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While Carnivals across Latin America compete to see who has the most stamina, with Barranquilla’s 3 week extravaganza in Colombia piped to the post by Montevideo’s month long affair, in Brazil the main show lasts (officially) a modest 5 days- a riot of brilliant colours, pulsating hips and frenetic beats that drive the crowds to a frenzy of alegria and amor.  That’s not to say that as Rio Carnival approaches Cariocas aren’t chomping at the bit, far from it in fact, with celebrations beginning as early as late January.  Well, there’s nothing like a bit of practice is there?

With 8 years experience on the ground, the Dehouche team have had their fair share of practice and our Carnival skills are now honed to a fine art: from which blocos (street parades) are worth the warm-up, to who is this year’s hottest samba school to dance with at the Sambodromo, and where to head to in the midst of the mayhem when a proper Bloody Mary is all that will do the trick.  Blocos are the beating heart of Rio Carnival, with the best ones taking place in hidden corners of the city often far from the traditional tourist track and beginning as early as 6 am, to deter those who aren’t passionate enough to get up at 5 am, or push on through from the night before.   Carnival is all about being at the right place at the right time, so don’t leave this one to chance.   Here we give you Dehouche’s run down of 2012’s best bloco’s:

Sunday 12th February: The One to Warm Up With

Suvaco do Cristo– Literally translated as Christ’s Armpit, rumor has it that this bloco’s popularity grew to such a pinnacle that the organizers were forced to move it to the weekend before Carnival begins. Starting from the leafy depths Jardim Botanico, the bloco attracts an animated mix of chic Cariocas and barrio bohemains who wend their way up towards Gavea and finish the fiesta in the square outside the Jockey Club. Meet: 9 am Rua Jardim Botanico (Jardim Botanico)

Friday 17th February: Carnival Kick Off

Carmelitas Many of the most traditional blocos take place in Rio’s historic centre – the heartland of samba – and often have colourful stories behind them. The Carmelitas which goes twice every year, was founded in honor of a nun who, so the legend goes, jumped over the walls of the Carmelite Convent in Santa Teresa to join in the Carnaval. The second parade pays tribute to her sneaking back in again without getting caught! Meet: Ladeira de Santa Teresa on the corner of Dias de Barros, Friday 6pm Suggested fancy dress: Nuns-  especially the men. (Centro- Santa Teresa)

Concentra Mais Nao Sei–  Epitomizing exactly how we feel as the final day before Carnival heats up, is Concentra Mais Nao Sei ( I Can’t Concentrate Anymore).  Kicking Carnival off in one of Rio’s more traditional neighborhoods, Laranjeiras, this bloco is led by the Queen of Samba Beth Carvalho and unlike most, actually stays in one place, making rapid caipi-drinking much easier. Meet: Rua Ipiranga 6 pm (Laranjeiras)

Bloco Virtual – Comprised of more than 40 percussion musicians, the Orquesta Virtual beats out Maractu, Olodum, mambo and reggae rhythms from the little square in Leme. One of Rio’s newest blocos established by a group of friends in 2000, the theme and colour scheme is decided annually online by contributors, hence the name bloco ‘virtual’. Meet: Costao do Leme 6 pm (Leme finishes Jardim de Allah)

Saturday 18th February- Full Throttle

Cordao da Bola Preta This is Rio’s oldest bloco dating back to 1918, and the only one in the city with an official head quarters in Lapa, hosting music events throughout the year. Many consider the Bola Preta bloco to mark the official beginning of Carnival each year and it attracts gigantic crowds of all ages to Cinelandia square on Saturday morning, music strictly traditional with samba anthems dating back to the 20s. A great experience if you want to see some of Rio’s most passionate carnaval goers, but be prepared to contend with the masses – in 2011 an estimated 1.8 million (yes million) turned up, many of which dress in white with black spots in homage to the group’s name. Meet: Cinelandia, Saturday 8am. (Centro)

Ceu na Terra – Set your alarm clock and head for the hills up to Santa Teresa for a little slice of heaven on earth as a very friendly (but large) crowd winds its way through the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa.  While in preceding years, one of the famous yellow bondes made up part of the procession this year, with the trams out of action, there will be extra room for street fun.  Meet: Rua Dias de Barros (Santa Teresa)

Azeitona sem Caroço Set up by the owners of favorite local restaurant Azeitona (much loved year round for their killer prato executivos and Friday night samba jamming sessions), join a relatively civilized crowd of playboyzinhos strutt up chic Dias Ferriera or grab a table at Belmonte and watch the madness roll past.  Meet: Dias Ferreira 3 pm (Leblon)

Banda de Ipanema  One of the oldest Zona Sul blocos, Banda de Ipanema was founded under the military dictatorship at the beginning of the Bossa Nova era by a group of Ipanema musicians and bohemians – with (in a very Brazilian way) a background of political protest and complete irreverence. As an example, the poet Albino Pinheiro who found the bloco, adopted the motto “Yohelsman Crisbelles” for the bloco, which the military authorities took as a coded criticism of the regime. In fact, it’s a completely meaningless phrase which he had heard a mad preacher shouting in the Central do Brasil train station (for those who want the whole story, said preacher claimed it was the name of the angel who would announce the coming of the last judgement). Because of its colourful history uniting artists and musicians over the decades it was recently declared an official part of Brazil’s “cultural heritage” by the government. These days, it’s most famous for its outrageous drag queens who lead the party in towering high heels, bright dresses and fruit bowl headpieces. This tradition, as with much of carnival, had nothing to do with the founding of the bloco but they just turned up one year spontaneously and have now become the defining feature of the parade. Meet: General Osorio 6 pm (Ipanema)

Sunday 19th February – No Time for Half Time

Simpatia é Quase Amor One of the best Ipanema blocos attracting a fun, mixed crowd doling out generous helpings of beijinhos in keeping with the blocos theme: Friendliness is almost Love . Meet: General Osorio, 3 pm (Ipanema)

Monday 20th February- The Final Throes

Volta, Alice! Winding up Rua Alice in Laranjeiras, the early start for Volta Alice still draws some of the most elaborate costumes of Carnival. Well worth the early start. Meet: Rua Alice 9 am (Laranjeiras)

Sargenta Pimenta – Straight on from Alice (yes you can do it), is one of our favorite blocos of 2011- nothing like a mix between old beatles classics and samba to kick start Monday morning. Meet: Infante Dominique Henrique, 11 am (Botafogo)

Afroreggae: Along with Monobloco, is one of the most popular of the blocos which have arisen in the last decade, attracting huge crowds to Ipanema to dance to their infectious samba-reggae rhythms. The group was originally founded by a charity established in 1993 after the infamous Vigario Geral massacre where 21 people were killed in the Vigario Geral favela. Afroreggae was set up as a cultural charity promoting art, music and theatre in the community. The group performs throughout the year all over the country and internationally, but are most famous for the carnaval bloco – a real feel good parade with catchy MPB songs put to samba-reggae drumming. Meet: Posto 8, Monday 4pm (Ipanema)

Sunday 26th February: Extra Time

Monobloco– You may spend Tuesday to Friday vowing to spend the rest of your life on a diet of agua de coco and tofu, but come Saturday, the Carnival fever you thought lay dormant inside will begin to stir again.  Thank the heavens then from Monobloco- the grand finale of Carnival for those who just can’t quite let go: A great musical beast of a bloco that will sweep you away along Rio Branco with their incessant beat. Meet: Avenida Rio Branco, 8 am (Centro)

So now you know exactly where you should be, how about those Bloody Mary’s? Contact Dehouche to plan you the utlimate Carnival experience.

 

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