Perhaps the best-known symbol of Rio de Janeiro is the 125-foot-high Christ the Redeemer statue on the peak of Corcovado. From this spot, or from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, you gaze at the gentle curve of Copacabana Beach, several majestic islands, the largest urban forest in the world, and a harbor nestled within a ring of mountains surrounding the glittering city.
It seems like God has planned this view to take your breath away, as it does every day you are here.
But this city of 10 million also offers unique cuisine, dance, music, and fashions. Its an exotic combination of urban excitement and ecological wonder.
The Marvelous City
The city has 50 miles of white sand beach, three golf courses, 60 museums, and almost 900 restaurants where you can savor the tastes of Portuguese cuisine or Afro-Brazilian seafood. So go ahead and samba your way through a vibrant and romantic tropical honeymoon.
Come nightfall you can make your way to a club such as Vinicius Bar for Bossa Nova or dance until dawn at the Hippopotamus in Ipanema. Saturday nights in autumn you can watch samba schools rehearsing for Carnival.
Here you can enjoy the Tijuca National Park, which was designated a Mankinds Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1991, and the 340 acre Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens), which was founded in 1808 and includes royal palms over 100 years old plus 5,000 species of tropical trees and plants.
The citizens are so proud of their ecological heritage that Rio has recently created an ecological police division to look after its forests, parks and squares. Members of this division provide first aid as needed, as well as information and advice concerning flora and fauna and the ecosystem, plus air, water, and sound pollution.
At the Copa
Facing the incredible Copacabana Beach, the hotel has a beauty salon, a private semi-Olympic-size swimming pool, roof-top tennis courts, a health club and a 500-seat theater.
You can dine on Italian cuisine at the sophisticated, very intimate Cipriani Restaurant, or spend an afternoon sipping tea by the poolside at Pergula. Try surfing or jet skiing nearby, or take a day cruise and snorkle hand in hand around deserted off-shore tropical islands.
Though steeped in tradition and glamour, the hotel does have an Executive Floor with small private offices equipped with computers, faxes and secretarial services, so even though you plan a work-free honeymoon, you can dazzle them though still a continent away by handling any office situation that might crop up.
Love & Marriage ... Rio Style
We also note that one of the men is wearing a gold ring on his right hand, and he tells us that his fiancée is doing the same.
Claudia Fialho, Public Relations Director for the Copacabana Palace, explains the practice. "When a couple gets engaged in Brazil, the man wears a gold band on his right ring finger, and the woman wears one on her right ring finger," she tells us. "When you get married, you pass it to your left hand. The gold engagement band means that the couple has an agreement with their families and with society.
"One week before the wedding," Claudia continues, "the bride has a tea party at her house and her friends bring gifts for the kitchen. We call it ‘Casserole Tea.’ After the party the guests take home a kind of biscuit held together with milk marmalade. The biscuits are called ‘well-married.’ "
"Sometimes," adds Andrea Martin of the Copacabana Palace, "the bride sews small pieces of paper with the names of her friends who want to get married in the hem of her dress."
"The bridesmaids are small children from the family," says Claudia. "They gather in front of the bride with the engagement rings. In Brazil we never have friends of the bride in the ceremony. At the altar there are couples who bless them. They can be close friends or relatives."
"After the ceremony," says Andrea, "the bride and groom go to their room together. She fixes her makeup and then they go back to the party and cut the cake. That’s the first thing they do. Then they dance the waltz.
"Weddings normally have about 300 to 400 guests. Here it is tradition to have a big wedding because it’s not for the bride and groom it’s really for the parents to invite their friends and family."
A Wedding With 1300 Guests!
The decorator carried through the theme of "apricot," using touches of the color to decorate each room. To accommodate the couples wide range of musical tastes, the band was chosen because of its ability to range from Sinatra to the samba to the Stones.
"Buffets are much easier than trying to serve that many people. We had one waiter for each 15-20 people and five maitre d’s. We used walkie-talkies to communicate."
The True Gems of Rio ... At H. Stern Jewelers
The beauty of Brazils gems intrigue, and we learn that the country is home to practically every type of gem and precious metal on earth. You can only imagine the joy of the early prospectors when they discovered that a large part of the countrys mineral wealth can be found in and right alongside its rivers.
The most popular Brazilian gemstone is the aquamarine, a member of the beryl mineral family, which also includes the emerald. Tourmaline is also found in Brazil in a variety of colors, including green, red and pink.
If you're looking for unique jewelry that reflects the richness and color of Rio de Janeiro, H. Stern is the place to go. Perhaps the worlds only fully integrated jewelry concern, it handles everything from the mining of raw materials in the wilds of Brazil to the design and creation of the jewelry itself.
With more than 180 stores in 14 countries (including the Waldorf and on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan), Rio-based H. Stern offers beautifully sophisticated jewelry, and in Rio its headquarters in Ipanema feature a veritable museum, visited by as many as 1,000 people a day.
Here we take a "Gemological Tour," watching the entire jewelry production process though windows, listening to descriptions through headphones with tapes programmed in 18 languages.
In less than 15 minutes the tour takes you from cutting the rough stone to designing, goldsmith work and the selection and polishing of the gems.
You would never guess that Hans Stern, founder of the company, started out as a typist. "A typist, literally," Hans says. "I rose up to manager after a time and then went out on my own. I started as a broker with gems, buying, selling and then setting up a lapidary workshop. We grew gradually from there."
He has been in Rio since 1939. "There have been many changes here since that time: more buildings, more people, more cars, more traffic. But it’s more beautiful, too. There is more landscaping, more cultural activities, museums, opera and more beaches. There’s great shopping too.
"And it’s much cleaner now. Crime is way down. The southern part of Rio is very safe. Of course, if you walk around at three a.m. you have to be careful like in all big cities. But crime is less here than in most big cities because it is a very friendly culture. Brazilians are very gentle and accommodating.
"Brazil has many different gemstones, more than anywhere else. All varieties are found here. There’s emerald, aquamarine, and topaz. Over the years we’ve helped develop a way of creating fabulous jewelry that is available and affordable through these wonderful gemstones."
For H. Stern, jewelry is about art and culture, not just about business. "Our philosophy is that jewelry is something that pleases a woman, not something you buy as an investment."
In keeping with that approach, Hans looks to artists in other mediums to inspire and present his jewelry. "We’re doing a promotion with a Brazilian artist. There is a mix of Portuguese, African and Brazilian culture in his art, and we shaped jewelry with that in mind.
"We also worked with Arthur Watson and made a line of jewelry inspired by his photography."
In his jewelry, you also can see the inspiration of Rio itself, from its exciting carnival atmosphere to its gently curving beaches, gemlike mountains, and aquamarine waters. It is a vision of human joy, plus nature’s unity and grace, that animates and inspires you as well.