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Flying down to Rio Part 2

The next part of our itinerary gave us the chance to work off some of the many calories consumed previously (there are around 300 in every caipirinha, must be all that sugar), with a leisurely cycle ride along Copacabana Beach, alongside Rio’s hundreds of joggers. We certainly admired the views – jogging outfits in the 29-degree sweltering heat were mostly swimwear, and not much of it.

After a brief rehydration stop with fresh coconut water, we took the cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain for some stunning views and a chance encounter with some very friendly monkeys, before visiting the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort for lunch and a site inspection, where we were joined by the Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Sheraton is the city’s only beachfront resort and completed the first phase of a multi-million dollar renovation in June this year.

Later that evening, we headed to the Fasano hotel to enjoy the sunset with several – you guessed it – caipirinhas on hand. Our attempts to try a passion fruit flavour didn’t quite pay off so back we went to the trusted classic version. Our celeb spotting efforts did pay off, however, as we were joined on the hotel’s rooftop (an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Rio) by Four Weddings and a Funeral director Richard Curtis.

It turned out to be a night with the (mention of ) stars, with dinner at the beautiful Hotel Santa Teresa, a boutique property built on a historial colonial farm in the Santa Teresa district of Rio, with the bar housed in a former slave quarter. We were shown the room where Amy Winehouse stayed in 2011 and went past the bar that was Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs’ local watering hole for many years. In the early hours of the morning, we headed to Rio Scenarium, often voted the city’s best live music venue. The atmospheric samba club decorated with kitsch ornaments is housed in a converted old depository. Even on a Tuesday night the place was busy and despite several threats to try out our samba skills (admittedly after several caipirinhas) , we decided to stay put and people watch instead.

Our last day in Rio started in style, with a 44 jeep transport and a tram ride to Corcovado (which translates as ‘hunchback’), the foothold of the Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the seven wonders of the world. Nothing quite prepares you for the views, the best by far in the city. It’s also a popular place for marriage proposals and we took advantage of the inevitable photobombing opportunities. An electrical fault meant the tram was out of action on the way down but our trusted guide Carla got us down at record speed with the help of a local mini bus, with enough time for a quick lunch at the Sofitel before heading onwards, bidding a fond farewell to our excellent host for the Rio leg, Abreu DMC’s Nuno Pires.

With ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ playing on a loop in our heads, we headed to the airport for our two-hour flight to Salvador de Bahia, the first colonial capital of Brazil and the country’s Afro-Brazilian jewel. Our home for the next two nights was the Pestana Convento do Carmo, housed in a 16th century building and which couldn’t have been more different from our Sofitel experience in Rio. All of the 79 rooms are individually styled and there are plans to use the chapel – being renovated while we were there, for meetings. That evening, we had the chance to savour local Bahia delicacies – much of which has a strong West African influence, at the atmospheric Casa de Tereza restaurant. We feasted on moqueca, a seafood stew served in clay bowls and and tried the caipirivodka with cashew fruit, lime and clove. Bahia’s version of fast food – deep fried bread, known as acaraje, became addictive all too quickly. Weighed down with all this food and with nightlife in Salvador at a much slower pace than in Rio, it was early to bed that night.

Our sightseeing tour the next day through the historical area of Pelourinho included an impromptu drumming session with Professor Macambira, who teaches in his studio at the top of the Largo do Pelourinho. Having come across him drumming in the local square, we were all hooked from the start and the session in his studio – which is available as an activity for groups – was a real highlight. We had lunch at the Sheraton Bahia hotel, one of the other properties that caters for groups before indulging in some serious ice cream therapy at the Sorveteria da Ribeira, which boasts more than 50 fruit flavours, some of which we had never even heard of. They tasted great, which was the main thing.

We were treated that evening to a stunning folk show performance at the Miguel Santana Theater – an hour of  high-energy dance and storytelling that proved mesmerising from start to finish and ended the evening with dinner at the charming Villa Bahia.

All great things come to an end and fam trips are no exception but our last day still had surprises in store. We visited a circus project that aims to help disadvantaged children learn circus skills – Imagination’s Esther Wyatt gave it a go too, climbing up some ropes with ease. Our next stop was the upmarket beach resort of Praia do Forte,  around an hour from the airport, and home to the Tamar Sea Turtle Project, the national headquarters of the project for the protection of sea turtles in Brazil. We enjoyed a tour of the area before a final lunch and the briefest of swims at the Tivolo Praia do Forte hotel.