Clarification to This Article
This article has been updated to address the flooding that hit Rio earlier this month.

Brazilian music and culture appeal to couple planning a honeymoon

By Carol Sottili
Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who: Amy Bormet, 25, and her fiance, Matt Dievendorf, 30, both of the District

Where: Brazil

Why: Honeymoon

When: October for three to four weeks

Budget: $5,000

"We are both jazz musicians. We love Brazilian music and want to explore Bahian culture in northeast Brazil. We're also interested in outdoorsy rain-forest time and chocolate. Hostels are fine, and anything classier is great."

Jazz-loving couple Amy Bormet and her fiance, Matt Dievendorf, couldn't pick a better destination than Brazil for their honeymoon. Many styles of music pulsate throughout this South American country. Some, such as bossa nova and samba, are well known outside Brazil, while others, including axe, choro, forro and frevo, are more localized. There's music to celebrate Carnaval, music inspired by martial arts, music that sounds like hyped-up marching bands and music that requires an accordion. Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian influences pervade many genres.

By visiting cities and towns located roughly between Recife and Rio, Bormet and Dievendorf will get a good taste of Brazilian composition and a healthy dose of outdoor adventure. Because the couple has more time than money, the grand tour will not be feasible. The Amazon, for example, would be too far afield. We've laid out a large buffet of possibilities, realizing that not every side trip will be doable.

Getting to Brazil as cheaply as possible can be laborious, because multiple connections often shave the price. It's typically just as inexpensive to add on a few domestic cities to an international ticket as it is to fly internationally in and out of one city and buy an air pass for domestic travel., operated by Bacc Travel, which specializes in Brazil, offers discounted tickets. A trip in October from Washington to Rio de Janeiro to Salvador da Bahia to Recife, with return from Recife to Washington, was recently priced at about $1,054 per person, including taxes, while a ticket without the Recife leg was $1,075.

As for internal transit, my Brazilian contacts recommend against renting a car, especially for any long-haul trips. Instead, rely on bus service for longer trips, and use a combination of the cheaply priced metro systems, taxis and vans offering public transit for shorter trips.


Rio, especially its favelas (the Brazilian word for slum or shantytown), was hard hit by flooding earlier this month. More than 200 were killed, and roads remain closed to some of its most famous tourist destinations, including the Christ the Redeemer statue in Tijuca National Park.

British artist Bob Nadkarni, who owns the Maze Inn (, a bed-and-breakfast that's popular with artists and musicians, said that his inn, which sits at the crest of the small favela of Tavares Bastos, is "safe and dry." The Maze Inn may be a good lodging choice for you, especially if you can time your trip to arrive on Oct. 1. On the first Friday of each month, Nadkarni puts on "Jazz at the Maze," drawing hundreds of people to listen to to listen to bossa nova, samba and other Brazilian styles. The inn, which offers sweeping views, costs about $51 a night including breakfast. (Tip: My Brazilian friends recommend saving money by eating hearty at the free breakfasts that are almost always included with lodging in Brazil. "Even two-star hotels offer a big spread with, at the minimum, breads, cake, cheeses, cold cuts, juice and coffee," said Astrid Caldas, an environmental scientist and native of Rio de Janeiro who now lives in Maryland).

Maze Inn is close to the neighborhood of Lapa, known for its lively nightlife (well-known clubs include Rio Scenarium and Carioca da Gema). Not-to-be-missed tourist sites in Rio include Sugar Loaf Mountain (cable car ride to the top costs $25); the Botanical Garden; and Ipanema Beach. For more info on Brazil and Rio:

Side trips from Rio include:

-- Ilha Grande, an island off the coast of Angra dos Reis, about 93 miles south of Rio, that offers kayaking, snorkeling, beaches and hiking. Get up early and take the Costa Verde bus from Novo Rio Bus Station to Angra (about $40 round trip); from there take the ferry to the island (about $8 round trip). The island has many hostels and pousadas (inns); choices include Pousada da Cachoeira ($30 a night;

-- Paraty, about 60 miles from Angra. "Paraty is an old colonial town with pretty beaches and lots of resort-town kind of stores and bars and restaurants," said Robert Robbins, a research scientist with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, who is married to Caldas and frequently travels to Brazil. "It is a wonderful place to visit -- exciting and relaxing at the same time." Take the Colitur bus from Angra; cost is about $4. Lodging includes the Geko Hostel (, with rooms for about $42.

-- Itatiaia National Park, the oldest national park in Brazil, 103 miles from Rio, which Robbins described as having "beautiful trails through unspoiled forest." Take a bus from Rio to Resende, and then a bus to Penedo, a village at the edge of the park that offers many chocolate shops (total fare about $10 round trip). Accommodations include Hotel Vivenda (, with rooms starting at $67 a night.

SALVADOR DA BAHIA "Bahia is one of the most interesting places to visit if one likes African roots and Brazilian music," Caldas said. For full immersion, stay at Hotel Encanto de Itapoan (, owned by a Brazilian jazz guitarist and his English wife. "We breathe and talk music, play and record music, and we are overjoyed to host kindred spirits," says its Web site. Even though it's a little pricey, starting at about $85 a night, the connection to the city's music scene may be worth it.

Visit the city's pelourinho, or historic center, and don't miss the Cathedral of Salvador and the Mercado Modelo, with 200 arts-and-crafts stalls. The city also has several very nice parks, including Pituacu Park, an important ecological preservation area. Info:

From Salvador, take a day trip to either Itaparica Island, the largest of 56 islands in the Bay of All Saints, or an overnight venture to the car-free Morro de Sao Paulo on Tinhare Island. The ferry to Itaparica will cost about $7, while getting to Morro is about $80 round trip. Pousada Colibri ( in Morro costs about $54 a night.

RECIFE Fly into this northeastern coastal city and head to the smaller venues of Olinda, Caruaru and/or Campina Grande. Caruara, for example, is known for forro music and is home to the Museu do Forro; the two-hour bus ride from Recife costs about $10 round trip. Hotel Village Caruaru ( costs about $30 a night.

Total Cost: Airfare is the biggest expense, at about $2,100. Hotels for about 24 nights will depend on the chosen side trips, but expect to pay at least $1,400. Domestic transport, including buses and ferries, will run at least $500. That leaves $1,000, or about $20 per person per day, for dinner, sightseeing, clubbing and shopping. Also, if you don't start a separate kitty for your Brazilian visas ($130 per person), you'll probably need to cut the vacation back by a couple of days.

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