Rio Carnival 2014 – Smiles, Social Comment and drones!



It’s been a strange time in Rio since the protests of July 2013. After so much unrest, a lot of the outrage seemed to evaporate (at least from the front pages). However, none of the issues that provoked the protests have been resolved, and so I think many of us have been feeling that the anger that drove the protests is simmering under the surface, waiting for a time to strike again.

Would Rio carnival 2014 be the time for people to voice their dissatisfaction? Would the street parties turn into street protests? Would carnival be marred by stun grenades and tear gas? Or would everyone forget about their grievances, distracted by all this bread and circus?

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Carnival Costumes

One of the things I like most about Carnaval de Rua (the free street carnival, as opposed to the paid procession at the Sambadrome) is the dressing up. And from the looks of it, I’m not the only one! Of course there are the classic costumes that show up every year (about 50% of all carnival photos will contain at least one pirate), but some people really go to town.

Today I thought I’d show you a few of the fantasias (way cooler then the English term I grew up with, ‘fancy dress’) that caught my eye this year. Let’s start off with Watermelon Man! Sure, anyone can put a watermelon on their head, but the shirt, cape and arm ‘protectors’ take this outfit up a level.

Watermelon Man

Simple, effective and, well, a bit mushy on the head I guess.


Next we get a bit naughty!

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Escondidinho – the little hidden

I know, I know – not everyone uses carnival as an excuse for a full-on, 5-day fun-binge. Some people actually dislike carnival and do their best to leave town during what is admittedly a bit of an inconvenient time if you want to do anything which doesn’t involve dressing up as a nun/ballerina/pirate and dancing in the street. Happily I fall into the full-on, 5-day fun-binge category and so for me this is a time I look forward to all year.

If you ask people who’ve been to carnival if they have any tips, you’ll probably get all kinds of advice, from best pee strategy (go whenever you get the opportunity, even if you don’t really need to go), to best bloco enjoyment strategy (set your alarm and get up early – a lot of the best stuff starts at 8am).

Today I’m going to give you another tip: Don’t forget to eat! I know that may sound a bit like saying “Don’t forget to breathe”, but it’s surprising how easy it is to get carried away with all the dancing and singing and moving from one bloco to the next. Before you know it it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and you’re absolutely exhausted and ready for bed.

If you like some beers and caipirinhas with your samba, you are going to need something good and heavy to keep you going – a green salad ain’t going to cut it! May I present Escondidinho:



Escondidinho (sounds like eskon-jee-JEEN-yo). This will keep you samba-ing to the end of day.


If something is hidden, it is described in Portuguese as escondido (sounds like eskon-JEE-do). Well you remember how much Brazilians like to add their diminuitives? The dish you see above roughly translates as ‘Little hidden’ and when you start eating it you soon see why.

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Video post: How to samba

Do you know how to samba? You should not be surprised to know that this clueless and somewhat awkward gringo doesn’t have a clue, so you can calm down if you thought I was was going to show you a video of me giving it a try.

Contrary to popular opinion, not all Brazilians are passistas (expert samba dancers) either. In fact I’ve seen a few Brazilian bloggers who have posted the following:



I find this message comforting. If not all Brazilians know how to samba then it seems perfectly acceptable that I don’t have a clue either.

However, I have just spent a few minutes checking out some instructional videos and it turns out it may not be completely impossible. Take a look at this clear demonstration:


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The best things about Rio Carnival 2012

OK, I don’t want to overdo this whole carnival thing – my last non-carnival related post was more than 10 days ago! But can you stand just one more post on the subject? I’ve been looking over my carnival photos and thinking back over the event as a whole and I thought it might be nice to summarise what made this year’s carnival so great.

The Weather

OK, I’m British and therefore more than a little obsessed with the weather, but for me this made a real difference. Last year it rained quite a bit and although I told myself at the time that it was good because it stopped us all getting overheated, I never really believed it in my heart of hearts. This year we had unbroken sunshine all the way through, and you could really sense the lift it gave everyone.

Dancing, drinking, chatting to strangers and generally getting down. It just works better when the sun is out.


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8 line brag

Anyone object to a little bragging? C’mon, indulge me: those of you who follow the Eat Rio Facebook page will already know that yesterday’s post was picked up by the news! Australian news site, NineMSN, have an article on their World News page which is basically a cut down version of yesterday’s post! As I speak we are the fourth most popular item on the entire site – exciting right?


Whatever Gillard - you may "get things done", but we invaded an airport! Think about it - I know who I'd vote for...


Two things stem from all this – firstly I’d like to welcome any new visitors that may have popped over from NineMSN – g’day. Secondly, now that I’m famous (yes, I said ‘famous’ – my name is mentioned four times in the article) I’d appreciate a little more respect from my regular readers – all four of you.

OK, that’s enough bragging for now – a proper post will follow shortly.

My best ever carnival experience.

Hi everyone! Well, what an extraordinary week. It dawned on me quite early on that trying to combine carnival with blogging would end up in a sub-optimal carnival experience for me, and a sub-optimal blog reading experience for you. Better to just concentrate on having as much fun as possible for a few days and then tell you all about it afterwards. Let’s think of it as intensive research shall we?

Some of the blocos have great names. This one, which started at the top of a steep hill in Catete, was called "Desce Mas Não Sobe" (Goes down but doesn't go up). Of course WE had to go up to get to the start...


This past week flew past in a blur of music, drinking, dancing and general carnival fun. Each carnival day (in fact each bloco) has its own personality – different music and locations, different mixes of friends, chance encounters – all these things contribute different highlights (and the occasional low-point – more on this another day).  Well this year, one specific moment stood out, and I’ve been dying to tell you all about it!


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Carnival Songs: Vou Festejar

One of the things I like most about carnival in Rio, is how inclusive it is. There is no entrance fee for any of the blocos, the beer is cheap, you don’t have to wear a fancy costume and there are no complicated dance moves that you need to learn. In short, even a clueless gringo like me can show up and have a great time.


Chapeuzinho Vermelho (Little Red Riding Hood) and friends having fun. A guy on a fire truck was spraying the crowd with water when I took this shot, causing the autofocus on my point-and-click to go AWOL. I quite like the effect.


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Top 5 tips for Carnival costume

Having had a little time to think about it, I realised that the one thing I didn’t do in yesterday’s post is differentiate between blocos and the main procession thing that everyone thinks of when they hear “Carnival in Rio”. The big procession thing is called Desfile das Escolas de Samba (Procession of the Samba Schools). It’s the thing you see on the news each year, held in the Sambadrome – a big long street, lined with masses of tiered seating:


The main procession, as seen here in the film Rio


I haven’t been to this thing – tickets are really expensive and to be honest, I’m not that keen. Don’t get me wrong, it looks spectacular and I definitely want to see it one day, but just sitting there watching from the side seems a bit passive, you know? Maybe I’ll go in a few years when I’m older and richer.

So if you’re not at the Sambadrome, you should be at a bloco, and if you’re at a bloco then you should have an outfit!

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What’s a ‘Bloco’ and what should I expect?

Hooray! Carnaval (that’s the Portuguese spelling) season is well and truly under way! I’ve been posting up a few photos from the bloco I went to last Sunday on the Eat Rio Facebook page, but I think it’s time I said a little more about this quintessentially Brazilian festival.

Timoneiras da Viola - the bloco I visited last Sunday. It was great!


The main days of Carnaval are from Friday to Tuesday – the exact date changes each year. This year it will run from 17th-21st February (check out the dates for future years here). I say “main days” because Carnaval actually kicked off weeks ago!

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