It’s been a well-documented rocky road leading up to the biggest soccer event in Brazil, culminating with a wave of high-profile protests over the last few weeks. I have had my own reservations along the way as well (which I document regularly on my Twitter feed, @RaubOnTheRoad, if you’re interested), but let’s not get things twisted: Soccer is the end-all, be-all in Brazil.
Brazil’s equivalent of the Supreme Court doesn’t meet during Brazil’s most important soccer matches; banks are closed; nobody whatsoever goes to work. You can fall asleep on Av. Paulista, the most important street in the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city, and not get hit by a car. Nothing happens besides eyes being glued to the beloved Selecão (as the national team are referred in Portuguese). It is absolutely amazing to see.
From outside Brazil, the football world waits anxiously to see whether Brazil will silence the naysayers, but I witnessed all the evidence I needed when I attended a Confederations Cup match, considered a dress rehearsal tournament for the far more high-profile soccer event of the year in 2014.
Starting with the ticket buying process and ending with the free metro ride out of the recently-debuted Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro on June 16, I found the seamlessness of it all truly shocking. Though I felt the same anxiety we all know and love from buying big concert tickets online – my hands were shaking with anticipation as I tried to purchase tickets for Mexico vs. Italy several months ago – I somehow received amazing seats in a few seconds. I received a confirmation email and was asked to pre-book a ticket pickup point in Rio. Since I don’t live there, I wearily had to book that for the day of the match.
Arriving in downtown Rio at the designated ticket pickup point at the Windsor Guanabara Hotel on match day, I waited all of 15 minutes to receive my tickets. Everyone spoke great English and the whole thing was completely painless. Though we all had a laugh about the fact that the line for people who had pre-booked their ticket pickup was longer than the one for these who didn’t, we all acquiesced to the familiar Brazilian excuse for everything: “Isso é o Brasil!” (“This is Brazil!”).
Entering the stadium couldn’t have been more pleasant – most of the 73,123 of us in attendance arrived by metro, which was free for ticket holders, uncramped and cinematically empties fans out directly onto the ramp leading to the stadium. It’s quite impressive. Despite metal detectors, there were no lines to get in and no crowds to fight though. From metro to seat: 10 minutes. The new stadium? A palace of sport, packed to capacity and doused in international color, a true spectacle.
The one hiccup was the concessions. While the prices were shockingly not coronary-inducing, the beer lines, which Brazil didn’t even want and fought a long battle with the international soccer association before relenting, took ages, mainly due to the fact that no limits per person were imposed. So, the 12 people in front of you might equal 57 beers. The food was uninspired, led by pathetic hot dogs (ketchup and mustard gone fore the game even started), Doritos, Brazil’s version of Ruffles, popcorn, candy bars and polvilho (cassava starch crackers – the one bright spot). But hey, you’re there to watch a soccer game, not dine in a 3-star Michelin restaurant! Still, the food and drink need a re-think.
So, despite dreadful press and a sorry state of affairs when the world’s spotlight is shining its brightest, I promise you, Brazil won’t let us down in regards to this tournament.
Now, whether or not it’s money well spent is an entirely different matter.
*It should be noted that games in Recife didn’t quite go off without hitches: Long lines and transport conundrums seemed the norm, but hey, Isso é o Nordeste!
Heading to the biggest soccer event of the year? LATAM Airlines Group operates nearly 50 flights per week between Miami, New York and Orlando to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Photo: By Carla Peirano, in Magazine Photos by: Stefan Schmeling Young, sophisticated and laid-back. That’s Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s hippest neighborhood, a vibrant place where fashion, art and design co-exist with graffiti and a stylish crowd. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in winter here in São Paulo, Brazil. I can observe everything and everyone from the strategically located Amüse Food Store, on the corner of Girassol and Aspicuelta. While I wait for my iced tea, I observe the passers-by, most of them women united by their fashion sense and their desire to shop. You sense a certain self-satisfaction in the way they walk. Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, this neighborhood in the western part of the city is fashionably chic, but in an unpretentious way. Folks around here obviously pay attention to their look, but there’s a personal stamp in the way they dress. It’s quite different from what you see on Rua Oscar Freire, for instance, where the fashion parade is legendary and most pedestrians look like they stepped straight out of a fashion magazine and into this endless metropolis. It’s no accident that style lovers flock to the winding streets of Vila Madalena. This bohemian neighborhood began its transformation in the 1970s, when young students of art and fashion began to rent and share large houses. Over time, these homes were converted into art galleries, studios and casual restaurants, a chaotic and spontaneous process that nurtured the spirit so evident in the neighborhood today: bohemian, vibrant and full of color. Welcome to Vila Madalena A style all its own. That’s what you’ll find on the streets of Vila Madalena. It’s the perfect place for folks who want to be seen as well as those who would rather people watch, taking in trends, styles and bold statements in clothing and colors. When I stroll the streets here, I am constantly looking around, admiring these well-turned-out fashionistas. I’m struck by the way they’ve managed to achieve such a casually sophisticated look. It seems spontaneous, unplanned and, as result, totally authentic. As I sip on my iced tea, I talk with some girls who are next to me. They tell me they’ve come on a shopping tour of the local stores. They share some addresses and recommendations that I try to memorize as though they were secret formulas. They tell me that my best bet is to start my tour on the nearby street of Girassol. They leave with complicit smiles, as though they’ve helped out someone in dire need. I’ve finished my tea, so there’s nothing left for me to do but immerse myself in Vila Madalena. I walk down Girassol, and before long, I come across Uma, a surprisingly sophisticated store, with a collection dominated by clear and simple lines. Suddenly, I feel like I’m shopping in Tokyo, not São Paulo. I keep walking until I reach the store of Juliana Bicudo, a local shoemaker who designs handmade footwear. Her eponymous shop is both elegant and colorful, and the collection is divine. I adore these shoes because they can be worn to formal and informal events alike, depending on the rest of your outfit. She even has a wedding line with custom designs to accommodate the style of each bride. Crossing the street, I encounter the metallic blue suede and classic lines offered by Luiza Perea, another gifted shoe designer. This shop looks more like a living room. It’s a real delight. I’m barely through the door before they invite me to sit down and have something to drink. The designs are terrific. You can really see the dedication and care in the creations. The two women who make the shoes are usually in the store, so any questions you have can be answered by the shoemakers themselves. Unlike other São Paulo neighborhoods, Vila Madalena is all about fashion but in an unpretentious way. Peixaria, a stylish but authentic restaurant, offers a taste of the beach in the middle of the city. Style on the Sand My tour continues. I soon come to La Cervecería, where the fun atmosphere, conversation and clinking of beer mugs is impossible to resist. When I’ve finished my chope (draft beer), I leave on the heels of two attractive women. They tell their friend who’s parking her car that they’ll meet her at Mocambo. I wonder what kind of clothing they sell there. As my imagination is busy at work, I arrive at a tiny space dedicated to… tattoos? I’m a little disconcerted. All of a sudden, I’m surrounded by rough-looking types straight out of a motorcycle magazine. The owners tell me they only do custom tattoos, one-of-a-kind designs for each client. Maybe that’s why the cool girls who led me here are so excited about a place that seems tailor-made for tough guys. In the small, dark space, they give me some more tips to continue my tour. One of their more interesting suggestions is Chapéu, a heavenly bathing-suit shop. I’m told it’s one of the most popular stores of its kind in São Paulo. And in a country where beach life is an institution, that really says something. The collection of bathing suits is varied and elegant. The designs and styles seem intended for a social event rather than the beach. I envy the women who can pull them off, but I’m afraid that on other Latin American beaches, they’d be more cause for gawking than admiration. I’m fairly certain that you have to be Brazilian – and be in Brazil – to wear them. I leave Chapéu and head down Rua Mourato Coelho. I spot the window of the shop Tonus, and I’m transfixed. I decide to go in. The clerks explain the ideas behind the designs. The back part of the shop features the workshop where designer Sergio Tonus comes up with his creations. Tonus himself explains the production process to me. His designs from the shop’s nine years of existence are carefully displayed on hangers. The many worlds of Vila Madalena: tattoos at Mocambo and rockabilly style at Barberia 9 de Julho. With no set destination, I wander through Vila Madalena. Eventually, I come to Barberia 9 de Julho, a barbershop with the air of a rockabilly club. The parking spaces outside are taken up entirely by motorcycles. There’s also a dog sporting a bandana, patiently waiting for his owner. I continue along with no end in mind, accompanied by the impressive graffiti that adorns the walls, shops selling Japanese products, ceramics studios, art galleries and a few eateries. I’m hungry, but all the clothing and design stores keep distracting me. One highlight is the shop owned by Fernanda Yamamoto, who specializes in creations made with patterned fabrics. Best of all, there’s an outlet section with clothing from past seasons at reasonable prices. Another great place is Trash Chic, a mix between a fashion museum and a Buddhist temple. They even have a small altar in honor of Coco Chanel. The collection includes pieces by Valentino, Nina Ricci, Prada and Chanel. It’s the finest vintage store I’ve seen in my life. Finally, I end up at Peixaria. This beach-inspired restaurant is full of grilled seafood, endless caipirinhas and infectiously cheerful people. It turns out to be an excellent choice and a great way to end my adventures in Vila Madalena. in