Flying down to Rio: Part 1

Brazil has been one destination I have wanted to visit for quite some time – my sister worked at a detective agency in Sao Paulo for several years but time and circumstance conspired against me visiting whilst she was there.

Other participants on this trip were equally looking forward to our trip to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, known as the first colonial capital of Brazil. While some had visited Brazil previously, this had been a while ago – and with the 2014 World Cup a not too distant memory and the 2016 Olympics in Rio looming, a visit could not have been more timely.

So even with a horrendously early start – meeting at 4.30am at Heathrow’s Terminal 1 for our flight on TAP Portugal to Rio de Janeiro via Lisbon – myself and the other event planners on the trip, including representatives from Imagination, One Two Four and River Marketing, were in a buoyant mood. We were joined by our hosts Andrew Harvey from Uniqueworld and Carlos Pinto de Oliveira from TAP.

The purpose of the trip was not only to see how Rio has transformed in the last few years but also to discover Salvador’s potential as a C&I destination. We touched down later than planned in Lisbon – and with the expected 55-minute transfer time (tight at the best of times) reduced, our first thoughts were are we even going to make the connecting flight to Rio on time. We need not have feared as we were met straight off the flight from London by a transfer bus that shuttled us to the terminal to catch the plane to Rio.

Ten hours later, we arrived in Brazil’s capital in the late afternoon. On our transfer from the airport, we all craned our heads to get a glimpse of Christ the Redeemer before our arrival at Sofitel Rio de Janeiro Copacabana. We were given a show around of the 338-room property and then headed for pre-dinner drinks – caipirinhas all round – with Nuno Pires from Abreu DMC, at the hotel’s Club Lounge. It has a veranda with stunning views, giving us yet another opportunity to spot Christ the Redeemer.

We were up early the following morning, greeted by some glorious views of Copacabana beach. Following breakfast in the Club Lounge, we were taken on a tour of historical Rio with sights including the Municipal Theatre, Candelaria, Square XV, the Travessa do Mercado, Imperial Court, Gonçalves Dias Street and the bar where ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ was composed. One of the most fascinating sights was the amount of shops selling Havaianas, understandably at a third of the price you can buy them in the UK. We all made a mental note to purchase several pairs later.

The iconic Confeitaria Colombo provided respite from the heat and a welcome stop for lunch. Housed in a stunning Belle Epoque building, the venue is famed as a centre of political intrigue and gossip and has a mouth-watering array of sweet and savoury snacks on show on the ground floor, including caipirinha pastries.

No visit to Brazil would be complete without a mention of football and in the afternoon, we were treated to an entertaining tour of the Maracana Stadium, with guides dressed as referees and the chance to see where Germany sealed its World Cup win against Argentina.  We also made a brief stop at the Sambódromo area, the main stage of Rio’s Carnival festivities.

That evening, we headed to the Copacabana Palace hotel, featured in the movie Flying Down to Rio. It’s a haven for celebrities, with a guest list that has included Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and The Rolling Stones. We didn’t spot any celebs that evening but dinner by the poolside came a close second.