Paulinho da Viola

Phew – Friday at last! It’s been a busy couple of weeks hence the paucity of posts, and after yesterday’s slightly ‘dense’ offering, I thought I’d follow up today with something a little lighter.

On my way to work this morning I was sharing a bus with one of those people who play music through the speaker on their phone. Oh man, who doesn’t hate that?

Anyway, it turns out I was the winner because this guy’s selfish behaviour prompted me to play my own music (through headphones, claro) and I stumbled across a joyous piece of music by this man:


Paulinho da Viola. Doesn’t he just look like a really nice guy? I know they say it’s wrong to judge people by appearances, but it doesn’t seem so bad when you’re making a positive judgement, right?


From an early age, Paulinho was surrounded by legends of Brazilian music such as Pixinguinha and Jacob do Bandolim. In turn Paulinho went on to become a legend in his own right, famed for his sophisticated melodies and gentle singing voice. His career as a Sambista, composer and musician has spanned 50 years and during this time he has released 27 albums and toured worldwide. On top of all that, by all accounts he is a really good guy.

OK, so back to that song that cheered me on my way to work. It’s a simple, cheerful tune though, somewhat typically of Brazilian music, the lyrics tell a rather sad tale of a guy who has decided he won’t play his guitar anymore because someone has made him unhappy. Well, the words might be sad, but listening to this makes me happy! I hope you like it too – have a great weekend.

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Look what just rolled into Rio

One of my first ever posts was related to the buses of Rio. Back then I used to churn out a post a week and each one was a lot longer than the ones I write now. That particular post contains illustrated advice on how to hail a bus, an assortment of anecdotes and even a film recommendation (you lucky people!). 


Taken from one of my first ever posts, this illustration (done by my own fair hand) demonstrates how to catch that tricky bus in the outside lane…

Little did I know it at the time, but I would go on to become something of a bus nerd. I guess it is the same everywhere, when you use a transport system every day then you take an interest (I remember having in-depth discussions back in London over what was the best underground route for getting from Baker St to South Kensington during rush hour).

So I admit it, I’m kind of into the buses here in Rio. And something cool is roving the streets right now. Something hi-tech, something luxurious, something (dare I say it?) space-age in appearance.

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How to use the Rio Metro (Beginners Guide)

A few weeks ago my wife and I were accosted as we entered our local metro station in Glória. But before you start thinking this is going to be another tale of Rio’s notorious violence, I should make it clear that the only law enforcement team we needed were the Manners Police

A middle aged South African guy came up to us and frantically shouted “Finally! Someone who speaks English”. He went on to demand that we tell him how to get to Ipanema, going on to mention that he and his wife (who had wordlessly appeared at his side) were completely lost and no one could explain anything to him. We were happy to help, but were both quite taken aback by his slightly rude, aggressive stance through all this. Like what had taken us so long to get there to help him?

Metro Rio – nothing here to be scared of (but don’t expect the staff to speak English).

Not that I particularly want to help him again, but I thought it might be nice to put together some simple guidelines for someone coming to Rio who wanted to save some cash on taxis. 

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Big Fresh – frescão!

The words “Big Fresh” mean a lot of different things around the world. 

Big and Fresh


Supermarkets, logistics companies, burgers, soft drinks and air fresheners – there are a lot of things claiming to be both big and fresh. There is even a terrible Danish rapper whose one track is so bad that I can’t bring myself to post it.

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On your feet – I’m obese!

The transport system in London is not renowned for being spacious, airy or comfortable. Neither is it known for being efficient, punctual or good value for money. It’s not all bad – I wish Rio’s subway network was as extensive as London’s – but it’s a constant source of complaint and discussion for Londoners.

London buses can get a little crowded

One perennial discussion centres on giving up your seat. If you travel between 8-10 in the morning or 5-7 in the evening you will have to stand most days. So when you manage to grab yourself a seat it can feel pretty good! Then you see a frail old guy, or a mother holding a child and you hop up to offer your seat right? …Right?!

Well yes, I think most of us do and (let’s be honest) we give ourselves a little mental pat on the back for being ‘a good person’ when we do it. In fact I find that it rather brightens my day, feeling that I’ve done something amazing for a helpless stranger in distress (keeping this little scene in my head allows me to really go to town on transforming myself into an urban transport hero).

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My First Bus Chat

In one of my first posts I gave a bit of an overview of the buses here in Rio – they are such a great way to get a snap shot of the people of Rio that it seemed a good place to start. And although I described some of the negative aspects, I hope the overall impression I gave was one of affection.  

One of the the first things that the buses showed me about the Cariocas is their willingness to chat. I watched as complete strangers sat next to each other and passed the time, discussing all kinds of interesting subjects in an amiable way. I remember thinking back to all those miserable bus journeys back in London where everyone would sit in a kind of suspended animation, where the closest thing you’d get to conversation would be someone tutting at the traffic. And then I would return my attention to Rio and the cheerful strangers in front of me as they discussed who knows what. 

Perhaps I am idealising the situation somewhat. It has occurred to me that my limited understanding of the language does mean that I’m missing all the bitching and complaining that may well be going on around me. They could well be moaning about the traffic in just the same spirit as my former co-passengers back in London. Well maybe they are, but at least they’re talking!   

Anyway, as much as I enjoy watching these conversations, I always felt rather sad that I couldn’t really take part in one. Although I was here and in amongst it, my lack of decent Portuguese meant that my role was restricted to that of spectator… Until tonight!

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Ônibus – the buses of Rio

I have been using buses to get around Rio since I moved here. I discovered early on that as well as being a good way to get to know the layout of Rio, they also provide a great way to get a feel for the inhabitants.

A typical Rio bus – you can see that this is an old photo as tickets are now R$2.75 (95p or $1.50ish)

Initially I was daunted by the fact that absolutely none of the drivers or ticket inspectors speak any English (at the time I had not started my Portuguese lessons). But it was simple enough to master – you simply stick your arm out when you see your bus coming, hop on and say hello to the driver, then give your money to the ticket inspector and find a seat. When you want to get off you pull the cord that runs along the ceiling and the driver will pull in at the next stop – not rocket science.