praia vermelha in rio de janeiro

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Break Up

Everyone who has been in a relationship knows the terror when you hear the phrase, “can we talk?”. You’re never sure what lies on the other side of those words. So when a boyfriend asked to meet me one Sunday night to talk, it felt ominous. Sitting across from him in a small cafe in Botafogo, the casual banter didn’t last long as it was evident something weighed on him.

He broke up with me, citing various reasons, much of which I didn’t absorb, too shellshocked to understand what was happening. I honed in on his excuse of focusing on his business, which seemed lame and legitimate at the same time. I guess when someone is breaking up with you, it’s never what you want to hear. This wasn’t the first time someone had broken up with me, but the pain was just as fierce.

Met with the shock of the news, I fought back tears. Not wanting to be like one of those dramatic women you see in the novelas that screams and throws things at her man, I tried to keep myself calm, but the tears came dripping down anyway. As I tried to wipe my face with those damn Brazilian napkins that are more like wax paper, I excused myself from the table to find solace in the real tissue in the bathroom. Sobbing into scraps of toilet paper, I quickly gained composure and returned to the table.

He looked defeated. I didn’t speak. And so it was the way we ended our talk. We walked together in silence to the metro, where we rode to the end of the line in Ipanema. He went one way, I went the other, neither of us looking each other in the eye.

Soothing my sorrows the day after, I decided to go to my safe space – the ocean. I left my hotel distraught, with no real plan in mind, other than to push pause on my vacation and absorb what had happened the night before.

The beach, nearly empty since it was a Monday, was the perfect respite. Waves lulled me to sleep as the hum of fishing boats buzzed in the distance. I eventually awoke to a couple taking wedding photos. Are you fucking kidding me? This was the last thing I wanted to see after having my heart ripped out the night before.

I laughed at God’s joke. As the bride and groom traded out props (a sign, a champagne bottle, flowers), I sipped on my Heineken and studied their interaction. He looked visibly uncomfortable; she looked determined. As much as I was familiar with all of the anecdotes from miserable married friends and statistics about single women being happier than married women, I had to wonder, “Would I ever find a man who would do something this ludicrous just to see me happy?”. As they came over and set down the champagne bottle, I gave them a nod with my beer and uttered a congratulatory “Parabéns”. She gave a giddy “obrigada”, and then I rolled over and turned my focus to the sea.

The young couple eventually wandered off, hand in hand, not knowing that I had snapped a few of my own photos of their shoot. I don’t know why I did. Lying on the sand looking at the waves, I noticed a doll head bobbing in the water. As it rolled up on to the sand, it stopped a few feet from me and we made eye contact. I burst out in tears. The flood gates had opened.

Staring at the doll head through swollen eyes, all I could think of was the scene from Clash of the Titans when Thetis’ head rolls to the ground and utters some sort of curse on the marrying couple. I stared back stunned. I felt just like this doll head – separated from my body, torn from my love, strewn from the wreckage.

Back at my hotel, shellshocked from the previous 24 hours’ events, I fell onto my bed and cried some more. With barely enough energy to eat, I uploaded the doll head photo to Instagram, giving it a blue filter. I captioned the photo “Blue Monday”. Just like the song, my mood, my broken heart.

Learn more about how to have a healthy relationship wherever your travels may take you: https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/lv-sc-golden-relationship-rules/

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: My Homeless Photo Assistant

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What separates great photographers from the rest is composition; knowing what to crop out, and what to capture in those unforgettable images. And anyone who is in marketing, photography, or media knows that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a great image.

I recently cleaned out my photo database, while reminiscing on all of the memories and adventures of where I’d been and the story behind the photos. So I decided to write this series to tell the story of how I got a particular picture, and to provide my audience with an authentic angle of what had really happened. This is the first…

I had just come from the most famous bakery in Rio de Janeiro where I had interviewed their head chef about the history of this iconic landmark in the center of Rio. He generously gifted me with enough food to feed a small family, and I gladly gathered it all up in a to-go box as I left to my next stop.

As I walked down the winding streets of Rio’s downtown, trying to find a mural that an ex-boyfriend had shown me months before, I turned a corner into an alley. Coming towards me was a homeless man – barefoot and broken. My initial instinct was a bit of fear, but it would have been odd to turn and go back, so I assertively advanced towards him. As we got closer to each other, I asked him if he was hungry.

I wasn’t sure what he mumbled, but I immediately handed him the box of goodies from the bakery. Partially as a gift, and partially as a distraction from the rest of the stuff I was carrying(purse, camera, tripod). As a woman traveling alone, I’m often hyper-sensitive to being robbed or assaulted, given all of the grim statistics. I wasn’t sure what would happen next, but I was relieved that he was seemingly preoccupied with the food.

When I realized that this homeless man had no interest in my stuff after immediately sitting on the curb and tearing into his lunch, I set up my tripod and camera to take this picture. He asked what I was doing, and so I told him a bit about my job and my plans in Rio.

Trying to attempt a photo shoot in an alley alone is no easy feat, so I quickly realized that I would need his help to angle my camera on the tripod, and eventually tell me where to stand. “Esquerda!” he yelled, as I moved a little to the left…”Mais…isso”, signaling the perfect stance.

Eventually a couple wandered down the alley, with raised eyebrows, since my photo assistant with dirty and torn clothes, in contrast to my outfit of a silk skirt and stark white bodysuit wasn’t quite what one would expect. We were definitely the dynamic duo!

In that moment, we needed each other. I provided food. He provided artistic direction. As I gathered up my goods, I thanked him and wandered along the cobblestone path, turning the corner to my next destination. Walking along Rio’s downtown, I wondered how he got there. How long had he been homeless? What life crisis led him to end up on the streets?

And I guess that’s true with any homeless person. There is a story of how they got there. A series of unforgiving circumstances that led them down their own dark alley.

To read more about the plague of homelessness in my hometown of Los Angeles, California, click here.

 

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Blame it on Rio: My Favorite Brazilian Bikini Brands

Turquoise edit2Of course one of my favorite books on swimwear was written by a Brazilian. Leave it to the experts, who live in summer almost year-round, to showcase and design the world’s most beautiful swimsuits. “The Bikini Made in Brazil”, by Lilian Pacce, chronicles the history of this tiny, yet transformative part of many women’s wardrobes. Pink2Speaking of women’s wardrobes, one segment of my business at All Set Concierge is personal shopping. Over the years, my clients put their trust in me to curate pieces that they’ll cherish. And guess what is always at the top of my clients’ wish lists when I travel to Brazil? Brazilian resort wear and those sexy bikinis!Blue7

Here are a few of my favorite Brazilian bikini brands, and what I love about them!


LENNY NIEMEYER


Lenny’s designs are the gold standard when it comes to swimwear and resort wear. The prints are like artwork on your skin, as well as sexy and sturdy. If you want to feel like a goddess in your swimwear, then Lenny Niemeyer is the ultimate choice! A few years ago, I featured her maillot collection, one-pieces that were truly wearable art, in an article on Rio designers. Last spring, I had the chance to sit front row at her São Paulo Fashion Week runway show and watch her gorgeous designs glide by. The bikinis that follow are a couple from my personal collection. Take a peek!TurquoiseTurquoise edits3Turquoise edit1lenny-niemeyerNEWBRONZElenny-niemeyer


CLUBE BOSSA


I first discovered this São Paulo-based line while shopping for a client who wanted “something pink”. I came across Clube Bossa’s collection in my favorite Rio boutique, Gaoli Couture, and fell in love with their flirty designs. Clube Bossa’s style reminds me of my first Brazilian bikinis that I bought back in 2002 on my first trip to this South American destination. I remember asking the security guard where the Rosa Cha store was located(in my horrible Portuguese!) and was eventually led to a small boutique that was a shrine to all things swimwear. This string bikini is the quintessential sexy summertime staple!Pink4Pink7Rocks2


BLUE MAN RIO


Funky, fresh, functional. That is Blue Man Rio in a nutshell. You can do some serious surfing and swimming in their suits. And their designs are definite conversation starters. I’ve owned a Frida Kahlo print, a design with the cover of an old Brazilian newspaper featuring Pelé, a controversial colonial Brazil scene, and even one inspired by architecture from Brasilia. While wearing this one below, a woman sitting next to me at a Beverly Hills hotel pool party said, “They should pay you to wear these”. Maybe they should!Blue3Blue6Blue5Blue8


VIX PAULA HERMANNY


Whatever swimsuit you’re donning for the day, you’ll eventually have to put on some clothing. But the last thing you want to do when stepping from the pool or beach is to deal with complicated clothing. That’s where Vix Paula Hermanny comes in. Her resort wear is absolutely gorgeous, while being both elegant and effortless. I wish I could live in her cover-ups all of the time! Below is one of my favorite wrap dresses that easily drapes over any ensemble, followed by a pair of pants that will rival any pair of pajamas you have in terms of comfort! And it’s paired with a cute crop that I found at her boutique in Belo Horizonte. Dress1Dress3wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroNEWGREENbrazilian-resortwearGreenpants5Two things that all of these designs have in common is that they are comfortable and sexy – elements that I love in my personal wardrobe, as do many of my clients. Hopefully you enjoyed this peek into a part of my business! I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Just be comfortable in your own skin. And that’s how you can be the sexiest woman that you can possibly be.”-Princess Tatiana of Greece    

For a quote on my personal shopping services, fill out the form below:

 

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Photography: Bitlab Media

Makeup: Alicia Ramirez

Wardrobe: Lenny Niemeyer, Gaoli Beach Couture, Blue Man Rio, Vix Paula Hermanny

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Casa & Mar: A Wellness Hotel in Rio de Janeiro

wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroA house and the sea. Such a simple concept, and yet that’s what makes it so elusive. What is it about the ocean, about nature, that draws us to ourselves? I had a chance to reflect on this while visiting Rio de Janeiro’s only wellness hotel, Casa & Mar.wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroCM25Set up on the cliffs outside of a small beach town north of Rio called Maricá, Casa & Mar is the perfect location to explore wellness – in every sense of the word. With sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from every room, this ideally situated hotel is a natural gateway to healing and health.wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroSpeaking of healing and health, as I learned from Anna Bjurstam, Vice President at Six Senses Spas, during her presentation at ILTM in Cannes, “Wellness Tourism” is 25% of the global tourism market with a value of over $639 billion dollars. Just this past year showed a 14% increase in wellness travel bookings! As Anna pointed out, “wellness gateways”, a term she uses to define an experience, a person, or even a location, are a person’s first experience with health and wellness, and are often discovered on a vacation or retreat. Maybe I had just entered a wellness gateway here…

 

 

So why are people spending more time seeking wellness vacations? I found my answer at Casa & Mar. From the moment you enter the gates, there is a garden greeting you with fragrant flowers and fauna, including my favorite Brazilian fruit, maracujá! Walking down the path to the reception, I was welcomed by the owner of Casa & Mar, Alex Reznik. Greeting me with a guava smoothie, he told me more about the history of Casa & Mar.CM30“I had been looking for a place to build a health and wellness hotel; I searched all over the world. And I found this beautiful enclave!” Sharing more about his own health history and philosophy on fitness, Alex started my tour with a visit to the hotel’s impressive gym. With every angle overlooking the sea, I knew it would be an easy feat to stay on the treadmill and squeeze in a workout with such an incredible view! As we headed back towards the reception, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of the glimmering pool below. I already felt better!CasaMar1What could be better than a dip in this gorgeous pool? Sitting at the pool’s edge and peering out over the vast ocean. In fact, as I gazed out over the natural beauty, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by poet Khalil Gibran: “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.”ALEX01-yourshadowOf course, another key element of wellness is taking care of your body, both inside and out. As part of my visit to Casa & Mar, I had an evaluation of my posture by Dr. Alex Kalinin, trained in osteopathy, as well as a private sunrise session with yoga instructor, Julia Glazkova. Painfully reminded of my sedentary lifestyle back home, I knew that sitting for hours in my office chair was definitely not a key to wellness! With a spa menu that includes shiatsu, lymphatic drainage, and sports massages, just to name a few, it was hard to choose. But you must not leave Casa & Mar without trying their Signature Hammam experience. Tailored to fit your physical needs, the hammam experience uses essential oils from Brazil, clay, steam, scrubs, and of course a therapeutic massage to leave you feeling in total bliss!IMG_5441Bliss was just this. A meditative massage with the soundtrack of the sea below. I felt completely transformed! Back in my suite, I sank into my bed feeling both relaxed and rejuvenated. As the gently lapping waves lulled me to a sweet sleep, my freshly massaged limbs melted into the cool sheets, and my mind into a dreamlike state.EEAF1C30-44A5-4944-BB2A-98C776F94A0BIMG_6368IMG_6478CM5How to lure me from my dreamy suite? With the seductive aroma of freshly grilled shrimp and bananas coming from the café below! During my delectable lunch, I learned more about Mr. Reznik’s plans for future wellness-themed events around yoga, healthy cuisine, and homeopathy. Joined by guest chef, Karen Slater, who was visiting Casa & Mar to infuse the menu with some of her unique creations, we all chatted about the evolving trends in travel.CM15CM19CM18Biting into the succulent shrimps, I listened to Karen share some of her ideas for the new menu. Having owned and operated two cafes in New York, with a focus on organic, vegetarian, and vegan food, Karen highlighted the addition of grilled eggplant and sweet potatoes, and what already sounded like my new favorite – pineapple cake!wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroWith a full belly and a happy heart, Alex and I walked up to his neighboring hotel, Pousada Colonial, where he maintains a garden that fuels much of the hotel menu. Star fruit, aloe vera, papaya, grapes, mint, and so many more glorious finds in that garden! I knew Karen would be thrilled to use these local ingredients in her new menu – I’ll have to sample some of her inventive recipes on my next visit…CM6IMG_6449CM3Back at Casa & Mar, I ventured down to the rocks to get a closer view of this natural landscape that locks in the hotel from all angles. Once there, I was completely transported to another realm. There is nothing like communing with nature. As I listened to the roar of the rhythmic waves, a flood of gratitude rushed over me. Maybe this is why wellness travel is trending. To push people back to the simplicity of nature, away from our electronic lives. To open our hearts to gratitude and wonder. The longer I sat in this sacred space, the further my seaside meditation led me down a reflective path.CM24wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroCM26CM10As I thought about the name of the hotel, Casa & Mar, I flash-backed to a psychology class where I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. With basic needs of shelter, food, and health met, only then do we move on to fully appreciate and experience love, strength, and self-actualization. Health – the important element that I was reminded of here at Casa & Mar. Reminded through the food, touch, conversations, yoga, nature, and meditation that I experienced during my visit. I felt complete.CM20CM21CM7wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroBack on the patio of my suite, I remembered a quote from one of the other presenters at ILTM Cannes: “The greatest wealth is health”. As I breathed in the balmy breeze, I knew exactly what that meant. Rich in every sense of the word, I was healthy, happy, and whole. COLINAL_VISTA01

Contact me to book your visit to Rio’s Casa & Mar!

 

 

Credits:

Photography: Bitlab Media

Makeup: Alicia Ramirez

Wardrobe: Lenny Niemeyer & VIX by Paula Hermanny

 

 

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Seaside Splendor: Rio’s Copacabana Palace

belmond-copacabana-palaceOh Rio! The pulsating city that wraps you with sultry beaches and jutting mountains from behind. Where to rest when you want the finest in this glistening city? The crown jewel of this iconic skyline – Copacabana Palace. belmond-copacabana-palacebelmond-copacabana-palacePalatial surroundings usher you into this timeless hideaway that has been Rio’s superstar hotel since 1923. I stepped out of my taxi and was greeted by the friendliest staff, who were surprised at my Portuguese! One of the many things that I love about the Belmond hotel staff is that they instantly make you feel like you’ve known them forever, almost like old friends. It’s a comfortable luxury, not a stuffy or pretentious air, that they’ve somehow all mastered!

Settling into my suite was a dream! Sounds of bossa nova lured me towards a balcony that looked out over Brazil’s most famous beach. Peeking at my welcome gift, I was distracted by the spa menu when I saw “Jet Lag Treatment”. This sounded like exactly what I needed! I pulled myself away from my beautiful beachside room, only to be greeted at the spa – another place I might find hard to leave! My therapist magically massaged every flight delay, emotional support peacock, and security line right out of my tired body. Every hotel needs this spa service!

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Fully soothed and relaxed, I made my way to the aquamarine pool below. I loved every detail at Copacabana Palace – the wooden sculptures, a private dining nook under a tree, and of course, the warm service from the Belmond staff. Enjoying the most delicious ceviche ever, I talked with a nearby guest about my dining options for later, thrilled to learn about the Michelin-starred Mee right across the pool. Or maybe Cipriani, which fuses Northern Italian cuisine with local ingredients. Decisions, decisions! Mulling over my next meal, I gazed at birds drifting overhead and fell into a deep sleep.

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Why would I want to leave? Well with an invite to Veste Rio, a semiannual fashion conference that highlights the biggest names in Rio de Janeiro, the decision was almost made for me. Brands like Lenny Niemeyer and Osklen lure conference goers with the latest from their collections. Fashion is not normally the first thing you think of when you hear Rio de Janeiro, but trust me. This is the place to get your swimwear and everything for your summer fête. These people know how to create designs that will have you looking stunning in even the most sweltering heat – it’s what they do.where-to-shop-in-rio-de-janeirowhere-to-shop-in-rio-de-janeiro

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One step closer to Cristo in Gaoli’s silks

My invite to Veste Rio, a gift from my friends at Gaoli Rio, was just a tease of the latest in Brazilian fashion. Gaoli is my favorite boutique that houses many of my beloved brands from all over Brazil. I always make a stop here when shopping for my personal stylist clients. One visit and you’re set with everything you need for your seaside adventures! Flowing gowns and featherweight caftans are their specialty, with accompanying bikinis to match, of course.where-to-shop-in-rio-de-janeiro

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Glittering like the stars in Gaoli Beach Couture

A lucky discovery at Veste Rio was Mundo Isla, a local jewelry company that had the most eye-catching display. Each piece looked like a fisherman’s treasure as they dangled from driftwood tangled in nets. Besides this seaside-inspired show of their jewels, I was entranced by the calming blues and pearly whites that reminded me of the waves of Rio’s nearby beaches.

The next day, I paid a visit to their showroom and met the two founders of Mundo Isla, Ana Jacob and Luiza Bellizzi. I felt an instant connection with these two creative ladies who shared their story over an afternoon of coffee and confections. “When I met Ana, I instantly fell in love with her style; her home was a mixture of ethnic elements that made the place so unique, and we connected because of this shared vibe. After talking to Ana about Mundo Isla, I quit my job and took a course in jewelry making so that I could learn her craft and join her unique brand,” Luiza divulged with a smile.

IslacolarIt’s definitely unique. Walking through their gallery, I felt as though the little girl inside me who used to gather seashells on the shore was eager and excited by each piece. “Our ideal muse is someone who isn’t worried about being trendy, but quite the opposite. A woman who is unique, and looking for a non-traditional style that encourages a casual elegance,” Ana shared as she showed me some of their recent collection.

As Ana continued to tell their story, it sounded like Mundo Isla had been birthed long before these two women met. “I had been designing jewelry since I was in college, drawing on my architecture degree as many designers do, like Antonio Bernardo and Lenny Niemeyer, and sold my jewelry at fairs here and abroad. Luiza had more experience in marketing and so we complemented each other. But coincidentally, I had planned a vacation to Greece for May 2015, the same year we launched Mundo Isla, so I did some research once I was there and later used the Greek jewelry as a source of inspiration, since they heavily use silver for their jewelry. Their style is exactly the same that both Luiza and I like – a stripped down style. I even got to know an atelier of an artist who also uses Brazilian stones. That trip was fundamental to our success!”

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Seaside splendor at Copacabana Palace

Ah, yes! The magic inspiration of travel! I left their boutique rejuvenated and inspired. On the drive back to Copacabana Palace, I was reminded of their seaside muse as I looked out to Rio’s picturesque shoreline. That’s one of the best things about this hotel – you’re steps from the beautiful beach, but are instantly transported to another world once you step foot inside Belmond’s seaside splendor.

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“Meet me at Copacabana Palace…”

Nightfall crept over the shore, and I stepped onto my balcony and watched a glorious sunset as I waited for my friends to arrive for a drink at the most famed meeting place in Rio – Copacabana Palace.

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Gaoli’s summer gowns – always perfect for a dinner at Copacabana Palace!

Are you ready to go to Rio? Let me plan your trip!

Article credits

Wardrobe: Gaoli Beach Couture

Makeup: Chanel

Photographer: J.J. Soto

Interview translation: Thamara Valença and Jazon Santos