tropical Brazilian fruits

From a culinary standpoint, there are many amazing treats awaiting you in Brazil, though you may be too stuffed from cubed meat and cheese appetizers to ever get to the main course!  When dining in Brazil, particularly churrascaria-style, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.  We recommend some method to the madness.  Try to remember where you are in the world.  The agriculture of is astoundingly... errrr, ripe with abacaxi (pineapple), mangos, watermelon - the list goes on.  (Take note, the caipirinha drinks made with freshly mulled passion fruit, abacaxi, or whatever you might be hankering for after a hot sweaty day, are absolutely delicious - see below.)

The downside of all of these tropical fruits and drinks, you ask?  Well, what you need to remember is that these fruits are often kept refrigerated on ice, and any caipirinha you may down will also come with a substantial amount of cocktail ice, composed of water from the region.  Our Brazilian friend from Rio advised us that Foz do Iguaçu is known for its shaky water table which, in turn, can be very sensitive on the old tum-tum.

Just make sure you are smart about things, and that you are well-equipped.  Use bottled water whenever you can, specifically when brushing your teeth, and bring Immodium (or some sort of anti-diarrhea medicine)!  Otherwise, you just may start having waterfalls on your own, and these don’t come with a river-rafting adventure or a cute little quati friend!!

shopping Foz do Iguaçu style

We were pleasantly surprised by the main gift store at Parque Nacional do Iguaçu inside the Cataratas do Iguaçu complex.  Sure, the store sells versions of the same tacky items one might expect from this type of world-famous travel destination.  And yet, we were happy to see that there was some definite quality control going on here.  Both hand-carved wooden statues and high quality embroidered shirts for the nieces and nephews back home are available at affordable prices, of which a portion goes to the conservation of the natural environment all around you!

We especially liked (and purchased) the cool magnets and mugs that featured the park’s animal emblems in a host of retro-inspired designs.  If you are looking to buy some exclusive paraphernalia featuring the park’s most famous residents (quati, jaguars and toucans), you could do a lot worse than the Cataratas do Iguaçu gift shop!

Another great option for shoppers is the fabulous store at the Parque das Aves (see “sights”).  We were not expecting much from the onset, but after 45 minutes of browsing, we both ended up with handfuls of unique and well-priced artifacts, direct from Brazil, for the friends and family back home.  From funky tropical drink mixers to colorful hand-carved jewelry and purses, expect to find some petty unusual stuff here.  And don’t worry, the subject matter is not solely devoted to birds, though they are well represented here you can be assured!

Cataratas do Iguaçu gift shop - Rodovia BR 469 (KM 18), Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, 011 (55) 45 3521-4400,

Parque das Aves - Rodovia BR 469 (KM 17), Foz do Iguaçu - Paraná, 011 (55) 45 3529-8282,

thirsty for something to keep you going, or to slow you down?

When in the mood for a liquid pick me up in Brazil you should certainly take a chance on some of the refreshing guarana soda drinks that are available most anywhere.  The natural stimulant guarana is made from the guarana vine/ tree and is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest.  This little beauty has been cultivated in Brazil in much the same fashion that coffee has been around the globe.  So what makes this stuff so special?  Believe it or not, guarana leaves contain twice the amount of caffeine as found in a single coffee bean!  Guarana Antarctica is the most common brand you will find floating around.  Check it out while on the run; better served cold over ice!

Another Brazilian liquid worth tempting your tongue with is the caipirinha, the “national cocktail” if there ever was one.  Made with sugar and lime, this tasty alcoholic beverage can be mixed with a variety of different local fruits like passion fruit, mango or pineapple.  We managed to sample many different varieties of the spirit while we were in Brazil for about a week.  Having access to so much exotic fresh fruit is certainly a treat in itself, and when you mix one of these with ice cold rum, you get a delicious taste sensation almost like liquid candy!  Not into rum?  Não têm nenhum medo.  There is also a version using vodka referred to as “caipiroska.”  Mixing rum or vodka, there is still one thing to keep in mind.  As sweet and refreshing as these cocktails may be, there is still a load of booze in that darn cup, and they will pack a (tropical) punch!  Make sure you use caution and don’t do anything stupid, like say, drink and explore the rim of the "Garganta del Diablo" at the Cataratas do Iguaçu at the same time!