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.
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
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).
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