Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carnaval weekend

Carnaval is one of those long weekends we spend a lot of time planning for.  We don’t go anywhere, just across the bay to Rio.  Luiz has a lifetime of experience working every last bit of excitement out of the event and he still insists on a full tilt weekend.

We’re not the twenty-something party guys we once were.  Actually, we’ve held our own into our fifty-something years, but it is worth noting that things have changed.  Now we take pain relief medication and sore muscle cream in our overnight bags.

Anyway – I thought rather than a trip tick log of our weekend I would share some thoughts and impressions we had along the way, in no particular order.
-          Old haunts like Elite (a gay club open only during Carnaval) hosting a 15 person band playing classic samba tunes can still draw an over-flowing crowd.  Might I add that the crowd has aged with the club – so we felt right at home.  Luiz danced nonstop until 4 in the morning.

-          Tip: best to buy your subway ticket WAY in advance.  The line during Carnaval can take 30 minutes! (Luiz gets a free pass, including me, due to his chronic health situation.)

-          Packing your own food and drink saves a bundle.  We entered the Sambadromo with two thermal bags filled with beer/ice along with a plastic bag with our sandwiches.  Carnaval night cost us only R$8 for ice.

-          The Rio Carnaval street party scene (blocos) seems to have exploded in recent years.  Everywhere we went in Rio – if there was a public square, there was a bloco.  Everywhere.

-          Angels do exist.  Rachel and Daniel generously offered us their apartment, while they were away, to crash between all-night marathons from Saturday through Wednesday.  Mil beijos!

-          Contrary to established lore, Banda de Ipanema is no longer a gay bloco. There was a time (for many, many years) when the gays and the meticulously adorned, larger than life drag performers would crowd the Banda de Ipanema bloco.  Trust me – those days are gone.

-          This year the city government of Rio rolled out a strategy to calm the frenzied street vendors selling beer and other beverages along every curb throughout Carnaval.  Vendors had to get a license or their goods would be confiscated. (The price was minimal.)  It worked!  Things were calmer, while there were still a gazillion vendors on the street.  The city also promoted a campaign to discourage peeing on the streets (UUUURRGGHHH!!!!). It included a hundred times more chemical porta-toilets.  This also seemed to have an impact.  This was definitely a case of Rio getting caught being good.  Hurray!

-          While I have long maintained that the best kept secret among travel agents around the world is that Carnaval in Rio happens during the rainy season (and it almost ALWAYS rains during Carnaval) this year we were fortunate to view Sunday’s Parade with only a tiny bit of rain.  Monday had a downpour during Grande Rio’s performance, but otherwise was dry.  It was an unusually dry year.

-          Our friends Lilian, Zanza, Paulo and Liani ran the marathon this year.  They paraded with the “Access” group, Cubango, on Saturday, sat with us in the stands all night on Sunday to watch half of the “Special” schools parade, then returned Monday night to parade with Beija Flor, stepping off at 5:00 a.m., for the second half of the Special groups.  Can you say exhausted!?

-          Time is turned topsy turvey during Carnaval.  Day becomes night and night becomes day.  Then it takes a few days to get back on your feet.
Any Carnaval experiences/thoughts you wish to share?


Meredith said...

Sounds like you had a great Carnaval!
I can't wait 'til next year :)

Danielle said...

woo hoo! what an adventure!

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