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Review: Sol Ipanema Hotel

Review: Sol Ipanema HotelScore 72%Score 72%
Series: Honeymoon - South America

Introduction

If you are going to Rio for Carnival and you’re gay, then the only place to stay is in close proximity to Ipanema beach, or directly opposite the ‘gay’ section of the sand, which funnily enough is almost directly opposite the Sol Ipanema Hotel.

Booking & Price

We booked this hotel as part of a package provided by our preferred travel agent Out and About, using the South American specialist agency Eclipse. Having determined that Ipanema (Farme de Amoedo gay beach) was preferable to Copacabana beach (touristy, busier), we requested a hotel adjacent to the beach, because, you know, the view.

Let’s face it. We knew this was going to be our introduction to Rio, and we wanted it to be memorable, so Ipanema, on the beach it was. You can pay a lot less to get a better hotel back from the beach, or a room that doesn’t face the beach. On the other hand, you can pay way more for somewhere like the Hilton, and the design and furnishings might be nicer, but you won’t get as good a position.

Details

Stay: 2 to 7 March 2019
Stars: 4
Room: Deluxe Ocean View Room
Size: 28 sqm (300 sqf)
Bed: King
Per Night Average: ~AU$225
Address: Av. Vieira Souto, 320, Ipanema – Rio de Janeiro – Brasil
Phone: +55 (21) 2525-2020
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.solipanema.com.br

The price was expensive for what you got. But this was wham-bam, thank-you-scantily-clad-ma’am, in the middle of Carnival season.

Location & Arrival

The location is sensational. It faces the beach, which is just across the Vieira Souto Avenue. You can sit in the bar having a drink while watching the beach across the road. It’s a stone’s throw away from Rua Farme de Amoedo, the home of gay bar, club and restaurant action in Ipanema.

Safety

In Rio, you need to have your wits about you, especially during Carnival. Just as you can see the poverty stricken favela’s from you comfortable four star hotel on the beach, so is the divide between rich and poor in Rio.

Our guide said be careful, and South Americans we met, where more like ‘be very careful’. The advice of our peers was, go out with nothing, no jewellery, no wallet, no watch. Take just your phone (if you must) and the cash, or credit card you will need for the evening. Mind you this advice was from two Chilean muscle boys dressed in speedos. Indeed when you were out, especially in the inescapable crowds of Carnival, you could feel hands doing their darndest to exploit your pockets and crevices.

History

I havn’t been able to find much history about the hotel, except that it was refurbished in 2015. My suspicion is that it has been around for a while, I’m thinking 70’s or 80’s. The one reference to its age suggests it is 40 years old, so that would fit. Nopt to far in time from the 1960s bossa nova hit ‘The Girl from Ipanema‘ which won a Grammy. It sits higher than most buildings in the area, which suggests a time of less stringent building codes, or corruption.

The hotel features security at the entry, a Reception area and Bar at the entrance, good security, a first-floor restaurant, and a rooftop pool.

Check-in

The first thing you notice when arriving at Sol Ipanema Is that the footpath, parking area and entrance are barricaded and staffed by a number of security guards. This is both reassuring and alarming. Reassuring because they open the barricades, and guide you into the hotel. Alarming, because there is a need to open the barricades and guide you into the hotel!.

Once up the few entrance stairs, then this is what greets you: a bar and seating area, reception down the back to the left, and a staircase to the first-floor restaurant ‘Masserini Osteria di Mare’ just in front of it. To the right are the two lifts.

Check-in went smoothly, with all staff speaking perfect English, and our reservation recognised. Our guide for Rio from the Brazillian tour operator Blumar was with us and dealt with most of the registration process. We watched our bags having heard horror stories from friends of having their bags stolen from the foyer of a hotel (no this hotel) in Rio.

Blumar provided a half-day tour of Rio, which was worth it. It centred around a guided private trip to Christ the Redeemer and all the associated hullabaloo of getting tickets and attending the Carnival Samba-Drome, plus a bit of a drive by of some more colourful suburbs like Santa Theresa.

I have wanted to go to Carnival in Rio since I heard a first-hand account from a friend back in the late 1980s.

The info pack was pretty good, and we used it a number of times to confirm our choice of restaurants. We were tempted by another tour Blumar offered, but were a bit shocked by the quoted cost.

The Room

The hotel has 90 rooms. Those at the back are classified as ‘Standard’, and have no views. The rooms at the front (1, 2 and 3) are classed as ‘luxury’ and have the views of Ipanema beach. We had an ’02’ room, facing the beach on the 6th floor. The advantage of these rooms is they have the view.

The downside can be the noise from the beach and the road below, not to mention the miniature protest/celebration parades that go by nearly every day, usually in the late afternoon during Carnival. You got a bit of street carousing noise in the evening, but it didn’t inhibit our sleep, especially when we got home around 5 am from the Samba-Drome.

There is nothing wrong with these rooms, but there is nothing remarkable either. At 28 square metres, they are snug but well laid out. Just remember, other than the bed or an upright chair, there is nowhere to ‘lounge’.

King size bed

The bathroom is to the right of the entranceway with the bed beyond, again to the right, with the entertainment unit on the left. At the end of the room, is a wall to wall window from about waist height, along with a desk. There is no other seating area.

Entertainment unit at the end of the bed

Bedroom

Freshly painted, but otherwise a little dated. It had an air conditioner, which was needed, a generous king-size bed, a small table/desk and two dining chairs. It is designed for sleep, looking out the window, and not much else. The room had a barely adequate number of power outlets, what with the number of devices we have to charge and not all outlets appeared to be working.

Wardrobe

The wardrobe is at the opposite end of the room to the window, and had three panels, two for clothes hanging, and one housed the minibar coffee maker and associated merchandise, including quite nice branded slippers for purchase.

It had those glasses enveloped in plastic bags to prove that they are clean, which somehow remind me of evidence bags, and scream contamination to me. Yes, you are right, the wardrobe had those ‘anti-theftcoathangers which you have heard me sing the praises of before. You do get a Nespresso machine, however, for that morning shot.

The safe had a couple of draws below. I love a hotel drawer. We placed most of our bags above the hanging space in the wardrobe on the shelf provided. That helped clear the 28 square metre floor space!

Yes, those robes are short, and designed for size ‘0’ models.

Mini-Bar

Minibar was well stocked, and I particularly like that door storage for cans. Still water was complementary as was the long life milk.

The inevitable Pringles, nuts, miniatures, chocolate and condoms. The Capa de Chuva raincoat seemed like a nice but unnecessary touch until you saw how hard the rain pelts down in Rio. On the night we went to the Samba-Drome it monsooned in Tropical proportions. Water in the street lapped at the doorstep of the hotel, threatening to flood the bar at any minute. Meanwhile, guests and others entered drenched, although some wisely were already dressed in speedos. It might rain but it’s not cold.

Nespresso machine below with branded slippers – reflecting the famous pattern on the sidewalks of Ipanema created by Roberto Burle Marz in the 1970s.

Everything you needed in a minibar really.

The Bathroom

Small, and not perfectly formed. The bathroom was – lets face it, tiny. It was functional however, with adequate mirrors and even a shaving mirror and hairdryer.

Towels were fresh, but on the thin side. They were not always replaced, and we had to call for some once or twice. I wasn’t sure what the towel leaving protocol was, so maybe it was us not leaving them on the floor.

Amenities

The amenities were as un-natural in their scent as they were in their colour, orange in both.

But, ultimately its just soap and shampoo, and they were adequate to their task.

Public Areas – Bars, Restaurants & Gyms

The hotel has a miniature pool and gym on the roof and a bar on the ground floor. The pool has a small bar as well. The bar in reception is intimate, and you can meet everyone entering the hotel if you spend a bit of time there. We spent a convivial hour there drinking gin and tonics on the night of our Carnival Samba-Drome visit, chatting to guests while we waited for our transport.

We breakfasted on the first floor each day of our stay. As well as a splendid array of fruit, juice, pastries and other breakfast fare including hot dishes such as scrambled eggs, bacon, you could also order other dishes from the kitchen. The breakfasts were splendid, served by very good-humoured staff.

We dined in the restaurant ‘Gabbiano Al Mare’ on our first day (the same space as where breakfast is served), enjoying the surprisingly good Italian food, the service and the view.

2PAXfly Takeout

We had a sensational time in Rio. We soaked up Carnival and were amazed by the passion, humour and extravagance of the shows in the Samba-Drome. My long-held wish was achieved and I was seduced by the joie de vivre of the population, by which I really mean the gorgeousness of those caramel coloured muscle boys and the enhanced bosoms of the scantily clad female performers.

This is not a great hotel, but it is a hotel in a great city, with a great view in a great location.

It really doesn’t make the best of its fantastic position. The interior design is laboured, and although only five or so years old, could do with a refresh. There are some things you can’t change, like making those windows floor to ceiling or adding balconies, but there are better ways of decorating the rooms.

Having said that, it has a great Italian restaurant, and when operating, a small usually crowded rooftop pool. Staff tend to the loyal retainer type but are professional and attentive.

Forgiving the interior design of the rooms, and taking into consideration the price, we were pleased with our stay and the hotel. We might wish the walls were thicker, or that our neighbours were quieter, but we were here for Carnival and the delights of Rio, not the hotel rooms.

Would I recommend this hotel – definitely.

. . . and one last time with the view.

Other Posts in the Series
<< Review: LATAM flight Iguazu to Rio

Review

72%

Summary In top location, has well meaning staff, good food, and interior character bypass, but you forget all that because of the views

Top location, well meaning staff, good food, character bypass, but views to die for
72%

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