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Weekends Away Without Leaving Home is based on a simple assumption: With a tiny bit of ingenuity and effort, anyone can create a wonderful weekend at home that brings almost as much pleasure as an actual vacation away-without the hassle of flights, foreign currency exchange, or large credit card bills. Compiled by the editors of Conari Press, this entertaining and instructive book features guides to experiencing all the excitement of Brazil, Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, Tuscany, Greece, Morocco, Africa, St. Petersburg, India, China, Thailand, Japan, and Australia--all without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
Each chapter offers suggestions on setting the scene, books, videos, and music for your weekend, and it ends with a complete meal suggestion with recipes. Readers can create a romantic, cozy téte a téte for two, or plan on inviting a whole gang of friends--"either for the entire time, á la pajama party, or perhaps for an afternoon or evening. And while each chapter is structured around a weekend, the book can easily be used to create a theme for a dinner party. Part historical and cultural guidebook, part cookbook, and part party planner, Weekends Away Without Leaving Home provides an unprecedented approach to armchair traveling.
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Read an Excerpt
Weekends Away Without Leaving Home
The Ultimate World Party Theme Book
By Nina Lesowitz, Lara Morris Starr
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2002 Conari Press
All rights reserved.
Welcome to Armchair Adventures!
A WEEKEND away! Who doesn't need such an experience every once in a while? A chance to leave your cares and busyness behind, to see new sights and taste new food, to bask in the ambiance of someplace different, to recharge your batteries and return renewed and refreshed.
But what if you're tired of all the places you can easily get to for a weekend, and your budget can't stretch to include a trip to an exotic locale? Or you are housebound for any number of reasons—small children, illness, out of vacation days at work ...?
Weekends Away Without Leaving Home to the rescue. Among these pages, you will find the makings for fifteen wonderful, rejuvenating weekends away—without ever leaving home or spending a wad of money! With help from this book, you can journey to cities and countries you've always dreamed of visiting, or reexperience the joy you felt when you were able to travel.
Weekends Away Without Leaving Home is based on a simple assumption: That with a tiny bit of ingenuity and effort on your part, you can create a wonderful weekend that brings almost as much pleasure as an actual vacation away—without the hassle of long flights, foreign currency exchange, or large credit card bills.
The editors at Conari Press have selected some of the premier travel destinations in the world for your enjoyment and offer ideas for creating an authentic experience in the comfort of your own backyard. Each chapter was written by someone who either has spent some time in the country or city featured, or has a close affinity to that locale, and reflects the unique sensibility of the author. You can choose a quiet weekend with classical music in St. Petersburg, for instance, or a wild Carnaval theme in Brazil. From organizing a weekend around a Chinese holiday to touring the Tuscan countryside, there is truly something for everyone here.
If you are attracted to a particular locale and the theme doesn't appeal, feel free to pick and choose the elements of the experience that do call to you. Reading the chapter on Ireland, for instance, inspired me to host a weekend party in which people read out loud to one another from the great Irish poets. But I steered clear of the Irish cuisine and opted for Italian instead.
You can design your weekend for a cozy tête-a-tête for two or plan on having a whole gang of friends—either for the entire time, à la pajama party, or perhaps for an afternoon or evening. And while we have structured each chapter around a weekend, you can easily use this book to create a theme for a dinner party or for an entire week by yourself.
No matter the place, the format of each chapter is the same. We first offer suggestions for setting the scene—both in terms of atmosphere and décor, and, in some cases, activities that you might want to indulge in to really get in the mood. Then we move to books that you might want to read, either before the weekend to get ideas for your adventure, or as part of the weekend itself. Suggestions for videos and music follow, and we end by suggesting a meal to prepare as well as cookbooks you might want to look at for other meals.
Putting a Weekend Together
Just as going away requires some planning and forethought, so do our weekends at home. The items we suggest in each category are readily available at thrift stores, libraries, used bookstores, and music and video rental shops. The idea is to make this as easy and low cost for you as possible. Feel free to let your imagination go wild, and substitute anything that appeals you.
The Internet is a treasure trove of resources. A wonderful source for all sorts of international recipes and ingredients that might not be readily available where you live is ethnicgrocer.com. Also check out Epicurious.com and RecipeLand.com. If you are looking to rent foreign films that you can't find at your corner video store, check out 1worldfilms.com. And if you are looking for a great movie database to peruse, log onto imdb.com. Amazon.com not only has a huge selection of hard-to-find books, but also a vast catalog of international music, with free downloads so you can pick and choose just the kind of sound you want.
Above All, Enjoy
No matter where you decide to "go" or what you decide to do, make sure you are having fun. If you hate cooking, do take-out or splurge on going to a couple of restaurants from that country. The point is to break free from the routine of daily life and create a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience. We think you'll like it so much you'll choose to travel without leaving home over and over again!
—M. J. Ryan, for the Editors of Conari Press
Brazen in Brazil
Setting the Scene
MMMM ... Brazil! A place of mystery, music, and dance ... where once a year (at least) the natives lose their minds and bodies in the revelry of Carnaval! A place where you can pair the extremes of nature living wild and free in the Amazon rainforest with the contrast of the cosmopolitan life in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. A place where Catholicism is the na tionally recognized religion, yet Carnaval is one of the most no torious festivals in the world. Yes, Brazil is a true land of wonder, beauty, and paradox.
Brazil was "discovered" in 1500, when Pedro Alvares Cabral arrived there by accident on his way to India. In 1531, King Joao III of Portugal sent the first settlers to Brazil, and in 1534, divided the coast into twelve captaincies. The settlers found the soil to be fertile for growing sugar cane, and proceeded to put the Indians in the area to work as slave labor. During the seventeenth century, African slaves replaced the Indians on the plantations; this was not to last long, however. Runaway slaves developed bands known as Quilomilios who hid until 1888, when slavery was abolished. So the mix of cultures among Africa, Portugal, Europe, and indigenous peoples makes for a beautiful, diverse race.
Brazil is the world's fifth largest country, stretching across almost half of South America, and includes the richly forested Amazon basin. The Amazon contains both the world's largest river (at 3,890 miles) and one of the world's largest forests. The Amazon forest alone contains 30 percent of the world's remaining forests, and largely accounts for the incredible numbers of wildlife thriving in the region. Brazil ranks number one in the categories of species of primates, amphibians, and plants, with insects and arachnids not far behind. Jaguars, spider monkeys, sloths, armadillos, boa constrictors, and anacondas are only a few of the varied species that exist there. Approximately 15,000 species call the Amazon home; this doesn't begin to account for the thousands of fish, birds, and insect life that have yet to be classified! Of course, the threat of extinction is imminent, due to the depletion of the rainforest.
Brazil tends to be hot most of the year. This means, of course, while planning your armchair travel, you should stick with light summer clothing—Brazilians love colorful clothing, with white saved for festivals and parades.
If you're really going to do Brazil as an armchair traveler, your best bet would be to plan a party. Turn up the music, cook lots of food, invite all your friends, and plan to stay up till all hours. And what better Brazilian party to plan than that in honor of one of the most well-known festivals in the world— Carnaval!
Carnaval literally means "farewell to the flesh" in Latin. It begins the Friday before Lent, at midnight. Lent is the fortyday period of prayers and reflection before Easter, in which Catholics are required to give up flesh; in other words, no meat. So who can blame anyone for wanting one big final hurrah? This festival goes on for a period of five days, culminating in a huge celebration on Shrove Tuesday. (Shrove Tuesday, incidentally, has become famous in America and other parts of the world by a more famous name: Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. Today, this tradition has spread to Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad, Tobago, Mexico, Spain, and some parts of Italy. These countries have incorporated their own traditions into the religious theme of Carnaval and have made it their own.)
Carnaval celebrations are held all over Brazil; however, the one in Rio de Janeiro is known to be the most spectacular. Seven million Cariocas (as Rio's residents are called) swarm out to the streets to enjoy the Sambadromo, a tiered street designed expressly for the samba parades. In the Sambadromo, the top samba schools around Brazil get a chance to show their stuff: each band performs for about an hour, while the people dance in the streets. So be sure to include dancing in your lineup of activities, if only in dance videos.
To set the stage for your own Carnaval, think color, color, color! Streamers, beads, feathers, flowers, all in bright, bright colors! Brazilians love color in their festivals, so have as much on hand as you can. Drape colored beads and streamers around doorways. Be sure to have lots of candles available to set the mood. Remember, Carnaval is at its heart a religious celebration, so candles and incense are completely appropriate. To keep the cost down, votive candles are a wonderful option for a party; they burn for two to three hours, leave little mess to clean up, and are inexpensive, too! Most of these items you can find at a dollar store or drugstore in your area.
As a group activity, face and body painting is always fun. Since you shouldn't be wearing much anyway (Brazil is hot, remember), you'll have plenty of skin available for your friends to work on! Non-toxic paint can usually be purchased at a local art store or even a drugstore. While face painting might be fun, masks play an integral part of Carnaval; so why not try making your own? All you need are scissors, construction paper, string (to tie the mask on), and you're set! You can have fun making your own faces, and cutting whatever shapes you'd like your masks to be. At Carnaval, while the people might not wear much, traditionally masks are usually worn to "fool the wandering evil spirits." They're also worn as protection, in case you end up doing something you shouldn't! Remember, as you plan your weekend, Brazilians are known to be a warm-hearted people, always ready to enjoy a festival, a parade, or simply a moment. Imagine away, and enjoy yours!
If you are an art lover, be sure to take a look at Latin American Art, edited by Edward J. Sullivan. It features Brazilian artists such as Victor Brecheret, Candido Portirari, and the noteworthy Anita Mafatti, who inspired the modern art movement in Brazil with her own interpretation of Cubism. It's quite interesting to see Cubism from a woman's point of view, instead of the ubiquitous (albeit wonderful) examples of Picasso's Cubist art.
If you're more interested in reading about the history of Brazil, The Brazilians, by Joseph A. Page, is an excellent read. It tells the story of the true Brazil, once filled with as much violence as beauty. Page begins at the "discovery" of Brazil by Cabral and continues to its ongoing struggles with the modern-day economy.
If a history lesson is not what you're seeking, try Traveler's Tales: Brazil, edited by Haddock & Dogett, in which true stories are told about life on the road, or in the jungle, as it were. A particular favorite of mine is a story called "Alone and Unarmed," by Petru Popescue, a writer who was abandoned by the Mayoreina tribe in the Amazon rainforest. He describes the beauty he sees, in contrast to the fear he feels as he is witness to a struggle for survival. He runs across a baby jaguar who feeds for the first time on live prey. It's quite a counterpoint, as the beauty and the violence in his piece seem irrevocably interwoven. These short stories are ideal to read aloud, since none is longer than eight to ten pages.
In that same vein, Peter Fleming's Brazilian Adventure tells the story of the search for renowned English adventurer Colonel P. H. Fowlett, who disappeared in the jungles of Brazil in 1932. This story is done autobiographically, from Fleming's point of view. Fleming, a well-known editor, takes a year off to travel 3,000 miles with his compatriots through the Amazon jungle, searching for clues to this mystery. Although it was originally written in 1933, it remains a timeless adventure classic.
Samba, by Alma Guillermoprieto, is a firsthand account of life in the favelas (ghettoes) that surround Rio de Janiero. Ms. Guillermoprieto, a dancer and journalist, decided to spend a year in one of these favelas, called Magueira. She tells a fascinating story and relates in full detail the paradox between the poorest citizens of Rio, who are primarily black and who live for this time of year, for the dance; and their white counterparts, who watch and participate for entertainment only. An absorbing and sensual read, Samba gives you a true sense of how important music, song, and dance are to the indigenous people of Brazil.
Trying to get your children excited about Carnaval? I'd suggest Carnaval, written by George Ancona. Beautifully photographed, this wonderful children's book captures the essence of Carnaval in the small town of Olinda, Brazil. With vivid pictures of both adults and children, this book takes you through the preparation the town makes for Carnaval, the actual five days, and the peace that follows on Ash Wednesday, with easily read text. Although this is a children's book, it appealed to me as a "Carnaval for Beginners," because of its simple and straightforward descriptions and explanations. What a great way to get your child excited and involved in your "armchair travels"!
Brazil is such a beautiful place that your imagination can run amok, just as it has for so many directors who have found it a beautiful, natural place to shoot films. Depending on your mood, one of these three films should suit!
Central Station, directed by Walter Salles, was touted as one of the best films, foreign or otherwise, of 1998. Set in Rio de Janeiro, a young boy (played wonderfully by Vinicus de Oliveira) loses his mother in a tragic accident out in front of the Central Station in Rio. He encounters a retired schoolteacher who reluctantly takes an interest in him. The movie takes them on a journey from Rio to the outermost region in Northwest Brazil on a search for the boy's father. A heart-wrenching, beautiful story in every sense of the word, Central Station is a fine film that will appeal to almost anyone.
Tearjerkers not to your taste? 4 Days in September (1997), directed by Bruno Barreto, might interest you. A thriller set in Brazil, this suspenseful film is based on fact. An American ambassador (Alan Arkin) is kidnapped by terrorists and held for four days, while an uncomfortable American consulate decides what his fate should be. Filled with both intrigue and suspense, this Academy Award-nominated film successfully conveys the emotion and frustration Arkin's character feels, caught between the fear of the terrorists and the horror of not being valuable enough to be saved by his own people.
Barreto takes a completely different tack in his newest film, Bossa Nova (2000). This light romantic comedy shows the beauty of Brazil through the eyes of a man, his wife, and a widowed American schoolteacher, played quite wonderfully by Amy Irving, who are involved in a romantic triangle. This film is filled with truly skillful performances, as well as with quirky characters seemingly pulled out from nowhere.
All three of these films are in Portuguese, with English subtitles, but don't let that bother you. Subtitles have improved in the past ten years; these movies are quite easily understood.
The samba is truly a Brazilian original. Developed from a mixture of Spanish bolero and African rhythms, the music (as well as the dance) became popular during the 1930s and has never lost its appeal. The dance originated in Bahia, the northeast province of Brazil, and focuses on both ancient cadences and the rhythmic belly movements of African dance.
Dance and music are impossibly intertwined in Brazilian culture: music is called the dance, and vice versa. Other dances and music sprung from Brazilian soil are the lambada (music influenced by the Caribbean) and the bossa nova. The lambada is still popular today, both as a dance and a form of music, while the bossa nova (inspired by North American jazz) was popular in Brazil during the 1950s and '60s. Nevertheless, the samba will always be considered the national dance music of Brazil!
Excerpted from Weekends Away Without Leaving Home by Nina Lesowitz, Lara Morris Starr. Copyright © 2002 Conari Press. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Welcome to Armchair Adventures!
Brazen in Brazil
A Fling Down Mexico Way
Kicking Up Your Heels in Scotland
Putting on the Green and the Guinness in Ireland
I'd Rather Be in Paris
The Magic of Morocco
A Musical Wonderland in St. Petersburg
Passage to India
Fun and Feasting in China
Romance and Relaxation in Thailand
Journey to Japan
Idling in Australia