It’s that time of year again… the results of overindulging at Christmas have reared their ugly head and all you can see ahead are the short, bleak days of February; there is however one glimmer of light on the horizon, or in fact make that one very loud explosion right around the corner – Carnival 2013 is coming.
This will be Dehouche’s 9th year on the ground for Carnival and we like to think that we’ve picked up a few tips, as well as hangovers, along the way. For many the real spirit of carnival is to be found on the streets, tickets to the Sambadrome parade are of course a no-brainer, but figuring out how to navigate your way around the more than 500 blocos or street parties that take place each year can take a little bit more know how – here is Dehouche’s pick of the best:
Closer to home
Taxis are notoriously scarce over carnival so nothing better than just diving into all that’s on offer on the doorstep of your hotel, with the option of a quick dip in the sea or escape back to your rooftop pool if it all gets a bit much. Turn up to the below for a reliable dose of the best of the Zona Sul street carnival atmosphere:
Suvaco do Cristo
This is a great bloco to ease your way gently into the Carnival spirit thanks to its family feel. Aptly named after it’s location under ‘the armpit of Christ’, this bloco was started by a group of friends in 1985 who were sat on the beach but wanted to get out and join in with the carnival fun. Nearly thirty years later the bloco is still going strong albeit with a few more friends! To fit in, make sure you wear something green, blue or silver.
Where: Rua Jardim Botanico, When: 3rd February 10am
Banda de Ipanema
This is one of Zona Sul’s oldest blocos and can trace it’s history back to 1965 when it was created under the military dictatorship as a form of protest. It has now come full circle and was officially declared part of the city’s cultural heritage in 2004. The bloco, no longer content with just one day to party, has now spread itself over 3 dates and marks the unofficial start of carnival, albeit three weeks early. If you’re not sure you can handle all 3 dates then make sure you attend the main one on Carnival Saturday. These days the bloco no longer retains it’s political atmosphere and is instead more famous for its outrageous drag queens who lead the party in towering high heels, bright dresses and fruit bowl headpieces so if you’re worried about your outfit, don’t! – the more outlandish the better.
Where: Praca General Osorio, When: 9th February 5.30pm (also 26th Jan and 12th Feb)
With an early morning start on Ipanema beach front (near Vinicius de Moraes), the AfroReggae bloco certainly beats a Monday in the office. One of the most popular blocos of recent years, AfroReggae is a social project that originally grew out of the Vigario Geral favela and now uses music as a tool to help impoverished communities around the world. They will easily take you dancing through till lunch time with some seriously infectious samba reggae rhythms.
Where: Posto 9, When: 11th February 8am
Carnival may officially end on 12th February but this doesn’t mean that the parties stop. If you’ve managed to recover sufficiently, or even if not slip on some sunglasses and head out to Monobloco for one last hurrah. The bloco has been asked each year to start earlier to try to discourage so many people from going but true to it’s popularity this has failed to work. The Monobloco Show now tours worldwide but don’t miss the opportunity to see them on their home-turf.
Where: Avenida Rio Branco, When: 17th February 8 am
Up in the hills
Typically one might head up into the hills for a bit of R&R but Santa Teresa is anything but relaxing whilst Carnival’s in town. Lots of the blocos here start early so make sure to leave with plenty of time or just carry on from the night before…
This is one of only a few of Rio’s blocos where the dress code still retains some link to it’s past. The numerous nuns that you’ll bump into here are due to a rumour which states that one of the nuns from the Carmelite convent in Santa Teresa was so desperate to join in the Carnival revelry that she jumped over the convent walls. Today there are two parades, the first supposedly to represent when the nun jumped over the walls and the second for when she returned.
Where: Largo do Carvelo, Santa Teresa, When: 8th Feb at 3pm & 12th Feb at 10am
Ceu na Terra
We think it must be the name of this bloco, heaven on earth, that gets people swarming up to Santa Teresa as it’s definitely not the early starting time of 9am however once you’re there it’s well worth the early rise. The large but very friendly crowd winds round the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa, in the past one of the trams led the way but since they’ve been out of action this just means more room for dancing!
Where: Rua Dias dos Barros, Santa Teresa, When: 9th February 9am
Flying through Flamengo
As the blocos grow larger and larger every year Rio city council is constantly trying to keep one step ahead by trying to dissuade people from attending by making the starting times earlier or pushing the locations further afield. However they’re fighting a losing battle… even rain at Carnival wouldn’t stop Cariocas (who are infamously known as being made from sugar due to their disappearance when it rains) from attending.
It may be one of the newest blocos to be inaugurated into Carnival but it’s popularity is anything but small and it now even has it’s own website where you can buy themed merchandise. This bloco, named after Beatles song Sergeant Pepper, dishes up a mash-up of Beatles classics and samba so there’s something for everyone to sing along to. Be warned – after it’s run away success in the last two years we predict 2013 will be a busy one but word on the grapevine is that they’ve invested in a better sound system so even from the back you’ll be joining in with Hey Jude.
Where: Infante Dominique Henrique, When: 11th February 3pm
Just follow the beat of the very loud drums to hunt down Orquestra Voadora, this is another bloco whose popularity vastly outweighs it’s age and it now takes place in the Aterro do Flamengo to make space for all its loyal followers. The full brass band plays a mix of Samba hits along with classics from the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
Where: Aterro do Flamengo, When: 12th February 12pm
Down and dirty in downtown
The downtown and centro areas of Rio may typically be reserved for business during the rest of the year but during Carnival the suits move out and fancy dress firmly takes their place.
Cordão da Bola Preta
This bloco proudly takes the award for being the oldest bloco still going and this year will be celebrating it’s 94th anniversary. A fact that it celebrates even more proudly however is that in 2012 it officially became the most attended Carnival bloco with 2.3 million people turning up to march through the streets so be prepared for a bit of a squash! Rumour has it that the bloco takes it’s name from a curvaceous woman who wore a polka dot dress and keeping true to this many attendees grace themselves in black and white polka dots.
Where: Bloco das Antigas, When: 9th February 9am
Cordão do Boitata
This is perhaps one of the most traditional blocos due to the fact that it represents many of the various festivals and folk traditions that go on throughout the year. The five founders of the bloco have been playing together since 1996 sampling a mix of traditional songs and including tributes to some of Brazil’s greatest artists. The early start is worth it just to see the costumes that get more inventive each year.
Where: Rua do Mercado and Rua do Ouvidor, When: 10th February 8am
Want to join in on the action? Contact Dehouche to book your Carnival experience, the caipirinhas are awaiting you!