How much do you know about Brazil?



How much do you know about Brazil, host of the 2016 Olympics?


Photo: Gabriel Heusi/

Take this fun quiz to find out

1. A Brazilian is…
a. A form of bikini wax
b. A person from Brazil
c. A hair-straightening treatment
d. All of these

2. What’s the capital of Brazil?
a. Salvador
b. Rio de Janeiro
c. Brasilia
d. São Paulo

3. What is the motto on the Brazilian flag?
a. Ordem e progresso
b. Vamos ganhar
c. Hino Nacional Brasileiro
d. Samba!

4. And what does the motto on the Brazilian flag mean?
a. We will win
b. Brazilian National Anthem
c. Dance!
d. Order and progress

5. Brazil is a big country – but how big?
a. World’s tenth largest
b. World’s fifth largest
c. World’s second largest
d. World’s eleventh largest

6. When does the famous Carnival take place?
a. Mid-July
b. Just before Lent
c. On Brazil’s national day
d. Every month

7. In Brazil, it’s illegal to…?
a. Drive with the car windows open
b. Wear anything other than a bikini on the beach
c. Cut down a Brazil nut tree
d. Eat in the street

8. The biggest exporter of Brazil nuts is…?
a. Brazil
b. Bolivia
c. Netherlands
d. South Africa


And the answers…

2-c Brasilia was founded in 1960 to be Brazil’s capital.
6-b The term ‘carnival’ comes from ‘carnelevare’: ‘to remove (literally, ‘raise’) meat, referring to the Christian practice of abstaining from meat during Lent.


10 things you didn’t know about Bhutan


bhutanAs the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge make a brief stop in Bhutan on their state visit to the area, suddenly everyone’s wondering where is Bhutan? Is it the new must-visit holiday destination?

Here’s my mini guide, compiled as from research for a feature I wrote about visiting India and Bhutan for Woman. The Bhutan bit was dropped from the published piece for reasons of space.

10 things you didn’t know about Bhutan

• Bhutan is in the Himalayas, bordering India and China.

• The kingdom of Bhutan was closed to mass tourism until 1974.

• Annual visitors number over 50,000 (compared with India’s 20 million).

• To minimise the impact of tourism, the Bhutanese government insists on pre-planned, prepaid, guided package tours, at a minimum cost of $200 a day, some of which funds free education, healthcare and poverty alleviation.

• Bhutanese people wear national costume. For men, that’s a knee-length robe called a gho. Women wear an ankle-length dress, called a kira, with layered jackets.

• Scarf colour worn by men signifies status. Yellow is for the king; white for ‘commoners’.

• Designer Christian Louboutin is a friend of Queen Jetsun Pema, and utilised the country’s strong craft heritage when he had Bhutanese monks carving wooden-soled shoes

• The country has 13 traditional crafts including fabric weaving, bamboo weaving and iron chain-making.

• TV was banned until 1999.

• Gross National Happiness is used as a measure of economic success.

Want to go?

Responsible Travel has an 11-day group tour from £2,049pp excluding flights. Trailfinders Trailfinders‘ seven-night Highlights of Bhutan tour costs from £1,960pp, plus flights from £480. Audley Travel offers an 11-day Highlights of Bhutan tour from £3,210.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 results


Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.24.37The RSPB has collated and released the results of this year’s public wildlife survey – the world’s largest. Over half a million people took part, spotting over 8m birds.

The sparrow is still in the no.1 spot ( although not in my garden), and the long-tailed tit makes its first appearance in the top 10, due to the mild winter.

My own sightings were fairly typical of where I live. Click here to download regional results to compare your garden with those around you.

Here’s what I saw, with their ranking where I live in brackets:
3 blue tit (3), wood pigeon (4), blackbird (5), collared dove (6), great tit (7), robin (8), dunnock (13), coal tit (18), nuthatch (25).

What is a shamrock?


pp--afw-make-st-patricks-day-card-300x400St Patrick’s Day erupts in a sea of green, sprinkled with shamrocks. But what is a shamrock?

The story is that the druids held the shamrock as a sacred plant because of its three leaves – three being the magic number in druidism. So don’t get confused; it’s not a four-leaf clover.

When St Patrick arrived in Ireland from Wales he used the handy shamrock to illustrate the holy trinity of Christianity.

Show me a shamrock

We most often see the shamrock in illustrated form, not photos, so opinion varies on which plant is the true shamrock.

Trifolium dubium is most widely believed to be the true shamrock. It’s a type of clover, also known as the lesser trefoil, suckling clover, little hop clover or lesser hop trefoil.

shamrock - your shamrock supply for future St Patrick’s Days by buying shamrock seeds: £2.99 for 100 from Cottage Garden Plants Direct.

See more of my gardening writing.


Stand-out show gardens from the Chelsea Flower Show


2016 will be my tenth year covering the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s one of my favourite days at work! I thought I’d revisit some of my favourite gardens from the past five years. Well, not quite the past five as last year, sadly, I had a funeral to attend, so it’s my pick of the best from 2010 to 2014. All photos ©Adrienne Wyper



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Recalling the landscape of Provence, this show garden appears to be sited at the base of a cliff, with a water channel and terraced beds adding to the illusion of height. Olive and pine trees are underplanted with lavender, rosemary, borage and marigolds – all botanicals which are used in the company’s best-selling products.
Awards: Silver Gilt medal

Daily Telegraph

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Steel screens slice through this contemporary gravel garden, inspired by travel with hints of the landscapes of South Africa, the Mediterranean and South America. Open clearings of gravel mingle with densely planted areas, backed by a courtyard area in the shade of a cork oak.
Rusty orange was a refreshing new shade seen this year in many gardens, most often with bronze-toned irises, displayed in big bowls here in The Daily Telegraph Garden as well as the University of Worcester Garden. This warm, coppery hue tones well with rusted metal and wood.
Awards: Best Show Garden, Gold medal


Daily Telegraph

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Exploring the nature of timelessness, this garden is a mix of formal and traditional elements such as yew edging, along with contemporary style, as in the water pipes emerging from a lemon wall. The planting is designed with self-seeding in mind, suggesting an evolution of the garden’s appearance over time: what was, is, and will be.
Award: Best Show Garden


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A fresh take on a traditional kitchen garden, this is a relaxing space that’s very productive. In just one corner of one of the willow-walled raised beds are lettuce, coriander, lavender, with climbing roses and climbing courgettes scrambling together up an obelisk. The design is framed by pleached trees, with a central pool for filling your watering can. At the rear is a glass platform sheltering a seating area beneath.
Award: Silver-Gilt Flora medal


Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust


The warm tones of this garden’s planting are offset by the fresh green foliage and cool blue-toned water feature, supplied by a shallow rusted-metal rill.

Designed to offer a series of views, contained by cedarwood frames, the garden appears as a series of snapshots.
Award: Gold medal



Evoking the natural beauty of wild places in the British countryside, this design features perennials, meadow flowers and grasses arranged around a central Chilmark limestone pool, with copper detailing inspired by the mineral wealth of North Wales and Dartmoor. A natural-looking stepping stone walkway leads to a casual seating area. The whole is framed by a stand of birches.
Award: Gold medal


RBC Blue Water Roof Garden

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An urban rooftop garden, this design blends recreational space with wildlife-friendly features.The garden includes a striking living wall of flowerpots, which need no watering, with insect shelters built into the wall. A central ‘wetland’ area captures rainwater run-off. Among the planting are bright blue Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis).
Gold Medal

Trailfinders Australian Garden

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Showcasing sustainable landscaping, this garden focuses on water management and natural habitat gardening.

All of the garden’s surfaces channel rainwater into a tank and a billabong, intended as a natural swimming pool. When the water tank is full, the overflow is directed into a creek which flows into the billabong.

The striking terracotta-coloured space is a studio, with a design based on the waratah flower.
Award: Best Show Garden


A Garden for First Touch from St George’s

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This garden’s watercourse, encased in weathered metal, represents the journey that premature babies and their families follow. The source at the top of the stylised valley is turbulent but then the flow becomes gentler. The garden is planted mainly in soothing blues and greens, set in pale gravel.
Award: Silver-gilt Flora


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Designed as a series of defined layers, the layout is cool and contemplative with natural elements in a geometric setting. The garden features vivid lemon and lime shades with plants including Euphorbia palustris and E cornigera, lemon Lupinus ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Cashmere Cream’ and Geum ‘Lemon Drops’.
Best Show Garden, Gold medal




Shakespeare’s paper trail


This year, it’s 400 years since Shakespeare died and from February 3 until May 29, his last known work – his signature on his will – is on display at By Me, William Shakespeare, A Life in Writing. It’s a once-in-a-generation chance. After the exhibition, the will goes back into storage.

The will is famous, of course, for that bequest of his second-best bed to his wife.


The exhibition includes four of Shakespeare’s six existing signatures, including the first on record, brought together for the first time, in a creatively curated exhibition which brings to life Shakespeare’s time in London.


The will itself is faded and creased, and it’s easy to see ‘By Mr William’… but the surname is rather hard to read. Although authorship of his plays may be argued over, Shakespeare’s will is definitely all his own work!

Shakespeare400 is a consortium of cultural, creative and educational organisations, which will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016








Why I love the Big Garden Birdwatch


Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 15.15.29I’ve written about the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for the past six years, so it would seem odd not to do it this year (just because my ex-employer closed the website I worked on.)

And I’ll be taking part in it, too, as I have every year for the past six, except last year. Last year I was in Finland. Just for fun I kept a lookout as I ate breakfast, and I saw one magpie in the hotel grounds in an hour. It’s pretty cold 200km north of the Arctic Circle!

I love the mass participation idea of the Big Garden Birdwatch. And I love the idea that the nation is taking notice of everyday birds. As a travel writer (part of the time), I’ve seen some impressive birds in impressive locations: penguins in the Galapagos Islands (above), flamingos in France, puffins in Newfoundland, and red-whiskered bulbuls and weaver birds nesting in Mauritius (below). But I still love to see a robin sitting on my fence.

Perfect for commitment-phobes, Big Garden Birdwatch is one hour, once a year (this weekend, January 30-31 2016). And the RSPB couldn’t make it any easier, short of elbowing you out of your chair and seeing your birds for you. So do it – and don’t forget to send your results!

Update: just finished on Saturday morning, having seen: dunnock, two great tits, robin, two nuthatches, blue tit, wood pigeon, two coal tits, collared dove, blackbird.


The trials of travelling light


Teva sandalsAs a travel journalist, people expect me to be good at travelling light… I wish!

I’ve written features about the theory of packing the perfect (lightweight) suitcase, but it’s always easier to give advice than take it, so when it comes to choosing a holiday wardrobe, I really struggle.

I’m in awe of light-travelling friends and colleagues, like Alyson, of top style-at-any-age blog That’s Not My Age and award-winning travel writer and photographer Jan Fuscoe, both of whom I’ve been away with. And they seem to manage with less than me.

But for me, it’s always about weather and what-if’s. It could start raining. What if I get sunburn? In the mornings it’s chilly there. And up the mountains. What if I spill that local delicacy down my only smart top? There’s a stiff breeze off the sea. What if I want to go cycling? Or running? It’s incredibly humid in the afternoons. What if I sweat so much I can’t wear the go-with-everything garment more than once?

The packing issue is pressing because I’m off to India soon, and have two climate zones to contend with, and a smaller-than-usual baggage allowance. Although the airline I arrive with has the usual limit, I’ve got several internal flights, and Air India’s is 15kg.

In Delhi, the start of the trip, it’s about 23°C by day, dropping to 7°C overnight, and in Kerala, end of the trip, it’s 36° by day, dropping to 22°C overnight. And, of course, I need to keep my shoulders and knees covered!

Clothes-wise, I seem to be going for trousers and tops. Lots of tops, so that I can layer as many as I need.

Rab jacket from Cotswold OutdoorAnd my Rab jacket from Cotswold Outdoor that kept me cosy in Finland’s Arctic Circle (at -33°C) last year. That might seem too warm to take to India but it weighs practically nothing, I may wear it over just a T-shirt, it squishes up really small, and I can wear it to and from Gatwick.

I’m not buying anything new, except the Teva sandals (above), which I plan to wear with everything, all day long. And I’ll take flip flops (slippers, change of footwear), barefoot trainers and possibly lightweight pointed flat pumps for dressing up.

And if anyone knows where to buy the perfect all-purpose shoes that work for hours of pavement-pounding sightseeing, look equally good with shorts and smart dresses, can go for a hike or a paddle and are comfortable enough to wear around the clock, let me know. They don’t exist. Last year I took eight pairs of shoes narrowboating. And wore them all.

Wish me luck!

Burns Night? No biggie

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.06.41

One of Robert Burns’s desks

I’ve only celebrated Burns Night once, and I don’t think that’s unusual for Scots. And yes, I am one.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Rabbie deserves all accolades going. And I like the ‘Address to a Haggis’ – such a fanciful tribute to an offal-based dish…

‘Fair fa’ your honest sonsie face/Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race’

(It continues for eight verses so I’ll leave it there.) Find out more about Robert Burns from VisitScotland.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.57.02And I don’t mind haggis (vegetarian version if you’re offering), but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it. I’ll happily go as far as haggis crisps though. Made by Mackie’s Crisps, these are vegetarian and have an intensely savoury flavour that reminds me of roast chicken crisps.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 10.55.55And for something sweet: chocolate with haggis spice. No, not chocolate with haggis pieces – as I first misread the label – but an entirely different and harmonious blend of dark chocolate and cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and black pepper, made by Coco of Edinburgh. It’s one of their bestsellers apparently.

Listen to an audio archive of Rabbie’s work, including ‘Address to a Haggis’ and ‘My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose’ – but also ‘Cock Up Your Beaver’ which may not mean what you think. Unfortunately omitted is ‘Nine Inch Will Please a Lady’, which means exactly what you think!

How to make an ice lantern


Ice lantern made by Adrienne WyperBeing 200km north of the Arctic Circle, with temperatures as low as -30°C, seemed the perfect time to have fun with snow and ice.

Staying in northern Finland on a winter activities week with Inntravel, as well as trying out more conventional winter pastimes such as dogsledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, I also wanted to experiment with cold-weather creativity.

In the past I’ve made ice bowls for serving drinks and desserts; now it was time for ice lanterns. Here’s how:




water balloonswater balloons in the snowFill a balloon with water, tie the neck securely, then place outside in the snow. The balloon will have a spherical shape, supported by the snow.

Leave overnight and it will freeze solid. In the morning, snip the neck of the balloon and peel it away from the ice.

Your ice lantern will be spherical, with a solid bottom and more delicate, thinner ice walls curving up to an opening at the top, as in the photo at the top of the page.

Drop a tea light into the hollow in the middle, and strike a match!


Flowerpot ice lantern in the makingAs we’ve hit a cold spell (down to -2°C tonight), I thought I’d try making an ice lantern in the (slightly) warmer temperatures of the Southeast. I haven’t got any balloons so I’ve filled a plastic bag with water and popped it into a flowerpot, lacking a handy snow bank to mould it into a sphere. I’ll report back on how it goes…

Day 2: Although temperatures fell as low as -4° last night, the water inside the bag inside the flowerpot wasn’t frozen solid. The water in the centre was still liquid (which is a heartening thing if you’re concerned about potted plants surviving the winter).

I lifted out the bag, poured out the water, untied the plastic bag and pulled it away and there was enough ice around the side to make a container for a tea light, once I’d turned it upside down. Here’s the finished flowerpot ice lantern.

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