Arts + Culture

The Dream List: Once-in-a-Lifetime Trips

by Brook Wilkinson

Brazil: Amazon from the air, food in Petrópolis, samba in Salvador

The specialist: Paul Irvine, Dehouche; Rio de Janeiro

The Dream Trip: "We begin with the Amazon, the cornerstone of Brazilian culture. In recent decades, deforestation has been one of the most hotly debated issues in Brazil, and the Amazon rain forest lies at the heart of a worldwide dilemma of economic growth versus sustainable development. Explorer and environmentalist Gérard Moss has masterminded a study of the vital humid air currents that carry water vapor from the Amazon to the fertile farmlands of southwest Brazil and northern Argentina, where 70 percent of the world's soybeans are grown. If you take away just a little more rain forest, these currents could disappear, greatly affecting the food supply. We'll arrange for Moss to escort you on an expedition to collect water samples from these currents, which are analyzed by scientists at the University of São Paulo. You'll take a lovely flight over the Amazon and help a great cause [$1,500 per person for up to three people, as a suggested donation to Moss's project].

"Food is another huge part of Brazilian culture. The variety of cuisines from one end of the country to the other represents the celebrated diversity of the origin of the Brazilian 'race.' Danio Braga, who combines Italian influences with native ingredients, is one of a handful of famous chefs in Brazil. His restaurant is the sole establishment in South America to be recognized by Les Grandes Tables du Monde, and he's a fabulous winemaker to boot. We can arrange for you to meet him and dine in his restaurant's kitchen in Petrópolis, outside Rio de Janeiro. This guy is no Gordon Ramsay—he's an absolute joy. You'll share a glass of Braga's own champagne, and then watch as he creates a seven-course tasting menu for you, talking through each dish and pouring complementary wines. I'm a massive foodie, and his are the best wine pairings I've ever had. Rather than driving down the windy road to Rio after dinner, I recommend that you stay overnight at Braga's pousada [$500 for two, including one night's accommodation].

"The Brazilian identification with diversity, excess, and exoticism comes to a head during Carnaval. To understand Brazilians you have to understand Carnaval, and as with the Amazon it's very much a case of seeing is believing. Picture this: You're in Salvador, on the float with Olodum, the most famous drumming band in Carnaval, looking down on the endless mass of Bahian revelers (pictured). Slleyk, one of the drummers, will look after you, but this is not for the faint of heart. It's loud, and you're going to be on your feet in the sunshine for a few hours. You'll probably want a quick samba lesson beforehand—all eyes will be on the float, and you'd better be ready to shake your bum—so we'll pair you up with Carla Campos in Rio, who's taught the current samba queen. The whole thing is an unbelievable VIP experience, and you'll be the envy of every Brazilian in the world [$1,120 for two, including one night's accommodation]."

Paul Irvine
Tel: 55 21 2512 3895
paul.irvine@dehouche.com

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