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22 July 2013 / leggypeggy

Itamaraty Palace—outfoxed by my own shorts

Itamaraty Palace

Itamaraty Palace and its reflecting pool

I’ve discussed what to wear overseas before—quite simply, respect the culture and expectations of the country you’re visiting.

So I was surprised the other day when Brazil pulled a swifty on me. This is the country where one cannot own too many bikinis, and those bikinis cannot be too brief regardless of your weight or figure. In Brazil, the body beautiful is the body exposed.

Or so I thought.

Poor John and I fronted up to the Itamaraty Palace (Palácio do Itamaraty) just before 4pm for the daily tour of the interior. Located in the national capital of Brasilia, the palace is headquarters to Brazil’s diplomatic corps. The building, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and opened in 1970, is nice enough from the outside, but is supposed to have fabulous reception areas inside.

So clad in shorts, we signed up for the tour along with about 30 other people. A few minutes before the tour was to begin a fellow (this was no security guy, but a true diplomat) approached us and asked if we spoke Portuguese. Er, no, how about English?

So ever so nicely in English, he told us this was a workplace and that the employees would be concerned if we came through in shorts!

You know as well as I do that in this land of flesh, they wouldn’t be concerned—they’d be jealous, even if you could make five bikinis out of the fabric in my shorts. And they wouldn’t see us anyway because we were going to the reception areas, not up and down the aisles of their workstations.

I did a half-hearted indignant—a scene wouldn’t do—and said they should post signs letting visitors know this rule. Yes, yes, madam, that’s a good idea. We should post signs.

National Congress, Brazil

National Congress of Brazil

And what about the teenager wearing shorts, I asked. Oh, she is just a child. Child? She was taller than me! And thinner! And was wearing short-shorts that would have yielded about half a bikini.

Nope, he wouldn’t budge even when I reminded that I was a silly old lady and old enough to be his grandmother. He smiled and shrugged and edged us closer to the door.

Egads, how do you make headway with a diplomat who knows the rules and is trained to get rid of shorts-wearers?!

So we left, unceremoniously and a little peeved. There’d been a ‘please no shorts’ sign at the cathedral, but half the crowd there were wearing shorts and no one intervened.

Before we headed away from the Monumental Axis (main street of Brasilia), we did a quick swing by the National Congress and the Palace of Justice, where the lawn was covered by tents. I’m still trying to find out why.

Later Poor John confessed that he’d read the no-shorts-in-the-palace rule in the guide book on his Kindle. Gee thanks, now you tell me!

P.S. The shorts episode reminds me of when I worked in the editorial and design unit at the Australian Government Publishing Service back in the late 1980s. People wore all sorts of casual clothes and one blistering hot day I wore shorts. They were stylish black shorts, complimented by a silk floral blouse.

I heard that my get-up raised a few eyebrows. It also raised confidence. And nice shorts became commonplace in the workplace ever after.

Palace of Justice, Brazil

Palace of Justice with a lawn full of tents. I wonder if any of the campers are wearing shorts?


Leave a Comment
  1. Susan / Jul 22 2013 2:47 pm

    At least you didn’t go postal on them like some we know could.:)


    • leggypeggy / Jul 22 2013 8:37 pm

      Thanks for that hilarious (but true) comment. I’ll be laughing all day on that one.


  2. skippersy / Jul 23 2013 7:31 am

    Ok, I am not that well read or bred (LOL) so had to go to my mentor, Mr. Google and look up “Go Postal.” .1) … means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment. 2) To lash out violently and at random, often in a blind rage. (Term taken from the 1990’s incidents of workplace violence involving US Postal System workers.)

    So this week has not been good so far, missing out on a guided tour of Monte Pascoal (Mt. Easter, symbol of Brazians) and now Itamaraty Palace wearing shorts. But you are still fortunate not getting arrested by punching that non-security guy in snoot or poor John hitting him over the head with a Kindle.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 24 2013 9:27 pm

      Oh my Sy, you know Poor John too well. He does carry his Kindle around all the time. But we were disappointed to miss seeing the Itamaraty. The mountain wasn’t such a big deal, but the palace was. I’ll have to start carrying a skirt or trousers in my backpack again.


  3. skippersy / Jul 25 2013 11:15 am

    I recall on your last trip in Asia you used a rap around or was it a skirt… when you were denied access wearing shorts…


    • leggypeggy / Jul 25 2013 9:14 pm

      You recall right, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bring the trousers along in my backpack. If only Poor John had mentioned what the guidebook said.


  4. Eduardo Macarios / Jul 29 2013 11:04 pm

    I cant believe they didn’t let you in! About the camping, its just another protest, it happens all the the time over there.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 30 2013 6:19 am

      Eduardo, you’ll just have to go to Itamaraty for me—and take lots of pictures. And I found out the protest was by prison guards. Everybody has to protest.



  1. Gobsmacked by the cathedral in Brasilia | Where to next?

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