Carlos Melia – Exploring Rio’s Vidigal Favela

Author: , August 16th, 2015

Carlos Melia - Favela Vidigal

I would say that one of the best experiences I did, during my recent visit to Rio de Janeiro, to curate unique travel experiences for my VIP clients coming to the 2016 Summer Olympics next year, was something was ranking high in my travel bucket list, after being in Rio for many times in the past. Venturing into the intriguing world of a Favela, was quite interesting, and what I found atop Morro do Vidigal – which gives name to the Favela Vidigal – was indeed unexpected.

While I was touring around Rio de Janeiro with my expert guide Isabella, as the sun was setting over the bay at the neighborhood of Urca, she said to me …” Would you like to go an explore a Favela…” My first thought was, Is it safe – meaning ARE YOU CRAZY. Second, since we were touring around on a luxury E Class Mercedes Benz, I was, are you sure we can go with this car?

Of course deep inside I was YES LET’s DO IT, but my years of experience and at my age, I am more cautious and take less risks than in my young years. Since she saw I was very interested she said, look we will go to Favela Vidigal, which is safe and on top of that, this car is fully bullet proof. As she said that off we went.

For those of you not familiar with the term Favela, is a heavily populated urban informal settlement characterized by substandard housing and squalor. Also could be known as shanty towns or slums. You find many in Rio, and the most visited perhaps is Rocinha or Santa Marta – known for Michael Jackson’s music video.

Carlos Melia - Favela VidigalThe first half of our trip we did it inside the car. It was quite an experience. The streets are very narrow and steep, and since the traffic runs along both ways, quite a few times we were stuck. The first time I did get a bit nervous, but everyone around was so nice and trying to help, that made me feel very comfortable. Once I saw that locals couldn’t careless of our presence there – specially with the Mercedes Benz, I asked my guide… Would it be too crazy to get off and walk all the rest of the way. She smiled and said, I was waiting for you to ask. So we did.

People on the streets, coming back from work, climbing the steep slopes back home. Tourists living in the Favelas like locals. Cariocas at the local bars having beer and local delights. I was cautious all the way up, but I kind of blended with the crowd very easily and was one more.

Carlos Melia - Favela VidigalOnce we reached the top to meet our driver. Since the streets are so narrow, he had to go all the way up, to be able to get back down. Isabella told me she would share with me a tucked away gem, and she did. A charming bar and hostel with breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro from atop Morro do Vidigal. Mirante Do Avrao hostel and Belmonte bar. I mean talking about a room and a table with a view. So unexpected. I love this kind of hidden gems, specially getting to them after such a raw and local experience.

Belmonte Bar, other than stunning views, offers a variety of typical drinks and delicious cuisine, the bar is the perfect place for guests to mingle and make new friends.

To me this is what travel is all about. Unique life experiences. And this is what I do call Luxury at its best. On our way down, our driver was waiting for us with a big smile on his face, ready to take us back to Copacabana to my hotel the Belmond Copacabana Palace.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Carlos Melia: Behind the Scenes Samba Experience

Author: , August 14th, 2015

Samba in Brazil - Carlos melia

If there is an experience you must have when in Rio de Janeiro, it is SAMBA, and what best than doing a behind-the-scenes tour to the world of the “samba schools” of Rio, which has remained mysterious and hidden. Let’s open the doors to reveal the secrets behind it. For this I came to the Samba City in the district called Little Africa, A beautiful, ancient and historical part of the port of Rio, where samba and the very first samba school was born. Hosted by one of the last year winning Escola de Samba Mirim Pimpolhos da Grande Rio ” Samba School “.

Grande Rio is non-profit organization and a Samba School for Grande Rio’s children, that uses carnaval’s arts and popular culture as a tool for education. Grande Rio is one of the newest schools, nevertheless currently one of the most successful members of the First League (Special Group). It has come close to winning in all the last 10 years. It is currently ranked the second best among all Rio samba schools. Samba School Grande Rio represents Duque de Caxias, a satellite town of Rio de Janeiro.

Samba - Carlos MeliaWere you aware that there are more than 80 samba schools in Rio with more than 100,000 dancers? Carnival is the most exciting event of the year where thousands of people travel worldwide just to experience this electrifying atmosphere. I wasn’t there for this particular time of the year, but I’ve got to experience the long yearly process of getting ready for their day view at the Sambodromo. This attraction, which takes place in Samba City, immerses visitors in the preparations that take place prior to the Carnival. You can actually experience some of the activities first hand. Opened in 2004, this facility provides 14 of the top samba schools adequate space to build their floats and prepare their song and samba routines., to give them an opportunity to create, learn and develop their skills by using carnival language. We were hosted warmly by the Grande Rio School, for a 2 hours Samba Experience, which was highly educational, interesting and fun.

Samba City is located in full contrast, next to “Providencia”, the first favela of Rio de Janeiro, and next to the new development of Porto Maravilha, which will be ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Even if you don’t go to Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival you can still experience this incredible celebration at Samba City. One of the highlights of Pimpolhos is to give back to their community, in this case to the shanty town of Providencia. Pimpolhos da Grande Rio’s mission is to promote education and social interaction through arts and culture, offering long-life learning opportunities for children, youth (ages five to eighteen) and their families.

Carlos Melia - SambaYour tour will begin at the warehouse where the floats and costumes are made. It is one of the 12 warehouses in Cidade do Samba the one that counts with the most technological machinery. The next stop on the tour is the sewing area where you can see some of the beautiful sparking costumes the samba dancers will be wearing during the Carnival. The costume designers and tailors will show you how the costumes are designed and sewn.

The warehouse, an old building from the early 20th century that is a large part of carnaval history. It is the place where Pimpolhos produces three allegoric floats, 2000 costumes and undertakes most of its social projects. Here each school produces more than 4000 costumes and 12 allegoric floats. Some of the costumes below, might look familiar to you, if you are a follower of the Carnivals.

Moving forward you will be invited to a room where you will see a very interesting video and brief lecture on the history behind Samba, its beginnings and how it became part of the Brazilian culture. Carnival has been celebrated in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro for centuries, but samba schools were only first inaugurated in Rio Carnival in the 1920s. At the end of the 19th century, immigrants from Bahia state brought with them the tradition of playing candomble and dancing a bahian dance called the samba. In the slums of downtown Rio, a place referred to as ‘Little Africa’, they established a number of religious houses devoted to religious ceremonies where they played and danced the early forms of samba. The first group to call itself a samba school was a group founded in 1928 and called Deixa Falar, which came from the district of Estacio, located on the hill above Praca Onze, considered the cradle of samba. They called themselves samba school because they met right next door to a local children’s school.

And once the educational part is done, was time for fun!!!!! A 25 minutes Samba show including dancing, percussions, and don’t be shy, because you will be part of it in every way. You will learn how to dance, and how to play the music. But this was just the beginning, because after our workshop we moved to the dressing rooms to try on our customs and be ready for our own moment on the Samba spotlight.

Such an amazing experience, which not only gave me a full insight on Samba, but also showed me some moves. Of course as we were ready to come to an end of the tour, we were escorted to the a bar area to close our tour over refreshing and well deserved Caipirinhas. For more information on this tour and how to book it, do not hesitate to contact me.

By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Breakaway Backpacker – Both Sides of Iguazu Falls – In Photos!

Author: , July 3rd, 2015

Iguazu Falls - Jaime Davila

Sometimes you hear about a place for so long that you just can’t wait to see for yourself. You hear about how amazing it is… about how majestic it is….. about how grand it is…. about how beautiful it is…about how impressive it is… and just about everything you can ever imagine. Yes that is Iguazu Falls I kept hearing about. I am sure if you have heard about it from someone who has visited it you have heard one of the above and it’s all true.

“Iguazu Falls, Iguazu Falls, Iguassu Falls, Iguacu Falls, Cataratas do Iguacu (Portuguese), Cataratas del Iguazu (Spanish) or Chororo Yguasu (Guarani) are a collection of waterfalls from the Iguazu River on the border with Argentina and Brazil. The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi words “y”, meaning “water”, and “uasu “, meaning “big”. Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipi, who fled with her mortal lover Taroba in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.”

By Jaime Davila – Full Story at Breakway Backpacker | Argentina Gay Travel Resources

Breakaway Backpacker – Dying in Rio

Author: , June 16th, 2015

Jaime DavilaI rolled out of bed and looked at my clock it was 3am. I felt exhausted and weak. I needed to go pee though really bad. I sat there a moment and finally found the energy to get up and walk to the toilet down the hall from my dorm. I went in and instead of peeing ended up throwing up. I had no clue what I was throwing up because I had not eaten in the past 3 days. I then peed and walked back.

As I was walking back I felt my eyes roll back and I hit the floor hard. I had fainted and for a brief second had no clue what was happening. I got up and could barely walk. Then I heard someone ask if I was okay. I said, “no I just fainted”. He jumped out of bed to help me to bed. It was the German who has been on the bunk above me the past few days. I don’t know his name or much about him. He knows I’m sick and ask me how I’m doing every time he comes and goes from the room. He’s only seen me in bed sick. I’m glad he got up.

He told me I had to go to the hospital. I told him yes please. While he searched for the nearest hospital I gathered my things. I put all the medicine I was taking in my backpack along with my passports and credit cards and cash. I didn’t have insurance so knew this wasn’t going to be cheap. I didn’t care though I had been sick long enough and wasn’t getting better. I honestly thought I was dying. Lucky for us the hospital was a few blocks away. He helped me walk outside and we took a cab and arrived at the hospital.

By Jaime Davila – Full Story at Breakaway Backpacker | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Breakaway Backpacker – A Stolen Debit Card, and a Fling in Brazil

Author: , June 12th, 2015

Jaime DavilaThere I stood at the ATM and my card was not working. I had already tried at 4 different ATMs. I was upset and running out of cash and really needed to get cash out. I planned to enjoy some relaxing time in a small town and instead spent it with a bank.

I went back to the hostel and called the bank. That is when I found out my debit card was compromised and why it didn’t allow me to withdraw any money. I asked how and they said, someone had cloned the card and was also attempting to withdraw and let me know a new one had to be sent to me.

I was beyond pissed and asked how long it would take and they said anywhere from 5 – 10 days. As soon as I heard that I knew that the 10 days I wanted to spend on Ilha Grande were not going to happen because I only had about $100 cash on me and no way that would last that long. Dealing with the bank turned out to be a nightmare mostly because of the shitty WiFi I had in the hostel.

By Jaime Davila – Full Story at Breakway Backpacker | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Breakaway Backpacker – Making the Best of Bad Circumstances in Brazil

Author: , June 4th, 2015

Jaime DavilaI try to never make actual plans because they always change for one reason or another. I had heard about this amazing island between Paraty & Rio de Janeiro called Isla Grande. I had heard that it had amazing beaches all over and to get to most of them you must hike to them. I was sold… amazing beaches and hiking, I’m all about that.

Yes I have become a bit obsessed with hiking now and actually love it. By this point in my trip I had been on the road about 3 months and was tired of moving around and tired of figuring things out. What I needed was a vacation and thought a 10 day vacation on Isla Grande would be just what I needed. That is what I planned, but that is not what happened.

Instead I had horrible weather and had to get back to Paraty in a few days and wait for my debit card. Yes while I was in Paraty my debit card was compromised and ended up spending majority of my time with the bank. It’s a long story I will explain in my next post. In the end I only spent 5 days in Isla Grande and given the circumstances I still managed to have a good time.

By Jaime Davila – Full Story at The Breakway Backpacker | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Breakaway Backpacker – First Time at a Nude Beach

Author: , May 27th, 2015

Jaime DavilaIt had been my 2nd visit to Praia Galheta (Praia is Playa or Beach in Portuguese) the gay/nude beach in Florianopolis when it finally happened. The first time I was there I couldn’t get the nerves to go nude. I thought long and hard about it, but just couldn’t do it. I looked around and it wasn’t a lot of people, but everyone was really nude everywhere I looked. It’s something I’m just not used to and was also scared to do.

I think the USA is a prude country compared to the rest of the world and going nude is just not something we do. I spent the first day just laying out and reading a book like I normally do at any beach. Sadly I didn’t see any cute guys on the beach so didn’t mind. A few hours later I left and went back to the hostel. I told myself as I was leaving that I will be back and when I do I will go nude.

The following two days it rained and didn’t do much. Finally on my last day in Florianopolis the sun came out. I woke up bright and early and took off. My plan was to go beach hoping a bit and let Praia Galheta the gay/nude beach be the last one I visit. So off I went on the bus to Barra da Lagoa beach, which is supposed to be one of the best beaches on the island. I arrived and it was beautiful but full of tourist and lots of people. I walked along further to be on my own and happened to bump into two guys I had met on one of my bus rides in Brazil. They let me know that from this beach you could hike to the gay/nude beach. I was intrigued.

By Jaime Davila – Full Story at Breakaway Backpacker | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Lesbian Surf Camp Coming to Brazil

Author: , January 21st, 2015

Brazil - Google MapsThe first ever lesbian surf camp in South American will get girls sharing their uniqueness in Santa Catarina, Brazil, between May 9th-16th.

Lesbian-owned tour operator Brazil Ecojourneys is inviting women to a week on their own. In this case, the real “l” surfers will travel to Praia do Rosa, a spot that is already frequented by the local LGBT community.

“I surf all the time, and I’m usually the only lesbian out there, surrounded by heterosexual men. I see how there really aren’t many opportunities for gay women to get together and learn to surf in a friendly environment,” explains Marta Dalla Chiesa, owner of Brazil Ecojourneys.

Full Story at Surfer Today | Brazil Gay Travel Resources

Image via Google Maps

Featured Gay Accommodations: Penthouse 1301, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Author: , December 17th, 2014

Copacabana - Penthouse 1301

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Spacious Penthouse with Ocean View: This spacious 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths penthouse is located just 1/2 block from the famous Copacabana beach and can comfortably accommodate a party of up to six adults. The penthouse has a view of the ocean and the mountain from both patios. Rates are for entire apartment.

See the Penthouse 1301 Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Brazil

Brazil Without The Crowds

Author: , June 14th, 2014
Brazil - Google Maps

from Google Maps

There’s no way around the fact that Brazil’s major cities are going to be crowded in the next few weeks. And we’re not talking about morning traffic crowded — we mean 4 million extra bodies in a country that has a population of 200 million to begin with. Beyond the fact that hotel rooms are starting at $700 per night, you can also expect long lines, expensive meals, and a lot of inebriation in all the World Cup host cities.

Just thinking about it is making us tired, which is why we’re pointing you to other parts of the region, beyond Brazil’s major hubs. Once you’ve paid for your expensive visa, get out of town and enjoy:

Beyond Rio: Iguazu Falls & Antonina: While the world’s eyes tend toward Rio, there’s much more beyond the carnival-crazed city. One oft-overlooked city we particularly love is Curitiba. Many who make the stop are usually on their way to or from Iguazu Falls, but spend a couple of days in the city and you’ll connect to a laid-back side of Brazil. From there, you can take a scenic train to the small colonial town of Antonina. Be sure to indulge in a Bala de Banana — a delicious banana candy made in the area — and sit along the river in summer.

By Tommy Burson – Full Story at Shermans Travel | Brazil Gay Travel Resources