Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rio Carnaval

Rio de Janeiro has a reputation for:
a) danger and mayhem
b) Samba
c) Carnaval

Argentine Virna and myself spent the first three days of Carnaval in Rio, before heading to the beach at Buzios. We saw the famous city through the lens of the biggest single party in the world and it was high energy.

Urban jungle was juxtaposed against nature's jungle. Dramatic cliffs jutted up through a neighborhood block, fuzzy stone mountains against turn-of-the-century architecture.

People looked like home to me. Every ethnicity faced-off in friendly Rio. We felt safe and enjoyed staying in Botafogo, in the communal apt I found on Craigslist a couple of weeks before Carnaval. We had a room along with two American students from Chicago, an Italian living in Rio, and a local couple who wanted us to enjoy local plant life through their bong. The woman who organized the Carnaval rental was Fernanda, a Rio journalist and environmentalist. We ended up staying an extra night when we couldn't get bus tickets on to Buzios, Fernanda's friend Ricardo hosted the last night at his apt in Lapa. He's a veteran musician and producer of Samba records. His latest record, Blocos de Laranjeiras, sounds exactly like Rio Carnaval.

Lapa is the nightlife hub with winding streets full of people every night of the week. Music, caipirinhas, costumes, all that you'd expect was there full blast. It was Brazilian though, I mean there weren't many foreign tourists the way there are in Buenos Aires. Everyone spoke Portuguese and they were there to follow the blocos and marching bands that made their way to the old neighborhood under the arches of a former aqueduct; giving the scene a Roman gladiator vibe with a Samba soundtrack.

Yes, it was a lot like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, minus the lewd suggestions to females and extreme intoxication. Rio was surprisingly sober and elated nonetheless. The party congregated around the music, with people dancing together in the street, singing Samba and smiling all for hours.

3 days at Rio Carnaval in the Buenos Aires Herald here.

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