Scrapbook: A Bit of Brazil

How do you see the fifth largest country in the world in one week? You don’t even try. You pick a spot or two and enjoy a taste. I was there to attend ILTM Latin America, a luxury travel trade show in São Paulo, with a side trip to Trancoso, Bahia, to stay in a different concept for a luxury hotel. Venha comigo!


This airport always puts me in the mood to travel. Form conveys function at Washington DC’s Dulles airport, designed by Finnish modernist Eero Saarinen. It was one of the first airports constructed for the jet age. IAD to GRU.


A shop at the São Paulo airport. Brazil hopes to put on a great Olympic party this summer, despite a Zika scare and a political crisis. A positive move: Visa restrictions for Americans will be eased starting in June (though too late for me).


The breakfast table this morning in Bahia, Brazil. Completing the perfect picture: muted bossa nova, tweeting birds (the real kind), the lush scent of a flowering jungle and strong coffee carried by a gentle breeze, and a table laden with exotic fruits and fresh breads. (We all know, however, that perfection doesn’t exist, anywhere: I’m steeped in DEET; there have been instances of Zika and dengue and chikungunya in these parts, as in many tropical regions.)


“Many luxury hotels don’t connect with a place, and they separate the guests from the locals,” says Wilbert Das, designer and co-owner of UXUA. He and Bob Shevlin had a different idea. The duo purchased and reimagined old shacks in a fishing village, using all local materials and craftspeople. Neighbors are close, dogs and cats abound, and sounds and smells waft about, “but our guests—a self-selecting group—love it.” I’ll take one fisherman’s hut, please. (I wrote more on this lovely and unusual hotel here.) Trancoso, Bahia.


Bom dia, indeed! Let’s go to the beach. Trancoso, Bahia.


A dog’s life. To get to the beach in Trancoso, you have to go through a mangrove forest. The beach and the groves and the reef are part of the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Discovery Coast. It was around here that the Portuguese first landed in 1500.


Beach lunch in Bahia: quinoa salad with roasted pumpkin, chickpeas, almonds, chèvre, and mint, and a coconut water.


Despite the timeworn scene, the fishing village of Trancoso has caught the attention of the international luxe beach set, though development has thankfully and so far been regulated and scaled appropriately. Bahia, Brazil.


The scene at Praia dos Nativos, or Locals Beach, Trancoso, Bahia. (There is a nice mix of Brazilians and non- here.)


The 16th-century Igrega de São João Batista (church of John the Baptist), overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on a coast where the Portuguese made landfall in 1500. It anchors a rectangle of historical fishermen’s huts, many renovated and converted to restaurants and stores. Trancoso, Bahia.


The historic Quadrado, a rectangle of fishing hits converted into homes, restaurants, and stores in Trancoso, Bahia. Despite gentrification, electrification, and Wi-Fication, the place manages to retain the feel of village life.


There’s a plaque with two names on the wall of this house in the historic Quadrado and this man (airing his tummy in the heat) tells me they are his grandparents. At least that’s what I got out of our conversation (my Portuguese is really Spanish). Trancoso, Bahia.


Look down. There are petals of beauty everywhere. Trancoso, Bahia.


Hues to use to color your world. Quadrado, Trancoso, Bahia.


These old guys have earned their place on this bench on the Quadrado, Trancoso’s rectangle of historic fishing huts. Native Bahians, they’ve witnessed their town morph in recent years into an international destination yet somehow keep its essential character. They sit and watch the panoply and shoot the breeze under the shade tree every day.


View through the porthole window of my room in a hotel shaped like a ship. I'm in São Paulo, Brazil, for the ILTM Travelweek conference. If any of you are here too, let me know. Unique Hotel.


The guests of São Paulo’s Unique Hotel? They might be giants.


Ibirapuera Park, in the heart of São Paulo, is two-thirds the size of New York’s Central Park, and as beloved by residents.


Arty walls line Batman Alley in the trendy neighborhood of Vila Madalena in São Paulo.


A Vila Madalena resident in his driveway. Graffiti art covers this trendy neighborhood in São Paulo.


Color me Brazil: Batman Alley, Vila Madalena, São Paulo.


Walk this way: Colorful cobblestones in the Vila Madalena neighborhood of São Paulo.


New friends, Brazil. ILTM Travelweek São Paulo.


The Tomie Ohtake Cultural Institute building, designed by Ruy Ohtake. Tomie was a Japanese-Brazilian abstract painter from São Paulo and her son an architect noted for his unusual forms. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside Japan. The first immigrants came in the early 20th century, to work on coffee plantations.


A temporary photographic exhibit on the life around coffee plantations worldwide, by Sebastiao Salgado, at the Tomie Ohtake Cultural Institute.


Butchers in the market at Pinheiros, São Paulo. Brazilians like their carne. I counted at least three butchers in the same small marketplace.


Big mural in the fancy shopping district of Jardins. São Paulo.


The scene at the trendy shopping district of Jardins. São Paulo.


Flip-flop nation: The flagship store of the famous Brazilian beach slippers. Jardins, São Paulo.


Café society: The upscale shopping neighborhood of Jardins. São Paulo.


Photos © Norie Quintos.