12 posts categorized "On Tour"

21 May 2007

We're back

After a slog of a flight we're now home, so normal service will resume shortly. We had a fantastic time and saw some truly beautiful parts of the world. We were unusually privileged to be able to take such a long time off work and are immensely grateful for it. All we need to do now is figure out how we're going to do it again, soon.

17 May 2007

The things I love about Argentina, by Silverbrow

Not that I'm obsessed about food or anything:

1. Persicco ice-cream, very possibly the best mass produced ice-cream in the world. Silverbrowess did particularly well today with her "orgasmic" Banana Split flavour. I wasn't too disappointed with my mint choc chip and tiramisu combo.

2. Parilla. Unfortunately, I have so far failed to take any photos of this ode to meat. Last night's was particularly good, with some well grilled bife de chorizo, a moist choripan and some sweetbreads, that might have been a tad overcooked, but tasted silky and unctious nonetheless.

16 May 2007

The things I love about Brazil, by Silverbrowess

Not that I wish to sound shallow or anything, but:

1. Guarana, not only an aphrodisiac but tastes like Tizer, yum, yum.

2. Havaianas, cool in London, cheap as chips in Brazil and look even better when your feet are tanned.  Which mine currently are, at long last.

13 May 2007

Working hard

The recent hiatus in posting is because we firmly believe we can't return still looking pasty white. As you can see, we have work to do.

08 May 2007


It is not unusual that a schlep is required to get a decent meal. An hour and a half down a rutted track, in a Volkswagen Gol (not Golf), followed by a walk down a steep hillside and finally, wading across a river. Prior to setting out, I knew about the track and the steep hill, but was totally unaware of the river. The first I learned of it was when we arrived at Espelho beach and having asked a couple of locals, we were pointed in the direction of a little blue building, sitting the other side of a river. We wandered up to the riverbank, opposite the restaurant assuming there had to be a dry way across. Much grinning and sign-language by the waiter standing on the far-side, made clear there was no dry way. So we waded. Silverbrowess was not impressed. Especially when the eponymous Sylvi informed us later that there was a dry way across through her car park - no need for that steep hillside either then.

Given how mediocre the rest of the food we have eaten has been out here, Sylvinha's was a revelation. The restaurant is run and owned by the lady herself with just one helper. There are only two tables in the restaurant and if you don't have a booking, you're not getting in. If you do have a booking, you'll get in, but there's no menu. You eat what Sylvinha serves. Her food is resolutely not local, not Bahian, her influences appear to be everywhere bar her front door, as demonstrated by the crisp-bread and za'atar we were served when we sat down. Silverbrowess wolfed it down - I was slightly less taken by it, finding the za'atar a bit tasteless, although the crisp-breads were a darned sight tastier than their close cousins, matzo (which dear reader, are one of only two foods I detest, the other is baked beans.) As with everywhere else in Brazil, the food took an age to arrive, but this gave us opportunity to appreciate the stunning view out to sea and conclude that Sylvinha's interior design tastes are similar I imagine to a stoned (allegedly) Cath Kidston. Very Trancoso.

We were served a large dish of seabass in a ginger, coconut and lightly curried sauce. It was very Southern Indian, probably cooked with ghee, rather than the olive oil, or marg - blah, they seem to favour elsewhere down here. Although Sylvinha took great offence to the notion that any of the food might be too closely associated with Bahian tradition, the dish was pretty similar to the one we so enjoyed at Cantinho Doce. However, it should be said that Sylvi's had far more flavour to it. To mop up the juices was some perfectly steamed rice with lentils, a decently flavoured vegetable stir-fry, an unremarkable coconut and vegetable dish and a mango chutney with a bit of a kick. I particularly enjoyed the dessert of creme brulee sans brulee, but avec a dash of cinammon. Silverbrowess couldn't stand it, but then again she doesn't like creme brulee at the best of times - strange girl. The meal was very good mainly due to the strong flavours. It was not technically astounding, her cooking was probably no better than a very good home-cook. But it was delicious and with the view out to sea, made for a lovely afternoon. I do find it interesting how this place is the talk of Trancoso. Clearly given the small numbers she serves there is an element of exclusivity to it, but on a purely objective basis, the cooking is not technically great. Clearly, context, plays a large part in your enjoyment of a meal, and there is a lot going for this place. But I do think that one reason Sylvi's is so loved is simply because lots of other places are so bad.

If you were wondering, we did have to wade back through the water and climb up the hill, but the drive back to the hotel was not as much of an ordeal.

Sylvinha's - Praia do Espelho, Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil
Tel: +54 (73) 9985 4157

07 May 2007


Rio was fantastic but hectic, so we needed an antidote, after two and a half weeks on holiday, you need time to switch off and relax.  Trancoso was the place.  It is a very pretty little village with 3,000 residents.

We needed a bit of luxury so we decided to stay at a gorgeous hotel called Pousada Etnia. I say hotel, but it's a collection of bungalows (which is all the rage in this part of the world) with a bar, breakfast area and pool set in what can only be described as a rainforest. Etnia is owned and run by Andre Zanonato (Brazilian, but of Italian descent) and his partner Corrado Tini (Italian) & their 3 gorgeous labradors, Lola (who was only into me because I kept feeding her), Ginny (who smelled a bit) and Rocco, their boisterous son.

Each bungalow is designed along a different theme.  We stayed in Mediteraneo, a large white and blue room - it was amazing, very classy.  Andre let us take a peek into the other bungalows.  He was excited for us to see how amazing and varied each of the bungalows were and I was eager to check we had the best bungalow.  As it turns out, ours was the best one but another bungalow, Gipsy caught my eye.  It was a clash of pink, orange and blue - I would have been equally happy staying in this room but it was too camp for Silverbrow.

Breakfast provided a lazy start to the day, beginning at 9am and finishing at 11am.  We ate lunch on a few occasions at the hotel.  Silverbrow loved the gnocchi, which, as he guessed correctly, was made using Andre's mum's secret recipe, which she had personally taught the kitchen staff to cook.  We were also well looked after by Paulo, the barman who kept us plied with amazing kiwi and passion fruit caiprinhas.

By night we hung out at the Quadrado - the village square.  It is a cute array of little, brightly coloured shops selling all sorts of glittery tat, to rich Europeans and tax evading Brazilians.  The shops were all perfect - the outside of each one was painted in a different colour (this is a local, Bahaian tradition) and there were many lit candles scattered around to add to the atmosphere.  In fact if Disney was trying to create an open air chi-chi shopping mall.  This place was seventh heaven for me, a Starbucks would have made it perfect - it's the only thing I've missed from home.  I dragged Silverbrow around all of the shops (several times as we were there for a week) but in the end we didn't buy anything other than a paperweight and a pair of Havaianas (the coolest thing in Brazil.)

Interspersed amongst the shops were several equally ritzy restaurants.  Unfortunately their flash decor was no sign of quality of the food.  We sampled many of the dishes over the week we were there.  We loved the seabass cooked in ginger and cashew sauce at Cantinho Doce and went back twice because it was so good.  The other meals were not overly memorable, apart from the sushi we had one night.  Despite being by the sea, the chef was using frozen salmon.  Silverbrow went off on some rant about why serve salmon when you're by the sea.  I reckon, they would have been better off as a simple fish restaurant, serving locally sourced fish, rather than doing sushi badly. (She's learning dammit - Ed.)

However, the mediocrity of the food did not detract from us having the most wonderful, tranquilo week in Trancoso.  We topped up our tans, swam a bit, read and chilled and even made a few friends along the way.

Should we ever find ourselves back in this neck of the rainforest, we will definitely be going back to stay (this time in Gipsy.)

28 April 2007

Rio de Janeiro

I hope all my readers are well. I particularly hope that in the last week none of you have had any kidney problems, because if you did, your would have been up Corcovado without a nephrologist. I should know, because we have spent the last few days with thousands of them in Rio. It turns out that Rio has been the proud host of the 2007 World Congress of Nephrology. I'm sure nephrologists are nice people but they have been a pain in my side (geddit, side, kidney - fuggedaboutit). They have taken every room in every decent hotel in Rio. They also seemed to be at every tourist spot and every restaurant that we went to. They were easily identifiable with their polo shirts, shorts, trainers and white socks, whereas the locals favour tiny speedos, flip-flops and a six-pack. Those who have met me will appreciate just how well I fitted in.

Despite the influx of kidney specialists we had a fantastic time. We were a bit flummoxed by the whole safety thing. On the one hand we kept hearing Rio was no more dangerous than any big city, on the other, everyone told us we'd probably be mugged and not to walk by the beach late at night. I was deeply confused by the mixed messages, especially as we didn't see any trouble and didn't experience anything ourselves - although that could have been because we were cocooned in a cab for most of the time. The one bit of trouble we did have was with a shifty taxi driver trying to charge the wrong fare. With her acerbic tongue, Silverbrowess swiftly put him in his place.

The safety issue was put in stark relief when we visited a favela. This was a truly astounding tour around Vila Canoas and Rocinha, two of the city's favelas. Both of us felt far safer there than we did in the city - although as our guide pointed out that could have been because all the dodgy geezers had gone to fleece everyone on Copacabana beach. On the tour we were privileged to meet a few of the locals and in particular, visit a project for kids called Para Ti. We saw a side of Rio that people think they know thanks to fear-mongering or film. Both of us felt far safer in Rio that night, having had some of the myth of the favelas burst. Don't get me wrong, these places are exceptionally dangerous, our guide regaled us with stories of gun-fights, but they are not lawless and the people aren't all monsters.

We did the touristy stuff, went up Corcovada (home of Cristo Redentor) and Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and were constantly wowed at the beauty of the city. The food was generally pretty mediocre, although we had a fun and decent lunch at Gula Gula, near the beach in Ipanema. I had a salad, Silverbrowess had some salmon teryiaki, it was fine, more enjoyable was watching the cariocas. We also had quite a pissed evening at Rio Scenarium. It reminded us of quite a hip TGI Fridays, with great music, decent cocktails and lots of deep fried food. The nephrologists in the house seemed to be enjoying themselves, which was nice.

Finally, as you might be able to tell from the photo above, we got the sun we needed and are now turning a very British shade of ruby.