C-Arnie-val Creep

Have I mentioned recently that carnival is just around the corner? As you may have noticed, I’m finding it hard to think of anything else right now.

Lots of Cariocas love carnival, but there are also quite a few who don’t like it. For both groups, this period between New Year and the carnival is just one long waiting game – either you’re waiting for the party to begin, or you’re waiting for it to finish so you can get on with your life. They say that the year doesn’t really start until after carnival – this can be a problem in the years when carnival starts in March.


Dancing, drinking, chatting to strangers and generally getting down. It just works better when the sun is out.

Dancing, drinking, chatting to strangers and generally having a good time.


Personally I love carnival! I may be in my mid-thirties now, but I still jump at the chance to forget about all the boring stuff and concentrate on having some serious fun for a few days/weeks. And I’m not the only gringo with a taste for Rio’s big party. They say that over 1 million people visit Rio for carnival each year. I read somewhere that they’re expecting closer to 2 million visitors this year.

Most of these carnival visitors are swept up in Rio’s carnival spirit and are very well behaved. But you know what it’s like – there are always a few bad apples aren’t there? Take this creepy guy for example (warning, some readers may find this difficult to watch…)


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Carnival Songs: Allah-lá-ô

The first place I set foot in South America was Buenos Aires back in 2009. There are many, many reasons to love Argentina’s capital – the food, the vibrant culture, the beautiful architecture to name a few. You can almost feel history – it seems to seep from every bar and street corner you pass. One of the things I particularly enjoyed seeing there was a certain kind of South American gentleman.

As I wandered the streets I would occasionally pass an old guy dressed in 3 piece suit, walking stick and moustache, all of which seemed to hark back to a bygone era. My South American history was (and still is) very patchy, but these old men made me think of the 1930s-1950s. It was a real pleasure to see these guys and I was lucky enough to get chatting to a couple of them one night in a restaurant. They were friendly, interesting and delighted to hear that I had left everything behind to have an adventure. Speaking to them was like stepping back in time.

Well the performer of today’s carnival marchinha reminds me of those old South American gents. Funnily enough it turns out he was born in Buenos Aires, but soon moved to São Paulo and then Rio. Take a look at Carlos Galhardo:



Carlos Galhardo – the suit, the moustache and that pipe! A handsome fellow reminiscent of David Niven, everything speaks of a rather romantic bygone era. I wonder what he would make of today’s carnival.


So that is our singer. Now let’s get to today’s marchinha de carnaval – it’s a fun one!

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Carnival Songs: Cabeleira do Zezé

Carnival is just a few weeks away people! Time to start thinking about your fantasia, planning which blocos you’re going to attend and of course, learn some more marchinhas de carnaval!

Today’s song is super catchy, but it has also got me feeling a little perplexed. Perhaps I’m being naïve or simply ‘not getting it’ (wouldn’t be the first time!), but there seems to be a bit of a bullying, homophobic aspect to this song.

The title of the song is Cabeleira do Zezé and it was written by João Roberto Kelly (and Roberto Faissal) back in the early 1960s.



João Roberto Kelly, cheeky looking chap, responsible for more than one cheeky carnival tune! I notice his hair wasn’t exactly small…


Kelly was born in Rio in 1938. In 1964, aged just 24, he had huge success with today’s song when it was recorded by Jorge Goulart. We’ll hear Jorge sing the song in a moment, but before that, let’s have a quick look at the lyrics and maybe you’ll get an idea of why I’m a little perplexed.

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Brazilian Brands: Bis

The British take biscuits (not cookies!) pretty seriously. I put this down to our tea drinking habit – tea and biscuits go together like, well, tea and biscuits! 

If you ever find yourself with multiple British people and you feel the need to get the conversation going, just try bringing up the subject of biscuits. For example, you could mention that you heard that the best biscuit in the world is the chocolate digestive (a fine choice). Before long you would have people arguing over the relative merits of Hobnobs, custard creams and ginger nuts. We even had a big court case between the government and the manufacturers of Jaffa Cakes over whether their product was a biscuit or a cake (no seriously).

There are many sub-divisions of biscuit and one close to my heart is the ‘biscuit-bar’. The English biscuit bar of choice would surely be the Penguin. In Scotland they have a chocolate, caramel and wafer affair called simply Tunnock’s. The Australians favour something called the Tim Tam which can be ingeniously employed in something called the Tim Tam Slam (everyone should try this at least once).


The humble Penguin biscuit – two biscuit layers with soft chocolate goodness in the middle, all covered in delicious milk chocolate. Good stuff. Source


Before I get carried away with all this biscuit talk, let’s come back to Brazil shall we? In Portuguese, the word for biscuit is biscoito. Now I thought I was fairly knowledgeable when it comes to biscuits, but it wasn’t until I arrived here in Brazil that I was told about the origins of the word. Apparently it can be broken down to “bi” (2) + “coito” (coitus) – the er, ‘union’ of two biscuit layers! Can this really be true?

OK, let’s look at Brazil’s favourite biscuit bar and today’s Brazilian Brand:

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Rio rain, floods and landslides.

The popular image of Rio (particularly abroad) is of sun, beaches, people relaxing and having a nice time. All those things (and much more) do happen in Rio, but visitors are sometimes surprised (and disappointed) by something else. The rain.

Some friends of mine once came to Rio for 10 days. It rained every single day. I remember seeing them just after they’d been to see the Cristo Redentor. I asked them how the view had been (the iconic statute is the highest point in Rio and on clear days the views of the city are breathtaking). “We could just see his head” they told me.

As well as putting a dampener in people’s holidays and leisure time, the rain here has a more serious side. The sheer intensity of the downpours can be incredible.


Rain in Rio

This was the view from my window last night – some of the heaviest rain I’ve seen anywhere. After 10 minutes of this, the entire road (which is on a very steep hill) had turned into a river. It rained like this for over an hour.


Here is some footage I took last night – it’s not great quality, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how full-on the rainfall was:

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Toca Raul!

Wow, it’s been an exhausting week so far – early starts, late finishes and my long commute mean that I’ve been feeling like a bit of a zombie. At times like these I find that a little music therapy can help. Something uplifting and energizing should do it and I know just the thing.

A little while back I was reading Phil’s excellent blog, when I noticed a post with a rather provocative title: The Best Brazilian Rock Album Ever? The post described the album Krig-ha, Bandolo! by Raul Seixas. At the time I had only just been made aware of Raul Seixas, so when I saw the name and the cool album cover, my interest was piqued.


Krig-ha, Bandolo!

Krig-ha, Bandolo! Raul Seixas’ first solo album.


Phil has done a great track by track summary of the album so I won’t repeat his work. What I will do is highlight a couple of my favourite tracks. First off, let’s listen to something to something bright and uplifiting that will hopefully wake me up mid-way through another long day at the grindstone.

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Brazilian Tapioca

When you see the word “tapioca”, what image comes to mind? Back in England we pronounce this word ‘tappy-OAK-a’ and it doesn’t have a great reputation – for many people it brings back memories of bad school dinners:


Frogspawn tapioca

Back in England, tapioca pudding is often compared to frogspawn. Ooh yummy!


In more recent times, these tapioca ‘pearls’ have become associated with Bubble Tea – a bit more trendy perhaps, but still quite weird and the resemblance to amphibian eggs is undeniable.

As is often the case, Brazil does things a little differently. Here we call it ‘tappy-OCK-a’ and it is a popular street food, prepared in little stalls on street corners and markets all over Brazil.

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Opa! Oba! Eba! Eta!

Oba! …er… Opa? Anyone confused yet? I know I am! Believe it or not, what I’m trying to say is “hello”. Let me explain (or at least try to).

When I was a kid growing up in southern England, the casual, chilled-out way to say hello was to say “Alright?”. The correct response was not “Yes I’m fine thanks… well, except for this bruise on my leg from football”. Oh no. The correct response would be “Alright?” straight back! Weird right? Someone asks you a question and you just ignore it and ask the exact same question back! I didn’t encounter this form of greeting until I was 12 or 13 and at first I found the whole thing a bit confusing.

Well, as we discussed recently, Brazilians often use a similar structure for their greetings too, but it’s not always quite that simple!





Let’s look at “Opa!” first. This seems to be quite an international phrase – certainly it is also used in Spanish speaking countries and also in Greece. I suspect that the French houp-là, (an exclamation) is also related and who knows, maybe even the English “Whoops!”. This is a real multi-purpose phrase.

  • It can be used to say a cheery hello, especially for an unexpected meeting.
  • If you almost bump into someone when you turn a corner, they may well exclaim “Opa!” as they take evasive manoeuvres!
  • It can also be used in a similar way to the English “Oopsy-daisy” in an attempt to avoid tears when a child falls over.
  • I’ve heard it used when someone is helping a driver reverse into a parking space, as in “OK, stop now!”
  • Finally, let’s not forget the Breadman, who combines it with the word for Baker, “Padeiro” to make his famous morning call:


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Not my beach

At times I can be quite self-conscious about my Portuguese – I know I should just lighten up and get on with learning and improving, but if I’m not in a great mood then it’s very easy to notice all the mistakes and forget about all the things I’m getting right.

However, every so often I’m reminded that many of the people I meet day-to-day are also struggling away with their own language challenges. While I’m working on my Portuguese, many of them are working on their *English! At times this can lead to a language stand-off: “Let’s speak English shall we?” “Não! Vamos falar português!”

*I’m aware other languages exist and are learned by Brazilians, but English is the most common.

I find it rather comforting to be reminded that I’m not the only one with language issues. When we are lamenting our respective difficulties, one of the things that Brazilians often mention is the trouble they have with English words which are differentiated only by a long or short “e”. They will often tell me that they struggle with the difference between “beach” and “bitch”! The other example they mention is “sheet/shit”.

This then leads to drawn out demonstrations which involve me repeating “Sheeeeeeeeeet? Shit! Sheeeeeeeet? Shit! See? And now beeeeeeeeeeeeach? Bitch!”. Passing American tourists usually look at me like I’m crazy…


Ipanema Beach

Beeeeeeeeach! This is Ipanema at sunset, looking back towards Arpoador. The Arpoador rocky peninsula is a popular place to sit and watch the sunset.


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Climb Dois Irmãos

Hi everyone, how’s your weekend going? Those of you who follow the Eat Rio Facebook page will know that last weekend, Mrs Eat Rio and I went on a bit of an adventure. We climbed the larger of the Dois Irmãos!


Ipanema and Dois Irmãos

Dois Irmãos, the iconic pair of mountains that sit at the end of Leblon beach. We went up the taller one on the left, commonly known as Irmão Maior – bigger brother.


It was awesome! Seriously, the views were incredible, we saw loads of amazingly bright butterflies, the walk through Vidigal was interesting – all in all it was a great day out!

So, why am I telling you this? Am I gloating? Well, yes, partly it is gloating. But also I thought I’d add it to my list of things to do in Rio!

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