'I was seriously sh*t scared'

The irony of writing this is I have just come from a ‘safety briefing’ at our Rio hotel – it certainly isn’t some smarty-pants, A-Team, big time pub but one you’d tag ‘pleasant digs’.

A gang of new ‘Olympics’ guests – including us as guests of the Oakley eyewear and fitness brand – been put through our security paces, everything  from the right times to go out, who to go out with, the situations to stay in and those to avoid.

(Hey, our Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove is staying here so that may be the reason why security is pretty tight: it’s complete with a blue dance party wrist band that has been on my wrist ever since I arrived last night.)

Sure, sounds like pretty stock standard stuff that we should intuitively know, but for some reason, here, in Rio our fear and safety alert factor has been seriously heightened. Apart from reading story after story about muggings, stabbings, shootings and robberies I did absolutely arrive with trepidation.

And for someone whose fear factor is fairly minimal that’s saying quite a lot.

To be brutally honest I am now nowhere near as scared or as fearful as I thought I would be.

For every one ‘suspicious’ character there are about 2000 ‘people like us’ – normal punters trawling the main drag of Copacabana beach soaking up the stench, I mean salty sea air, observing the zillions of street performers and just trying to get in to the spirit of Rio. Oh, that’s right, it’s not Carnivale is it?!

The long stretch of beach that is Copacabana is dotted with mega food station kiosks, bars and huge numbers – all of which make identifying meeting spots all very easy.

And considering our hotel is two blocks back from the beach, you hear the sirens, the loud noises, screeches, heated conversations, oh,  and some pretty happy people in amongst all of that.

Anyone coming to Rio has been told to go light on the bling, low on the heels and steady on the ‘look at me’ factor.

As a woman who enjoys all of the above on the odd occasion it made packing an easier chore that usual.

I just thought bland.

Anyhow, while we’ve all been told not to travel on our own, I certainly won’t be disobeying that security measure.

After the shooting of a thief by a Russian diplomat and the photographic gear of a News Corp crew stolen in the space of 10 seconds not far from where we are: I ain’t changing anything from the original security brief.

Even a trip to the Botanic Gardens contained a security gate – not forgetting more cops stationed outside the fake handbag stand just off the beach front.

Camouflaged cops were on duty and would not raise a smile no matter how nicely we asked. (Okay, so Portuguese isn’t my specialty).

So far, the public security in element Rio seems to be very well organised but I can imagine how busy it will be at the opening ceremony Friday night where punters are expected to walk a couple of kilometres from their drop off point, before they even reach the stadium.

That will just be the beginning of a very long few weeks of heightened security measures and some fairly fearful Olympics guests.

There are police, or members of the army on every corner. They’re everywhere.

Like everyone, we have already warned not to venture to the favelas – where around 1 million people live – and were possibly some of the more  unsavoury characters of Rio call home.

There are police and guns everywhere. There are security details everywhere.

The guidelines are pretty simple to be honest. You just need to act like you would when you go anywhere and you and you are out of your comfort zone.

Don’t look ostentatious. Don’t take the iPhone out at every opportunity, don’t leave the handbag unzipped or even leave it on the floor next to you, especially if you are in a public space, cafe or bar.

Sure, the lack of iPhone accessibility may make my Rio trip not as colourful as I may have liked, but what is the choice?

Safety and sanity or a quickly stolen iPhone with a whole lot of pictures the robber couldn’t give a stuff about anyway.

Let’s say, this trip is one that we will be Instagramming internally.

(Or just taking a couple of quick snaps when you know you’ve got a few mates around who are there as your own very secure security detail.)

Sure, Rio, to so many is a pretty mad at this exact point in time and it is one pretty dynamic hot mess. Even listening outside it’s like I am at a football grand final. It’s crowded, loud, packed with traffic, friendly, accessible, smelly, hot, devoid of deodorant, poverty-fuelled, full of rich peeps, of limos, it’s a tad grubby and full of every type of human possible.

It’s 8 and 3/4 months pregnant and basically waiting for the opening ceremony to start.

It’s everything you expect it to be and that study in contrasts makes it slightly fearful but in an alert kind of way.

And it is these so many contrasts that make it interesting.

But whether the real feelings of fear will actually and totally dissipate I don’t think they will.

To use that well worn phrase, I think everyone here is alert but not too alarmed. Yet.

And if you can learn to tell the difference between the laughter outside of your hotel room as opposed to serious, evil screams then, I guess the Olympics will be deemed, at least, an emotional success.

*Melissa Hoyer is in Rio as a guest of Oakley


QANTAS AND TOURISM AUSTRALIA TO BOOST VISITOR NUMBERS WITH NEW MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR DEAL

Qantas and Tourism Australia have signed a $20 million deal to promote Australia to the world.

The three year agreement involves a joint investment from Qantas and Tourism Australia to attract more international visitors to Australia, with a focus on the United States, Asia, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce and Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan signed the deal today, marking a new era of partnership between the two organisations.

Mr Joyce said Qantas’ multi-million dollar investment with Tourism Australia was about continuing the momentum of the tourism boom to deliver bigger benefits for Australia.

“Both Qantas and Tourism Australia want the same thing – a strong tourism industry that makes Australia the first choice for people all over the world. With tourism both to-and-within Australia on the rise, it’s the ideal time for us to join forces once again,” said Mr Joyce.

“This new investment builds on the marketing we already do and our partnerships with state and territory governments to put Australia’s best foot forward.

“Qantas has always been the biggest private sector supporter of Australian tourism and we will continue to focus on growing visitor numbers.”


Seychelles and safari; private travel and pristine nature

Two adventures, one philosophy, with privacy in mind and conservation at heart, combine a Singita Serengeti Safari and Fregate Island Private, Seychelles.

Singita is committed to future horizons; caretaking vast tracts of the Serengeti gives them privileged access to unspoilt wilderness, through which they guide guests in style to sight big game.

Fregate Island Private, ‘Galapagos of the Seychelles’, offers a gentler side of nature, from the diminutive and rare, to free roaming giant tortoises. Secluded Pool Residences come with your Private Assistant who will arrange dining ‘anywhere’, and a multitude of activities from deep sea fishing to night safaris, all included, and all of course private.

Begin your private adventure


First look at Sir Richard Branson’s Son Bunyola Estate

Virgin Limited Edition, Sir Richard Branson’s privately owned collection of award-winning luxury hotels and retreats is excited to share the first stunning images of the newly opened villas Sa Punta De S’Aguila and Sa Terra Rotja, situated on the Son Bunyola Estate. 

At the heart of the Son Bunyola estate is a historic Finca building dating back to the 1800’s surrounded by vines, citrus fruit trees, almond and olive trees. The estate, with its own gated entrance, is over 700 acres and is located in between Esporles and Banyalbufar on the Northwest coast of Mallorca. The area is dominated by the Tramuntana mountain range with its breath-taking scenery, and is home to some of the most historical and picturesque towns on the island.

What are the villa options?

Sa Punta de S’Aguila translates as ‘Eagle’s Point’. This five bedroom villa is built in traditional Mallorcan style, with exposed beam ceilings and terracotta tiled floors. Offering total privacy, the villa has been sympathetically built into the landscape and boasts panoramic sea and mountain views. Sa Punta de S’Aguila has its own heated swimming pool, kitchen, living room and dining area. This villa comfortably sleeps 10 adults in 5 en-suite bedrooms. Rates start from EUR 21, 825 (at today’s exchange rate AUD 31,900) for a 7 night stay or AUD 3190 per person based on 10 adults staying.

Sa Terra Rotja translates as ‘red earth’ from the local Mallorquí language, and this private four-bedroom villa is situated near the edge of the estate and a short walk from a pebble beach. Sa Terra Rotja also has its own heated swimming pool and plenty of space on the terrace for sunbathing, outdoor dining and watching the sun set over this exclusive and beautiful corner of the island. This villa comfortably sleeps 8 adults in 4 en-suite bedrooms. Rates start from EUR 17,460 (at today’s exchange rate AUD 25,500) for a 7 night stay or AUD 3200 per person based on 8 adults staying.

What’s included?

• Accommodation for the 7 nights 

• All drinks including wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks and Spanish sparkling wine

• Breakfast, lunch and dinner including a local restaurant reservation one night

• A concierge service to take care of activities and restaurant bookings

• Wireless internet

• Daily housekeeping and pool servicing

Things to do….and also included!

Take a dip in your private heated pool just steps away from your villa or play a spot of tennis on the nearby court (racquets and balls provided) – this is shared by Sa Terra Rotja and Sa Punta de S’Aguila. The estate is 3km×5km in size so perfect for a stroll to stretch your legs, or capture stunning ocean views with a coastal walk which starts from a pebble beach.


ETIHAD AIRWAYS AND AIRBERLIN AT MERCEDES BENZ FASHION WEEK BERLIN

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin took place for the first time with Etihad Airways and airberlin as new official partners of the event. The fashion industry gathered in the German capital to showcase their newest collections.

Etihad Airways recently announced a comprehensive new global agreement with WME | IMG to become a strategic partner. Together with Etihad Airways Partners airlines, Etihad Airways now annually supports 17 fashion week events around the world.

MADE, an international platform to support emerging designers and creatives, continued its expansion outside the US with the launch of MADE Berlin. MADE was established in New York to promote creative visionaries in fashion, music, art and culture. The latest edition of MADE in the German capital is in celebration of a cultural exchange programme between MADE New York and MADE Berlin. airberlin, partner of Etihad Airways, participates in MADE Berlin, via the global partnership between Etihad Airways and WME | IMG, announced earlier this year.

“Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Berlin and MADE form a perfect bridge between fashion, lifestyle and travel. The who’s who of the fashion scene visited Berlin this week. Our excellent schedule – with daily non-stop flights between Berlin and New York, make us the perfect partner for creative intercultural exchange”, said Andrew Ward, Senior Vice President Marketing at airberlin.

Guests visited the Etihad Airways and airberlin joint stand at Fashion Week Berlin and were hosted by airline crew and representatives.