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Highlights of Brazil

Highlights of Brazil

Posted by Juan Gavasa on January 26, 2014

I have no photographs of my first holiday to Brazil – a two-week package deal in the early 90s including flights to Rio, a hotel in Copacabana and carnival tickets. 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 Lonely Planet guidebook propped open on my head as a sun hat, a crowd of children gathered, pointing, laughing and shouting "Camarão!" (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 passion fruit…

Each time I return to Brazil I fall in love with it again. Here's a guide to some of the highlights which await both football fans and those inspired by the wall-to-wall coverage to visit.

Why go? São Paulo is hosting the World Cup opening ceremony and at least one England game (against Uruguay on 19 June). It 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. Vayable.com offers walking and cycling tours led by Paulistanos, or embark on a Taste of São Paulo (tasteofsaopaulofoodtours.com) foodie walking tour.

If you do only one thing Masp (masp.art.br) 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.

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