Everyone who has been in a relationship knows the terror when you hear the phrase, “can we talk?”. You’re never sure what lies on the other side of those words. So when a boyfriend asked to meet me one Sunday night to talk, it felt ominous. Sitting across from him in a small cafe in Botafogo, the casual banter didn’t last long as it was evident something weighed on him.
He broke up with me, citing various reasons, much of which I didn’t absorb, too shellshocked to understand what was happening. I honed in on his excuse of focusing on his business, which seemed lame and legitimate at the same time. I guess when someone is breaking up with you, it’s never what you want to hear. This wasn’t the first time someone had broken up with me, but the pain was just as fierce.
Met with the shock of the news, I fought back tears. Not wanting to be like one of those dramatic women you see in the novelas that screams and throws things at her man, I tried to keep myself calm, but the tears came dripping down anyway. As I tried to wipe my face with those damn Brazilian napkins that are more like wax paper, I excused myself from the table to find solace in the real tissue in the bathroom. Sobbing into scraps of toilet paper, I quickly gained composure and returned to the table.
He looked defeated. I didn’t speak. And so it was the way we ended our talk. We walked together in silence to the metro, where we rode to the end of the line in Ipanema. He went one way, I went the other, neither of us looking each other in the eye.
Soothing my sorrows the day after, I decided to go to my safe space – the ocean. I left my hotel distraught, with no real plan in mind, other than to push pause on my vacation and absorb what had happened the night before.
The beach, nearly empty since it was a Monday, was the perfect respite. Waves lulled me to sleep as the hum of fishing boats buzzed in the distance. I eventually awoke to a couple taking wedding photos. Are you fucking kidding me? This was the last thing I wanted to see after having my heart ripped out the night before.
I laughed at God’s joke. As the bride and groom traded out props (a sign, a champagne bottle, flowers), I sipped on my Heineken and studied their interaction. He looked visibly uncomfortable; she looked determined. As much as I was familiar with all of the anecdotes from miserable married friends and statistics about single women being happier than married women, I had to wonder, “Would I ever find a man who would do something this ludicrous just to see me happy?”. As they came over and set down the champagne bottle, I gave them a nod with my beer and uttered a congratulatory “Parabéns”. She gave a giddy “obrigada”, and then I rolled over and turned my focus to the sea.
The young couple eventually wandered off, hand in hand, not knowing that I had snapped a few of my own photos of their shoot. I don’t know why I did. Lying on the sand looking at the waves, I noticed a doll head bobbing in the water. As it rolled up on to the sand, it stopped a few feet from me and we made eye contact. I burst out in tears. The flood gates had opened.
Staring at the doll head through swollen eyes, all I could think of was the scene from Clash of the Titans when Thetis’ head rolls to the ground and utters some sort of curse on the marrying couple. I stared back stunned. I felt just like this doll head – separated from my body, torn from my love, strewn from the wreckage.
Back at my hotel, shellshocked from the previous 24 hours’ events, I fell onto my bed and cried some more. With barely enough energy to eat, I uploaded the doll head photo to Instagram, giving it a blue filter. I captioned the photo “Blue Monday”. Just like the song, my mood, my broken heart.
What separates great photographers from the rest is composition; knowing what to crop out, and what to capture in those unforgettable images. And anyone who is in marketing, photography, or media knows that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a great image.
I recently cleaned out my photo database, while reminiscing on all of the memories and adventures of where I’d been and the story behind the photos. So I decided to write this series to tell the story of how I got a particular picture, and to provide my audience with an authentic angle of what had really happened. This is the first…
I had just come from the most famous bakery in Rio de Janeiro where I had interviewed their head chef about the history of this iconic landmark in the center of Rio. He generously gifted me with enough food to feed a small family, and I gladly gathered it all up in a to-go box as I left to my next stop.
As I walked down the winding streets of Rio’s downtown, trying to find a mural that an ex-boyfriend had shown me months before, I turned a corner into an alley. Coming towards me was a homeless man – barefoot and broken. My initial instinct was a bit of fear, but it would have been odd to turn and go back, so I assertively advanced towards him. As we got closer to each other, I asked him if he was hungry.
I wasn’t sure what he mumbled, but I immediately handed him the box of goodies from the bakery. Partially as a gift, and partially as a distraction from the rest of the stuff I was carrying(purse, camera, tripod). As a woman traveling alone, I’m often hyper-sensitive to being robbed or assaulted, given all of the grim statistics. I wasn’t sure what would happen next, but I was relieved that he was seemingly preoccupied with the food.
When I realized that this homeless man had no interest in my stuff after immediately sitting on the curb and tearing into his lunch, I set up my tripod and camera to take this picture. He asked what I was doing, and so I told him a bit about my job and my plans in Rio.
Trying to attempt a photo shoot in an alley alone is no easy feat, so I quickly realized that I would need his help to angle my camera on the tripod, and eventually tell me where to stand. “Esquerda!” he yelled, as I moved a little to the left…”Mais…isso”, signaling the perfect stance.
Eventually a couple wandered down the alley, with raised eyebrows, since my photo assistant with dirty and torn clothes, in contrast to my outfit of a silk skirt and stark white bodysuit wasn’t quite what one would expect. We were definitely the dynamic duo!
In that moment, we needed each other. I provided food. He provided artistic direction. As I gathered up my goods, I thanked him and wandered along the cobblestone path, turning the corner to my next destination. Walking along Rio’s downtown, I wondered how he got there. How long had he been homeless? What life crisis led him to end up on the streets?
And I guess that’s true with any homeless person. There is a story of how they got there. A series of unforgiving circumstances that led them down their own dark alley.
To read more about the plague of homelessness in my hometown of Los Angeles, California, click here.
Of course one of my favorite books on swimwear was written by a Brazilian. Leave it to the experts, who live in summer almost year-round, to showcase and design the world’s most beautiful swimsuits. “The Bikini Made in Brazil”, by Lilian Pacce, chronicles the history of this tiny, yet transformative part of many women’s wardrobes. Speaking of women’s wardrobes, one segment of my business at All Set Concierge is personal shopping. Over the years, my clients put their trust in me to curate pieces that they’ll cherish. And guess what is always at the top of my clients’ wish lists when I travel to Brazil? Brazilian resort wear and those sexy bikinis!
Here are a few of my favorite Brazilian bikini brands, and what I love about them!
Lenny’s designs are the gold standard when it comes to swimwear and resort wear. The prints are like artwork on your skin, as well as sexy and sturdy. If you want to feel like a goddess in your swimwear, then Lenny Niemeyer is the ultimate choice! A few years ago, I featured her maillot collection, one-pieces that were truly wearable art, in an article on Rio designers. Last spring, I had the chance to sit front row at her São Paulo Fashion Week runway show and watch her gorgeous designs glide by. The bikinis that follow are a couple from my personal collection. Take a peek!
I first discovered this São Paulo-based line while shopping for a client who wanted “something pink”. I came across Clube Bossa’s collection in my favorite Rio boutique, Gaoli Couture, and fell in love with their flirty designs. Clube Bossa’s style reminds me of my first Brazilian bikinis that I bought back in 2002 on my first trip to this South American destination. I remember asking the security guard where the Rosa Cha store was located(in my horrible Portuguese!) and was eventually led to a small boutique that was a shrine to all things swimwear. This string bikini is the quintessential sexy summertime staple!
BLUE MAN RIO
Funky, fresh, functional. That is Blue Man Rio in a nutshell. You can do some serious surfing and swimming in their suits. And their designs are definite conversation starters. I’ve owned a Frida Kahlo print, a design with the cover of an old Brazilian newspaper featuring Pelé, a controversial colonial Brazil scene, and even one inspired by architecture from Brasilia. While wearing this one below, a woman sitting next to me at a Beverly Hills hotel pool party said, “They should pay you to wear these”. Maybe they should!
VIX PAULA HERMANNY
Whatever swimsuit you’re donning for the day, you’ll eventually have to put on some clothing. But the last thing you want to do when stepping from the pool or beach is to deal with complicated clothing. That’s where Vix Paula Hermanny comes in. Her resort wear is absolutely gorgeous, while being both elegant and effortless. I wish I could live in her cover-ups all of the time! Below is one of my favorite wrap dresses that easily drapes over any ensemble, followed by a pair of pants that will rival any pair of pajamas you have in terms of comfort! And it’s paired with a cute crop that I found at her boutique in Belo Horizonte. Two things that all of these designs have in common is that they are comfortable and sexy – elements that I love in my personal wardrobe, as do many of my clients. Hopefully you enjoyed this peek into a part of my business! I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:
“Just be comfortable in your own skin. And that’s how you can be the sexiest woman that you can possibly be.”-Princess Tatiana of Greece
For a quote on my personal shopping services, fill out the form below:
A house and the sea. Such a simple concept, and yet that’s what makes it so elusive. What is it about the ocean, about nature, that draws us to ourselves? I had a chance to reflect on this while visiting Rio de Janeiro’s only wellness hotel, Casa & Mar.Set up on the cliffs outside of a small beach town north of Rio called Maricá, Casa & Mar is the perfect location to explore wellness – in every sense of the word. With sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from every room, this ideally situated hotel is a natural gateway to healing and health.Speaking of healing and health, as I learned from Anna Bjurstam, Vice President at Six Senses Spas, during her presentation at ILTM in Cannes, “Wellness Tourism” is 25% of the global tourism market with a value of over $639 billion dollars. Just this past year showed a 14% increase in wellness travel bookings! As Anna pointed out, “wellness gateways”, a term she uses to define an experience, a person, or even a location, are a person’s first experience with health and wellness, and are often discovered on a vacation or retreat. Maybe I had just entered a wellness gateway here…
So why are people spending more time seeking wellness vacations? I found my answer at Casa & Mar. From the moment you enter the gates, there is a garden greeting you with fragrant flowers and fauna, including my favorite Brazilian fruit, maracujá! Walking down the path to the reception, I was welcomed by the owner of Casa & Mar, Alex Reznik. Greeting me with a guava smoothie, he told me more about the history of Casa & Mar.“I had been looking for a place to build a health and wellness hotel; I searched all over the world. And I found this beautiful enclave!” Sharing more about his own health history and philosophy on fitness, Alex started my tour with a visit to the hotel’s impressive gym. With every angle overlooking the sea, I knew it would be an easy feat to stay on the treadmill and squeeze in a workout with such an incredible view! As we headed back towards the reception, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of the glimmering pool below. I already felt better!What could be better than a dip in this gorgeous pool? Sitting at the pool’s edge and peering out over the vast ocean. In fact, as I gazed out over the natural beauty, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by poet Khalil Gibran: “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.”Of course, another key element of wellness is taking care of your body, both inside and out. As part of my visit to Casa & Mar, I had an evaluation of my posture by Dr. Alex Kalinin, trained in osteopathy, as well as a private sunrise session with yoga instructor, Julia Glazkova. Painfully reminded of my sedentary lifestyle back home, I knew that sitting for hours in my office chair was definitely not a key to wellness! With a spa menu that includes shiatsu, lymphatic drainage, and sports massages, just to name a few, it was hard to choose. But you must not leave Casa & Mar without trying their Signature Hammam experience. Tailored to fit your physical needs, the hammam experience uses essential oils from Brazil, clay, steam, scrubs, and of course a therapeutic massage to leave you feeling in total bliss!Bliss was just this. A meditative massage with the soundtrack of the sea below. I felt completely transformed! Back in my suite, I sank into my bed feeling both relaxed and rejuvenated. As the gently lapping waves lulled me to a sweet sleep, my freshly massaged limbs melted into the cool sheets, and my mind into a dreamlike state.How to lure me from my dreamy suite? With the seductive aroma of freshly grilled shrimp and bananas coming from the café below! During my delectable lunch, I learned more about Mr. Reznik’s plans for future wellness-themed events around yoga, healthy cuisine, and homeopathy. Joined by guest chef, Karen Slater, who was visiting Casa & Mar to infuse the menu with some of her unique creations, we all chatted about the evolving trends in travel.Biting into the succulent shrimps, I listened to Karen share some of her ideas for the new menu. Having owned and operated two cafes in New York, with a focus on organic, vegetarian, and vegan food, Karen highlighted the addition of grilled eggplant and sweet potatoes, and what already sounded like my new favorite – pineapple cake!With a full belly and a happy heart, Alex and I walked up to his neighboring hotel, Pousada Colonial, where he maintains a garden that fuels much of the hotel menu. Star fruit, aloe vera, papaya, grapes, mint, and so many more glorious finds in that garden! I knew Karen would be thrilled to use these local ingredients in her new menu – I’ll have to sample some of her inventive recipes on my next visit…Back at Casa & Mar, I ventured down to the rocks to get a closer view of this natural landscape that locks in the hotel from all angles. Once there, I was completely transported to another realm. There is nothing like communing with nature. As I listened to the roar of the rhythmic waves, a flood of gratitude rushed over me. Maybe this is why wellness travel is trending. To push people back to the simplicity of nature, away from our electronic lives. To open our hearts to gratitude and wonder. The longer I sat in this sacred space, the further my seaside meditation led me down a reflective path.As I thought about the name of the hotel, Casa & Mar, I flash-backed to a psychology class where I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. With basic needs of shelter, food, and health met, only then do we move on to fully appreciate and experience love, strength, and self-actualization. Health – the important element that I was reminded of here at Casa & Mar. Reminded through the food, touch, conversations, yoga, nature, and meditation that I experienced during my visit. I felt complete.Back on the patio of my suite, I remembered a quote from one of the other presenters at ILTM Cannes: “The greatest wealth is health”. As I breathed in the balmy breeze, I knew exactly what that meant. Rich in every sense of the word, I was healthy, happy, and whole.
Contact me to book your visit to Rio’s Casa & Mar!
Coming in 2020, this Brazilian Art Immersion starts in São Paulo at the Bienal, the second oldest biennial after Venice and continues at Inhotim, a work of art that spans over 5,000 acres and houses a multitude of exhibits that will transform you.
Far beyond an “art trip”, this unique experience will provide you with exposure to art directors, collectors, curators and artists, above all, exclusive access that would not be possible without the fine-tuned itinerary compiled by two Brazil travel experts.
Meet Your Travel Experts
About Flavia Liz: Considered an Urban Legend by Condé Nast Traveller U.K.’s “The Experts” series, Flavia Liz Di Paolo is an expert on São Paulo in the luxury segment, and offers unique work as a personal guide, catering to clients from all over the world in six languages. Her experiential tourism has garnered coverage in Delta magazine, Italian Vogue, Fortune, Travel Weekly, and plenty of Brazilian publications. With her MBA in Luxury Hotel Management, Flavia Liz is well-versed in places that very few have access, while also being a pioneer in graffiti and favela tours, which will soon be highlighted in a short documentary produced by Sant’anna Miranda Films. www.flavializ.com
About Sarah: Having lived, worked, and traveled throughout Brazil for the past 18 years, Sarah Taylor has the unique advantage of understanding Brazil from a foreigner’s perspective and using that to help her clients indulge in the trip of their dreams. At her firm, All Set Concierge, she curates a unique experience with endless resources as part of her membership in the luxury network, Virtuoso. Her expertise on São Paulo’s art scene can be referenced here.
São Paulo – Brazil’s Urban Gem
About the 2020 Bienal: The 34th edition of Bienal de São Paulo, curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, is a project that proposes to structure the show based on the concept of relation. “In the polarized context in Brazil and worldwide today, where the different sides are increasingly closed off to each other and to dialogue, these lessons become urgent and necessary,” says Crivelli Visconti, who invited Paulo Miyada (adjunct curator), Carla Zaccagnini, Francesco Stocchi and Ruth Estévez (guest curators) to compose his curatorial team. Learn more about the São Paulo Bienal here.
Meet your Bienal guide: João Correia is an art advisor and art historian, who graduated from the Open University in London, where he also studied at the Sandler Institute and Sotheby’s Institute. As a speaker, he has presented at Yale University, University of São Paulo, and Itau Unibanco Private Bank. In addition to presenting his art expertise, João has collaborated with publications such as BBC, NBC, and CBN. He lives and works in São Paulo where he runs the art advisory company, Collezionista.
Your Tailored Itinerary Starts in São Paulo
Day 1: Welcome cocktail reception and dinner at Hotel Unique. Unique is a top-ranked luxury hotel in São Paulo, the #1 hotel in South America by Conde Nast Traveller in 2016. Its inventive design, drawing on architectural greats like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry, leaves you in awe.
Day 2: Breakfast at Unique followed by departure to Bienal. Your guides, João and Flavia Liz, will walk you through the highlights of this groundbreaking install of art from around the world. Included in the day’s programming is a lunch at Dalva e Dito, one of São Paulo’s Michelin star restaurants that features traditional Brazilian cuisine with an inventive twist. Conclude with an evening tour of Galeria Millan, which represents Brazilian Tunga, the first contemporary artist in the world to have a show at the Louvre. Galeria Millan participated in the Pacific Standard Time LA art event sponsored by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, with past participation at Documenta in Kassel and the Venice Biennale.
Day 3: Continue your art immersion of São Paulo as Flavia Liz guides you on an exclusive tour of the city’s art and architectural highlights. We’ll break for lunch at Tuju, awarded its second Michelin star, under the culinary direction of chef Ivan Ralston, who worked at two of Spain’s Michelin starred gems, El Celler de Can Rocca and Mugaritz. Our day concludes with a visit to Galeria Nara Roesler, one of the most important galleries in São Paulo, with branches in New York and Rio de Janeiro, representing seminal Brazilian artists who emerged in the 1950s, as well as current artists that dialogue with their foundation.
Day 4: Back to the Bienal for a closer look at the projects with your guides João and Flavia Liz. Included in today’s events is a cocktail reception and dinner at Bossa Restaurant in the lively Jardins neighborhood. With accolades from GQ, Harpers Bazaar, and numerous Brazilian publications, Bossa is top ranked in São Paulo for dishes that are tasteful both in presentation and to the palate. The evening closes at Galeria Vermelho, designed by Brazilian Pritzker prize winner Paulo Mendes da Rocha, with over 10,000 square feet dedicated to art production by both emerging and established artists.
Day 5: Museum day at your leisure! Participants will be given a list to choose from the city’s best including: Estação Pinacoteca, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Museu de Arte Moderna, Museu Afro Brasil, and Instituto Tomie Ohtake. After your museum visit, participants will be driven to a gallery event with Flavia Liz for a private tour of Galeria Luciana Brito. This beautiful gallery was designed by esteemed Brazilian architect Rino Levi with gardens by famed landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Our dining adventures continue at Michelin star restaurant, Maní, where we’ll witness the culinary masterpieces of Helena Rizzo, awarded the World’s Best Female Chef. Her creative contemporary cuisine puts her São Paulo restaurant in the top 50 in Latin America.
Day 6: Our final day in São Paulo allows for an exclusive tour of one of São Paulo’s private collections that will prepare you for Inhotim. After this private tour, Flavia Liz will guide us to some of the city’s finest art houses including: Apto 61, a beautiful house specializing in modern Brazilian design, and Passado Composto Século XX, a modern antique shop with the best in Brazilian design. In the evening, we’ll toast a farewell to São Paulo for a closing reception at Unique Hotel including cocktails and dinner.
And Continues at Inhotim…
Day 7: Check out and departure to Belo Horizonte. Once in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Brazil’s farming state, Minas Gerais, we’ll settle in to the city’s best hotel, Ouro Minas, for a welcome dinner. It’s luxurious but with the character of the Minas Gerais countryside and will be our resting point while we explore this state’s artistic gem, Museo Inhotim.
Day 8: After a ride through the Brazilian countryside, we’ll arrive at an artistic masterpiece set over 5,000 acres. This museum, known to locals simply as “Inhotim”, is like none other in the world, and is a must see for art lovers and enthusiasts. A lunch at the museum’s restaurant, Tamborim, featuring local Minas cuisine is included, as well as private transportation and a guide throughout the museum. We’ll ride back to BH for a night of well needed rest after a long day at Inhotim.
Day 9: Because Inhotim is so expansive, one day is not enough! We’ll finish our tour of this outdoor museum – lunch included of course – with plenty of time to see all of the exhibits that you missed on day one. On our ride back to BH, we’ll stop at the city’s best spot for all things pão de queijo, the cheese bread that’s famous all over Brazil and will leave your taste buds wanting to book another trip to South America.
Day 10: Departure to Belo Horizonte airport, where we will depart back to São Paulo for transfers back home or to your next Brazilian destination.
Reserve Your Space on the Bienal São Paulo Trip!
The Brazil Art Immersion Package price: USD$6,200.00, with 50% deposit due 60 days prior to departure. Space is limited to 12 travelers. To reserve a space, fill out this form to begin the reservation process.
Package price does not include international travel to/from Brazil. All Set Concierge can help you arrange flights to/from Brazil. Your flight within Brazil to/from Belo Horizonte(with 1 piece of checked luggage) is included in the package price.
You will need a tourist visa to travel to/from Brazil. If you don’t already have one, All Set Concierge can refer you to a trusted agency or you can secure a tourist visa at your local Brazilian consulate.
Private ground transportation within Brazil is included in the package price. Transportation to/from your departure city airport is not included.
Daily breakfast is included, as well as all meals listed. Travelers are welcome to purchase additional meals & other incidentals on their own accounts.
Travel insurance is not included. If you’re interested in rates, All Set Concierge can provide a quote.
For a full list of terms & conditions, click here.