Edelweiss vistas top Sub-Saharan savannas. Icelandic sunsets have a Balinese voile. Topaz seas are served warm and bubbly. My skin is Juno with a tint of XPro, my luggage Fantastic Beasts with Bond veneers… I want it all. I want it now.
Drowsing through the ceaseless snarl of São Paulo traffic, my jet-lagged lassitude’s jolted by the primal glare of graffiti daubed rousingly across the cityscape’s concrete cubist facades. I wonder if that’s a cartel kingpin or CEO behind the blacked out windows purring alongside mine. (REDACTION: No, they’re the smart ones being flown in the helicopters swarming overhead) and whether my whole, lame raison d’etre is just one long, meaningless, Sisyphean quest for an upgrade.
Aesthetically, domestically, materially, romantically: I’m the metropolitan cliché, I just love everything better, bigger, prettier, shinier, faster and more exciting, all of the time. Hermès or Chanel? Lux or Exec? Spoon or fork? “Mirror, mirror, on the wall: shall I fix my lips, teeth, tits, or do ‘em all?”
Even the upgrade can be upgraded, one realises, gazing dolefully from Premium to Business, Business to First or from First to the private jet across the runway. Soon, private jet owners will get to experience the binary phenomenon of satisfaction and disappointment when personal spacecrafts lift off.
Rolling up and away from the choking tin can jams and into an upscale, tree-lined residential enclave of Morumbi that could be mistaken for Melrose or Leblon and into the parkland setting of one of my favourite hotels in the world, 20 condiment-coloured Mustangs line the crescent drive of the etiolate elephant grey palace for the brand’s latest launch and four heather grey-suited concierges spring forward to open my doors. Palácio Tangará, honey, I’m home…
At check-in Guilherme naturally remembers me and pulls off that diplomatic coup (which really ought to be recognised with a TripAdvisor Certificate of Etiquette or some such) that the refined Brasileiro is pastmaster at. He’s the friend I’ve always wanted: greeting me with all the twinkly-eyed affection and enthusiasm of a dear and long-loved acquaintance, but none of the expectation. It’s a piece-de-resistance that he manifests for the whole sumptuous, languid duration of my glorious, glamorous stay and sets the bar for Palácio Tangará’s service levels. Guilherme also succeeds in shaking my post-flight torpor with the two sentences that make my heart skip faster than any others in this world: “Ms Gill, you’ve been upgraded!” and: “Please, help yourself to the champagne!”
This is the upgrade that someone who has obsequiously and slavishly devoted their life to the pursuit of is awarded when they reach nirvana. It takes the bellboy five minutes to wheel my luggage from the corridor to master quarters. I’m delightedly lost in the gargantuan proportions and endless anterooms of my Prestige Suite, like a woozy bunny scampering around a megalith, monochromatic warren in expertly designed grisaille shades that are by turns stylish and soothing.
Did I unpack my bikini in the dressing room or walk in wardrobe? Had I brushed my teeth in the rainforest shower or claw-footed bathtub, the family bathroom or ensuite? Which terrace was I drinking the Champagne on?! Was the ice bucket on the grand marble dining table or in the kitchenette? Floor-to-ceiling French doors line the entire apartment, opening out onto a lodgings-length terrace from which to gaze down upon lines as symmetrical as the Aztecs could have imagined; the grounds one long, elegant, contiguous sprawl of Dolce Vita perfection rolling from the topiary-lined, fountained poppy beds to the pristine sentries of white parasols and cabanas. Legions of groundsmen dot the vista down to the sunken Art Nouveau pool, a glittering aquamarine shouldered by a colonnaded crescent topped with a towering emerald rainforest crown.
This grand, European-styled Palladian palace was originally designed as Tangara Ranch, a love letter from a 1940s Brazillionnaire to his future Princess bride, enlisting some of the brightest minds in Brazilian architecture, from Niemeyer to Roberto Burle Marx, designer of Copacabana Beach’s promenade and the eponymous park that is the setting for this, the most ambitious grande palace hotel opening in South America this century.
No nation makes decadence so de rigueur as the Brazilians, and no one aces resigned hauteur quite like a Paulista. We elegantly devour fresh, tart plates bursting with Asian-Brazilian flavour fusions that are as pleasing to the eye as the palate in the Jean-Georges Vongerichten fine dining restaurant, recipient of a recent Michelin Star, as pedigreed Paulistas pick over petit fours in the Parque Lounge. There are gifts at turndown, a salon, subterranean swimming pool and full service Sisley spa.
Outside, the thonged Brasileiros (yes, I think that the Palácio Tangará, set enticingly far-removed from the ding and dangers of central São Paulo, might be responsible for introducing “Staycation” to Portuguese idioms) grow happier and more abandoned as the sun and ubiquitous Chandon sink in. Sashaying out of the set-piece swimming pool under the searing South American sun, murmurs of “branco, branco” by the bronzed brigade impel us to move next to the cabana of an old lady – who is also, indefatigably, ordering a bottle of Chandon at 11am. Ice buckets are not so much accessory as necessity amid Brazil’s five star hotel scene right now, like a selfie stick in Rome or a pregnancy test in the toilets of Magaluf bus station.
Wandering upstairs and lying supine on the Prestige Suite’s panoramic terrace to cool my sunburn on its mosaicked floor, I laze in glorious, glamorous, indulgent silence, sipping the last vestiges of that Laurent Perrier rosé, without an ice bucket of Chandon in sight. As I gaze down upon the Palacio’s perfect pool panorama, the South American humidity licking my sun-kissed skin, two toucans alight on my balcony, and I almost think I hear them concurring through their chatter and squawks that the definition of perfection is in wanting nothing more than the here and now. Yazz once sang that “The Only Way Is Up”, well she got it wrong, because sometimes you find yourself in that sacred situation of having reached the apogee of everything, your own personal perfection, and that is the ultimate upgrade of all.
This article first appeared in civilianglobal.com.