy head , wandered outside and looked up:

Amazing clouds

Woah! Awesome clouds!


Read more