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Claudia Winkleman reviews Rio

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Claudia Winkleman shares the secrets of her address book for the Brazilian beach paradise of Rio in our celebrity 200th issue

I’m going to come out with a fact immediately. Not a travel fact but a fact all the same. Favourite band of all time? Yep. Sure, I often lie and try to look moody and casually say “The Smiths” and I’ve been known to utter “Arctic Monkeys, of course” (btw, who are they? I’m worried they’re freezing) but hands down we all secretly know the best band of all time. Correct, well done, you get an A – it’s Duran Duran.

I’ve seen them in concert (this is indeed a true test of my love because I genuinely think I’m allergic to leaving the house) and I can sing all their songs by heart. I can’t even say the word “wild” without then secretly chanting in my head “wild boys wild boys” before continuing with a frenzied drum roll and imagining I’m chained to a watermill upside down.

This will make little sense to you unless you’re almost dead like me. But all you need to know is that Simon and the boys made a rather brilliant video in the Eighties which involved them prowling all over a boat with hot boys and girls covered in face paint. Ever since I saw the video for Rio, I have known deep down in my heart that Brazil is the place for me. Assuming it was all face paint, yachts and John Taylor wearing white baggy suits and primary blue shirts, I went for the first time this year. I went back again two months later for nine weeks and yes, my daughter and I have designed the menu for our B&B we’re planning on opening in 2016. The details are yet to be ironed out but all you need to know is that the basic thrust of it is Nutella and stuff covered in Coco Pops (even the salad, she thinks this is hilarious). Anyway, I went to Rio and here’s what I found…

Best place for a Beer

Brazilians are actually mad about beer. Everyone will tell you it’s non-stop cocktails (it’s that too) but the thing they do magnificently is beer. And I don’t even like beer. They call it a Choppy or a Chopp and they serve it in tiny freezing cold glasses and the whole thing is basically froth. Charming boys with twinkly eyes carry these tiny receptacles on massive trays and every time you finish your thimble of ice-cold refreshing beer foam, another one is popped in front of you. It’s mesmerising. The first Choppy night I had, I had to be carried home after proposing to a toucan. True story. The second you land I suggest you get a cab to the Bar Astor (barastor.com.br) on Ipanema right next to the ocean and order a Chopp (R$5.90; £1.60) at once. I found it on the first day and never really wanted to go anywhere else. The snacks are amazing too. Order the Queijo Pastel (a sort of cheese pastry appetizer, R$6.10; £1.75).

Best place for a ‘moment’

To be blunt, Brazil is dramatic. A couple having a row on the street is dramatic, the mountains that lace the city are dramatic, the way people order pizza is dramatic. Everything is BIG, nothing is subtle and there are just very DRAMATIC places to sit. If you’re looking for a sort of nothing-too-exciting-prettyout- of-the-way-forgettable-kind-ofplace then Rio is simply not for you. If you’re there with your girlfriend/ boyfriend/child/friend then can I suggest you buy some corn or a fresh churro (the street food is mind blowing) and a couple of beers and head to the Arpoador Rocks. They’re a small crop of um, rocks and the waves smash up against them and the sun shoots dramatically either up from the ocean (6am) or down into it (6pm) and it’s just a great DRAMATIC Rio thing to do.

Best place for a game of volleyball

Now, you know I don’t believe in exercise and I think sweating is both unsavoury and actually not good for you. Well, volleyball is different. You just have to do it in Brazil. Kids play all day and then grown-ups descend onto the beach in tiny shorts/bikinis at about 8pm holding homemade jugs of caipirinha and a ball. If you are heading there, find Pele (yes, that’s his name) on Ipanema Beach at lifeguard station 10. I even have his number for you – 00 55 21 97025794.

Best place for monkeys

It’s very easy to think you’re in a normal big old fun city and then someone will say, “You know we’re pretty near the jungle here,” and just like that a little tamarin (a kind of tiny monkey that looks like it’s thinking) will suddenly wander past. If you want a romantic night in an adorable hotel that comes with a monkey breakfast (order the banana bread and a whole little family of monkeys will come and join you) then book the Gavea Tropical Hotel (gaveatropical.com; doubles from £132). It’s incredibly sweet with majestic views and when you leave you feel like Tarzan (this is a good thing). PS book room 1.

Best place for star spotting

I think the Hotel Fasano (lhw.com; from £470 for a double) might be the most glamorous hotel I’ve ever been to in my life. There are no words to describe how monumentally magnificent it is. Beautiful décor (thanks, Philippe Starck), fantastic service, burgers that will make you shout out loud and a rooftop pool that will make your jaw drop. People I saw up there during my stay – Shakira, every Brazilian supermodel on the planet, Madonna. There. Boom. Done.

Best place for sightseeing

Whatever you do, go and see the Christ the Redeemer statue. It’s a pain to get to as you have to take a weird bus (583) from a square and none of it is made easy. But if you can get up there, then do it. To end, all I have to say is this. Rio – even better than the video.

Claudia was one of our very first cover stars, gracing the front of our fourth issue, back in October 2009 as she was on her sixth season of presenting Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two. We’ve interviewed her another two times since, and we’re always very honoured to welcome her and her fringe. #Stylist200

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