Marcia Levin arrives in Rio for the beginning of her Azamara cruise

My first day in Rio de Janeiro was great: My eight-hour American Airlines flight was comfortable, getting in about 10 minutes early. Comfort came from the fact I had a seat on the side of the plane – one of two – with no one in the second seat.  I stretched out over both seats and slept the better part of four to five hours.

Security, customs, luggage went easily and with a prepaid cab (about 105 reals, or a bit more than $50 (, I made it to the hotel in time for breakfast.

Music to tour by

The Sofitel hotel is right across from Copacabana Beach. It is lovely. The Copacabana Beach area is beautiful and the touchstone for what we learned was Latin music. While near my home in South Florida many think it’s Celia Cruz who was the godmother of the genre, those of us of an age know it was really Carmen Miranda. We’re planning on seeing the Carmen Miranda Museum on Sunday.

We sail on Azamara Quest on Tuesday, heading to a couple of other Brazilian ports, on to Punta del Este, Uruguay and we wind up in Buenos Aires.

Since I already had the score of “Evita” on my iPad, I took a friend’s suggestion to get a version of “The Girl from Ipanem” and while he suggested either the Frank Sinatra or Antonio Jobim versions, I found one great recording featuring both artists.

We’ll be sightseeing here in Rio Sunday and Monday and I’ll keep an eye on Copacabana and Ipanema.

Bring in the bling

Today it was off to H. Stern to ogle the magnificent Brazilian gemstones and learn the remarkable story beyond the name that has become synonymous with fine gemstones worldwide. Hans Stern arrived in Rio from Germany in 1939 and as a very young man began buying and setting many shapes and colors of precious stones. He started his own company with $200 and opened a small boutique. His stores are now located on four continents; the company is run by Roberto and Ronaldo Stern who employ 3,000 men and women across the globe.

Six-karat aquamarine set in 18 karat white gold

Aquamarines are the national gem of Brazil, but H. Stern includes emeralds, agate, amethysts, sapphires, topazes, citrines and tourmalines. The stones appear in the beautiful settings created by artists in the studio. A tour of the H. Stern museum includes watching artisans create extraordinary pieces of jewelry. And the tour includes a visit to the shops where I fell in love with a $8,150, six-karat aquamarine set in 18 karat white gold.

I did not buy it.

The H. Stern tour is popular with pre-cruise tourists and while we were in the museum we met quite a few travelers shipping out on Regent or Silversea ships.

Cautioned by friends, travel writers, travel agents – and, of course, my kids – to be safe, wear little jewelry, etc., has made me a bit paranoid, but even several hotel people have suggested not wandering off the beaten path. So yes, I promise to be careful.

I’ll keep you posted.



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