A Multi-Generational Brazilian Journey

Designing a perfect Brazilian vacation for clients is similar to cooking my favorite Brazilian dish for close friends, which happens to be a Bahian Moqueca de Camarao! A moqueca is a seafood stew of coconut milk, dende oil, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, garlic, fresh lime juice, onions and served with rice and farofa. Ingredients have to be perfectly balanced, exotic, a little spicy but not overpowering and leave everyone feeling happy, and satisfied.

Moqueca de Camarao
The first time I heard of a moqueca was in the pages of one of my favorite books, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” by the famous Brazilian novelist, Jorge Amado. I devoured Amado’s books while studying flute performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The book eventually became a film and Sonia Braga the beautiful Brazilian actress played Dona Flor perfectly embodying the sensuality of Amado’s heroine.

Many years later, while on a trip to Brazil with the Latin American novelist—Isabel Allende, we had the great fortune of sharing a moqueca with Jorge Amado in the heart of Bahia at the wonderful Sorriso da Dada Restaurant in Pelourinho. Just as in the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, it seems that all things eventually come full circle. This past year the magical thread continued as I planned an itinerary for the Strauss family, based around the life of the great Pulitzer Prize winning poet—Elizabeth Bishop who lived in Brazil for 15 years in the 40s and 50s.

Last year, Bruno Barreto—the acclaimed director of “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, directed an award winning film about Elizabeth’s relationship with famed Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo de Soares called “Reaching for the Moon.” The Strauss family had seen the film and felt inspired to visit Brazil.  Dr. Ron Strauss had been studying the poetry and life of Bishop for the past twenty years, so the trip would be particularly meaningful for him.

South American Escapes

Bruno Barreto’s “Reaching for the Moon”
Of course I wanted the Strauss Family to experience something special during their visit to Brazil, but as fate would have it, I didn’t realize just how very special this trip would eventually become! Dr. Strauss wanted to visit the famous residence that Bishop shared with Soares that is located in the hills above Rio de Janeiro, and is now owned by a wealthy shipping magnate, Dona Zuleika Borges Torrealba. The beautiful architectural masterpiece that was designed together by the Brazilian architect Sergio Bernardes and Bishop’s partner, Lota de Macedo Soares sits on a vast estate behind impenetrable stone gates and rarely has outside visitors. Needless to say, I spent weeks trying to find anyone that could help me find a way to get Dona Zuleika to open her estate to the Strauss family.

Unfortunately, Dona Zuleika was unreachable and everyone said that she was very private and rarely allowed outside visitors. I finally reached out to a friend, who happens to be the mother of Marisa Monte, one of Brazil’s top singers. Sylvia also just happens to be close friends with the great director Bruno Barreto! Sylvia asked if I thought perhaps the Strauss Family would enjoy a lunch with the director. Of course they would! So with the help of Sylvia, I was able to arrange a wonderful lunch with Bruno, but I was still unable to get them into seeing the famous Elizabeth Bishop house on the Zuleika estate. This was so important to Ron Strauss so I continued to look for a way to gain access.

Elizabeth Bishop House Brazil
A week before the trip everything was set for the Strauss’ arrival in Brazil, an itinerary with all kinds of Elizabeth Bishop related visits but still no entrance to “the house” — when out of the blue I received a message from one of my private guides in Rio. Valeria had attended a party in Rio over the weekend with one of her friends who just happened to be close friends with Dona Zuleika’s daughter! A phone call was placed and not only did Dona Zuleika give permission for a visit, she invited the Strauss Family to have lunch with her on the estate! The Strauss family would spend the day on the enormous estate high in the mountains above Rio, and visit the famous Bishop House known as Samambaia. Finally this itinerary was complete and probably one of the most memorable I have ever arranged for a client.

Here is the letter I received from Irene Strauss upon their return from Brazil.

“Without Jill Siegel, our trip to Brazil would not have been the all-encompassing experience it was. It would be so simple to say that Jill worked her “magic”, because she made it seem so effortless. However, her clear understanding of her clients’ (at this point, I’d say friends) wishes, combined with an amazing attention to detail — always completed in a prompt and gracious manner — would be far more accurate.

Our trip presented a real challenge. Three generations (69, 43, 11) all of whom had different visions. Being a history teacher, I wanted to discover Brazil’s past and culture. My son, a physician and student of poetry, hoped to visit all the places where Elizabeth Bishop, the Pulitzer prize winning poet, had lived during her sixteen years in Brazil. My granddaughter, a typical eleven year old, wished for it all — places to see, people to talk to and some shopping thrown in along the way.

Jill fulfilled every request — and more. Our stops in Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto and the Amazon region were perfect. Every day we experienced the diversity of Brazil’s history, culture, people, and food, as each of our wonderful tour guides (thank you Valeria, Celia and Anavilhanas staff) shared her/his knowledgeable, yet personal, perspective of the country. Aside from the landmark visits, we discovered the cashew fruit, which gave Bishop an asthma attack and caused her unplanned stop in Rio, several games of foot volley at Ipanema, feijoada (yummy!) at a local lunch stop, baroque churches and oratorios in beautiful Ouro Preto, and a two room school in a small village on the Rio Negro, where we learned of the problems and hopes of Brazil’s future. And these are only a few of our unique memories.

But the most amazing feat Jill achieved were the connections to Elizabeth Bishop. Before contacting Jill, the best we hoped for was to discover the locations of Bishop’s houses and take photos. However, we not only toured the homes where she lived (which are privately owned and not open to the public,) but we also were invited to lunch and spent the day with a recognized Brazilian mogul, who shared her perspective on Bishop. Jill also arranged a luncheon with Bruno Barreto, the director of the 2013 film about Bishop, Reaching for the Moon, and this incredibly kind and unassuming man discussed his research for and message of the film.

None of this, and so much more of our trip, would have been possible without Jill. I guess she really is a magician.”  Irene Strauss

For planning your next multi-generational trip or to set up a phone consultation, contact Jill: Click Here

 

Dining at Samambaia

Dining at Samambaia

Villa Luz – Buzios, Brazil

Villa Luz is a stunning 5 bedroom hilltop villa with sweeping views of Ferrudura Bay as well as the Atlantic Ocean.  Graceful contemporary architecture comprised of a restrained palette of natural local materials provides a backdrop to the phenomenal natural setting.

 

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Each suite has a private balcony facing the ocean.  The suites are entered via a courtyard garden replete with gurgling fountains and gentle waterfalls. The heart of the home is a 2 level 1,700 sq ft. living, dining and entertaining area. Two living areas and a bar also share the modern space with a 14 seat home theatre on the mezzanine. Sliding glass doors allow for the living area to be completely opened up to the garden, pool and sunsets providing a superlative and relaxing relationship with the natural surroundings.

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On the mezzanine there is a 14 seat home-theater which has a large flat screen TV with DVD player and surround sound to create an outstanding home cinema experience.

The swimming pool is 14 meters X 4 meters with 8 sun beds surrounded by a sandstone tiled patio, accented with mini palm trees.  The outside area has a shaded gazebo which contains an open barbecue and table ideal for pool side lunches.

Includes cook and full-time assistance of an English speaking concierge.

For more information:  Villa Luz

For reservations contact:  Jill Siegel

 

Jill Siegel Named to Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s Top Travel Specialist List


Named to Condé Nast Traveler Magazine’s  World’s Top Travel Specialists List CN-Traveler-cover-201215 Consecutive Years

MONTCLAIR, NJ – NOVEMBER 2012– JILL SIEGEL, owner of South American Escapes has been named one of the world’s Top Travel Specialists by Condé Nast Traveler magazine for the 5th consecutive year.  By combining firsthand experience and 30 years of knowledge within the Brazilian Travel Industry, Jill provides the type of expertise needed  to create  seamless and unique travel experiences for her clients.  Out of thousands of candidates, 150 made the list this year.

“To be included on the list, travel specialists need to remain ahead of online travel sites, and they need to offer a combination of insider advice, local connections, added value, and special access,” said Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin.

“Working within the Brazilian Travel Industry for the last 30 years has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience and I am honored to be recognized by Condé Nast Traveler for being one of the world’s top travel specialists,” said Jill Siegel.

Brazil Travel Specialist – Jill Siegel, focuses on exclusive out of the way places that provide the very best in the Brazilian hospitality and tourism sector.  From coordinating travel to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to arranging private travel arrangements for clients as diverse as Susan Sarandon or the great great grandson of Charles Darwin–Jill’s six years of living and working in Brazil makes her a true insider.

Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Travel Specialists list began as a service travel directory 12 years ago, yet it has turned into a must-have list of the most impressive, knowledgeable, and experienced travel specialists in the world.

Each year, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin leads a team of editors in evaluating applicants.  Listed travel specialists have undergone a rigorous screening process that includes a 47-question application with sample itineraries and client references, then continues with phone interviews and, in most cases, road-testing by Condé Nast Traveler staff.  Perrin receives hundreds of letters annually from around the world reporting back on the trips that were planned by these specialists, and you can read the most recent ones on Wendy Perrin’s blog at perrinpost.com.

About Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler does not accept free travel and accommodations, and its correspondents, as far as possible, travel anonymously.  The result is travel the way consumers experience it — good and bad, with reporting that is fair and honest.  Condé Nast Traveler has a circulation of over 800,000 and is published by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

Click here to read the reviews of Jill’s client’s trips!

[email protected]

Phone: (973) 783-2277
Toll Free in USA and Canada: (888) 462-7428

Call Jill for custom designed itineraries to Brazil and expert travel planning.

Villas de Trancoso – Bahia, Brazil

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Overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Brazil, Villas de Trancoso offers guests superb private luxury accommodations that are sophisticated, exquisite and perfectly idyllic.  Look no further for a perfect honeymoon or relaxed week long retreat, Villas de Trancoso succeeds on every level.

Each of the 5 one and two bedroom luxury villas is surrounded by lush gardens with access to a white marble pool, alfresco dining restaurant, and pristine beach area with shaded palms, showers and lots of comfortable furnishings and cushions.

 
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Each Villa has its own private deck or outdoor lounge and spacious bedrooms as well as  bathrooms furnished with rare and exotic Brazilian hardwoods.  Other amenities include beds draped in mosquito nets, Direct TV, DVD, CD players, cordless phones, refrigerators, safes and of course air conditioning.

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Villa Sky is a dramatic two story villa with dining and entertainment on the first level and the master suite on the second level.  In the center of the home is an atrium that rises to a glass skylight on the second level. From the master bedroom one can gaze into a star filled sky throughout the night.
Water sports, boating, fishing, diving, hiking to secluded beaches, horse back riding and access to Trancoso’s world class Terra Vista Golf Course are just some of the many activities available.  There is also a health and fitness centre, personal trainers, cycling, kayaking, body surfing and massage.

Villas de Trancoso has one of the areas best restaurants.  Chef Sidnei’s dishes coupled with his caring and attentive staff make dining under the stars and around the pool an unforgettable experience.

According to owner Galen Briggs – “The great thing about being small is we can do exactly what the guest requests.  Our starry nights are amazing!  We have even had guests that asked to sleep under the stars on the beach.  A starry night combined with the soft crashing of waves is a most amazing experience!”

Airport:  Porto Seguro

Facilities: Swimming pool,  golf, horse back riding, health and fitness centre, personal trainers, cycling,  kayaking, body surfing, massages.

Weather: All year round destination

 Reservations: Contact Jill

Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort – Santa Catarina, Brazil

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Located on Brazil’s stunning emerald coast, Ponta dos Ganchos offers the ultimate in romance and world class sophistication.   The 25 private bungalows afford guests with sweeping views of the sea, each one decorated in lush, rustic and refined style featuring Brazilian hardwood and natural stone.
Each bungalow comes with luxury linens, fireplace, state of the art music systems, internet connections and flat screen TVs.  Most bungalows also feature private plunge pools affording the spectacular views of the emerald sea below.

 
Romantic and private dinners may be enjoyed on your own private island illuminated by tropical torches and serenaded by a guitarist or simply by the gentle lapping waves.   All meals are included in the packages and are served at any hour of the day.    Casual lunches and gourmet evening meals are served in the tri-level Beach Restaurant.  The contemporary regional cuisine features freshly caught fish, prawns, oysters and mussels.  The extensive wine list features over 250 labels including Chilean, Brazilian, Portuguese and Argentinian wines.

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Scuba diving in the Marine Reserve of Arvoredo as well as chartered schooner cruises and sailing are available.  Guests have use of all resort amenities including heated indoor pool, fully equipped fitness room, an oceanside tennis court, billiard game room, kayaks, canoes and laser dinghies, ecological trails and running track and a secluded beach for swimming and snorkeling. The resort also has an on-site cinema with a library of 300 films for guests enjoyment.

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Wedding packages are available.  Packages include 02 massages or Dior Spa Treatments, hairdresser and manicure, make-up artist, wedding ceremony on the island, Veuve Clicquot champagne, dinner on the island, breakfast served in the bungalow the next day, live music – guitar and violin, and red rose bouquet.

Jill can also arrange one of Brazil’s top wedding photographers to capture the magic of your special day.  Most recently  photographer Lauro Maeda photographed the gorgeous wedding of Donald Graham and Ingrid Schau at Ponta dos Ganchos.

Ingrid and Donald Wedding picture

 

Reservations: Contact Jill

Closest Airport: Florianopolis International Airport, 50-min drive

 

 

Conde Nast Traveler – Top Travel Specialist

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JILL SIEGEL, OF SOUTH AMERICAN ESCAPES NAMED

ONE OF THE WORLD’S TOP TRAVEL SPECIALISTS

BY CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER

MONTCLAIR-Based Travel Specialist One of 128 Travel Specialists

Named to Condé Nast Traveler World’s Top Travel Specialists List

MONTCLAIR, NJ – AUGUST 2008– JILL SIEGEL/SOUTH AMERICAN ESCAPES has been named one of the world’s 128 Top Travel Specialists by Condé Nast Traveler magazine.  By combining first hand experience and years of knowledge, the travel specialists named to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2008 World’s Top Travel Specialists list provide their clients with the most up-to-date, exclusive information out there.  Out of thousands of candidates, 128 made the list this year.

“To be included on the list, travel specialists need to remain ahead of online travel sites, and they need to offer a combination of insider advice, local connections, added value, and special access,” said Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin.

“Working within the Brazilian Travel Industry for the last 26 years has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience and I am honored to be recognized by Condé Nast Traveler for being one of the world’s top travel specialists,” said Jill Siegel.

South American Escapes focuses on that special, exclusive out of the way place that provides the very best in the Brazilian hospitality and tourism sector.  From coordinating travel to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to arranging private travel arrangements for clients as diverse as Susan Sarandon or the great great grandson of Charles Darwin–Jill’s six years of living and working in Brazil makes her a true insider.

Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Travel Specialists list began as a service travel directory 9 years ago, yet it has turned into a must-have list of the most impressive, knowledgeable, and experienced travel specialists in the world.

Each year, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin leads a team of editors in evaluating applicants.  Listed travel specialists have undergone a rigorous screening process that includes a 47-question application with sample itineraries and client references, then continues with phone interviews and, in most cases, road-testing by Condé Nast Traveler staff.  Perrin receives hundreds of letters annually from around the world reporting back on the trips that were planned by these specialists, and you can read the most recent ones on Wendy Perrin’s blog at perrinpost.com.

About Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler does not accept free travel and accommodations, and its correspondents, as far as possible, travel anonymously.  The result is travel the way consumers experience it — good and bad, with reporting that is fair and honest.  Condé Nast Traveler has a circulation of over 800,000 and is published by Condé Nast Publications,cntraveler-cover Inc. 
 

Exclusive Hideaway Beach Villa – Trancoso, Bahia – Brazil

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With a privileged location on a bluff overlooking the sea, this spectacular private villa was designed by Robert Novogratz  to reflect Trancoso’s laid back atmosphere and lifestyle.  Secluded and private, the large interior spaces all open to the breathtaking natural landscape that surrounds the villa.

Sip caipirinha’s poolside, horseback ride on the beach or walk to Trancoso’s famous Quadrado to enjoy the hip boutiques, restaurants and impromptu musical performances and parties.  You will never want to leave this place.


villa-ocean-views
villa-trancosoThis hideaway sleeps 12 guests comfortably and is ideal for a large family.
Includes: 4 air conditioned Bedrooms with private decks, large living and dining rooms, flat screen TV / DVD room with A/C, modern kitchen, poolside bar, swimming pool, CD player, 6 bathrooms, 5 showers and English Speaking Housekeeper.

 

 

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villa-poolPlease contact Jill for availability and prices. (Daily, weekly and Christmas rates available)

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro

 

Pousada do Quadrado – Trancoso, Bahia Brazil

pousada-do-quadradoLocated on the historic square in the tiny seaside village of Trancoso, Pousado do Quadrado offers the perfect escapes for those seeking privacy and comfort surrounded by luch tropical gardens and only steps away from some of the best beaches in Brazil.

In 2001, internationally renowned Brazilian designer Sig Bergamin took time out from transforming the Hamptons homes of the rich and famous to completely refurbish and redesign the interior of Pousada do Quadrado.

 

pousada-do-quadrado-veranMixing furniture and materials typically Bahian with touches of South East Asia, he created an eclectic and relaxing atmostphere that some have called the most beautiful pousada on the Bahian coast.
The pousada’s chef, Leticia Pimenta, has become a local celebrity in her own right earning high quadrado-deckmarks for serving the best Bahian cuisine in the region.

Rooms: 2 duplex apartments with verandas, 11 suites

Services: Restaurant do Jacaré

Activities: Local shopping on the square, beach swimming, beach excursions, horse back on the beach, kayaking

Rates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro

Etnia Pousada – Trancoso, Bahia – Brazil

etnia-maroccos-suite etnia-overviewLike stepping into an exotic edition of Architectural Digest, each of Etnia’s five bungalows will transport you to a different far off land.  Step into the Arabian Nights in the Maroccos Suite or lose yourself in the African inspired Tribal Suite.  If you prefer the local Brazilian flavor, the Trancoso Suite’s rustic style will feel like home.

Surrounded by banana, mango and Pau Brasil trees, Etnia Pousada enjoys a unique location.  Close enough to Trancoso’s Quadrado to enjoy festive Brazilian nights and close enough to the ocean for an early morning dip before breakfast.
etnia-poolA modern swimming pool surrounded by a wooden sun deck is the perfect place to enjoy your afternoon snack or a light meal.  Take a yoga class in the afternoon or luxuriate with a relaxing massage in the Etnia Therapy Center.

Services: Restaurant, pool and bar, antique boutique shop

Activities: ocean or pool swimming, horse back riding, eco-tourism, boating
etnia-chair-detailRates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro

Estrela d’Agua, Trancoso – Bahia, Brazil

estrela-entranceestrela-dagua-ocean-viewAchieving a perfect balance between sophistication and informality, Estrela d’Agua is a tranquil ocean front retreat surrounded by 20 kilometers of pristine beaches, cliffs and natural pools.  Suites and tastefully appointed bungalows are built around Brazilian tropicalismo singer Gal Costa’s former beach home.

Enjoy long lazy hours beach combing, swimming, fishing or just curling up in a hammock on a sun drenched verandah.  The muted natural tones of the airy interiors counterpoint the vivid colors of the tropical gardens.  Estrela’s native chef will indulge you in divine cuisine prepared from fresh local produce including fantastic seafood from an abundant daily catch.  In the evening stroll to the village “Quadrado” and join in the nightly festivities.

estrela-verandahRooms: 14 Suites, 2 Master Suites, 2 Bungalows w/minibar, TV, telephone, air conditioning, verandah and hammocks.

Services: 2 pools, gardens, verandah bar and beach bar, massage, gym and internet.

estrela-cabanaActivities: Boating, Horse back riding, ultra-light flying, tennis, golf course, eco-tours through the Atlantic Rainforest, boat tours to Espelho and Curuipe beaches.

Rates: Contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro