As someone who absolutely adores a good festival, I was not about to go to South America and miss the biggest festival in the world -Carnival in Rio de Jeniero. In fact our apartment for the one week festival was booked and paid for in May of last year. The anticipation of actually arriving was a very drawn out process as the bus crawled along at 6kms an hour on the highway for a good three hours in torrential rain, however by the time that I arrived the rain had vanished (and was never to be seen again) and the apartment was perfect. It was also good to see Matt and spend some time with the others in the apartment who were from back home.
With Carnival there is the official side to it - the competition at the Sambadrome, and then the less official side to it - the hundreds of street parties that are on around the city at any time of day from 10am to 4am and ranging in expected attendance of 100 to 1 500 000. I spent most of the week trying to do something of everything. By day I was the ultimate
tourist checking out the likes of Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Botanical Gardens (amazing!) and Christ the Redeemer (one of the 7 modern wonders of the world. God knows why, aside from having an incredible view of the city he is not even the biggest Jesus statue out there!) and by afternoon/night I would be out on the street with, what seemed at times, half of the city and some.
In Rio they really get into Carnival. Everyone dresses up and wears masks and costumes. They all come together on the streets and the beach, playing music and selling street food and drinks. It is not a massive marketing ploy where they charge you entry to the parties or ridiculous amounts for drinks or costumes. There was no fighting or police getting angry about stupid things like drinking on the streets. If you could manage to avoid getting pick pocketed then everyone was just there to have fun and party together.
Over the Sunday and Monday of Carnival they also have the official competition at the Sambadrome. You can buy tickets to go and watch the top samba schools in the county compete for the
title. Each night they have 6 schools and they each get up to 82 mins to impress the judges. I went on the Sunday night which was the night that the two schools that came first and second the year before performed. It was absolutely amazing. In my time I have been fortunate enough to go to many productions - whether they be musicals, ballets, the circus etc so I was almost starting to think that I had seen it all. Oh my was I wrong. The sheer scale of each of the schools, each of the floats and the detail of each of the costumes of the some 2000 participants per school was just mind blowing. It was truly the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life and I am so glad that not only did I choose Rio for my Carnival experience, but also that I decided to spend the money to be able to see the schools perform.
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