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Three French Boutique Hotels to Try in Rio de Janeiro

September 15, 2010 at 2:04 PM | by | Comments (0)

Hotel Santa Teresa

Brazil is hot and its going to get hotter in the next decade, thanks to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. That's why we're having journalist Scott Mitchem, who has been traveling to Brazil for years, give us the lowdown all week on the country’s evolving hotel scene as well as its top players. Never been to Rio before? Well, allow us to tell you where you virgins should stay. outside of Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro’s boutique hotel scene in is dominated by French expats, either experienced hoteliers or other professionals turned entrepreneurs after falling in love with life in Brazil.

There are dozens of small, French-owned properties across both the city and state of Rio de Janeiro, from La Maison, in the upscale residential neighborhood of Gávea to Pousada Picinguaba, near the charming city of Paraty, a UNESCO World Heritage historical center.

While there are many options to choose from, we'll make it simple by listing our favorite French boutique hotels:

1. Hotel Santa Teresa
Since opening in early 2009, the Hotel Santa Teresa has quietly become one of Rio de Janeiro’s best hotels, and can be counted among Brazil’s best. Former hotel executive François Delort spent four painstaking years converting what was once a coffee plantation into a sexy, leafy sanctuary perched high above the city, in the charming, boho-chic neighborhood that shares its name. There are panoramic views from the entire 2.5-acre compound, a unique spread of colonial-style buildings, beautiful lawns and gardens, and an incredible swimming pool.

The 44 guestrooms and suites are an elegant mix of Brazilian design elements, assembled by Delort himself with surprising skill. Likewise at the celebrated restaurant Térèze, and it’s outdoor lounge Bar dos Descasados, a local favorite for sunset cocktails. The spa is Rio’s finest, the complimentary access to the pool and lush grounds putting it over the top. It all adds up to an experience unlike any other in the city. For those who simply must stay on the beach, wrapping-up a trip with a night or two here is well-worth repacking.

· Who should stay: Everyone
· Who should not: Couples with children
· Room to book: Any of the suites with garden terraces
· Keep in mind: Ipanema and Leblon are 15-20 minutes away, but Santa Teresa is a destination in its own right, and just five minutes from Santos Dumont Airport and many of the must see cultural sites in the downtown district
· The Info: Rua Almirante Alexandrino 660, T 2222 2755, www.santa-teresa-hotel.com. Rates start around $350 a night.

2. La Suite
The guest experience at La Suite is more akin to staying at a friend's home than a hotel, assuming that friend has a charming hilltop villa with butler service, a private chef from Rome and two adorable dachshunds named Jolie and Choco. French financier-cum-hotelier François Xavier Dussol converted this private, romantic cliff-side property from an existing mansion, located in the out-of-the-way neighborhood of Joá. The structure is contemporary, its flat roof is also home to a heliport, but the interiors are an eclectic mix of styles assembled by Dussol himself.

Each of the seven color-themed suites is large and well appointed, with a terrace that is perfect for enjoying the best view of any hotel in the city. The vista is also breathtaking from the dining terrace and the two pool areas. For a change of scenery, guest can walk down to beautiful Joátinga Beach, the semi-private stretch of sand accessible by footpath only to guests and the swanky sub-division’s residents.

· Who should stay: Honeymooners, Rio veterans on a romantic getaway and local cheaters in need of discretion
· Who should not: First time-visitors to the city (see our Rio Virgins for a list of first-timer suggestions)
· Room to book: The Blue Room, which features an original Andy Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe
· Keep in mind: Organizing taxis after hours can be difficult, and the location is often unknown to taxi drivers, so keep directions from Google Maps Brasil (www. maps.google.com.br) on hand for your return
· The Info: Rua Jackson Figueiredo, 501, T 2484 1962, www.lasuiterio.com. Rates start around $350 a night.

3. Insólito Boutique Hotel
Búzios is a popular destination for both Rio de Janeiro’s residents, and its visitors, both attracted to its charm and 25 gorgeous beaches, many still isolated and raw despite considerable development since Bridget Bardot discovered the fishing village in the early sixties. Here, former lawyer and scion of French nobility Emanuelle Meeus de Clarmont-Tonnerre launched the Insólito Boutique Hotel in mid-2009, instantly becoming one of the top options on the famous peninsula, and in the region.

The property is perched above Ferradura Beach, a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay protected from the open Atlantic by sheer, rocky cliffs at its entrance. Naturally, the views are stunning from the two pool decks, the French-Brazilian restaurant and all 12 of the suites, which were designed by Clarmont-Tonnerre.

The rooms are a smart mix of modern furniture and pieces from her collection of Brazilian art, design objects, and books accumulated during her extensive travels across the country. Clermont-Tonnerre also designed the hotel’s chic beach club of the same name, located on the sands below the neighboring villa and giving the hotel beach access-a rarity in Búzios.

· Who should stay: Well-heeled couples
· Who should not: Travelers with children
· Room to book: The Guarani Suite, named for the opera written by the distinguished Brazilian classical composer Antônio Carlos Gomes
· Keep in mind: Traffic going to Búzios can unbearable during high season. Making use of the property’s helipad is worth considering, despite the considerable expense
· The Info: Lotes 3 e 4, Rua E1, Praia da Ferradura, T 022 2623 2172, www.insolitos.com.br. Rates start around $500 a night.

[All photos by Scott Mitchem except Insólito Boutique Hotel, which is courtesy of the hotel.]

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