Rio de Janeiro
26 February 2020
It is said that many centuries ago, a group of French Protestants, the Huguenots, escaped persecution in France and made their way to Brazil to start a new settlement on the Atlantic coast. They named it ‘France Antarctique’ and it was located on the little-known Guanabara Bay. Twelve years’ later – in 1567 – the Portuguese reclaimed the settlement, and it was renamed… Rio de Janeiro. Thus one of the most beautiful cities in the world started French, became Portuguese and ended up Brazilian.
Rio is rather like Sydney – it is beautiful to look at. And that’s about the beginning and the end of it. Having said that, it is really very beautiful, and the sites, no matter how familiar they are to us (or precisely because they are so familiar) are dazzling: the rock monolith of Mount Sugar Loaf, the cable cars, Christ the Redeemer, the curving beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, Botafogo and Flamengo. And stepping away from the city are the islands on the Atlantic Ocean and Guanabara Bay.
Jungles above Rio
The city has spread itself around jungle-covered mountain peaks that fill the sky-line and keep the visitor constantly looking upwards. Many of these mountain forests are now part of Tijuca National Park. In the 19th Century, these mountains were entirely covered in coffee plantations. It was little understood that the forests were natural catchment areas, and when the city’s water quantity and quality fast deteriorated, the Emperor Dom Pedro II ordered the plantations to be destroyed and the forests to be replanted. Therefore, the jungles of Rio we have today are second-generation, and an early example of resource management and environmental conservation.
Rio is Carnaval
Rio during Carnaval is a daunting prospect. “Carnaval” is equivalent to saying “Vale of Meat” and Brazilians are celebrating all the good things in life – to great excess – for one week prior to Lent. But concerns about big crowds and street crime were, thankfully, unwarranted, and we had the party of a lifetime. The Brazilians have a magnificent joie-de-vivre and all the Bloco street parties, the spontaneous partying, the samba, the costumes, the caipirinhas and of course the Sambadrome parade, all came together to create enormous spectacle and fun.
A samba competition and the greatest party on the planet
The Sambadrome parade was the highlight of Rio Carnaval. It is a competition of a dozen samba schools with 30,000 participants, and the rules are very precise and competitiveness is fierce. Each school chooses a theme (usually topical), composes a theme song and builds floats and costumes for a parade that lasts one hour. The energy of the parade and the crowds in the Sambadrome was thrilling, and the luxuriousness of the floats was brilliant. Many of the parade participants are also from the favelas, and their costumes are funded by everyone else, who pay double for their own costumes. Carnaval is the one time of the year where everyone is equal.
Rio Carnaval 2020
Videos are not my best but I had to upload this one to share the buzz of one of the best party on earth. Pump up the volume, get up and dance SAMBA!