Your work as a foreign correspondent has taken you to some interesting places. Have there been any hair-raising moments?
One hair-raiser has to be in French Guiana when I took part in their annual carnival masked ball. Women come dressed as the queen of carnival, the Touloulou, and are entirely covered from head to toe in colonial-style costumes so potential suitors don’t know who they are dancing with. I remember taking off my silk, arm-length gloves to send a text message (if you’ve ever attempted to do this with gloves, it’s impossible) and everyone immediately stared as if I’d caused huge offence. Luckily, a mask covered my face, so the subsequent day when I had to conduct interviews they didn’t know it was me who’d insulted the crowd.
Tell us about your life in São Paulo, what made you move there?
The presidential elections were coming up and I had the opportunity to travel from Caracas to interview two-times former president Lula da Silva. Back then it still looked like he was a potential candidate, before he was imprisoned and barred from running. When our meeting was over and the piece filed, I decided to stick around. That was two years ago now. The news hasn’t stopped.
Where do you like to eat and drink in São Paulo?
I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to report on several neighbourhoods in São Paulo as part of Monocle magazine’s retail and dining pages. Santa Cecíia is buzzing at the moment with bars, restaurants and unfussy cafes. Caracol – where the owners are a laid-back team from Rio de Janeiro – has got the dining drinking combination just right. A sweeping bar, decent drinks, DJ-sets and a street food inspired restaurant out back to enjoy the warm southern hemisphere evenings.
If you’ve just arrived, go to a boteco, Brazil’s version of a pub. There’s one on every street corner. Order a beer to be shared in small glass cups and people watch.
Where do you feel happiest?
When I meet someone who reveals a top story idea, unintentionally. Then I keep it secretly to myself while asking more questions. It’s like a light bulb moment that is hard to replicate. There have been times when I’ve frantically scribbled notes on toilet paper in the ladies loo.
Sitting round a table in good company with good wine should never be underestimated. It happens a fair bit I’m happy to say.