Bravo Brazil! Despite the hype and pop-media overkill, the cuidad maravillosa staged a truly “marvellous”, happy, 2016 Olympics. Brazil has a population two-thirds that of the USA, but muggings in Rio – real, or imagined – rated nowhere near the one larceny every five seconds, or murder every half-hour, in the North American territory. Not one terrorist bomb either, while, sadly, more than 70 died in two locations on the other side of the world as the Games’ spectacular closing ceremony was getting under way. And, apparently, no casualties of Zika or the pea-green diving pool.
Brazil’s heightened profile thanks to the Olympics makes it, and other major South American countries, likely to be much more frequently sought after in coming months. A leading attraction: Rio de Janeiro’s annual Carnaval – costumes, colour, rhythm-crazed Cariocas singing and dancing along the Sambadrome – in 2017, on the last four days of February, from Friday 24 to Tuesday 28. But there are also magnets including sensational Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu of course, magnificent Buenos Aires and more. Great flight options to get around the vast southern continent are on offer via LATAM, the airline formed in recent years by the merger of LAN (Chile) and TAM (Brazil). For example, one advance purchase fare this month (conditions apply; purchase at least 90 days before departure) is $1699 return SYD-GIG (Rio) and allows a generous three stopovers across its Latin American network at USD100 each.
I spent a week in Rio travelling solo and, observing a few sensible precautions (no jewellery; keep taxi windows closed at traffic lights), encountered no problems. The beauty of the city’s harbour supersedes Sydney’s, if only because its iconic Sugarloaf is natural, not man-made. And Cristo Redentor, the towering Christ figure on Corcovado, rivals the Opera House and Bridge. But I was scolded by my five-star hotel concierge for mooting what he described as “poverty tourism” – and warned of danger – when in fact the slum favelas, so immediate and overpowering, spark an irresistible desire to explore their amazing – and, from the distance, quite enchanting – presence.
Looking up a Portuguese phrasebook this week, I was amused to see “I lost my wallet; I haven’t done anything wrong; Where are you taking me; It was a misunderstanding; I am an American/Australian citizen; Can I just pay a fine?” Did the Olympians take the book too literally, I wonder? For starters, see: visit.rio/en/editorial/must-see-rio and latam.com/en_au/
DREAM LOVER, DREAM MUSICAL This month Sydney once again stages a “world premiere” – a new toe-tapping extravaganza, “Dream Lover”, the life of entertainer Bobby Darin and his movie-star wife Sandra Dee, featuring a veritable bombardment of 34 hits from the 1960s – Mack The Knife, Beyond the Sea, Splish Splash and the eponymous multimillion-seller Dream Lover.
Led by David Campbell, the cast includes a list of stars with credits in a string of acclaimed local musicals (among them, as the young Bobby Darin, popular child star Nicholas Cradock, Gavroche in Les Mis.) The musical aims to capture “the glamour and passion of the big band era, the Rat Pack in Vegas and the Golden Age of Hollywood”, with an 18-piece band. The production team boasts costumes by Tim Chappel (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Miss Congeniality) and the venue’s the superbly-appointed Lyric Theatre at The Star (casino), Pyrmont. The season opens Thursday September 22 and runs to Sunday November 27; evening performances are on Wed-Sat and matinees Tues-Wed and Sat-Sun. Prices from $69.90 plus fee/s. Some 30,000 overnight visitors are expected to travel to Sydney for the show and Virgin Holidays has packages. An example: Tickets, flights and one night’s accommodation at centrally located Ibis Sydney World Square for two, $395pp. I had conflicting results on the website though, so call them on 13 15 16 or make your own arrangements. Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 795 267.
Travel Editor, Susie Boswell.
Hero Photo: Celso Pupo
Inset Photo: Brian Greach