Jun 30, 2010

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro in Rio! Sleazy nightclub Help torn down to make room for museum

Copacabana, the beach district in Rio best known for being home of the Copacabana Palace (Copa to the locals), has seen better days.

The Copa, however, remains a landmark. Remarkably, despite being outside of the glam Ipanema-Leblon circut, the Copa - founded in 1923 by the Guinle family and a veritable landmark - still hosts some of the most spectacular weddings and parties of Rio’s high society in its grand salons. In fact, several hundred well-heeled cariocas even pay a yearly fee to have access to the pool, spa and tennis court, as if it were their own private club.

But that has not stopped the decline of the neighbourhood as a whole, sadly...

The Copacabana glorified in song and film has long become the hooker-and-pickpocket territory, while the well-to-do favour glitzier and safer Ipanema and Leblon.

As the Financial Times recently put it, the bars on beachfront promenade are " the kind of place where female prostitutes, who represent most of the visible clientele, know the waiters by name, and vice-versa.
Nearby looms Copacabana’s defunct Meridien hotel, an unlovely concrete tower, which, as a measure of things, recently came close to being transformed into the world’s first skyscraper bordello. Across the street is La Cicciolina, a nightclub named after the Hungarian-born former porn star Ilona Staller.
It is a sleazy part of town (...), although sometimes the odd tourist couple can be seen there, seated haplessly among the prostitutes and the dissolute regulars, earnestly examining their menus and looking a little scared. Like most cities, Rio is all about knowing where to go and where not to go.
Copacabana faded from fashion not long after Barry Manilow consecrated it with that tacky 1978 disco hit showtune “Copa-Caah-baaana”.

Well, La Cicciolina is still going strong, but another sleazy nightclub favoured by ladies of the night is officially kaput. Help, a big black box that sat as an eyesore right on the seaside promenade, has been torn down to make way for a new museum if image and sound, the Museu da Imagem e do Som.

Who drew up the winning project? None other than famed architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro. To me, the project looks strikingly beautiful, and I love the way the ramps that cover the façade reference Rio's signature wavy/ziz-zag cobbled sidewalks.

Copacabana Palace: Um hotel e sua historia (Portuguese Edition), on Amazon.com

Jun 26, 2010

Chef Alex Atala of D.O.M. restaurant: recipes on Wallpaper's site

Alex Atala's Heart of palm "fettuccine" with coral and glazed shrimp
Photo: Cassio Vasconcelos

Much has been said and written about Wallpaper's Brazil edition, which came out in May and was chock-full of information. To read more about it, click here.

But I'm guessing much of the material the team collected did not make it into the printed edition.... They've made available on their site, for example, three recipes by celeb-chef Alex Atala of D.O.M. restaurant.

For those interested, here's the link.

Santa Teresa hotel: Rio's first Relais & Châteaux

By Alexandra Forbes

I've written before about the hotel Santa Teresa, in the eponymous district known for its colourful façades and old trams (above)... Opened in 2008, it is the most relevant addition to Rio's hotel scene since the opening of the Fasano Rio (in 2007).

Previously a historic private estate called Chácara dos Guimarães (pictured above), which was a working coffee plantation for many years, it was converted into a minimalistic white-washed inn where humble materials like raw linens and cottons, coconut shells and banana-tree fibres were used to rustic-luxe effect. 

Burnt cement, bordeaux or golden slate, red and dark tropical woods, and timeless modernisitc furniture by acclaimed designer Sergio Rodrigues complete the look.

The hotel is sprinkled with artifacts and art made by the Xingu and Tupi Guarani Indians, as well as iconic pieces referencing Afro-Brazilian traditions and the states of Pernambuco, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro.

From all rooms and the gardens, panoramic views of the city, the harbor and bay of Rio.

Vases of tropical flowers and an abundance of Amazonian artifacts complete the exotic-Brazil look of the Relais & Châteaux property, owned by a team of investors led by Frenchman François Delort. 

The Loft Suite, the hotel's best, won Wallpaper Magazine's 2010 Design Awards for best suite.

François Delort not only directs the hotel but also decorated the beautiful restaurant with unusual materials: eucalyptus branches double as privacy screens while the brownish sheen that lends the floors a warm feel was achieved with a coat of re-used diesel! 

Hotel Santa Teresa
R. Almirante Alexandrino, 660 - Santa Teresa – Rio de Janeiro
Tel (21) 2221-1406

Hotel Santa Teresa:

Jun 25, 2010

Most beautiful folkloric event : the Cavalhadas of Pirenópolis:

by Antonella Kann

Chances are you ( and most of the Brazilians) never heard about this event. It´s called the Cavalhadas and it´s been happening for more than a century in a little colonial town called Pirenópolis, in the state of Goiás, only 140 kilometers from Brasilia.

This is one of the most genuine folkloric Brazilian festivity, which takes place in May, right after the Festa do Divino, another popular event which attracts visitors from all over the state.

The Cavalhadas is a dramatic representation of the war between the Moors and the Christians, and the “armies” simulate a medieval battle in a open-air arena. The show is free for anyone to attend.

Unfortunately, as there´s not much publicity in the press or tv, it ends up being quite tourist-free. Which is good in a in way, as the place don´t get packed as Carnival, for instance.

But on the other side, it´s a pity that the Cavalhadas, although very traditional, have been kept as a regional secret for decades. I would even say that it´s a shame, as it´s very colorful, authentic, alive and impossibly beautiful.

You will be walking down the cobbled stone streets of Pirenópolis and bump into one of those characters...

The “soldiers” from both the Moors and the Christian sides will be riding around the town, in their garnments, as well as dozens of masked riders strolling the streets on all sorts of horses and donkeys, causing a paraphernalia which is impossible to describe.

The people who are participating in the event are always very friendly and will tolerate your presence while tending their animals. And will even offer you a beer. By the way, this is also the land of the cachaça. There are more than a hundred types waiting for you in several small bars. And, as you´re likely to be using your feet instead of your car ( which should definitely be left in the parking lot of your pousada!) feel free to go wild!

The atmosphere is simply… fantastic. It´s unbelievable how imagination works for these people!

After gazing at all sorts of characters, you can also amuse yourself by digging into antiques shops offering furniture and delicious old bric-à-brac. And, of course, there are the traditional small stores selling all sorts of regional artifacts.

On the day of the “battle”, instead of getting into the stadium very early, try to spot the “armies” getting ready for the event. The making-off starts at dawn, usually around 4 o´clock in the morning. It goes on until the show begins.

But let´s talk about Pirenópolis for a change, an attractive colonial town in itself, with small but comfortable pousadas and good restaurants.

Jun 20, 2010

Astor bar in Rio: Ipanema's newest hotspot, next door to the Fasano

Yes, they did it again: the owners of the ultra-popular Bráz pizza joints, Pirajá bar and Astor restaurant, among other inimitable hot spots in São Paulo, are proceding with their expansion in Rio. The latest newcomer is an outpost of Astor - which calls itself a bar but is actually a casual restaurant which doubles as bar (here, food is taken quite seriously and is not a mere sidenote).

The location of the Rio Astor could not be any nobler: the corner of Vieira Souto avenue and Rainha Elizabeth street, in Ipanema. A few steps away from Rio's hottest hotel, the Fasano. And across the avenue from Ipanema beach. Per-FECT!

The main feature of the brasserie-style décor is the antique bar shipped all the way from Philadelphia.

Black-and-white photos of Rio's most iconic old bars line the walls.

The draft beer is stupendous - that's what these guys are best-known for. But they've worked on a respectable list of martinis, and also serve imaginative versions of the caipirinha.

The food is hangover-friendly: Picadinho, a classic beef stir fry (R$ 32) Steak tartare (R$ 34), and the all-time brazilian favourite, steak with rice, beans and onions.

Bar Astor
Avenida Vieira Souto, 110 – Ipanema
Telefone: (21) 2523-0085

Porto Maravilha: Rio's port area to undergo huge rehaul

By Alexandra Forbes

The upcoming World Cup is already bringing benefits to Rio. One of the most important is the planned rehaul of the port area, which today is not only an eyesore but also surrounded by abandoned warehouses with peeling paint and cracked windows, impoverished housing and dangerous streets and derelict areas. Although the city's port is huge and important to the economy of the city, it is used only for loading and unloading big ships:

Finally, the upcoming World Cup has pushed authorities to work on a multimillion dollar renewal project, which has been named Porto Maravilha, or Wonder Port.

The area will, in a few years, have its own museum, the Museu de Arte do Rio:

The "new" port district will be a mixed-use area with residential condos, shopping, promenades and even an Aquarium:

Here's a video that shows what will be done to the area. Although it's narrated in Portuguese, the 3-d graphics are quite clear:

La Suite, in Rio: an exclusive inn with only 7 rooms


By Alexandra Forbes, with photos by Constance Escobar

Although my name is at the top of this post, the true author of it is my friend Constance Escobar, an expert in all things Rio. She lives and works in Rio, but in recent years has also found time to write about her native city. Blogging became a passion and now she "travels" in her own backyard making wonderful discoveries like this one: La Suite.

This 7-room guesthouse is almost completely unknown in Rio itself. 

It's located in a residential district called Joá where tourists hardly ever go. Tucked away behind a deceptively small door Constance encountered.... THIS!


The views left her breathless...

A full 95% of guests are foreign. How do they find this place? Wallpaper magazine?
Check! Mr and Mrs Smith? Check! Basically, they've been featured in all cool travel and lifestyle mags. 
Co-owners Rodrigo Harold and François-Xavier Dussol (who also owns La Maison, in Gávea, which you can read about here), actually live there, and the place feels definitely.... residential!

François was in charge of the elegant décor...


But the décor has no way of beating the "décor" of the outdoors: stunning!



Even the cute and colourful rooms have that amazing view. YES, every one of them!


Rates are around R$560,00 to R$960,00. (USD 300-500)

La Suíte – Rua Jackson de Figueiredo 501 – Joá