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Word of Mouth: Paraty

Cachaça, fresh food and local art provide the rustic setting for this historic Brazilian town

by CH Contributor in Travel on 27 August 2014

Brazil, Travel, WoM, Word of Mouth, Cachaça, Casa Turquesa, Fishing, Paraty

Walking around the maze of streets paved with irregular stones, visitors can feel the Portuguese presence that first landed in Paraty 500 years ago. Situated in a sheltered bay at the edge of the wild Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest), the charming seaside town is a relic of Brazil’s colonial past. When the coffee and sugarcane trade dissipated, the old town remained stuck in a time capsule, largely abandoned until its eventual rediscovery by artists in the '60s. Its new incarnation is a proposed UNESCO heritage site and has abundant offerings for discerning food enthusiasts, music lovers and adventurers alike. Also home to a variety of diverse festivals throughout the year, Paraty is a unique stop for a cultural piece of old Brazil.

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Casa Turquesa

Facing the pier of colorful fishing boats and situated on the coastal edge of town is Casa Turquesa, a thoughtfully imagined boutique hotel that pays homage to its historical past. The appreciation for subtlety and the passion for Paraty are evident in every detail. “I wanted something elegant, unpretentious and comfortable above all” explains Tetê, Casa Turquesa’s owner and principle designer. “I wanted a house where I could welcome my guests as friends.” Built within the preserved shell of a 17th century house, the two story structure echoes a traditional Portuguese home, but is appropriately adapted with modern luxuries. All nine rooms are comfortably designed, named after their accentuating shade of color to help promote “contemporary comfort for a warm and friendly ambience.” Guests are given custom Havianas during their stay, as well as Wellingtons to brave the tide, which invades the streets during full moons. Fresh orchids and local art adorn the original stone walls of the dining and lounge area, where—every morning—a rich complimentary breakfast is offered with a variety of local fruits, juices and delicious homemade breads. When looking to explore outside the confines of downtown Paraty, the staff is extremely helpful at arranging special and authentic experiences to help visitors better unravel the magic of the area.

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Touring the Coast with a Fisherman

To fully experience the famed natural surroundings, jump aboard a converted fishing boat for a relaxed, private tour of the numerous neighboring islands and undeveloped, jungle-lined coast. The day trip includes visits to deserted white sand beaches, coves of swimming turtles and beach bars serving fresh fish and cold Brazilian cervejas. What makes this trip special is the authenticity of touring the coast with a local, not an outside tour guide. Boats can be hired at any time along the main pier, or Casa Turquesa can help arrange the trip with some of their recommended (also English speaking) captains.

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Maria Izabel Cachaça Distillery

Just a few kilometers outside town, a washed-out dirt road leads to the enchanting coastal enclave of Maria Izabel Distillery. More than just a distillery (“alambique” in Portuguese), this gorgeously maintained property is also Izabel's home, where she carefully crafts her famous cachaça—Brazil’s national cane spirit. Originally purchasing the land because of its natural beauty, Izabel chose to start cultivating sugarcane as a way to make a living off her land. Drawing from generations of cachaça distillers in her family, she began experimenting with the spirit over 25 years ago, slowly but surely refining her craft. She relies largely on intuition in her process (and a secretly guarded yeast), focusing solely on high-quality small batches. Today, she is still one of the few female distillers producing some of the best cachaça in Paraty. Her special reserve, which is worth the export, is only available by visiting the distillery at her home.

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Punto Divino

While passing the main square around sunset, the sound of alluring samba music can be heard emanating from one of the surrounding façades. Punto Divino, a traditional trattoria found in a not-so-traditional locale, is a popular Italian-inspired restaurant set in the heart of old Paraty. The outdoor garden hosts nightly music and is a beautiful place to try one of its signature dishes, the classic linguine with clams—a plate rightly recommended by Tetê, the owner of Casa Turquesa.

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Pippo

An upscale alternative to Punto Divino (but operated and named after the same owner) is Pippo. Seemingly out of place in Paraty, this high-end Italian restaurant is like stepping into 1960s Italy with its checkered marble floors, white linen table cloths and pictures by famous paparazzi photographer Marcello Geppeto covering most available wall space. The charismatic owner—a fishing enthusiast originally from Sicily—is a self-taught chef whose menu experiments with his Sicilian culinary knowledge combined with local ingredients. Dishes include sea bass eggs sautéed with cachaça, zucchini and hearts of palm; or salmon, brown sugar and vodka. It also has a wine list to relish in, including Bordeaux and a few very exclusive Uruguayan wines.

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Armazem

Entering Armazem is like walking into a trading ground for the indigenous tribes of Brazil. “The tribes don’t have a word for art, it's an expression of the soul,” explains owner Nina Prado, whose careful selection of indigenous goods reflects her understanding of the tribes she works with. From jewelry to fine art, each piece is a reflection of the owner's direct relationship with each tribe, which helps to support these irreplaceable cultures.

Word of Mouth presents a destination the way we experienced it. Following both trusted tips and our own whims we explore with the goal of finding what's unique to that place. For deeper looks at some of our favorite metropolises, check out our CH City Guides.

Images by Blake Whitman

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The RugRat from TheTentLab

A breezy backpacking tent designed with kids in mind, but built for rugged trail use

by Hans Aschim in Design on 27 August 2014

Backpacking, Camping, Gear, Hiking, Kids, Outdoors, Tents, Kickstarter

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For those looking to get the most out of camping, it's essential to not skimp on your shelter. While cheap tents will get you through a few weekends here and there, going the extra mile and shelling out for a premium tent will not only make for a more lasting investment, but also a better experience overall—and campers will wake up well-rested for a campfire-side morning cup of joe. Mike Cecot-Scherer of TheTentLab has been designing tents since 1985 and his latest concept, the RugRat is the upshot of his 29 years of experience and insights. While backpacking with his one-year-old, Cecot-Scherer realized he wanted a tent that offered more comfort and space without adding too much weight. He added two doors for easy access and quick bathroom exits, extra windows and a screened roof for maximum airflow when the temperature rises—not to mention stargazing. Designed for hitting the trail with the kids in tow, the RugRat is constructed like a performance alpine tent, but is designed for family use and weighs in at just over seven pounds.

A pledge of $600 on Kickstarter guarantees you one of the first runs of the innovative three-person RugRat tent while $665 secures a four-person model.

Image courtesy of TheTentLab

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Ace Hotel NYC's Artists-in-Residence Sleep / Walk

Four rooms turned into studios for work to be debuted during Fashion Week

by David Graver in Culture on 27 August 2014

Ace Hotel, Fashion Week, Furniture Clothing, NYC, NYFW, LGBTQ, Queer Art

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For weeks before opening its doors in 2009, the Ace Hotel New York was filled with artists-in-residence and walls were being graced with the work they'd leave—all of which still stands today. Visionary founder Alex Calderwood hand-picked many of them himself. Even as its acclaim has grown and demand for rooms has kept occupancy very high over the last five years, the Ace continues to invite artists to work within. As an extension of this, rather than partnering with outside brands for this upcoming Fashion Week, they chose to focus attention on work made by occupants.

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Ace Hotel Cultural Engineer Ben Sisto invited four art collectives to reside in the hotel from 22-25 August, for a program named "Sleep / Walk" with a view in mind to produce work while tackling the topics of gender, presentation and identity. With the help of post-drag performance group Chez Deep—the first artists selected, who also functioned as advisors in the rest of the selection process—Sisto further extended invitations to artists and designers Mike and Claire, performance artists House of Ladosha and beauty and art collective FCKNLZ. Each unit began to design "modules," a word that Sisto uses to define "micro-performances, photo shoots, games, scavenger hunts and other in-room happenings" all within the loose confines of the fashion world.

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CH went to explore the rooms and met with FCKNLZ in a space that had already morphed under the artists' vision. The room was scattered with supplies and a giant mood board occupied one wall. The collective replaced all of the room's lightbulbs with their own—stating that a proper workspace requires the best lighting. And, while altering the lights, the collective (who claims to specialize in mistakes) also took to wrapping up the furniture with fabric. According to Grant Worth of FCKNLZ, "We sort of got all these supplies and this weird fabric, just something we picked up that was funny and strange and there was so much of it. We like to take control of the spaces we're in but originally it wasn't clear what we would do with the fabric. We immediately walked in the room and started covering everything." This reaction to the space turned into something more, an experience and a product that they refer to, jokingly, as "furniture clothing." It's beautiful and delicate and touches upon both fashion and identity. It was this responsive action that will ultimately beget their piece that will be on display 7 September.

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Worth continues, saying that the residency provided "the freedom to explore and play." He furthers notes, "There weren't really any restrictions or rules. There were suggestions, but it's always really exciting when there isn't any kind of rules about output and as an artist you are allowed to really explore." Sisto echoes this sentiment, "I feel, for artists of any discipline, one of the most important things is not to get stuck in your own work rut. There's value in working in a different part of the city, in a different environment—it mixes up the thought process. The Ace is clean, creative and hospitable. Not a lot of people think to come to Midtown. We are offering people a reason to work in and explore this part of the city, and it will effect what they create."

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On Sunday, 7 September (during Fashion Week), all creations made during the residencies, whether they are wearable or not, will be on display in the Ace Hotel's Liberty Hall. It's an event, open to the public, that reflects the true creative nature of the location and the team's desire to support the arts. And to a certain degree, it's the most honest fashion week event they can have: these works were made on location for a venue that has long-embraced the arts world.

Images by Cool Hunting

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