For a few remarkable weeks, the eyes of the world will be on London. But as soon as the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are over, attention will turn to the beguiling city of Rio de Janeiro, which will play host to two great sporting events that follow — the World Cup of 2014 and the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games of 2016.
Such is Rio's confidence, it will take both challenges in its stride. The city of eternal beaches and parties or, as Brazilians call it, cidade maravilhosa (the remarkable city), will form the perfect backdrop for sporting celebration. It also provides an ideal base for a holiday, combining the metropolis, with its natural beauty and vibrant arts and music scene, with the quiet of the countryside to the northwest and the spectacular coastline to the east.
Our ten-day jaunt begins in Copacabana in the south of the city. It has personal memories for my wife and me, as it's where we began our honeymoon, 20 years ago this month — although this time we're accompanied by our 14-year-old daughter. The Copacabana Palace Hotel is a destination in itself. Built in 1923, with its famous white stucco façade looking on to the beach, it is a place of glamour, secret liaisons and A-list tantrums (Ava Gardner, Orson Welles). Around the enormous outdoor swimming pool, Carioca (inhabitants of Rio) and foreigners alike congregate for cocktails or for Sunday brunch. This is Brazil as it used to be.
Down the road are the two famous beaches of Ipanema and Leblon. There is no shortage of high fashion and sushi in Leblon's main street, Rua Dias Ferreira, but I want to check out its bookshop-cum café, Argumento (livrariaargumento.com.br), which, during the rule of the generals, secretly stocked banned titles. Here I meet Maria Nepomuceno, one of Brazil's most exciting up-and-coming artists. She gives me the lowdown on what to see in Rio's burgeoning arts scene.
Way to go
British Airways flies to Rio de Janeiro from London Heathrow. Flight time: about 11 hours. World Traveller return, excluding taxes, fees and surcharges.
Join the Executive Club and earn up to 28,836 Avios when you fly to Club World to Rio de Janeiro (return). Or redeem your Avios: you only need 60,000 to get to Rio de Janeiro*.
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