Brazil: It's all kicking off!
There's a lot to Brazil, which is just as well given it's hosting next Summer's World Cup
All eyes are on Brazil this year when the beautiful game is played in 14 of its cities. Thousands of England's fans will be following their team around this diverse country. The beaches are legendary, the samba intoxicating and its cities are vast and chaotic. Yet there is also adventure to be had. There's the Amazon with its 1,100 tributaries which holds one-fifth of the world fresh water. Sail along the river, trek in the rainforest. It's a winning combination.
Date: June 19
Venue: Sao Paulo
Brazil's cultural capital is a booming city of fashion, food and fun. Highlights include the Museum de Arte de São Paulo, itself a work of art - a Brutalist design by Bo Bardi and a modernist extravaganza. Its giant red columns elevate it above the ground where it houses the largest collection of Western art in Latin America including works by Goya, Picasso and El Greco. Footy fans should not miss the football museum at Pacaembu Stadium - the host venue of the 1950 World Cup in this city.
For a bird's-eye view over the metropolis climb the tallest building Edificio Italia that rises out of the heart of the city centre.
But word of warning: the US State Department issues a specific warning about "Young women slipping various drugs into men's drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious". Armed robberies of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles are a common occurrence.
Peaceful location in the Jardins district: Mecure Hotel. Rooms from £219 www.mercure.com
Paulista has basic rooms but a great location. Doubles from around £83, www.accorthotels.com
Date: June 14
The name means mother of the gods. It is the capital of the state of Amazonia where temperatures in the rainforst region can reach 30C and humidity about 80 per cent, something Roy Hodgson has already voiced fears over. But for holidaymakers this could be a trip of two halves. After jetting over an immense thick jungle canopy where butterflies are as big as an adult hand and where local markets sell souvenir piranahs you can watch England sweat it out with Italy in Estadio Amazonia. Then consider a seaplane trip or perhaps a few days cruising along the rio Negro to the Anavilhanas, an archiepalago of river islands.
Head to Monte Alere to see the prehistoric rock and cave paintings or spend time on the beaches of alter do Choa and if you have time, hang around for the Festa Bumba in late june which celebrates the legend of the resurrection of an ox.
TAM and Gol both fly to Manaus from Rio and Sao Paulo. Prices start around £250 one-way. Buses run every half-hour between the airport and town centre (Praça da Matriz). A taxi from the airport costs about £16.
In the jungle: Uakari Lodge in the Mamirauá nature reserve www.uakarilodge.com.br
Stylish Boutique Hotel Casa Teatro Doubles start at R$160 (£42) www casateatro.com.br
Hotel Tropical offers a wave pool bars and views over Rio Nero. Doubles from £200, www.tropicalmanaus.com.br
Opponent: Costa Rica
Date: June 24
Venue: Belo Horizonte
The city lives up to its name which means beautiful horizon: attractive architecture framed as it is by the beautiful Sierra do Curral mountains.
Perhaps the best place to calm those pre-match nerves is at the Ecological Park of Pampulha which is set around a lovely lagoon. As night falls a plethora local bars, lively pubs and easy cafe culture liven up especially around the Savassi district.
Whether you end up commiserating or celebrating, do it with a Caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail. One of the most popular hang-outs is Cafe Com Letras where live jazz bands and DJs strut their stuff at night.
Incidentally, Brazil's most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer produced some of his most ethereal works are here, including a church, a casino and a restaurant around Lagoa da Pampulha, an artificial lake.
The Aeroporto da Pampulha, located 40km north of the city, has frequent flights to Rio and Sao Paulo. One-way flights on Tam or Gol start around £90.
STAY: Budget but central: Hotel Sao Bento. Rooms from £50, www.hotelsaobento.com.br
Promenade Belo Horizonte Platinum offers four star amenities with a location close to bars and boutiques. Rooms from £200 www.PromenadeBHPlatinumHotel.com