Daytime Carnival Experience

22 Feb

Tal and I in our daytime carnival flare

As part of her Platinum Club membership with Starwood, Tal and Jonny were able to get free breakfast at the hotel restaurant each morning. Our first morning at the hotel, they planned to go to breakfast and scope out if they would be able to bring a plate back to the room for J.J. and I to share. They discovered they could so free accommodations, free breakfast!

We planned to head down the beach during the day to take in the daytime carnival festivities that we’d seen on our ride in from the airport. We were able to walk from our hotel down the road to Leblon Beach where the party was well underway.

There were umbrellas set up in the sand every few feet along with red folding chairs that were available for rent for $4 (BRL) apiece. There were vendors that had blankets spread out on the beach as well as in the street displaying their pieces of flare (carnival accessories – not an official term, just out own term) that they had for sale. Everything from rainbow-coloured mohawk wigs to light-up hairbands to floral lays to Minnie Mouse ears. There were other vendors as well, walking up and down the beach selling bikinis and sarongs and you couldn’t walk 5 feet without running into someone selling cold cans of Antarctica beer and Smirnoff Ice from foam coolers. My favourite vendors though were the guys carrying bottles of tequila and a tray of salt and limes, selling shots (even though I hate tequila I thought this was a pretty genius way to make a buck).

And holy middle-of-the-street make-outs. I have never seen such intensity or such frequency, especially in the bright afternoon sunshine. My guess is the tequila guys had something to do with it.

The streets along the beach close the afternoon into the evening for the number of parades taking place. Carnival parades everywhere except for the Sambadrome (the venue where the different samba schools compete against each other for the best float, costumes, etc.), are not like parades at home in that at carnival you can jump in and join the parade at any point and samba your way along with everyone else. There are people of all ages, shapes, sizes and dress that join in these parades and it’s really a fun experience, though slightly claustrophobic at times. And every so often we passed the line-up of porta-potties and I imagined that this is what parts of India will smell like (at least according to the book I’m reading, Shantaram).

We partied at Leblon Beach for most of the day and into the early evening when Jonny’s leg started to get sore. Because he can’t bend his knee very well on the one leg, he’s forced to overcompensate with his good leg. We were all getting hungry anyway and decided to bus or cab back to our hotel – whichever mode of transportation we could flag down first.

We wound up on the wrong bus, only to discover this 10 minutes into the ride, hopped out and tried for a long while to get a cab. Not an easy time of day to do so during carnival when a number of streets are still closed and everyone and their brother is also looking to get a cab.

We finally got one and headed back to our hotel for about $15 (BRL). We decided we’d eat at the Pizzeria at the hotel that night as they had an outdoor patio that looked out at the ocean. Great food, though a little expensive (to be expected of hotel food) – the vegetarian pizza was delicious. For both J.J. and I to eat and have a beer, pina colada and each have a water, the bill came to about $75 (BRL).

We’d partied all day in the hot sun and called it a night after dinner, planning a big night out for the following evening.

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