Rio Carnival- Reviewed at Fodor's 2002
During the last forty-five years, I was fortunate to explore South America on seven occasions, and Brazil happened to be on my itinerary on five on those visits. It was during the summer of 2002, I was a part of an educational tour, and once again extremely fortunate to attend the world-famous Rio Carnival.
The build-up to the event was filled with excitement, and when our tickets arrived, the adrenaline was taking over. We travelled as a group and traversed by Metro to the Sambadrome, and the heart was pumping. It appeared the entire city of Copacabana was attending this mega event, as the crowds were a sea of walls as we exited the Metro. There is no other place on this planet that is ideally suited for this exciting event. The place was electrifying, and the landscape around the metropolis provided a visual feast for the spectator's eyes. In February, the weather was perfect, the architecture in the city was made in heaven, the sunny skies were appealing, and everyone was in the party spirit.
Once inside the Sambadrome, the atmosphere is electric, filled with exotic dancers of all colours and shapes, wearing the most exquisite dancing costumes that explode the living senses. The floats, music, and backdrops, and a range of vibrant colours had to be seen to believe. It was controlled chaos at times; absorbing the excitement, festivity, and the swarm of people that surrounds one another will uplift your spirits.
The Sambadome was a melting pot of different nationalities comprising of the locals, tourists, special guests of all shapes and colours, observing and being dazzled by the dancers in the minimum amount of clothing, moving to the unbroken dance rhythms and drumming. The never-ending drumming and dancing, which was blaring from all angles, the sheer exuberance makes the event one of the great spectacles that one experiences once in a lifetime. The place was genuinely rocking!
This major event would not add so much attention and excitement had it not been for the excellent hospitality that was shown by the local Brazilian community. One will quickly notice that Brazilians are the epitome of hospitality, and they are the most compassionate, caring, considerate and loving people you will have the pleasure of knowing. There is no doubt in my mind that they will try and make your visit as memorable as possible.
Tips and recommendations:
We were a part of a group, and the tour operator purchased tickets for section 9, which comprised many tourists.
Safety and security.
Since this was the second of my many visits to Brazil, I was aware of the security concerns. Unfortunately, I did not carry my SLR camera, which was a huge disappointment, but better be safe than sorry. Leave your expensive photo equipment behind and opt for a cheap camera. The expensive watches and elaborate chains, and bracelets should be left in the hotel room. Snatch and grab gangs operate in most parts of the city and beaches, with emphasis directed at the unsuspecting tourist who drop their guard at times. I witnessed a couple of snatches and grab episodes, which left the owners in a fit of uncontrollable anger and sadness.
Food and comfort.
Bring plenty of water and snacks since this is an all-night event and concludes during the early hours of the morning. Purchase a padded seat cushion, even though most times one will be standing, but on the odd occasion, your bottom will need some comfort from the cement floor.
When should you book?
Book as early as possible—many visitors book a year in advance, i.e., flight, hotel accommodation and carnival tickets. Our tickets cost US$200, and the view up above was superb. Whilst some tickets right at the rear cost approx. US$50, the front row luxury suites would set you back approx.: US$ 2000.00. Once again, there is a place for all budgets.
What is the Rio Samba parade?
The Sambadome is a dedicated street that stretches 800 metres, seating on either side for 100,000 spectators. Rio's Samba schools operate more of an organisation than a teaching establishment and compete head-to-head to be judged the best of the best. Over 5000 participants parade for hours with costumes which would have taken many months to create and dazzle the spectators and add the music specially chosen by theme and the floats designed by carefully selected craftsmen and architects. Each Samba school has 500 dancers and drummers, keeping up the thunderous cadence from start to finish. It is a fantastic sight, and the entire area is rocking. The fantastic costumes and elaborate floats, the boundless energy, joy and enthusiasm of the dancers and drummers, adding the dramatic cheering and screaming is truly indescribable. It is impossible to describe this fascinating evet since words will not do it justice
Rio De Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro has long been considered one of the most beautiful and hedonistic cities on the planet. The green forested mountains make a dramatic vista with the many beaches in the background, and to make it undeniably stunning is the Christ the Redeemer statue sitting on top of the mountain, and Pao de Acucar( Sugar loaf mountain) in the opposite direction.
Ardent defenders say that Rio is misunderstood, and in some ways, it is a city of contradictions. Rio may have more than 20 miles of white sand beaches, but it is not a resort. Brazilians may be among the world's most amiable, affectionate people, but the criminals among them can be cunning. Visitors should be prudent.
Adventurous travelers who arrive prepared for both the problems and the joys of this country will find Rio a pleasure, especially if they speak a little Portuguese. Even broken Portuguese is warmly received, and a little Spanish or French can also help.
My favourite beach hang out was Copacabana, with four kilometres of sand, with the bronze bodies soaking up the sun, and the beach vendors relentlessly accosting tourist in the hope of making a sale, not forgetting the countless games of football and volleyball being played until darkness sets in.
The most unmistakable feature on Copacabana beach is the black and white wave of paint design on the promenade. One must not forget Ipanema beach which attracts the who is who in Rio, dressed and undressed, sporting the Brazilian tan, as only the locals can do.
Finally, to appreciate this magnificent city, one must climb atop the Corcovado and gaze below with views of little boats elegantly afloat in the water, the neon lights along Via Atlantica avenue, and the tiny figures strolling, playing, or resting on Copacabana beach. This creates a spectacular sight that is beyond what I could ever imagine. As I made my way down to Copacabana beach, refreshing wafts of cool sea breeze made the night air bearable on this perfect moonlit night. When I got down to street level, I turned around and gazed at the stature of Christ the Redeemer, which looms above the city’s silhouette, and one will openly agree that is one of the most stunning cities on this planet.