Luxury Hotels

And Rio has a fun ‘new’ luxury hotel…

Welcomes. on my bed

Rio has a new-old luxury hotel, Fairmont Rio de Janeiro Copacabana – and it is MARVELLOUS. Accor has taken the C-shaped 11-floor building at the far south end of Copacabana, overlooking Forte de Copacabana, that opened in 1986 as Rio Palace.  After the 2016 Rio Olympics, it was run as Sofitel.  After an over-two-year complete overhaul, it opened August 2019 as this 375-room fun hotel, along the lines of a mature Andaz or W Hotel, says the gal.  There are things here you do not normally expect from a traditional Fairmont.

Netto Moreira

Having a young GM, Netto Moreira, who was once going to be a doctor with Médicins Sans Frontières MSF, probably helps.  I can see his hand in such details as the approach to the gym (see above), and the equipment, by the way, is latest Technogym. Also on the sixth floor podium, where most activity seems to happen, you find two outdoor pools, one for the morning sun and one for the evening sun. The morning pool has 29 surrounding loungers, partly in water, that at weekends are re-arranged to give great seating areas for regular music events: Saturdays, for instance, are always piano rock.

Sunrise view

The interiors are by a Paulista, Patrícia Anastissiadis, who also did Oetker’s Palácio Tangára in her home town, São Paulo.  I love the way she has put in, here in the Fairmont, corridor carpets that have banana leaf patterns, a subdued version of corridor walls at The Beverly Hills Hotel.  I loved my suite, #1375, at the end with no fewer than four balconies looking down at the Fort, and also looking the whole length of Copacabana Beach  to Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Sunbeds by a pool

All suites give access to the Fairmont Gold lounge, a marvellous fourth-floor space (formerly a restaurant) with very generous all day hospitality which includes enough evening food to make dinner, and international and local drinks.  We dined, however, in Marine Resto. A one-time French restaurant, pool-side on that sixth floor, is now a just-right seafood+Mediterranean.  After fish crudo, I had octopus from one of two Josper grills, with sides of heart of palm and fries, and a glass of Argentinian Cabernet Merlot, Ruttini (do not miss the home-made seaweed-covered butter – it is so good I ate it by itself).  Yes, this is a fun luxury hotel. SEE MY SUITE, BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Back to Rio and its unique luxury palace hotel

View from #303

The first night back in Rio de Janeiro, was a longed-for return to Brazil’s doyenne of the luxury hotel world, Belmond Copacabana Palace. Its history starts in 1923, when Octavio Guinle, inspired by the Carlton in Cannes and the Negresco in Nice, commissioned Joseph Gire to build a similar palace.  It went through many guises, including hosting a casino.  Today it is best known, says the gal, for hosting the annual Carnaval Ball.

Andrea Natal in Pergula

The 241-room hotel is in two blocks, the six-floor Gire original and, slightly behind it, an 11-floor tower finished in 1948. Together they frame, as it were, the lovely 30-metre main pool which is gathering place, day-long, of the rich and famous Cariocas (Rio residents) and the thousands who flock here every year. Not to be missed, under any circumstances, is breakfasting pool-side, at La Pergula, either inside, air-conditioned, or outside, on its terrace. Hotel GM and RVP Andrea Natal has infused colour into the interior

Heart of palm salad, lunch at La Pergula

At breakfast the fruits, alone, make the buffet world-beating – SEE THE VIDEO BELOW.  First-timers open their eyes in amazement.  Many locals are regulars, starting the day here.  Actually the hotel’s staying guests include about 20% repeaters, and average stay is three nights, and these people certainly know the breakfast (afterwards, Pergula becomes à la carte, or, for lunch, there is also Cipriani, for Italian, and dinner can be at Cipriani or the Pan-Asian MEE, set up by Ken Hom – both these restaurants have a Michelin star).

A corner of #303

I do recommend paying for any front-facing room. The views out over Avenida Atlantica, and its dedicated cycling-skating track, and then, after about 300 metres of finest sand, to the blue-blue Atlantic are unbeatable. From sunrise on you watch, nonstop, as Cariocas exercise, often playing beach volleyball. There is a continuous kaleidoscope of colour, from minimal bikinis to beach balls. The contrast between the instantaneous colour and activity outside is balanced by the calm interior of the bedrooms, painted white with wedding cake-type moulding  – but, to be honest, suite #303 did have a colourful corner. AND NOW SEE BREAKFAST AT LA PERGULA

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Luxury Hotels

Hong Kong’s lovely Murray hotel

1969-vintage tree

More art in Hong Kong, at The Murray, a Niccolo Hotel, a luxury hotel that occupies a rare place in the history of 20th century Hong Kong.  It is a conversion, by Wharf Hotels, of the Murray Building, Hong Kong’s tallest structure when it opened in 1969. It was designed by architect Ron Phillips so that all rooms’ windows were angled to allow maximum shade during the heat of Hong Kong’s day. The basic shape has been retained, by current architects Foster + Partners, and so has an historic tree outside the main entrance.  Now, as a 336-room hotel, this is also a magnificent art gallery. One of the gal’s favourite pieces is shown above, a shapeless shape, if that is not an oxymoron, a glitter stainless sculpture by the President of the Hong Kong Sculpture Society, Mok Yat San, born in Guangdong in 1968.

Look down at reception from a 2017 walkway

The hotel is, as is so typical of this Central area of  Hong Kong Island, interlinked by walkways with neighbouring buildings and with a footbridge that takes you over Cotton Tree Drive to Hong Kong Park, a really splendid green area that incorporates the zoo and areas of botanic gardens.  Taking one walkway out of the hotel, I was able to look down at front desk, which is actually four separate alcoves each hosting three terminals that can be activated as demand warrants – the conversion into hotel has lots of clever features, testimony to the creativity of both Wharf Hotels’ President, Dr Jennifer Cronin, and also the opening GM, Duncan Palmer, who has now moved on to play with his vintage cars in the wilds of south-west England,

White head…

I continued out of the above walkway to the terrace which holds the Mok and also a three-metre tall fretted head by Barcelona born Jaume Plensa, 65.  Apparently it is based on a nine-year old Dominican girl and is supposed to imply that keeping beauty within inspires inward reflection.  Back in the hotel, I went up to the top, 26th, floor to Popinjays, a lovely all-purpose space with a large terrace – when I was at The Murray recently, for the annual meeting of the Global Hotel Alliance GHA, we had a memorable welcome dinner up there (as I know from cruising, it is always special to be able to have drinks, if not dinner, outside).

..and blue wall

This visit I was in 2207, a very well thought-out suite, ideal for a busy workin’ gal.  Just outside my room, in the 22nd floor elevator lobby, was another memorable artwork, a painting of people on a many-floored building, one of a series by a Korean female, Lee Ji Yen.  The more I saw this work, the more intriguing it became.   But honestly, as I told the hotel’s GM, Adriano Vences, on departure, my favourites of all this luxury hotel’s art works is the Mok shape. NOW SEE MY SUITE, AND THE JUNK RIDE WE TOOK ONE EVENING

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