nightlife

Cocaine and Crazy Clubs: Nightlife in Brazil

Tips for going out in Rio and São Paulo, from the drink card system to the abundance of coke.

Who’s high on coke? Probably this guy at Illumination in São Paulo

Who’s high on coke? Probably this guy at Illumination in São Paulo

When our friends Ben and Derrick visited Brazil, they hit the sights during the day — and decided to hit a few night clubs in Rio and São Paulo at night. They were a bit surprised by what they experienced and offer the following advice about what to expect from the Brazilian party scene.

Food vendors call out, “Do you want fried cheese, cocaine or meth?”
The massive, multi-floor mosh pit that’s the Week

The massive, multi-floor mosh pit that’s the Week

Cocaine is huge there.

One evening they were at a small bar. “Of the 50 or so people there, 40 of them went to the bathroom to do coke every five minutes,” Derrick tells me.

And it’s all done pretty much out in the open. The drug use was taking place in an antechamber to the bathroom. “You could straight up see everyone doing cocaine,” he says.

“We thought it was just a weird byproduct of this bar,” Ben says. “But it was not.”

At the big clubs, guys stood in front of the restrooms dealing drugs. “They do it in the open,” he says. “No one’s making any effort to hide it.”

A lot of the food vendors near the beach were also drug dealers. They’d call out, “Do you want fried cheese, cocaine or meth?”

A gay bar in the Bela Vista neighborhood in São Paulo

A gay bar in the Bela Vista neighborhood in São Paulo

It’s a late-night party culture — and the clubs are insane.

One of the things that surprised them is that most bars don’t even open until 11 p.m. and close at 5 a.m.

There aren’t many small bars where you can grab a drink in the afternoon or evening, aside from some cafés or the few establishments that cater to tourists.

Galeria Café in Rio

Galeria Café in Rio

Ben and Derrick went to a party at a massive discotheque called the Week. “There must have been 10,000 people over five floors,” Derrick says. “You could hear it from blocks away.”

“Which was good,” Ben chimes in. Their Lyft driver pulled into a dead end on a mountain road and said they had arrived. They were able to follow the music, though, and headed down the hill to the club entrance.

The Week in Rio, where pretty much everyone’s high on coke

The Week in Rio, where pretty much everyone’s high on coke



Tips for Going Out in Brazil

  • Don’t bring your passport or driver’s license. A copy of one of these forms of ID is sufficient. Have this ready or they won't let you in. Playing the dumb American card won’t work.

  • Once inside the club you'll be asked to pay a cover fee. This varies, but for the night they went to the Week it was $12. If you're also drinking, you’ll get a consumption card, which acts as your bar tab. You don’t settle your bill until you’re ready to head out. Once you’ve paid up, you'll receive a stamp — which you need to show to the bouncer before you can leave.

  • Even the smaller bars charge $5 to $10 as a cover. “Because people come in and do a ton of cocaine and don’t drink a thing,” Derrick explains.

With this in mind, should you find yourself out in a club late at night in Brazil, raise your glass and remember to say, “Tim-tim!” –Wally

17 Surprising Things About Brazil

From the bizarre beach culture of Rio to the urban sprawl of Sao Paulo, here’s a list of things that will shock you about Brazil travel.

The girl (and boys) from Ipanema Beach in Rio

The girl (and boys) from Ipanema Beach in Rio

“What drew you to Brazil?” I asked first off. I’m always interested in knowing what draws people to destinations. The exoticism of Southeast Asia and Morocco appeal to Duke and me, but we have yet to visit South America together.

“Cheap airfare,” my friend Ben replied without a moment’s hesitation. He and his boyfriend Derrick subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights, a mailing list that informs you of airline deals. It’s well worth paying $30 a year for the premium version.

(I signed us up, and we’ve already received a few emails that have inspired us try to figure out a creative way to use a long weekend.)

Derrick and Ben share their experience of traveling to Brazil

Derrick and Ben share their experience of traveling to Brazil

Brazil is a study in extreme contrasts. You have poverty and wealth, beauty and squalor, all of these opposing forces, in a very small space.

Ben pointed out that within 24 hours of booking, airlines are required by law to refund your money, unless it’s within seven days of the flight. So you call jump on a good price — and back out the next day if you’d like.

“We booked three trips almost immediately: Japan, Brazil and Spain,” he said, “And it all cost less than our trip to Australia the year before.” The trip to Brazil ran them only about $400.

The botanical gardens in Rio felt like you’re on the grounds of an abandoned plantation

The botanical gardens in Rio felt like you’re on the grounds of an abandoned plantation

Neither of them had been to South America before, and “another upside was that it was their summer and our winter,” Derrick said.

The fellas stayed about five days in Rio and two and a half in São Paulo.

The Selaron Steps in Rio de Janeiro, where Michael Jackson danced in a music video

The Selaron Steps in Rio de Janeiro, where Michael Jackson danced in a music video

They chose a different neighborhood each day, deciding upon a site or two to see — like the steps where Michael Jackson danced in the controversial “They Don’t Care About Us” music video, directed by Spike Lee, for instance — and then wandered around.

Here are their observations about Brazil, a country they found to be more complicated than they ever imagined.

 

1. Rio has a huge beach culture — but hardly anyone lays out or goes swimming.

People flock to the beaches in Rio, where they engage in athletic activities: volleyball, soccer or paddleball.

“But almost nobody goes in the water,” Derrick said. “It’s not the thing to do.”

“People aren’t laying down,” Ben added. “They’re all standing, and maybe sitting a little bit.”

The beaches are very large, but after you walk about five minutes, you’ve got the gist, because it repeats itself, Derrick said.

There’s a pretty black and white tiled path that runs the entire length of the seaside. And all along it, you have different restaurants and vendors, where you can get, say, a 5-pound coconut.

The waterfront is divided into different sectors, called postos. Each is known for different things, Ben says: One might be where the models hang out, one’s where the gay guys are, and another’s for families.

Cachaça vendors can whip you up a caipirinha to go for a few bucks

Cachaça vendors can whip you up a caipirinha to go for a few bucks

2. It’s super cheap to drink in Rio.

By the sidewalk are the officially sanctioned snack kiosks, but as you go 100 yards or so onto the sand, you get unofficial tents setups, or guys with insulated backpacks peddling fried cheese, beer and drugs. A lot of people had caipirinha-making kits, and you could buy a drink from them for $3.

A bottle of cachaça, a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice that’s the national drink of Brazil, could be bought at a store for $2.

Christ the Redeemer towers above Rio. Sometimes he looks like he’s in Heaven

Christ the Redeemer towers above Rio. Sometimes he looks like he’s in Heaven

3. Christ the Redeemer could be lost in the clouds.

When Ben and Derrick went, the 125-foot-tall statue of Jesus that overlooks Rio atop Mount Corcovado was shrouded in fog the entire time they were there. Be sure you take advantage of a clear day and see the sites that are on the 1,000-foot-high rocky outcroppings above the city.

The 125-foot-tall statue stands atop the massive granite dome of Corcovado hill and, since its erection in 1931 has become one of the most famous landmarks in the world.

You take an incline railway up Corcovado. “As we were going up, we were like, still nice, still nice — and then, bam! Fog,” Ben says.

It killed them a bit that they couldn’t get the iconic money shot — but to make themselves feel better, they joked that it was like “seeing Jesus in Heaven.”

The Parque Lage and School of Visual Arts is a gorgeous locale in Rio

The Parque Lage and School of Visual Arts is a gorgeous locale in Rio

4. Brazilians are beautiful — and parade around in next to nothing.

They’ll go from the beach to a food stall, wearing a speedo, shoulder shawl and flip-flops. They all wear Havaianas, the super-trendy, colorful plastic flip-flops created by a Scotsman in 1962.

 

5. But the people aren’t all that friendly.

For a city with a reputation as a party city, Ben and Derrick didn’t find the locals to be that outgoing.

“I’d always been under the impression that Brazilians were super nice, super willing to engage in conversation, that if they recognize an outsider, they’ll talk to them, but that wasn’t the case,” Ben says.

The fellas felt pretty safe wandering around Santa Teresa during the day — but you should always be on your guard with valuables in Rio

The fellas felt pretty safe wandering around Santa Teresa during the day — but you should always be on your guard with valuables in Rio

6. The crime is, unfortunately, as bad as advertised.

When they got to their hotel, they were given cards with the hotel’s contact info and were told to leave their wallet and everything else locked in the room’s safe when they left the premises. “Carry this card and a copy of your passport, and that’s it,” Derrick advised.

They took what money they felt they needed and kept it in their front pockets. “Don’t take out more than you can afford to lose,” Ben said.

“It was a bummer,” he continued, “because I love taking pictures, and my go-to mode is walking around with my camera. Everything I read said, take a photo and then put your camera away immediately in a nondescript bag.

“One afternoon we went out, and within five minutes of leaving the hotel, this guy tapped me on the shoulder and told me, ‘You need to put that away. Don’t have it out,’” Ben said.

He did feel fine using a cellphone as a camera, though. Just don’t draw too much attention to yourself, he added. Expert tip: Use your work phones — just in case they do get stolen, heh heh.

A lot of banks don’t even let you access their interior ATMs after 8 p.m. because of the fear that people will force you to withdraw money, Ben said.

Derrick moved the money he planned to spend on the trip from his checking account into a savings account.

“There’s definitely a feeling of crime,” Derrick says. Someone told them not to have bags facing the streets because bikers could ride by and swipe them.

Kids beg for money, and it’s the second-highest country in terms of child prostitution, next to Thailand, Ben informed me. (He does his research.)

Both of their Kindles got stolen out of their hotel room — the one thing they didn’t put in the safe.

 

7. Brazil is an extremely sexual country.

Prostitutes are everywhere, especially in São Paulo. “You get propositioned all the time,” Derrick says.

There are bathhouses for days, along with love hotels, similar to those found in Japan.

Take a sky tram up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Helicopter tours are available from here, from which you can see gorgeous views of the entire city

Take a sky tram up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Helicopter tours are available from here, from which you can see gorgeous views of the entire city

8. Rio didn’t get rid of its favelas (the slums built into the hillsides) for the Olympics.

Instead, they’ve had the police go in and take control, Ben said. “It’s like going into a war zone,” he added: police in body armor, SWAT vehicles, guns. They’re trying to drive out the drug dealers and crime lords.

Thousands upon thousands of people live in these communities, and they don’t have running water all the time or reliable electricity.

“They’re very vibrant communities, but are riddled with crime and corruption,” Ben said. The pieced-together shacks are, ironically, very brightly colored and pretty.

“Brazil is a study in extreme contrasts,” Ben said. “You can see the favela as you pass the Maserati dealership. You have poverty and wealth, beauty and squalor, all of these opposing forces, in a very small space.”

Ben and Derrick recommend using a wireless hotspot and rideshare apps to visit spots like Parque Lage and School of Visual Arts

Ben and Derrick recommend using a wireless hotspot and rideshare apps to visit spots like Parque Lage and School of Visual Arts

9. Rideshare companies like Lyft are a convenient way to get around.

Ben and Derrick have found rideshare apps to be a better option in many parts of the world than taxis — some of which can be corrupt. This way, you’re going through an app, your route is mapped out, and no money exchanges hands.

“Brazil is a country where you definitely don’t want to rent a car,” Ben advised. “They have one of the highest rates of traffic fatalities.” (I told you he does his research.)

“Stop signs are suggestions,” Derrick added. “And so are stoplights.”

“There’s a lot of honking and screaming,” Ben said.

The Lapa neighborhood is known for its aqueduct — and boho vibe

The Lapa neighborhood is known for its aqueduct — and boho vibe

10. There are some neighborhoods in Rio you can explore during the day — that turn into wild parties at night.

One day, the boys wandered through Lapa — a neighborhood in central Rio that’s easily identifiable by the aqueduct. Then they took the historic tram up the hill to Santa Teresa, a charming artists’ community. There’s an old mansion that burned down that’s now an art event space.  

Santa Teresa, an arts district in Rio

Santa Teresa, an arts district in Rio

They also checked out Lapa at night, and saw about 300 people hanging out in the Shell gas station parking lot. This is known as the bohemian and samba district. “People are dancing right in the streets. It’s mayhem,” Ben said.

Lapa is directly downhill from a favela, and there’s a lot of pickpocketing on weekends.

A local girl told them that she survived Carnaval without getting anything stolen cuz she had a fanny pack that she wore under her clothes.

“While I’m sure that tourists are more targeted, it also happens to Brazilians,” Ben said.

Marmosets crawl along power lines all over the city

Marmosets crawl along power lines all over the city

11. You’ll see monkeys running around everywhere in Rio.

They’re marmosets and they’re cute and like to scamper over power lines. From Ben and Derrick’s experience, they’re didn’t seem dangerous.

Aside from good restaurants and a cool museum, São Paulo doesn’t have a whole lot to offer

Aside from good restaurants and a cool museum, São Paulo doesn’t have a whole lot to offer

12. There’s not a lot to do in São Paulo.

Despite being the most populous and geographically largest city in all of South America, São Paulo doesn’t offer much for the tourist, according to Ben and Derrick.

“Unless you want to eat really good food and drink really well, there’s not a lot to do during the day,” Ben explained.

Of course, they did find a couple of cool museums to explore: MASP (Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand) and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo.

Altarpiece No. 1-3  by Hilma af Klint at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

Altarpiece No. 1-3 by Hilma af Klint at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo

13. São Paulo is like the gritty parts of New York — but without the visual appeal.

It’s one rundown, dirty storefront after another, Ben said. Mile after mile of urban sprawl.

They would be walking around and feel safe, and then turn onto a street that felt super sketchy. It was block-by-block.

 

14. There’s a shoe shine scam to watch out for.

In a scam that’s even used here in Chicago, a man will approach you, squat down and smear something all over your shoes. “It looked like a brown sugar mixture,” Ben said.

Then the man will make a big deal about the mess will start to clean it up — wanting, of course, to be paid about $30 for his trouble.

When this happened to the fellas and they declined, the man stood there, cursing them out.

What’s for dinner? Lots of meat — but hopefully not a capybara

What’s for dinner? Lots of meat — but hopefully not a capybara

15. The cuisine consists of lots of meat and lots of beans.

Beef, cow, goat and seafood are omnipresent. Vegetables? Not so much.

You might want to try a dish Brazil is famous for: feijoada, a stew loaded with different types of slowly braised meat that takes five days to make.

The urban sprawl of São Paulo

The urban sprawl of São Paulo

16. Distances can be deceptive in São Paulo.

You can look at a map and think, That’s not too far away — and it’ll end up being an hour Lyft ride, Derrick explained.

Ben’s friend told him that it takes about three hours to drive from one end of the city to the other.

The Luz Railway Station in São Paulo

The Luz Railway Station in São Paulo

17. Overall, Brazil is a difficult country to navigate.

Ben and Derrick have traveled all over the world — and they found Brazil to be one of the more confusing countries. “If you don’t know somebody, if you’re not part of a tour group, if you don’t travel a lot, or if you’re not street smart, it definitely requires a higher level of awareness,” according to Ben.

“In a lot of ways, our trip to Brazil was unremarkable. Brazil is really about being in the moment, taking advantage of what’s there,” Ben said.

“Yah, if you’re a person who likes to go go go, or go out at a reasonable hour, Brazil’s not the place for you,” Derrick concluded. –Wally

Girls Trip to Tulum, Mexico

The best restaurants, bars and things to do in this Riviera Maya hotspot.

Girls gone wild! What a day in the sun (and too many margaritas) can inspire you to do in Tulum #freethenips

Girls gone wild! What a day in the sun (and too many margaritas) can inspire you to do in Tulum #freethenips

It was the picture of a line of topless girls on the beach (seen from behind) that really got me.

I asked my former colleague and friend Megan if she’d be willing to write up a post about her trip to Tulum, Mexico. When I visited about 15 years ago, it was a sleepy getaway from Playa del Carmen, popular with backpackers and yoga enthusiasts. Then the Hartwood came.

The water is so vibrant it practically burned my retinas. We took to the ocean immediately and dove in and out of the waves, channeling our inner mermaids.

Megan really captured the spirit of the coastal town that has grown up so rapidly in the past decade. –Wally

Megan, a swinging single having a blast in Tulum

Megan, a swinging single having a blast in Tulum

Paradise Found

After spending weeks resisting responding to a chain of emails with the subject “February girls trip to Mexico!!!” I gave in and bought a flight on New Year's Eve. I didn't think I really wanted to go to Tulum with 10 girls I didn't know, but I'm easily persuaded by champagne. The girl organizing the trip was a close friend of mine, but everyone else was either an acquaintance or someone I'd never met.

The amazing Airbnb the girls found in Tulum (the hot neighbor was an added bonus)

The amazing Airbnb the girls found in Tulum (the hot neighbor was an added bonus)

Fast-forward to February 2018, and we descend upon Tulum from every corner of the U.S. and Europe (thanks to The Organizer having friends in California, Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia, Illinois and Germany). We rented a wicked Airbnb with a pool, two kitchens and a really hot next-door neighbor who was sunning himself in the communal pool upon arrival (we aptly named him Mexican Jesus, to give you a visual). We all decided we like this place and I decided these girls are probably pretty cool after all.

Photos can’t fully capture the cerulean beauty of the Caribbean

Photos can’t fully capture the cerulean beauty of the Caribbean

Setting sight on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula after a grueling 12-hour trek from L.A. was when Tulum really hit me. The water is so vibrant it practically burned my retinas. We took to the ocean immediately and dove in and out of the waves, channeling our inner mermaids. Tulum has a spectacular natural landscape, with lush jungle on one side and wild cerulean ocean on the other. Pictures can't do it justice.

The girls hunkered down at Aura beach club all day, then changed into their party dresses for nights on the town. Look closely: You can see one of the gals flirting with a hot Spaniard

The girls hunkered down at Aura beach club all day, then changed into their party dresses for nights on the town. Look closely: You can see one of the gals flirting with a hot Spaniard

It didn't take us long to figure out that getting cabs with 10 girls was a nightmare. As dope as it was, our house was far from the beach bars and clubs Tulum is known for. We managed by taking everything we needed for the day and night to the beach with us to minimize our commute and maximize drinking time. We spent most of our days bunkered out at the beach club our Airbnb host recommended, Aura. It wasn't anything too fancy, but it was run by three tattooed Spaniards who brought us an endless supply of margaritas and giggles, so we were happy.

Not a bad place to spend your days…

Not a bad place to spend your days…

Megan's Best of Tulum

The tasty ceviche at La Zebra, washed down with a great local IPA

The tasty ceviche at La Zebra, washed down with a great local IPA

Top Restaurants

La Zebra Hotel: Gorge views, great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, even if you're not a guest.

Hartwood: Wood-fired restaurant with hyperlocal fare. Dinner only.

 

Top Places for Drinks

Gitano: Chic jungle restaurant. Slip on a sexy dress and be ready to dance.

Papaya Playa: Good old-fashioned beach party, from what I remember (not much).

when you happen upon the perfect daybed in the jungle #elevatedlounging

A post shared by Megan Dawson (@megpandawson) on

Top Pool

Casa Malca: Pablo Escobar's old digs turned funky-sexy hotel. Great photo op.

Seven girls swim into a cave… No trip to Tulum is complete without an exploration of the limestone sinkholes called cenotes

Seven girls swim into a cave… No trip to Tulum is complete without an exploration of the limestone sinkholes called cenotes

Top Things to Do

Tulum ruins and cenotes with Sergio: Private tour of the beachfront Maya temple complex and limestone sinkholes in an air-conditioned van stocked with snacks and beer with the coolest local.

Biking along the beach strip: So much more efficient than taking cabs and also a fun way to explore.

Mayan Clay Spa: Get a mud treatment at this spa — it's insane. They massage warm mud into your whole body, including your face and hair, and then you rinse it off in an outdoor shower in the jungle.

Go glamping! Megan peeks her head out of her “tent” at Nativus Tulum

Go glamping! Megan peeks her head out of her “tent” at Nativus Tulum

Top Place to Stay

Nativus Tulum: Glamping locale I stayed at for a night when the first round of girls left. You're literally in a tent, but a big nice tent, with a full bathroom that's outside. It's incredible, and they serve an amazing breakfast. Plus it has a private cenote and is on the beach road you'll want to be located on.

Yes, the waters of the Caribbean are delightful — but it’s nice to have a private pool as well

Yes, the waters of the Caribbean are delightful — but it’s nice to have a private pool as well

Top Tips

  • Brush up on your Spanish — you'll need it.
  • Stay within walking or biking distance to the beach.
  • Get to the ruins very early in the morning to avoid crowds (and heat).

 

Favorite Moments

  • Taking the spontaneous topless photo with all the girls after too much sun and too many margaritas.
  • Trying to score weed with Mexican Jesus and failing miserably.
  • Running into my older brother, his husband, and my nephews by complete coincidence.
Tulum has a spectacular natural landscape, with lush jungle on one side and wild cerulean ocean on the other. Pictures can’t do it justice.

Rosa Bonheur, a Friendly Watering Hole in Parc des Buttes Chaumont

One of our favorite bars in Paris, France goes from family-friendly to gay dance party in the course of a day. Plus: the recipe for its signature cocktail!

The charming Rosa Bonheur bar at Buttes Chaumont in Paris, France

The charming Rosa Bonheur bar at Buttes Chaumont in Paris, France

After exploring the hilly parkscape of Buttes Chaumont, our friend and Parisian resident Kent, Wally and I arrived at the “Log Cabin,” which is the congenial and charming wood-beamed pavilion Rosa Bonheur.

The artist Rosa Bonheur has a delightful bar named for her in Parc des Buttes Chaumont in Paris

The artist Rosa Bonheur has a delightful bar named for her in Parc des Buttes Chaumont in Paris

The bar was named after Rosa Bonheur, a successful 19th century animalière (painter of animals) known for her artistic realism. Beatrix Potter she was not: Bonheur was a nonconformist and a celebrated feminist who earned a living as an artist, managed her own property, wore trousers, hunted and smoked.

Bonheur painted lifelike depictions of animals

Bonheur painted lifelike depictions of animals

Lions and horses were among Bonheur’s favorite subjects

Lions and horses were among Bonheur’s favorite subjects

Insider’s Tip: If you want to visit Rosa Bonheur, arrive before 4 p.m., as a fence is put up then and you will have to wait in line to enter.
Later in her life, Bonheur took to wearing trousers and became a feminist icon

Later in her life, Bonheur took to wearing trousers and became a feminist icon

Bonheur bought an estate near the Forest of Fontainebleau and settled there with her lifelong companion, Nathalie Micas (and, after Micas’ death, American painter Anna Klumpke), and her menagerie of animals. She died in 1899 at the age of 77.

 

We grab a bite to eat at Rosa Bonheur — before it turns into a gay dance club

We grab a bite to eat at Rosa Bonheur — before it turns into a gay dance club

The bar is mellow and family-friendly on weekend days

The bar is mellow and family-friendly on weekend days

Cabin Fever

The laidback crowd features a mix of Parisian fashionistas and hip families earlier in the day, giving over predominantly to gay men as evening approaches.

Inside is a full bar and a food counter serving Mediterranean-style tapas. “Round Here” by the Counting Crows played. A little girl plopped herself down at the long table where we sat and began coloring in her book.

After an hour or so, as the afternoon wore into evening, the communal tables were pushed back, families disappeared, and it became a buzzing dance hall. The dance mix began with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” followed by Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine.”

Later in the evening, I observed a couple of flannel-clad and unshaven “lumber gays,” one of whom was animalistically lapping the side of the other’s face.

The whimsical bar at Rosa Bonheur, where you can order tapas and the signature cocktail

The whimsical bar at Rosa Bonheur, where you can order tapas and the signature cocktail

Our drunken friend Michael sized up the crowd with one of his hilarious comments: “There’s a fat man, a gay man and another fat man, who’s probably gay. They all do blow in the bathroom and throw up.”

Wally and Duke in Buttes Chaumont, down the hill from Rosa Bonheur

Wally and Duke in Buttes Chaumont, down the hill from Rosa Bonheur

Insider’s Tip: If you want to visit Rosa Bonheur, arrive before 4 p.m., as a fence is put up then and you will have to wait in line to enter.

One of the signature cocktails we enjoyed was a refreshing elixir made with Lillet Blanc, grapefruit juice and ginger beer called the Rosa Summer. You can also order a chilled bottle of the Rosa Bonheur Rosé, so you don’t have to go back to to the bar as often.

We’ve recreated an ode to this at home, and you can easily make a pitcher of this to serve at your next soirée.

The Rosa Summer, the perfect summer cocktail

The Rosa Summer, the perfect summer cocktail

Rosa Summer

Ingredients

  • ¾ ounce Lillet Blanc
  • ½ ounce grapefruit juice
  • ½ ounce ginger beer

 

Preparation

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except for the ginger beer. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds.

Strain into a cocktail glass and top with a splash of ginger beer.

Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Enough Rosa Summers and you’ll be jumping for joy like Wally and Kent

Enough Rosa Summers and you’ll be jumping for joy like Wally and Kent

Kirsten and Jennifer sit on a bench with interesting graffiti outside the bar

Kirsten and Jennifer sit on a bench with interesting graffiti outside the bar


Rosa Bonheur
2 Allèe de la Cascade
Paris, France

Gambling Advice

Before you hit the casinos in Vegas, these gambling tips could improve your odds. We’d be willing to bet on it.

No matter what your game, we’ve got some tips to help you get started gambling — and they just might help you hit the jackpot

When in Rome…you drink wine and visit ancient ruins.

When in Vegas…you might as well try your hand at gambling. Brandon knows his way around a casino. It’s not all about luck. Here’s his advice.

If you want to win a jackpot, you’ll have to play max bet. And the higher the pull, the better the payout — but the more potential to lose your money quickly.


Brandon cruises the Strip like a badass — but he’s a high roller in the casinos

Start early.

Brandon has a routine that begins early every morning (10 a.m.is early in Vegas) with a trip to the sports bet. Because of the time zone difference, the games are played earlier in Vegas. So he gets his free Jack & Coke, sits at the sports book and places a few bets. He checks back after lunch to collect his winnings, which he’ll then use toward his gambling efforts in the evenings…

 

Remember: high risk, high reward.

For slots, you’ll want to bet between $2-$3 a pull so you don’t lose your money quickly, while still having the potential to win a decent pot.

If you want to win a jackpot, you’ll have to play max bet. And the higher the pull, the better the payout — but the more potential to lose your money quickly.

 

Don't go during prime time.

As for tables, they can be intimidating if you’re not usually a table player. Brandon recommends getting to the tables at an off-hour. That’s basically any time during the day, especially on weekdays. Sunday nights are good, too. Because the tables aren’t busy, the dealers are typically super nice and will show you how to play.

Brandon’s love affair with craps started one Sunday night at a table at the Wynn…

 

Booze it up.

And whenever you’re gambling, remember the drinks are free. While you don’t have to tip, if you leave your server a nice tip, she’ll usually be sure to find you and bring you drinks with better liquor.

 

Good luck — and if you still lose big, please don’t blame us. –Wally

The Ultimate Las Vegas Vacation: The Best Hotels, Shows and Nightclubs

Las Vegas is known as Sin City, but there’s a variety of vacations you can have here. This shot was taken from a room at the Cosmopolitan — the only hotel on the Strip with balconies

Vegas, baby! Before you plan Las Vegas travel, learn the hottest spots in Sin City — and how to score the best deals.

 

The epitome of glamor. That’s the best way to describe Herminia and Brandon. They have a timeless chicness you can’t help but admire.

Many people think of Vegas as Sin City, a destination for debauchery. And while it certainly has its seedier side, turns out there’s much more to it than over-the-top spectacles, legalized prostitution and an obsession with gambling.

Vegas is also a place where you can have a relaxing getaway, go on a foodie adventure, enjoy art installations or even explore the outdoors.

I decided to get to the bottom of Herminia and Brandon’s fascination with Las Vegas. I honestly don’t know if there’s anyone who knows the city as well as they do. Here are their secrets to getting the best Vegas has to offer. –Wally

Herminia and Brandon, the chicest couple on the Strip

 

How often do you make it to Vegas?

We go to Vegas at least once a year, but some years we’ve gone as much as three times. But if Brandon had his way, we’d go every three months… He doesn’t get his way often.


What draws you there time and time again?

Bright lights city, gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire. –“Viva, Las Vegas,” Elvis

What we love most about Vegas is that you can tailor your trip to however you’d like. Most people see it as a party destination, which it most definitely is. But it’s also a place where you can have a relaxing getaway, go on a foodie adventure, enjoy art installations or even explore the outdoors (Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are not far drives). There’s something to do for everyone, with activities to match the theme of your trip and your budget.

We’ve been for a bachelor party (Brandon), a wedding, Halloween, a 30th birthday celebration — those were all very much party trips and a ton of fun, but our favorite trips have been just the two of us. We like to stay at nice hotels, eat fabulous dinners, lay out by the pool, gamble, shop (providing the aforementioned was successful) and of course people-watch. (The people-watching in Vegas is like no other. Because there are so many adventures to be had in the city, there are so many different types of people.)

We have a rhythm when we go, and we’ve been so often that’s it’s not a surprise. We know what to expect, and every trip, the bright lights welcome us back right when we land. Oh, and Elvis. We love Elvis.

What are your fave hotels?

Our absolute favorite hotels are the Wynn and Encore. They’re connected to each other, but the Wynn has a more traditional feel while the Encore is more modern. Both are beautifully appointed five-star hotels, with an amazing crop of restaurants. The pools and spa are top-notch as well. It typically has a slightly older crowd, which means it’s a little more chill (except when XS nightclub empties in the wee hours of Sunday morning).

We also like to stay at the Cosmopolitan. Definitely a younger, more partying vibe, but the hotel rooms are well appointed. And, if you’re Brandon, you can talk your way into a suite with a balcony overlooking the Bellagio fountain show. Fun fact: The Cosmo is the only hotel on the Strip with balconies, since the property was initially built as condominiums.
 

What are the hottest nightclubs and pool parties?

We’re not big clubbers…anymore. But every now and again we can be swayed with a free cover. XS at Encore is beautiful, as it spills out onto the hotel’s pool area. We went for Halloween once and saw DeadMau5 spin.

Hakkasan I think is the latest hotspot on the Strip, and Marquee is an oldie but a goodie as well.

Tip: All you need is to post a photo with #vegas, and all of these promoters will try to get you into any club you want for a better deal — especially if you’re a group of girls.

I personally think pool parties are giant cesspools, so we do not go. But all of the big clubs typically have a dayclub version. Just watch out for heatstroke and gonorrhea.

At the Cosmopolitan, you can have drinks inside a massive chandelier

The Chandelier bar, while not a club, is a great place to get a few drinks. It’s a three-level bar set inside (yes, inside) of a giant chandelier at the Cosmo. At level 1.5, they have a few secret drinks that are fun to order.

Also, you get free drinks at every casino, just for gambling.

What are the best shows?

Our very first trip to Vegas, we went and saw a topless revue because…well, when in Vegas. I don’t think that specific show is on anymore, but it was kind of a fun, kitschy thing to do in Vegas.

The Cirque du Soleil shows are great (there's a Michael Jackson one we’ve been trying to go see), but more and more artists are doing residencies there. So it’s awesome to see who’s on when we’re there. We’ve seen Britney and she’s great, but can’t wait for Backstreet Boys next year (**Herminia currently shrieking with delight**).

Any tricks to score great deals?

We get the best deals from Brandon’s players cards (casino loyalty cards). You can get one at each casino, and you present it when you gamble at the tables or put it in the machines if you’re doing slots. They track your wins and losses and will always invite you back with some great hotel deal. The more you gamble, the better the deals. All the MGM hotels are connected on the same card, and will even offer you credits for any shopping or dining you do on the property as well.

Traveling during the off-season is also great. We usually go at the end of January for Brandon’s birthday. Hotels and flights are typically cheaper. And while the pools aren’t open, everything else is — and not quite as busy. Plus, the weather is always better than Chicago.

 

If there was one thing about Vegas you could change, what would it be?

Never change, Vegas.

Tip: All you need is to post a photo with #vegas, and all of these promoters will try to get you into any club you want for a better deal.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum and Other Strange Delights: Off the Beaten Path Iceland

The buildings in Reykjavik, Iceland are covered with street art

The buildings in Reykjavik, Iceland are covered with street art

 

Some of the more bizarre things to do in Reykjavik include the Big Lebowski Bar, a penis museum and street art tours. Plus: Iceland food, from hakarl to hotdogs with lamb meat.

 

Iceland has never been on our list of places to travel to. We just never really thought about it before. Sure, the Northern Lights sound pretty cool, and who wouldn’t like the chance to randomly run into that delightfully kooky Bjork?

But we’re not fans of cold and were wary of any country with the word “ice” in its name.

They have a penis from every animal, including humans.

So no — we never really considered visiting Iceland. That is, until I chatted with Lindsay and Shaun.

Read the first part of our conversation here, in which they talk about their initial reaction to the surreal landscape and what motivated them to visit, including a spa called the Blue Lagoon and the aforementioned Aurora Borealis. –Wally

Iceland is famous for its natural beauty. But it shouldn't come as a surprise that the country that brought us Bjork also has a quirky side.

 

What was the most surprising thing about your trip to Iceland?

Shaun: One is that there’s graffiti everywhere in Reykjavik. There’s some really cool graffiti.

Lindsay: I’d say like 20% are beautiful murals.

Shaun: Everything else is bad name tags.

Lindsay: We asked our tour guide about it. I thought he’d say, “Yah, it’s a problem.” But no. He was like, “Some people think it’s just graffiti, but it’s really a mural.” I wanted to tell him, “I’m an art director. I know the difference between graffiti and murals.”

Shaun: The other surprising thing is trash. It’s everywhere. I’d get up early in the morning to go to Dunkin’ Donuts — there was one, and I like Dunkin’ Donuts — and the street sweepers do not do a good job. They don’t pick up anything.

I don’t know if they’re allowed to, but people will walk through the streets drinking openly. Glasses from the pubs litter the streets in the morning. And there are beer bottles everywhere.

 

Anything you skipped on your visit?

Shaun: The one thing we didn’t do was the museums because there’s so much natural beauty. I was told the one museum you have to go to is the Icelandic Phallological Museum.

Lindsay: They have a penis from every animal, including humans.

 

That’s one I would have gone in!

What’s the nightlife like?
Lindsay: We didn’t go out out. But we did go to the Lebowski Bar. Twice.

Shaun: The first time we walked in, we didn’t even know what to make of the place. All the tables had “reserved” on them, but I don’t think they were actually reserved. So we went upstairs.

There are themes for different parts of the movie. There’s the Playboy lounge, where there’s a bunch of Playboys on the wall, and the diner. They have a bowling lane on the wall. Sideways, with a bowling ball stuck to it and all the pins.

Lindsay: The bar is covered in the rug.

Shaun: There are awesome Big Lebowski quotes everywhere. Like, “I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock.” I had to explain to Lindsay what that was.

The second time we went, they were playing ’80s movies on the big screen. They were playing Twins. Which we both realized we had never watched, and how ridiculous it is.

And in the front of the bar, they have this giant spinning carnival wheel with various types of white Russians, black Russians, Caucasian Russians…

Lindsay: They have like 15 different white Russians.

Shaun: The wheel would spin and you’d hear everybody screaming.

And this is right down the street from the Chuck Norris bar.

Lindsay: Which we didn’t go in.

 

What was the weirdest thing you saw to eat?

Lindsay: We went into this thinking the food will be terrible. We’re not going to find anything we can eat. And then we came to find out, the Icelandic people don’t actually eat the traditional foods, like fermented shark and whale [hákarl].

Shaun: Seriously, it’s rotting shark.

Lindsay: But we found food we could eat everywhere. It’s very American bar food.

 

Did you learn any expressions?

Shaun: By the end of the trip, we figured out how to say our hotel name. Poorly, but still.

We tried to be like, sound it out. And we’d listen on an app Lindsay downloaded — and it wouldn’t be anywhere close.

The Icelandic language has a kind of bounce to it.

Lindsay: They really pride themselves on their language. They want it to last forever. Even though they do use English a lot more.

We tried to say “thank you.” Our driver to and from the airport said it was “tikka tikka” — but it’s spelled with Ps.

Shaun: That’s what we’re saying — you can’t sound out anything in that country.

 

Any strange customs?

Lindsay: The service is not the same. You don’t pay gratuity. There’s a lot of self-service.

Shaun: If you’re at a restaurant and you order a soda, you go up and get it yourself at the fountain machine — even if it’s sort of in the kitchen.

And no one will bring you a check. You have to go get it.

 

Did you buy some cool souvenirs?

Shaun: They have these big Icelandic wool sweaters, which apparently are the thing you have to buy when you’re there. And then right next to them would be old American hair metal band shirts.

 

Anything else you’d say fellow travelers must experience?

Shaun: I do have to say that if you go to Iceland, you will hear about the hotdogs. [Dramatic pause] Have the hotdogs.

Lindsay: The best hotdogs I’ve ever had in my life.

We read about this hotdog stand in downtown Reykjavik, right near the club district.

They’re mostly made of lamb.

Shaun: In the countryside, they get so excited that it’s lamb season.

Lindsay: For three months, lambs roam pretty much the entire country.

Shaun: They’re so adorable — we make sweaters from them, and then we eat them.

Lindsay: They slaughter them in the fall after they’ve spent the whole summer gallivanting around.

 

Any Bjork sightings?

Shaun: We had a driver who mentioned he once picked up Bjork from the airport.

Lindsay: She was going to a holiday party and she had all the gifts she was giving out on her dress.

Shaun: And he said it took him half an hour to get her and her dress into the cab.