Highlights Of A Cruise To Brazil
I have no personal photographs of my first holiday to Brazil. I decided not to take a camera because I didn't want to "stand out as a tourist".
But as I sat on the beach in my sensible swimsuit, white English thighs sizzling, my guidebook propped open on my head as a sun hat, a crowd of children gathered, pointing, laughing and shouting "Camarao!" (which means prawn). The notion that a camera would be the thing to mark me out as a hapless gringo seemed laughable.
So, no photos to look at, but the memories are indelible: the lights from the favelas twinkling on the hillsides, the ground shaking in the sambadromo as the drummers marched towards us, the shock of seeing small children sleeping under flyovers, my first taste of passionfruit … Each time I return to Brazil I fall in love with it again.
Sao Paulo has the most exciting cultural, culinary and nightlife scene in Latin America. Don't be daunted by the size of this sprawling metropolis – just pick a neighbourhood and get a local to show you around.
If you do only one thing: Masp is home to the finest collection of western art in Latin America. At weekends the space beneath it is given over to an antiques and craft market, and street food, too.
Where to hang out: Sample two great Brazilian traditions – samba and feijoada (pork and bean stew) – at Bar Samba in Vila Madalena on a Saturday. The neighbourhood has lots of little galleries, bookshops and botecos (bars) to hang out in.
Escape the crowds: Sao Paulo is a hard-working town, but on Sundays you can see its softer side by hiring a bike and exploring the Ciclofaixas de Lazer – 30 kilometres of car-free cycle lanes which link the major parks.
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Rio De Janeiro
No trip to Brazil is complete without a visit to Rio, a city that turns the dial up to 11. All life can be found on the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, from surfing street kids to strutting supermodels.
Take the streetcar up to the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, all arty cafes and colonial charm, or hire a pedalo or bike at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Rio's version of Central Park.
If you do only one thing: It's hard to overstate the beauty of Rio's setting, its jungle-clad mountains and series of scalloped bays. Board the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain at sunset, and you'll be in a postcard.
Where to hang out: The Lapa district is Rio's nightlife hub. Every night samba bands busk on the streets or play in dance halls, such as Carioca Da Gema or the slightly touristy (but fab) Rio Scenarium.
Escape the crowds: Tijuca National Park is the world's largest urban forest, and it's located in the heart of Rio. Jungle Me Tours can arrange hiking tours through the rainforest and a climb to the top of Corcovado to see the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
Manaus was overrun by rampaging Europeans during the 19th Century rubber boom, which left a legacy of grand buildings, such as the ornate Teatro Amazonas and the Rio Negro Palace. Today it's the jumping-off point for Amazon rainforest adventures.
If you do only one thing: Guided tours of the gold-domed Teatro Amazonas, built in 1896, run most days (best when the orchestra is rehearsing). People-watch at Praca Sao Sebastiao, the square out in front.
Where to hang out: On the banks of the chocolate-coloured Rio Negro, Ponta Negra beach is popular for locals and tourists. Kiosks sell tropical juice, beer, caipirinhas and snacks, and there's often music from boi-bumba bands, the Amazon's answer to samba.
Escape the crowds: Manaus is a launchpad for riverboat adventures on the Rio Negro and Amazon – there are cruises for all budgets.
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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Joanne O'connor from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.