02.10.2013 - 02.14.2013 90 °F
Everyone has their own idea of what Carnival is. In Rio, to us it looked like it meant mixing all of your holidays into one… imagine Thanksgiving Day Parade floats filled with cross-dressing Halloween costumes, the amount of drinking that happens at Oktoberfest and the combined cheerful spirit of your birthday and New Year’s Eve put together! Wow, are the Brazilians good at this!! There was something like 400 parties going on in different areas of the city every night of Carnival. Some are streets parades, concerts, block parties, and then of course, the coveted Samba Parade in the Sambadrome. There was one thing that we noticed immediately that we had to get in order to join in the festivities without Kevin having to cross-dress, and that was finding two silly hats!
We stayed in a neighborhood called Madueria a few houses away from the Portela Samba School and a few blocks away from the Madueria Carnaval Street Party. Each night the block party filled with local families until the early hours of the morning. It was fun comparing this local block party (where we were the only gringos) to the tourist parties in the center of the city. Aside from visiting the blocos (what they call a block party) and street parades, we watched the famous Samba School Competition from within the Sambadrome. We met two American travelers who were also on a world adventure and became their sidekicks for the Sambadrome activities.
Room rates for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro are more than quadruple the normal prices, and many require a minimum of 7 nights. So, continuing with our unorthodox yet effective alternative way of traveling, we chose a private room with aircon a 20 minute train ride outside the central city, over a crowded dorm room with no aircon inside the central city. Our cheap hotel was actually one of those famous Brazilian love motels… you know the kind that you can pay by the hour : ) We knew about this prior to booking but what we didn’t know was that it had a floor on the elevator labeled ‘P’ (for Pole)!
Sightseeing around Carnival is a little tricky, since we only had a few hours in between events, and most of the city is closed down for the holidays. We did however manage to walk through the different neighborhoods, explore some beaches, venture up the tiled Escadaria Selarón steps and hike up a dirt trail to the top of the Parque das Ruinas for a nice panoramic view of the city and Sugarloaf!