We met Lauren at her home and boutique accommodation, Casa Bromelia. The first thing that struck me was the genuine warmth of Lauren’s greeting – ‘Hey girls! I’ve been expecting you! Please, come in!’ – as she ushered us inside her gorgeous haven. It’s one of those places where you want to stop and look at everything and I couldn’t help but think, how do people do interior design so well? ‘When I arrived here, the place needed plenty of work done,’ Lauren reveals. ‘So I went ahead and reformed everything. The floors were scrubbed clean of a layer of wax and I found these original wooden designs underneath. The door frames, window frames, even the door handles are all original. The rest of the decor I designed myself, drawing my inspiration from the tropical beauty of Rio.’
So that’s how she does interior design so well. It’s clear though that she has a great eye for what works and what doesn’t. All the furniture and fittings each have their own intriguing story and the brightly coloured walls, exotic plants, and tropical-inspired paintings bring the vibrancy of Rio to the inside. Casa Bromelia is an exclusive boutique with three unique bedrooms in addition to offering a travel concierge service and a jaw-dropping swimwear range. Seeing the swimwear made me want to play dress-up for the rest of the afternoon but we were on a special purpose. We had come to check out one of Lauren’s local-inspired tours.
As part of the concierge service, Lauren offers tailor-made tours for individuals or groups of people that want to experience Rio as a local with someone that knows the city like the back of their hand, speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish and French, and has that remarkable ability to connect with locals, expats and travellers in a way that instantly makes anyone feel comfortable and at home. We decided we want to check out the ‘A Day as a Local’ tour and get a feel for what it’s like to be Brazilian in Rio as well as check out some pretty off-the-beaten-track spots in the city.
Our first port of call was the local padaria (Brazilian bakery), which was an excellent beginning as I was famished. After explaining the different foods on display in the wide, glass-walled counters, we ordered whatever tickled our fancy and sat down for a hearty brunch of coxinhas, acai, freshly squeezed fruit juice, and a large cup of classic Brazilian coffee for me. Lauren kept the whole atmosphere lively and engaging, chatting happily away with us and the amused looking staff (that was our fault. We were excitedly taking millions of photos, filming the food, and creating boomerang images of what, to them, is simply daily snack and breakfast items). After feeling sufficiently full and satisfied, we took the metro, as thousands of Brazilians do every day, to the huge outdoor market, Uruguaiana Market.
Now, for those that are new to Rio and don’t speak the local lingo, Uruguaiana Market can be an overwhelming medley of stalls and persistent sellers, all thrown together in a what feels like a warren made by a crazed rabbit. Yet Lauren guided us around, pointing out interesting stalls, wonderful products, engaging with friendly locals, and introducing us to exotic fruits such as the
This is goiaba (guava in English). It’s so pretty! I personally love the thick jelly-type paste version – known as goiabada – which is popular in Brazilian and eaten with a mild, white cheese. This combo is known as Romeu e Julieta. I love it in its purest form as a slab of white cheese with a layer of guava jelly on top (I am so hungry now just thinking about this!) but Brazilians are really creative with this combination and you can find it in cheesecakes, truffles, pies, mousses, as a filling in tapioca, and even mixed with pao de queijo!
If you’re wondering how to prepare for the trip to Uruguaiana market, then Lauren has all your answers. In the video below, she gives a run down of some top tips on what to wear to Uruguaiana market, what to bring, and gives a little more insight into how long her tours last for.
Lauren expertly guided us down hidden paths and winding corridors in Uruguaiana until we stepped out into a quieter street in the city
We wandered around some more, checking out nearby cathedrals and architecture. When I asked about the flow and schedule of her tours, Lauren explained, ‘I take my tours out with a loose plan of what we will do. We have some points to cover and a theme, but ultimately, I want people to have a great time and really feel the local experience. If we are having a great time at one point, we will stay there and really enjoy it. If people are like, this is great but I think I’d like to move on, then we simply move on. I keep my tours as flexible as possible whilst still following the structure that drew people into doing the tour in the first place.’
What about duration? ‘Normally my tours are about three hours. Yet it’s not unheard of for them to go on for four, maybe even five hours when we are really having a great time,’ she smiles. ‘People love the samba tour for example, and that can sometimes finish longer than expected. But that’s fine. As long as they are happy, I’m happy.’
The samba tour is one of Lauren’s most popular experiences. Guests start at the wonderful Casa Bromelia for homemade caipirinhas and to test out a few samba moves within the cozy, private comfort of the home. Later in the night, the tour moves to an underground samba place where guests can have a truly Brazilian experience by taking part in a street party where usually only Brazilians go to enjoy local music in the balmy evenings of Rio’s outdoors.
Back to our tour, after a stroll around the city centre we end up at Casa Cave to finish the tour with a chat and cake, a perfect way to wrap up what had been a wonderfully enlightening and fun excursion. Having lived in Rio for about four years, I felt pretty clued up on what to do and what to see in Rio. Yet Lauren surprised me by revealing paths in Rio that I hadn’t yet trodden down and I left the tour with a new appreciation for the city. Lauren’s passion for Rio shone and sucked me in, reminding me why I moved here in the first place. The tour didn’t feel at all touristy and didn’t just scratch the surface of Rio – it dove straight into its heart and revealed the culture here that I simply love.
Lauren is the owner of Casa Bromelia. She offers boutique accommodation in the heart of Ipanema, Rio’s trendiest
So how do you get in touch with the lovely Lauren? Send her a message through her website or Facebook page. Alternatively, you can contact us and we will pass on the message for you. If you contact Lauren or book any of her services, make sure you quote ‘Now in Rio’. Then let us know and we will send you some exclusive information about Rio de Janeiro.
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