Rio Baby! A dramatic start to an amazing week in one of the world’s most beautiful cities
I recently returned home from the Les Clefs d’Or Pan American Congress in Rio de Janeiro.
Originally scheduled for 2020, this was our first in-person meeting in over three years. Over 150
hotel concierges attended, from the US, Canada, Mexico and South America. We are a unique
organization, treating each other as family, although we are, to some degree, business
competitors. It was not uncommon to hear members refer to the Congress as a “family reunion.”
On Thursday, August 25, David (my husband) and I flew from Philadelphia to Sao Paulo with a
lengthy layover in Toronto where we toured the city. The drama began Friday morning when my
suitcase failed to appear on the carousel. My initial response was to panic, as this was no
ordinary trip. In the suitcase was business attire for meetings, casual attire for tour day, and
appropriate attire for dinner, including my very first evening gown for the gala. The only clothing
in my backpack was a bathing suit, one sundress, and luckily, a pair of flats that I had debated
about packing. I filled out the Air Canada claim form and provided the address of the hotel in Rio
where I hoped the luggage would be delivered in time for the start of the Congress Sunday
evening. After checking into the Intercontinental Sao Paulo, I was able to find a nearby mall to
purchase clothing for the next couple of days. Later that afternoon we enjoyed a guided tour of
Sao Paulo that was arranged by Renata Farha, Chef Concierge at the hotel (as President of Les
Clefs d’Or Brasil, she was the lead organizer for the Congress.) In the evening we had cocktails
and a terrific dinner at Bar Astor. Incidentally, Uber prices are incredibly low in Brazil. For most
rides, we paid about $2.00!!
The drama continued when we arrived at the airport Saturday morning for our short flight from
Sao Paulo to Rio, and I couldn’t locate my passport. Luckily, I found it the next morning, but
Azul Airlines would not allow us to fly, even with a copy of my passport and my driver’s license.
We were able to quickly arrange a wonderful, relaxing taxi ride from Sao Paulo to Rio, enjoying
the scenery along the route.
After arriving in Rio, we stayed one night at the Emiliano Rio, a beautiful hotel directly on the
beach between Ipanema and Copacabana, where we enjoyed a memorable breakfast Sunday
morning in their indoor garden.
In the afternoon we relaxed by the rooftop infinity pool, and that evening we took another short
Uber ride to our dinner at Nosso.
There was great news on Sunday afternoon, when we checked into the Sheraton Grand Rio. My
suitcase had arrived! The Congress officially opened with a pool party Sunday evening
(everyone wore white).
On Monday, our business meeting included three excellent speakers:
Gabriela Otto Hospitality consultant and President of HSMAI Brasil
Ray Ingleby, CEO Guest Services Worldwide
Producer/supplier of high-quality publications for the hotel & leisure industry
Dr. Bryan Williams
Keynote speaker, author, consultant on service excellence, and organizational
On Tuesday the entire group toured Rio, stopping at Sugarloaf Mountain and the iconic Christ
the Redeemer statue. Although it was a cloudy day, the clouds parted for us to have a great
view. We even saw monkeys at both sites!
After the tour, we enjoyed dinner at one of the famous Brazilian churrascarias (steakhouses).
Wednesday morning, I was so happy that Leigh Anne Dolecki was elected as our new
President, and all current board members were re-elected for another one-year term. And I was
especially grateful that the meetings adjorned early so that we could enjoy “pool time” before
our gala dinner that evening.
On Thursday morning, I woke up early enough to view an incredible sunrise before the
Congress officially ended after breakfast. David and I stayed in Rio an additional two nights at
the Praia Ipanema, located directly on the famed beach, where we enjoyed another rooftop
infinity pool. That evening, the concierge at the popular Fasano Hotel, arranged for us to have
drinks on the rooftop bar at sunset.
On Friday we took a tour of Rio with Paschoal, our guide, to the famous painted steps,
Escadaria Celaron, in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. We also drove through the Centro area
and stopped at the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, one of the most beautiful libraries in
When we mentioned our hope for sushi that evening (no more meat!) Paschoal recommend
Gurume. This may have been our favorite meal of the week.
We returned to Sao Paulo on Saturday for our flight back to Philadelphia. With a layover in
Montreal, we were able to tour Old Montreal and had coffee and pastries at Le Petit Dep, a
perfect French café, and a perfect ending to our trip.