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Brazil - So Much More than the Olympics

Written by  Stillman Rogers

LATIN BRAZILClients heading to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 summer Olympic Games may want to see more than Rio. And all the international interest that Olympics attract is sure to inspire more travelers to visit Brazil.

There’s a lot more in this huge and beautiful country than the Olympic venues and Rio. Cities along Brazil’s long South Atlantic coast that stretches hundreds of miles north of Rio are not only historic, but make exciting getaways. Inland cities provide enticing insights into the energy and diversity of the people of Brazil. Brasilia, the country’s capital and fourth largest city, was built from scratch in the 1960s on plans developed by famed architects Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer.

architecture and more
Elsewhere in the interior clients should consider Belo Horizonte and the baroque city of Ouro Preto, a short drive away. Ouro Preto (which means “Black Gold”) and Belo Horizonte both owe their founding to the mining industries that gave their state of Minas Gerais its name. Ouro Preto was its first capital, a charming city of colonial architecture and baroque churches richly embellished in the product of its gold mines. The gold-washed altar of the church of Nossa Senora de Pilar is overwhelming. To wander the streets of this hillside town is to relive the era of Portuguese Brazil.
In the 1850s Ouro Preto was replaced as capital of Minas Gerais state by Belo Horizonte (pronounced bell’horizonch), a more modern city marked by some of the best examples of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco architectural styles of its early years, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For lovers of architectural innovation, this city is a good place to see the work of Oscar Niemeyer, especially his sinuous apartment building on the Praça Liberdade and the Palacio das Artes on the Praça Municipal. Just outside the center is the Pampulha District, where Niemeyer cut his teeth as an architect. Look here for the church of St Francis, a social club and his innovative casino building, now an art museum.
While in Pampulha, suggest clients have lunch at the Xapuri Restaurant for the best in traditional Brazilian cuisine, especially for churrascaria -- grilled meats and sausages. Suggest visiting the outstanding jungle gardens and contemporary art installations at Imhotim, a short distance from Belo Horizonte in the small town of Brumhadinho. The elegantly modern Liberty Palace Hotel in Belo Horizonte is convenient to all the central attractions. www.libertypalace.com.br
On the Atlantic coast the cities of Recife and Salvador are prime places to enjoy lively Portuguese culture and the sea. Recife and its hilltop sister town of Olinda both date from the mid 16th century and are filled with a combination of Iberian baroque and Art Deco architecture. Olinda, a smaller town built on a hilltop to provide safety from sea attacks, is now a hotbed of contemporary art and indigenous craft. Suggest that clients visit the market close to the Alto Da Se, the cathedral on the highest peak in town. The best view of Recife is from the cathedral plaza, and next to it is the Galleria San Salvador, filled with art, pottery and spontaneous dance performances by neighborhood children. They can then wander through Olinda just for the colorful architecture and for the art galleries and craft shops along the ancient narrow streets.
Clients who want to combine Recife’s urban life with a beach vacation will appreciate Hotel Grand Mercure Recife Atlante Plaza, right on the beach and with a rooftop pool, fitness center and a kids’ club. www.grandmercure.com.br
South of Recife is one of the most exciting beach towns of the Brazilian coastline. Porto Galinhas has a small town feel and a wonderful laid back seashore ambiance. On the beachfront, families swim and boatmen bring vacationers out to the shallow reef to watch schools of bright-colored tropical fish. Vacationers there can kayak through the mangroves or visit beach pools where tiny sea horses swim. The single-story buildings on the main streets sell Brazilian specialty food, crafts and art. The Nannai Beach Resort has luxurious suites and villas with private gardens. www.nannai.com.br
Salvador de Bahia sits on a broad bay, which protects its waterfront from the open sea and makes its long beaches safe for swimming (surfers will find plenty of beaches nearby, too). European, African and indigenous cultures blend here in a heady mix marked by colorful festivals. Salvador is a city to wander in, searching out churches like the church of Sao Francisco, the incredibly ornate façade of the adjacent church of Sao Francisco of the Third Order and the 18th-century houses that surround its square.
The church of Nossa Senhora de Carmo in not only laden with baroque gold, but it houses a statue of Christ set with 2,000 rubies. In 1623 the Dutch captured Salvador, then the capital of Portuguese Brazil, and the surrender took place in the Convento do Carmo, now the elegant and comfortable Hotel Pestano Convento do Carmo, near the church. www.pestana.com
The entire central district and its warren of narrow stone-paved streets and alleys dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Getting There
American Airlines flies from the US direct to these cities, as well as Rio, Brasilia and five others in Brazil (www.aa.com). Clients planning a visit to Brazil must obtain a visa from a Brazilian Consulate or Embassy located in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco or Washington, DC. For more details on visas and travel, contact Embratur, the Brazil Information Center.
www.braziltour.com

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