The original travelogue was written in March of 2013 for a college report. This post is an adaptation.
tl;dr Brazil. Much wow.
It was the trip of a lifetime.
From the airplane, the first glimpse we got of Rio was the silhouettes of small islands. Once we flew over them and approached the landing strip, the visual of head and taillights of cars stuck in a jam created the image of a beautifully woven gold and ruby necklace from a distance.
The sights that we took in in the following days took our breaths away and transported us to another world, in the non-literal sense too. Everything about the city brought in us, a sense of serenity and celebration. The happy-go-lucky spirit of the Brazilians. The beaches. The flora and fauna. The food and drinks. Even the air we breathed. We didn’t feel like tourists and that was one of the best things about being in Brazil.
The verdict: Brazil – ‘virgin beauty’.
Discovering Rio de Janeiro
We were taken on a city tour during the first day in Rio. We headed for Christ the Redeemer situated in the Corcavado Mountains after breakfast and I can vouch for the fact that group digestion was quick thanks to the presence of adrenalin transmitted by the itinerary.
A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. In spite of the rains that morning, our spirits could not be dampened.
Our zesty bus tour guide, Luiza gave us a lot of information to digest but had our full attention. All our heads and ears were perked, like dogs at the slightest sound of a wrapper, whenever she would point to a building and relay its history to us. Once we got close to the peak, we got the first glimpse of Christ the Redeemer and it would forever be etched in our minds! It was like Christ welcoming us with arms wide open.
Our next stop was Escadaria Selaron or the Selaron steps. Wonderfully constructed with a myriad of colours in mosaic and tiles put together by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron, it was a project that started out as a hobby but soon became an obsession. Selaron began renovating dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag. He found he was constantly out of money so he sold paintings to fund his work. It turned into a long and exhaustive expedition but he eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors. There were interesting square tiles showcasing snippets of the countries that had contributed to the Escadaria Selaron project and the 20 of us silently competed to capture the best photo for bragging rights on the bus!
Arriving at: Sao Sebastiao Cathedral.
Giving out the first impression of a re-engineered pyramid, the cathedral boasted of tall and imposing contemporary-stained glass paintings on the inside. The paintings were a bit hard to decipher which added to the unusual charm of the cathedral and inspired faith in something greater. <Insert quote on the meaning of life>. And as if to symbolically bless us for our short prayers at the Cathedral, it started raining right after we stepped out. <Insert quote about how God gives you signs, and not just the ones on the road>
We loved every bit of Rio and it seemed like Rio was returning the favour.
I have to sugarcoat (Pun intended) the description of our next destination, Pao de Acucar (the Sugarloaf Mountain). A ten-minute cable car ride that runs up two mountains and allows for more breathtaking scenic views of Rio took us to the top of the mountain where the coast of the city could be seen. Again this time, the clouds wanted to play hide and seek.
Michelin Day in Angra Dos Reis
Now it must be mentioned to the reader that the intention of traveling here was for business and a modicum of leisure. So far, the latter got all the attention.
Michelin was one among the many companies that were associated with the Grenoble Ecole de Management. About 6 of us were assigned to work on two Michelin live business cases. [Note: Live business cases (LBCs) are graded papers that were a part of our Master’s course. LBCs were real business problems that companies faced and presented to the student community in order to source viable solutions.]
A 3 hour bus ride to Angra dos Reis got us to Vila Gale, a five-star resort where over 300 South-American Michelin employees were present to attend the annual company convention. Upon arrival, we felt very welcomed thanks to Mr. Jose Tarantini and the entire operations team at Michelin. A video and photo shoot of the Michelin Day was organized by Michelin.
After a meaty lunch, we got down to work. The groups working on the Michelin Live Business Case were given the opportunity to address their questions and gain more insight into the company’s history in Latin America. The Michelin reps answered our questions patiently and gave us additional information of Michelin’s business operations in Brazil. The Q&A session was highly informative not only for the Live Business Case students but also for other groups as well. Moreover, the opportunity to interact with the Michelin’s management dignitaries was rewarding.
At the end of the presentation, Michelin was kind enough to let us use the resort facilities and we put on our swimwear and headed straight to the beach. Hello, leisure. Sorry we got a bit distracted.
The Chamber of Commerce, Sao Paolo
The Camara de Comercio Franca-Brasil (CCFB) is the French chamber of commerce in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The CCFB is devoted to developing and improving the economic, trade, cultural, social and industrial ties between France and Brazil. The members of CCFB can benefit from a robust network of 900 fellow members. Being the students of a French business school, it was useful for us to understand a bit about the commercial alliances between France and Brazil.
Ms Lorraine Leal, our presenter for the day, was descriptive about the working styles and cultural structure of Brazil – something that we were all curious to know. Through her, we learnt that Brazil is a great market for companies with a growing middle class population with an appetite to spend. This is one of the reasons why despite the problems of bureaucracy, theft and violence, it still remains attractive as a market. We were startled to learn that in certain industries like cosmetics; products are 3 times more expensive than France. As Brazil is a melting pot of cultures, there is demand for every kind of product in the market. Another interesting fact we discovered was that Brazil offers consumers a very flexible and easy payment system. Up to 36 payments in installments can be made for purchasing a product. Because of this, goods are more affordable for the middle class and people living in Favelas.
Now, all good things must come to an end
Hotel Unique was where we decided to say bye bye. With a grand dinner, unlimited drinks and a healthy dose of bonhomie, no tears were shed that night.
The hotel’s rooftop terrace displays amazing views of the city and that was where we spent most of our time. A fascinating crimson red swimming pool lined one section of the wall and in no time, it was known to the hotel visitors that we were children stuck in adult bodies. The underestimation of the force of a push got our friend (and his vodka cranberry drink) in the red pool. This was deemed as a ‘Cirque du so-lame’ show but we got the drunk attention of the visiting crowd and ended up having more conversations per person that night.
It was a perfect finale for the trip.
The Ravelogues is a series that decrypts thoughts of people, places and things that the author finds interesting.