In this world of economic uncertainty, one country continues to power ahead, albeit at a slower pace. Brazil has, for the most part, remained isolated from the economic turmoil and is still resilient and strong. Sure it has many social problems to contend with, but the leadership is committed and focused, and confidence remains high. I’ve loved Brazil since I was nine years old when I first saw Pelé score the magical goal in the 1958 World Cup final. I love the All Blacks in rugby; I love Brazil in soccer. They turned a great game into the Beautiful Game, and over the years, I have collected a lot of memorabilia from the great legends of Brazil.
Saatchi & Saatchi has a wonderful partner in Brazil through Fabio Fernandes at F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, with agencies in Rio and Sao Paulo. I was with Fabio last week exploring the opportunity of repositioning our business from being one of the most creative agencies in the world (Brazil included), to one of the biggest and most creative. One thing I know for sure, acquisitions in this environment deliver better value than in last year’s overheated flameout.
Rio is one of my favorite cities in the entire world. It gets a bum rap in terms of crime, violence, and drugs. I have visited the city four or five times now, and as long as you keep your wits about you as you would in any other major city, there is absolutely nothing to fear. Rio throbs with life, passion, music, and fun. It also represents great value. From a geographic perspective, carved between sand, rock, and sea, it is simply the most beautiful city in the world (Cape Town being its only rival). The authorities have done a terrific job in renovating and keeping the beaches upgraded and beautiful.
Some things to love in Rio include:
1. The Hippie Market just off Ipanema Beach
It’s been there for 40 years and takes place every Sunday. It shows progressive and traditional Brazilian art along with endless stalls of handicraft, local fashion, and knick knacks. It’s also a great place to meet other expatriate travelers whiling away Sunday afternoon in this great city.
2. The music
“There was music in the cafes at night.” Bossa nova, samba, and beautiful Brazilian rhythms play throughout the cafes and bars all evening. Many of the beachside kiosks also have upbeat modern Brazilian music to get you through the day.
Half the price you see in Europe, and in Rio they sell five times more models than the rest of the world. At between $7.00 and $10.00 a pair, they are irresistible. There is one store in particular on the main street of Ipanema that has captured the market in terms of choice and price. I defy you to leave here without buying a dozen pairs to take home.
4. Baretto-Londra at Fasano
This is a very cool spot based on the London punk scene in the 70’s. It has two huge Vivienne Westwood Union Jacks using green instead of blue on opposite walls, a very funky bar, old style leather seating, and a display of full vinyl album covers from the 70’s. The music is a mix of 70’s and 80’s UK/US stuff and it makes for a destination night out, or post dinner Saturday night spot.
5. A tour of the Favelas
The slums have been made notorious through the movie City of God, but accommodation has now been reached with the government, the police, and the slumlords. The government is trying to put in hospitals and schools to ensure living standards improve, the police are cracking down on drugs, and the people, themselves, are standing up. You can now tour the favelas on motorbikes or with a special tour guide who will take you in and actually show you a couple of the social projects the authorities have started. Thanks to everyone in the food chain benefiting and signing off, you will find these tours perfectly safe. Normal guides aren’t equipped to do this; but these special tours are not to be missed.
Made with cachaca, sugar, and limes. This is the national drink of Brazil. Refreshing, fun, and light. Perfect for beach or poolside.
7. Local cold beer
We work for Skol, which is part of the InterBev empire. Brazilians love their beer but rarely drink to excess. It’s a cold, refreshing, light beverage which is all about music, fun, and friends. The brewing heritage goes way back and, because it is German based, it is of the highest quality. Skol and Brahma are the every day beers of choice. Bohemia is a great premium Pilsner.
8. Santa Teresa
A very old district up the hill in Rio. The old trams are still the preferred method of transport up there and a new boutique hotel has just opened – Hotel Santa Teresa. It has the most beautiful gardens and bar, and is a complete haven and refuge from Rio’s 13 million population. The spa is also top notch and it’s a great place for a different kind of weekend. Just up the road is one of Brazil’s great local restaurants, Aprazível, which is like dining in a tree house. The staff is attentive, smart, and ready to please. The experience of indulging in the local dishes, Brazilian wine, and spectacular views of downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay will guarantee a memorable night.
I stay nowadays in the Fasano hotel right on Ipanema Beach. Philippe Starck designed this picture postcard hotel. The design of the glass bar, rooftop swimming pool, and the rounded mirrors (“ears that see”) which are located throughout the Fasano, is a great example of Starck’s creativity. The lobby space is airy and flowing with the breeze off the beach. The Fasano Al Mare restaurant is set right off the beautifully decorated lounge area. When booking your room, an Oceanside view room is a must. Spend some time on the rooftop pool to while away the hours. On the eighth floor, it overlooks Ipanema Beach and serves great snacks. The bossa nova kind of atmosphere that surrounds the trendy Fasano is a constant reminder that you are in Rio.
10. Spicy Crabmeat
On the shell, this specialty of Rio is not to be missed. It is one of my favorites served at the Fasano pool bar.
11. The Copacabana Palace Hotel
Along Copacabana Beach is the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel, which is reminiscent of the Majestic in Cannes. Opened in the 1930’s, it houses The Hotel Cipriani Restaurant and has its own tennis court. The highlight for me is on the first floor where there are photographs of stars and celebrities who have stayed there. From Mary Pickford to Bono, from the Duke of Kent to Princess Diana.
No visit to Rio is complete without a cable car ride to the top of Sugarloaf. Named for the unit of sugar that the Portuguese used to ship back to Portugal, the views from Sugarloaf are absolutely astonishing. You can look over all the bays of Rio across to the Corcovado.
13. Christ the Redeemer
A must to visit. The 20 minute train ride through the National Park and the forestry is inspirational in itself, and the views are sensational.
The home of Brazilian soccer. It will house the 2014 World Cup. You can do behind the scene tours here, which will surely stimulate you soccer fans.
Soccer is a passion in Brazil, and in Rio you have Botafogo, Vasco da Gama, Flamengo, and Fluminense all vying for the top spot. Weekends bring top games and the good natured enthusiasm, joy, and passion for the game. It's a great thing to be part of.