Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog

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We spent Carnaval in the hilltop artists’ enclave of Santa Teresa - the only place we could find last-minute lodging.  We saw the touristy things: the giant Jesus statue, Ipanema and Copacabana.  And our B&B host Pedro took us rock climbing in an improbably dense state forest overlooking the city.  But the main focus our stay was Carnaval in all its hedonistic glory. Although to be honest, it’s not what you’d think.  We were prepared to be hustled, groped, and subjected to general drunken, naked frenzy.  What we weren’t prepared for was a bunch of happy, mellow Brazilians wearing silly hats, dancing, playing horns, and not fighting - much more like a college block party than a swingers’ club.  The party moves from neighborhood to neighborhood throughout the week: nuns’ habits for Santa Teresa, trannies at Ipanema/Copacabana, but the happy festive mood remains constant.  And then there was the Sambadrome.  The unbelievable parade competition between favelas’ “samba schools.”  We gawked, we tried to dance the samba, we watched the sunrise - all while being wowed by the most entertaining spectacle the world has ever produced.  (Better even than Bollywood)

The next day the entire city stops while the scores and winners are announced: a strange mix of the Oscars, the Olympics and a Presidential election….but far more important.

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