Dateline: Brazil

By Deanna Palić

Troubled Varig booted from Star Alliance

As of the end of January, longtime member Varig is no longer part of United Airlines’ Star Alliance. The restructured, greatly scaled-down Brazilian carrier no longer has the schedule required to operate as part of the Star Alliance network.

The alliance is exploring its options to fill the gap.

There is still some Bardot in Buzios

A sweeping view of Copacabana Beach from the window of a Fantastic Rio rental apartment. This photo was taken in September, when Rio is in its last throes of winter. Note that the weather was comfortable for some beach enthusiasts. Photos: Palic

From Rio de Janeiro, you can drive to the seaside resort of Buzios in two hours. Buzios was placed on the map by Brigitte Bardot, who stumbled upon it four decades ago. At the peak of her career in 1964, Bardot escaped the paparazzi in Rio de Janeiro by heading to this little-known fishing village. When photos of Bardot’s visit appeared in newspapers around the world, the jet set quickly followed.

The small-town feel remains. To make sure no one forgets the star, the town erected a sculpture of Bardot, on a street named after her, to gaze eternally at peaceful Armacao Bay.

Most of the town’s restaurants are on Rua das Pedras or along the Bardot beachfront. This is the beautiful section that connects Rua das Pedras to Ossos Beach. The restaurant Cigalon is in the same house that Brigitte Bardot stayed in while in Buzios. Served by candlelight, the dishes offered by chef Sonia Persiani have a French touch. Among the favorite dishes is honey chicken breast with ginger and melon or large shrimp “coffee Mignonette.”

New and larger hotels are set to transform the area. SuperClubs (877/467-8737) has contracted to manage the 222-room, all-inclusive Breezes Buzios Resort in nearby Tucuns. The opening is slated for late 2008 and it will be the largest hotel in the area.

For information on Buzios, call (011) 55-22-2633-6200 or visit

Rio Guest House

New Year’s in Rio de Janeiro is a very special event (Dec. ’88, pg. 42), and it is wise to plan ahead to secure choice accommodations.

Marta and John Miller, she a Rio native and he an Australian, host a great New Year’s party at their Rio Guest House. The house is the former residence of Brazilian ex-president Juscelino Kubitschek. This celebration is an annual event for their friends and guests. As well as being in great company, you will enjoy a panoramic view of the fireworks show in Copacabana Bay and of the thousands of revelers partying on the beach until dawn.

A short 10-minute walk from Ipanema Beach and offering panoramic views of Copacabana beach, Sugarloaf and Fort Copacabana, the guest house is made up of two penthouse floors divided into six suites.

The single room, which is not air-conditioned but has a ceiling fan, goes for $132, and air-conditioned doubles range from $189 to $212. All rates include Continental breakfast, service and taxes. Credit cards are not accepted for payment. The minimum stay is three nights. A stay of five nights includes airport transfers.

Contact Marta Miller at Rio Guest House (Rua Francisco #5, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; tel. +55 21 2521 8568 or cell +55 21 8799 0007, e-mail or visit

Crowne Plaza opens in Belém

In September 2006, InterContinental Hotels Group opened the 173-room Crowne Plaza Belem in that city’s central business district. This opening of IHG’s 16th property in Brazil furthers the expansion of the group’s Crowne Plaza brand in Latin America. The opening also serves as a homecoming for IHG, whose premier brand InterContinental Hotels & Resorts was established in Belém 61 years ago, in 1946.

Belém, a city of two million residents, is one of Brazil’s busiest ports. The 390-year-old city is considered to be the gateway to the Amazon River. While the city’s colonial sector offers visitors European-style charm, the newer part is dotted with many modern buildings and skyscrapers.

Rates at the Crowne Plaza Belem start at $155, single/double, including breakfast and service. For reservations and additional information, call 877/424-2449 or visit

On another note, IHG plans to open the first Holiday Inn in Panama in 2008. It will be located on a former U.S. military base near Panama City.

Apartment rentals in Rio

Fantastic Rio has been in the rental business for 30 years. Their offerings include private studios and one-, 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-bedroom apartments as well as spacious penthouses on one or two floors in the city’s best districts. All accommodations are located near the ocean in safe buildings with 24/7/365 doormen and TV surveillance.

Accommodations are also available in one- or 2-bedroom flats in modern aparthotels situated near Rio’s top beaches: Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema, Leblon and Botafogo. Contact Fantastic Rio (Avenida Atlântica 974, Suite 501, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; phone/fax [+55-21] 25432667 or e-mail

Volunteer travel

Travel for a worthy cause. The volunteer travel company I-to-I is known for combining adventure experiences with charitable works. They offer organized trips like monitoring lions in South Africa, building houses in Honduras and working on Carnaval preparations in Rio. In the latter, travelers will help build floats and make costumes at the city’s Samba schools in preparation for Brazil’s Carnaval (in February) and then stay on to enjoy the festival.

For these programs, a minimum stay of one month is required, though some travelers stay on for up to 12 weeks. On average, the 4-week trips each cost $1,165. Accommodations are in a group house for volunteers. (Airfare is not included; each additional week costs $180.)

For details, call I-to-I in Denver, CO, at 800/985-5882 or visit

Rio nightlife tips

In most clubs and discos in Rio, you should expect a cover charge to be awaiting your arrival. Usually, women pay less than men, so don’t be surprised when you see two prices posted at the door. You also may encounter a drink minimum, ranging anywhere from $1.65 to $20.

Also, you likely will encounter something you may not be familiar with. Many clubs will hand you a card upon entry. This is used to keep track of all of your purchases. When you are ready to leave, you settle the bill. A 10% service charge will also be included. If you lose this card, expect to pay an arm and a leg for your carelessness.

To find out what to expect in the arts-and-entertainment department, check the Friday edition of either the O Globo or Jornal do Brasil newspaper. These publications are available at all newsstands. Be advised that they sell out quickly. Both offer a detailed overview of the weekly events, including nightlife, performing arts and concerts.

Here are a couple of places to get your heart and energy pumping:

  • Asa Branca (Av. Mem de Sá 17; tel. 021/2232-5704) — located in Lapa. Visit its dance club, which offers dancing until the early hours. It’s open daily after 10 p.m.
  • Bip Bip (Rua Almirante Gonçalves 50; tel. 021/2267-9696) is open daily until 1 a.m. On Tuesday and Sunday nights it’s filled with samba.

—Latin America is written by Deanna Palic.