Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

View from Sugarloaf

As New York gets colder, I can’t help but think how Karina’s new hemisphere is heating up. And so, my mind wanders to the beach town of South America: Rio de Janeiro.

On the gondola ascending Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf is one of Rio’s most famous landmarks after Christ the Redeemer. Tourists can take gondolas to different tiers on the mountain for these killer views of the city. Above, one of the gondola bases is visible as we ascend to the top. Below, Christ the Redeemer shows himself on the tallest peak directly in front of me, while to my right, another arm of the city swings into the ocean, surrounded by sailboats.

The view from atop Sugarloaf in Rio de JaneiroLooking to the right: The view from atop Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro

I know, I was thinking the same thing: What is a sugarloaf? Through the 19th century, brown cane sugar was packaged and bought in a huge cone and broken off in pieces to melt in your coffee. While I don’t think the Brazilian mountain bares any resemblance to a British Triangular Trade product, no one who gets to the top will remain concerned about the mountain for long. The views from its summit are clearly the reason it’s famous.

Resting on a bench atop Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro

Lazing on one of these benches with a Matte Leão and a friend is what lucky Rio locals call heaven in stay-cation form.

Tara for TKGO

Bringing the Goods Back Home

When you have to dig through your closet to find buried souvenirs, what’s the point? We are firm believers that the best souvenirs are the ones you see every day. They become a part of your day-to-day life, sparking memories and conversation. Here, we list a few of our favorites.

A hideous coin purse, Buenos Aires


Argentine coin purse in a popular fabric, by Tara for TKGO


The Argentinean bus system is notorious for its impractical requirement that coins — not bills or any special reload-able transit card — be used as bus fare. As a result, dense areas like Buenos Aires have a serious shortage of monedas. In order to better hoard bus fare, porteños, or residents of Buenos Aires, often carry coin purses. Although today my coin purse is considerably more full of unwanted American change, it’s an everyday reminder of my former lifestyle. –Tara

Canvas painting, Cuba


Canvas painting from Havana, photo by Karina for TKGO


Cuba has a vibrant art scene, and the main feria in Havana is the selling ground for many aspiring artists in the country. When I visited Cuba last March, I was overwhelmed by the multitude of artwork, but as soon as I passed this canvas painting, I was immediately drawn to its colorful representation of a Havana city block. (In fact, I bought a similar one for my parents, too.) No matter where I live over the years, I’ll have this hanging. –Karina

Beach blanket, Rio de Janeiro


The Brazilian flag adorns this lightweight beach blanket, popular in Rio, by Tara for TKGO


In Brazil, it’s too hot to roast on a cotton Mickey Mouse towel. Instead, beachgoers buy an inexpensive viscose blanket (made in Indonesia) from salespeople roaming the beach. They’re hand-dyed in tons of designs and colors. Of course, I chose the Brazilian flag, but was comforted by my touristy decision when I noticed the design is popular among Brazilians, too. I still have it and prefer this cooler option to a towel at the beach. –Tara

Earrings, Costa Rica


Earrings from Costa Rica, photo by Karina for TKGO


Jewelry is one of my go-to souvenir categories; I love how it allows you to wear and represent your travels subtly. (What I mean is, it’s not as tacky as a t-shirt!) I like to pick hand-crafted goods from a market that locals frequent. One pair of earrings I picked up in Costa Rica is in my regular rotation of favorites. They’re simple, yet have character, and I get compliments on them regularly. When people ask where I purchased them, I love saying they’re from Costa Rica and made of dyed cow bone. That’s not the department store or Forever 21 answer anyone’s expecting to hear. –Karina

Have you found any good souvenirs? Share with us in the comments section!

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Re: Your Naked Coffee Table

When the trip calls but the bank account prohibits, it’s time to decorate your coffee table. We found four photo-heavy volumes to last through your travel dry spell. If your bank account is really tight, you can always leaf through three (almost) entire books online. Click the link at the bottom of the description. Have a safe flight!

Los Angeles, Portrait of a City by David L. Ulin, Kevin Starr and Jim Heimann


Photo courtesy of Amazon.com


Los Angeles is a misunderstood city — we’ll admit we’re still figuring it out — but that’s probably because most of us have a superficial understanding of what’s projected as a superficial city. The 572 pages of this weighty book work to get you deeper into the City of Angels; its nostalgic and often charming (see: cover) photographs guide you through its history, icons, culture and development in a calm, absorbing manner. It’s an ode, a tribute, but also an invitation to understand iconic L.A., all through images. Leaf through the book here.

Mario de Janeiro Testino by Mario Testino


The cover comes in three colors, courtesy of TASCHEN.com


Famous fashion photographer Mario Testino’s coffee table book is no high-fashion joke. Originally from Peru, Testino now frequently does work for high fashion ad campaigns and Condé Nast publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair, but before his fashion fame, he spent many summers of his early teen years in Rio de Janeiro, gawking at the “tiny bathing suits” and the “carefree and wild” young people of the Brazilian city. After so many years, he finally returned with a camera and a risque, semi-nude itinerary. The book is hefty and the photos are trendy, but the faces and unique poses of the Brazilians in these mixed black and white and color photos will leave you curious about the Portuguese-speaking population of South America (not to mention have you thinking about sand, surf and tropical drinks even in the dead of winter). Plus, you’ll find text from famous Brazilians like supermodel Gisele Bundchen to add additional points of view. This is a book for the ages — the kind your grandkids would buy in a vintage shop decades from now. Leaf through 166 of the 200 pages here.

D&AD 2009, The Best Advertising and Design in the World from TASCHEN


An inside page, courtesy of TASCHEN.com


Advertising can tell you a lot about a city, like the typical sense of humor, popular foods and how people get around. And why not narrow it down to the best advertisements in the world? In this beautifully designed hardcover, find everything from screenshots of Visa Europe’s TV commercials to images from the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation’s Asia Pacific campaign, all with a description on why the campaigns were successful and other interesting details. Leaf through the entire 576-pager on TASCHEN’s site.

Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips from National Geographic


Courtesy of Amazon.com


This list would be incomplete without a tome from National Geographic, the touchstone for international, cultural and travel-related photography. The shots are consistently awe-inspiring and informative, and this book especially — a compilation of National Geographic writers’ most treasured trips — sparks some serious wanderlust. Aside from the stunning photography, what appeals to us most about this particular National Geographic book is its unconventional organization. The categories destinations are grouped under are not countries or even continents, rather subjects such as modes of transportation (“By road,” “By rail,” “On foot”) or motivation (“In gourmet heaven,” “Into the action”).  As for the bits of travel advice included, we encourage you to do outside research to round the recommendations. Grab a pen and paper when you sit down with the book, because you’ll be doubling (at least!) your life trip list after flipping through.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Samba and Bhangra in New York

It’s December 1st, which means the class schedule is adjusting at the prestigious New York City dance school The Ailey School (run by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater). But don’t freak out—we’re not professional dancers, either, and that’s why we love (and clearly recommend) the Ailey Extension.

The Extension is the part of Alvin Ailey devoted to teaching “real people” how to dance. No experience necessary! But you still get the high ceilings and mirrored studios the spoiled Ailey School students get, and your friends will be flabbergasted when you tell them you take classes at the Alvin Ailey studios (hey, it’s not a lie!). Most classes are at night, so dropping by after work (with a change of clothes and some sneakers) is easy.

While in New York, Karina and I attended a few Masala Bhangra Workout classes with Sarina Jain and loved it so much we followed the instructor to SELF magazine’s Workout in the Park in Central Park one Saturday. If you’re not into the dance school thing and have a gym membership, she also teaches virtually the same class at CRUNCH Fitness. Here’s a peek:

But what really stole my heart is the samba. The colorfully-clad instructor, Quenia Ribeiro hails from Rio de Janeiro, where her mother was a samba dancer. She’s danced for 30 years herself, at Radio City Music Hall and even on Telemundo. Don’t miss the super-charged Saturday lesson from 4-6 p.m., when the class is full of experienced dancers and newbies, all laughing and shouting in samba lines to a live band.

In the video below, Quenia Ribeiro (in white, with the abs) and her Ailey samba dance workshop paraded up and down the streets of New York showing off new moves as part of Quenia’s “Bloco Ribeiro” event.

There aren’t any monthly membership fees or anything of the sort. Just pay per class, so if you don’t like something, you never have to go back again. It also comes in handy if you embarrass yourself horribly and can’t bear to show your face again. (I speak from experience… Let’s just say hip hop is not my thing.) New students can get the first two classes for $25 total, and afterward, each additional class is $17. You get discounts as you buy more classes at a time, and a nifty little key ring card (like at the grocery store) to store your info, so you just swipe. It beats spelling K-A-L-M-A-N-S-O-N before every class!

Happy dancing! Click here for a class schedule, or here for a printable December class calendar for the fridge.

The Ailey Extension, 405 W. 55th St. (at Ninth Avenue), New York, NY 10019, 212-405-9500, www.aileyextension.com. Subway: 59th St/Columbus Circle (1, 2, A, C, B).

Tara for TKGO

Brazilian Iced Tea

On the beaches of Rio de Janeiro (specifically the infamous Copacabana), a man or woman passes you every minute or so selling something: a hand-dyed wrap to put between your skin and the burning sand, a popsicle, a refreshing beverage. They offer Coca-Colas, coconut juice boxes, whole coconuts with straws, Sprites, water bottles—the list goes on. But the beach bum favorite, hands down, is Matte Leão.


A shot of Matte Leão from atop Sugar Loaf in Rio de Janeiro.


Matte Leão (pronounced “mah-cheh lay-ow”—don’t forget to say the “ow” syllable through your nose, indicated by the tilde above the ‘a’) is Brazilians’ favorite way to keep from melting on a hot day, at least in Rio. This iced tea is made from the same yerba mate popular among Argentineans and throughout the rest of South America, but Brazilians do it differently.

The flavor is similar to American iced tea, instead of the bitter taste of steeped Argentinean yerba mate. Sugary sweet enough that one sip fills your mouth with flavor, Matte Leão has the consistency of water, rather than the thick, syrupy feel of soda. The easiest flavors to find are the Original and Diet, but Lime, Peach, and Apple aren’t too hard to dig up.

The best part? The caffeinated beverage comes in a little 300ml cup with a peel-back lid (like a yogurt top) that you can open only part of the way to keep sand out of your drink while you lie on the beach. Unlike a glass with ice and liquid, it’s easily transported all over town while you run your errands.

[Before you play the video below, remember: This is Brazil! The U.S. would rate this ad PG-13.]

The bad news? The drink is only available in Brazil. But because the Coca-Cola Company just acquired Leão Junior, the company that produces Matte Leão, we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find it on shelves soon in the U.S. If you can’t wait (or if you live in a cold climate, like us), latinmerchant.com and brazilshop.com sell Matte Leão tea bags for a hot version.

Tara for TKGO