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  You are here: Home > Travel Stories > South America

Travel Story by Alexy Dury

  Carnaval time!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

One of many spectacular floats

Carnaval is the Brazilian Portuguese term for Carnival. I was told that the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro was during carnival time, but was concerned about accommodation and the crowds. My mother was concerned about crime and texted me not to go! She said the Foreign Office was advising the Brits to keep away from the Carnaval. But there was enough accommodation for everyone and I was able to buy tickets for the Carnaval at my hotel. There was a list of prices for different seats along the route from 50 reals (approx £12) up to 1,000 reals per person.

I found out later that you could be one of the people walking in the parade, dressed in an incredible costume. A British chap I met had taken the opportunity by making arrangements through the internet and arrived two weeks beforehand to get to know the samba school and to take part. Incredible!

The Carnaval went on for five days starting on Friday and finishing on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. Historically it started when Portugal colonised Brazil and imported slaves from Africa. The people drink and dance and notch up a few sins before the austerity of Lent begins!

The main parade takes place in the Sambodromo; there are stands on each side of the road and each of fourteen samba schools had their hour and twenty minutes to dazzle the audience.

I was lucky enough to have a ticket for a front row seat where the dancers were able to reach us. So I had a close up view of everything. Everyone in the audience was dancing whenever it was possible. Most people did a smoochy little dance with small feet movements - even people with two left feet could manage this! Each samba school had a different theme to their floats and costumers; for example, cities, cars, sports, animals - anything you can think of! I loved the grandmothers of the samba schools dressed in huge ball dresses with feathers on their heads, some having to be supported on their shoulders. They twirled round and round - singing along merrily. It was almost a spiritual experience.

The princesses of the samba schools were beautiful women dancing on their own on the very top of the floats. They wore extremely high-heeled shoes and very little clothing! Just long feathers protruding from their lower backs. They never stopped dancing and I really admired how they danced for so long in those shoes!

People of all ages from about fifteen years upwards danced and twirled around on the floor. The floats and costumes were beautifully designed. It was all rather overwhelming and I was determined not to miss anything although I was very tired. This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I saw the sunrise over the Carnaval and the Christ the Redeemer statue nearby. Eventually it all finished at around 8.30am!

Then I returned to my hotel and had some breakfast before going to bed. Other people went to the beach and continued to party - not me!

There were street parties or Bandas all over Rio and this is also a good way to celebrate the Carnaval. You can join in and dance with the procession behind the music and drummers or just watch it go by. I watched these at the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches but there are also lots of other venues.

Copacabana beach was full of families as well as extremely beautiful women with very little on, just small triangles of material to cover themselves. They were all squashed together under beach umbrellas and it was difficult to get to the sea! It was the same on Ipanema beach with gorgeous blokes in tight trunks in large groups under umbrellas. There was a busy trade in jewellery and sarongs from the market. The beaches are very busy.

At sunset I enjoyed watching the locals playing racket ball and football on the beach, while sipping an icy Caipirinha drink (the national cocktail).

Of course you cannot miss out on visiting the famous Christ the Redeemer statue (one of the new seven wonders of the world) with humble facial expressions and beautiful 'feminine looking' hands. I also enjoyed the ride on the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain. And there is also the Maracana football stadium, one of the world’s largest stadiums where Brazil play, which I found interesting.

Click on photo to enlarge

A samba school princess  Alexy & Christ the Redeemer  Ipanemo beach

Date Submitted: 08 Jul 2007

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