Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Wed April 20 2016

Inspired Advertising Art Enlivens Exotic Travel

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | April 20, 2016

Inspired Advertising Art Enlivens Exotic Travel

PHOTO: “Mother-in-law” label at Alambique Flor do Vale distillery. (photos by Brian Major)

What do you look at when you’re traveling? In between the sweeping landscapes, beautiful natural attractions and stunning historic monuments I’ve encountered during my years on the road, I frequently find myself looking at advertisements.

I don’t mean the billboards, subway ads and road signs that nearly everyone sees from time to time, but the imaginative, fanciful and whimsical illustrations in historic and contemporary advertisements for consumer products from coffee and candy to distilled beverages.

While created for commercial rather than creative purposes, there is a wonderful level of expertise tied to this type of art. I’ve found some especially noteworthy examples in exotic destinations ranging from Brazil to Martinique.

READ MORE: Brazil Bites: A Taste of Acaraje

PHOTO: Bottle art at Alambique Flor do Vale distillery.

I came upon some magnificent product art a few years ago while visiting the town of Canela in southern Brazil. Located in a mountain range, Canela is one of a handful of Brazilian tourist towns that offer temperatures and cold-weather experiences not traditionally associated with a South American city. Winters in the region are downright cold, with temperatures falling regularly to 32 degrees F.

In addition to outdoor adventure-themed activities, Canela is also noted for its cachaca distilleries. The rum-like drink is made from sugar cane and is Brazil’s most popular distilled alcoholic beverage. During a visit to Alambique Flor do Vale, a distillery set in a protected mountain valley surrounded by pine trees, waterfalls and lush trails, my guide broke off from the formal tour to bring me to a vault where  generations-old cachaca bottles are kept.

PHOTO: Bottle art at Alambique Flor do Vale distillery.

To my delight, I found an array of aged bottles featuring beautifully rendered, intriguing and humorous labels. Predictably, some of the labels featured images of beautiful, exotic women, while others offered well-dressed, sophisticated couples sharing a toast. One particularly funny label depicts a husband strategically scheming to gain his mother-in-law’s approval via a glass of cachaca.

PHOTO: Ad art at Musee Cafe & Cacao.

One year later I was in Martinique, visiting the Musee Cafe & Cacao at Le Domaine Chateau Gaillard, in the town of Trois-Ilets. In addition to a comprehensive display of the history of coffee and cocoa production, featuring coffee grinders, machinery and instruments dating to the 19th century, the facility also offers a colorful display of historic coffee and chocolate advertising art.

PHOTO: Ad art at Musee Cafe & Cacao.

READ MORE: Touring Martinique’s Magnificent Museums

The images range from fanciful art-deco inspired images to now-poignant depictions of coffee-makers at work. Many of the images feature children delighted at the chance to enjoy a bit of chocolate. At every turn I found colorful, whimsical and incredibly artistic images.

PHOTO: Ad art at Musee Cafe & Cacao.

I’ve shared a few of the images in this story, and I hope you find them as intriguing and enjoyable as I have. I’ll be on the lookout for more everyday artistic treasures in my next journey.

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