By Teresa Barnett
When it comes to short trips, holidays and everything in between, my suitcase is packed before the finer details have been confirmed, in fact I've been known to pack prior to booking; yes I am a fully paid up member of the wanderlust club. So when James Mason, the Director of Planet Golf Review suggested travelling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, my suitcase was packed and left at his home two weeks before departure. Rio de Janeiro has a particular draw for me having travelled there 16 years previous. I was now returning, sans best friend from university and trusty backpack, to the city that had introduced me to the Sambódromo, Brazilian bikinis, fresh coconut mixed with vodka, tangy tasting heart of palm salad and Feijoada.
Rio is a glorious combination of ocean, beaches, rain forest and a strikingly beautiful cast of tourists and locals alike. Every box for paradise is ticked, from the white sands of Copacabana beach and the deepest aquamarine waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the beach bars serving intoxication inducing caipirnhas running from Copacabana to Ipanema . Rio has it all and so when it came to deciding upon a luxury hotel to lay our heads, the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel was an easy choice.
This imposing 5 star hotel dominates the top 5 hotels to stay in Rio year after year and for good reason. As I walk up the steps into the grand lobby I am greeted by what I can only describe as old world opulence, an arresting flower arrangement begs to be admired and cheekily sniffed, I duly oblige and my nostrils are filled with the sweet scent of flower varieties I had never smelled before much less seen. After a 13 hour fight excluding the 2 hour stopover I found the check in to be mercifully swift. I was informed Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones had checked out two days prior to our arrival; in fact the Rolling Stones have chosen to stay at the Belmond every time they play in Rio. Celebrity chef Ken Hom also chooses to stay here as do the Duke and Duchess of Kent; well if it was good enough for rock stars and royalty it was good enough for me.
Rooms and Spa
Built in 1923, this 93 year old Art Deco hotel was renovated in 2012. The 239 rooms are a mix of rooms with beach, or city views, suites and penthouse suites. My spacious room was bright, full of period furniture in keeping with the establishment and overlooked the semi Olympic swimming pool. The room was fairly neutral in colour with a king size bed that begged to be shared. With no such luck on the horizon I dived on headfirst and was welcomed by baby soft sheets and a sturdy mattress. The writing desk although positioned in the corner of my room was able to catch the morning rays of the sun as I sat on my bed breathing a sigh of true contentment. My marble bathroom came equipped with a rainfall shower large enough to comfortably fit 2 or 3 people, a double sink and bath.
Human enterprise plays a momentous part to deliver the impeccable and attentive service I experienced. The hotel employs over 600 staff excluding sub-contractors to ensure that all needs, wants and quirky desires are catered for. The hotel's three restaurants, Cipriani that serves highly rated Italian Cuisine; Ken Hom’s 1 Michelin starred and equally raved about Pan-Asian Mee and the informal Pergula cater for diners afflicted with even the fussiest of tastes. My first need was for food, in particular an impressive buffet breakfast consisting of the freshest tropical fruits and chilled yoghurt which was savoured poolside on the veranda of the Pergula Restaurant. The Pergula with its unflappable waiting staff, is the cool cousin of Mee and Cipriani and serves Brazilian and International dishes, I recommend the duck in orange sauce with garlic rice.
At the Copacabana Palace Spa which has 5 individual treatment rooms, 2 couples treatment rooms, sauna and steam bath, I opt for a 60 minutes Aroma Quente massage which involves slow movements and pressure on tense zones of the body. This begins with me choosing the AYA organic oil, which is then warmed and applied. I decided on Harmony the scent of which coupled with music by Yiruma was sufficient to transport my mind to a Zen like state. Zilma, my therapist started by wrapping my feet which embarrassingly, were overdue a pedicure, in a warm towel before massaging my legs with firm but consistent pressure. The pressure increased as she reached my troubled lower back which I imagined to be in a ball of knots that Zilma was thoroughly straightening out. The Spa which was renovated 8 years ago is managed by Alina who knows her treatment menu well and can make suggestions depending on how you feel at the time and how you want to feel afterwards, there are 2 relaxation areas which I would suggests post treatment are utilised for at least 45 minutes. The Spa offers half and full day experiences, facials, body treatments and has a hair salon is open to the public and as I saunter back to my room walking on air, I truly recommend you do the same.
Belmond Copacabana Palace
Hotel and Spa
Av. Atlântica, 1702
Rio de Janeiro
T: +55 21 2548 7070