“As soon as she’d passed us on the beach at Leblon, I asked my friend what she’d said. He shook his head, laughing. “‘She says she’s too much sand for your little truck.’”
Brazilians are often portrayed as valuing pleasure above everything. And while some take an ironic pleasure in embracing this stereotype, what they embrace even more are people who see that their exuberant culture is in fact a lot more complicated than it seems. You don’t become one of the world’s hottest economies – not to mention win five World Cups – by strolling along the beach all day. But the great thing about Brazil is people manage to make it look that simple. And this is the spirit to bring to your Brazilian luxury vacation: plunge into each new experience as if nothing else matters, but know that a lot of complexities are getting worked out behind the scenes.
Rio is a must, of course, with a natural setting amidst coastal mountains that is arguably the most stunning of any city. You’ll want to join Cariocas, as Rio’s citizens are known, for a daily walk or run along the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and affluent Leblon – and take in some truly stunning human scenery as well.
For a better look at Rio, fly by helicopter over the Sugarloaf Mountain and past the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer. As for diversions, anything’s possible: A samba lesson with Rio Carnival winners. Surfing with a national champion. Shopping exclusive boutiques with a leading designer. Honing your football skills with a member of the Brazilian team. Or how about a tour of Rio’s best bars with a supermodel?
São Paulo boasts superb restaurants and shops (if you know where to find them) under a sprawling skyline that makes New York look like a small town. The capital Brasília, a monument to the genius of Oscar Niemeyer, is vital for fans of 20th-century architect. And a few days in Salvador will plunge you into Brazil’s deep African roots. It’s also an ideal gateway for exploring a coastline renowned for its secluded bays and palm-lined beaches.
Then there’s the mind-blowing Amazon, which is as big and unruly as your imagination. We can arrange a tour by private aircraft with a leading botanist. Though some will tell you to skip the Amazon and head the south to the Pantanal, the vast tropical wetland area with one of the most diverse concentrations of wildlife on the planet.
Whatever blend of city, beach and jungle appeals most, in Brazil you’ll have no trouble creating the fabled “holiday of a lifetime,” or even three lifetimes. Just be prepared to embrace a bit of unbridled pleasure – out of respect for your hosts.
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