Story and Photos by Bridget Gleeson
Forget about staying in Rio's subpar luxury hotels: live large, Carioca–style, in a stylish home away from home with first–rate concierge services and smart apps to help you navigate the Cidade maravilhosa.
In the months leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, much was made of the fact that Rio de Janeiro didn't have enough four– and five–star hotels to accommodate the influx of international visitors. And that wasn't all, according to travel–related press: the vast majority of Rio's so–called five–star hotels are dated and poorly run, not up to the standards of their respective brands. Despite the Olympics being hosted there as well, there's an acute shortage of quality lodging.
I couldn't understand why that was the case, or what exactly the problem is. So I asked one of the only Brazilians I know who actually works in the luxury sphere: David Castro, the São Paulo-born Portfolio Curator at Oasis Collections, a cutting–edge hospitality company specializing in high-end rental properties in key Latin American destinations.
"I think Brazilians don't quite understand the concept of luxury," Castro said, the paradise–like beach scenery framing him against the taxi window as we traveled along the coastline road from Ipanema to the exclusive clifftop neighborhood above Praia Joatinga. "This is such a bureaucratic country. It's hard to get things done. The Four Seasons has been trying to establish themselves here in Rio, and they're buried in paperwork."
"And there's another important thing," Castro continued. "Brazilians don't care that much about having everything be perfect. The attitude is more like, 'don't worry, just enjoy the view, look, we're on a beautiful beach.'" Such a breezy outlook is, of course, a large part of what makes Brazil so appealing. But as Castro aptly points out, it's not conducive to running a luxury hotel. And that's exactly where Oasis Collections come in. Here in Rio de Janeiro, and in other cities in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay, the American–owned company offers a collection of high–end properties paired with hotel-like service, from a dedicated concierge team to breakfast basket delivery, plus access to Oasis' private clubs and curated city guide.
The careful service, is, indeed, a crucial part of the package—if you're going to stay in a free–standing property, you can't just press '0' to reach the front desk, or call downstairs for room service—and one I wanted to put to the test. Before I left for Rio, the Oasis team contacted me by e–mail, suggesting I download the Oasis Collections app for iPhone and iPad, a sleek, simple resource listing (and mapping) the staff's favorite places to eat and drink, see modern art, work out, or have cocktails at sunset. Should I want to discuss any of that, or ask how to get to Corcovado, make dinner reservations at the Fasano, or book a side trip to Buzios in a rental car, I should just call them anytime, as they frequently encouraged me to do.
The professional (and, importantly in Brazil, English–speaking) service was more useful when I actually touched down in Brazil and arrived at one of Oasis Collections' properties in Ipanema, one of more than 100 hand–picked apartments and villas that the company offers for short–and long–term rental.
I arrived at the address in an Uber Black car—complimentary, with a code Oasis Collections provided—and was met at the front door by friendly French–born Oasis representative. She led me upstairs to my temporary lodgings, also known as Visconde de Ipanema. Daily rates start at US$200 with a four–day minimum stay. It's a stylish and surprisingly spacious two–bedroom with a large modern kitchen, two sleek bathrooms, and a living room with a large flat–screen TV and views over the leafy park below. The attention to detail was immediately apparent. The stainless steel refrigerator was stocked with chilled mineral water; the bathrooms with Castanha do Brasil bath products by Granado, a high–end apothecary that's been in operation in Rio de Janeiro since 1870.
Before I could even ask for the Wi–fi code, the Oasis host was pointing to it on a list of key information about the apartment and the neighborhood. Along with detailed maps and instructions for how to get around on local transportation, she provided printed versions of the information available in the Oasis app: where to eat and drink in the neighborhood, where to catch a samba concert, or shop for swimwear.
And the personal service wasn't over when she left. A few hours later, I received a follow–up e–mail from Oasis asking me if I had any questions. "Actually," I responded, "I'm a little confused about the best way to get to Corcovado," an issue that was swiftly resolved five minutes later. Later, when I returned to the apartment after a sunset stroll on the beach, the doorman alerted me to a special delivery: a lavish breakfast basket stocked with freshly baked pastries, baguettes, jams, and coffee beans, courtesy of Oasis and Cafeína, a gourmet café in the neighborhood.
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