Sao Conrado – Bloco da Favorita.
Over Carnival weekend, there were said to be 127 blocos around Rio, with the largest being in Centro where over 1 million people attend. This year, they estimated over 1.3 million party goers participated in the blocos. Some are much smaller, with just a few hundred people, and I would suggest finding one of those to avoid the crowds. However, if you’re looking for an unforgettable Carnival experience, then go for the gold! We followed a “bombastic truck”, according to the locals, which is a semi-truck stacked with giant speakers, a stage, and dancers — Approximately 60,000 people were there! We were even fortunate enough to go on the roof of the truck to check out the crowd (see pics below — Thanks Akira!). Honestly, it’s an incredible experience, but if we weren’t standing directly behind the truck in the roped off VIP section, I don’t think it would have been worth it. I suggest if you’re heading to Carnival, pick a place on the beach and watch the truck drive by from afar. It’s not as crazy, you can actually move and dance, and it’s 1,000 degrees cooler.
As far as costumes go, people dress up as anything and everything, or nothing at all. It’s like Halloween in February. All the street vendors sell costumes – Pirate hats, feather and flower headbands, Minnie Mouse is a big hit for some reason – Anything goes! On the contrary, if costumes aren’t your style, no worries. Just be comfortable because it’s HOT HOT HOT. Alcohol is allowed in public so vendors sell beer throughout the parade and everyone has one big samba party conga line.
The biggest names in Rio music performed one after another. Even though we didn’t know the majority of them (every once in a while they would play a cover song of Ariana Grande, Beyonce, or Aloe Blacc), but music is the international language and dancing is its counterpart. I don’t understand the lyrics, but I hear and feel the beat and just start to move. Because of that, I got to check off my last Rio bucket list tick… Dance the samba at Carnival! [Even the locals were impressed by my moves! :-P]
Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture or video of this because I was in the moment and it was so organic, but I must admit it was incredible. A circle of locals around me, clapping their hands, everyone cheering, and me trying my hardest to keep up. Completeness. Accomplishment. Euphoria. Amazing. Ready for the next adventure…
Thank you to our dear friend, Akira, and our new friends Dany, Lou, and Jean for showing us an unforgettable bloco experience!!
The Samba Parade.
The Rio Samba Parade at the Sambodromo is the main attraction for locals and tourists alike. People from all of the world travel to Rio to be a part of this tradition. The parade includes hundreds of samba schools competing for the Special Group big championship title. Sunday and Monday nights the groups compete, then the best are selected to attend the finale parade on the following Sunday where the winner is announced.
Unfortunately, when we got off the metro in Central, we were faced with wind, rain, and no relief in sight! We kept asking people if the parade would be canceled (comparing to MLB games in the U.S. where they would have called it off immediately in those conditions), but everyone said, “The show must go on!”. Even though the parade didn’t start until 10pm, we were encouraged to arrive by 7pm to ensure we had good seats. With the rain, that wasn’t a major concern, but it did mean we bought a couple of ponchos and stood in those conditions for 5+ hours!
I’m embarrassed to say that after watching the first group of performers, we decided to leave 🙁 I was very disappointed because I’ve been looking forward to this event for a long time, but the weather was starting to get a little intense. And I must admit, I was slightly unimpressed with the dancing. Don’t get me wrong, the costumes and floats were miraculous and worth the show itself, but I assumed the performers would all be doing the samba in a choreographed routine. However, only the group leader would samba and the other hundred people on the float would move around on their own with no specific direction. Perhaps the other groups were more choreographed, but I guess as a dancer, I was really looking forward to seeing some amazing samba. I’m sure leaving early had something to do with that, so now I’ll just have to come back another time!
Note: We bought our Carnival tickets a month in advance. Grandstand seats were $200, but the view from anywhere in the stadium is great. You can purchase tickets online at: Carnivalbookers.com — Just do it!
Nevertheless, we made the best out of our very wet situation 🙂 Until next time Rio…
Here’s a list of all the Carnival activities: http://www.rio-carnival.net
Argentina is calling…