10 February 2011
The Carioca's Rio
Sashay into 'samba central' and join the city's style set.
Behind Copacabana Beach, the statue of Christ the Redeemer statue stands high on Corcavado, concrete arms outstretched in benign forgiveness for all the sins taking place 700 metres below. Rio de Janeiro, the world's most beautiful, vibrant, heart-stopping city, is a pulsing mix of temptations.
But as the world's greatest party city begins its celebrations early (well, what else would you expect?) for football's World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later, it is instructive for the seasoned traveller to know something of Rio behind closed doors.
So step inside the private world of the carioca, the name the Indians gave to the first white settlers and by which the city's whole population is now known.
Get the Look
Before you head out on the town you need to dress the part, so start by visiting the boutique La Garota de Ipanema. This jewel box of chic is situated next door to the cafe where Tom Jobim composed the Bossa Nova hit The Girl From Ipanema. Its owner, Heloisa Pinheiro, was just 15 when the celebrated musician first saw her in her bikini walking to the beach.
The boutique's exceptionally sexy clothes include the de rigueur Rio outfit: barely-there swimwear. What's more, the original Girl From Ipanema, now a grandmother, but still beautiful, (she has appeared twice as a Playboy centrefold, the last time only a few years ago) may well be the person serving you. Tall and tanned/and young and lovely/The Girl from Ipanema goes walking...
Now you're all set to take to The Sambodrome. This 800 metre catwalk is where the most flamboyant performers at carnival parade in bejewelled costumes, resplendent in glitter and sequins.
The Ultimate AccessoryNo, it's not a string bikini or havianas. Wherever you go in Rio, tuck local newspaper O Globo under your arm - and cariocas will think you're one of them.
For just a few reais you may try on this hand-made regalia, each piece worth thousands of dollars. But take care. The loose-limbed carnival dancers make the dresses look light as feathers but they actually weigh a ton.
By Roderick Gilchrist, writer for UK publications including The Daily Mail and The Spectator
What are your favourite shops? And top Rio addresses to give your glad rags a test run?