Rio Sambadromo 🎉

The Sambadromo is definitely an event during Carnival not to be missed. It’s an impressive spectacle that draws in thousands of people each night, allowing samba schools from across Brazil to show off their best moves and vibrant costumes.

Getting tickets:

I bought my tickets online at Rio Carnival 2018 website a few months in advance to ensure we got the best stand at the semifinals, as they can sell out fast. After reading many blogs and advice on the official website, we decided sector 10 sounded the best. I paid with my card online and within a day I received an email with a confirmation number of my order, which I was to keep safe until I arrived in Rio.

Once you arrive to the city, you need to make your way to Rio Scala in the centre – a club at night and ticket office by day. It is near to the Teatro Municipal and also walking distance from Lapa Arches.

You need to take with you your confirmation email and a photocopy of your passport. They do have a photocopy machine there in case you don’t have one, which you pay for.

There was a theme we found in Brazil with queuing, and that was you never end with the first person you see, there is always 2 or more people to go to after as the job gets passed down. At Rio Scala, you see one man who you give your booking reference to and then he tells you to go round the corner to queue again to be seen by another man who then hands over your tickets.

How to get there:

You can easily walk to the stadium from Lapa, which is another advantage of staying there. It takes around 25 minutes, so grab a street caipirinha and get walking.

Once you arrive at the stadium, you will find all the odd numbered stands on the Lapa side and the even numbers are within a favella on the Cidade Nova side. To access stand 10, we had to follow the barriers along and cut into a narrow side street within the favella to find the main entrance. Along the way, there are plenty of ladies selling beers and snacks to help fuel the party goers!

We reached sector 10, scanned our tickets and found some space to take a seat as we waited for the first parade to begin.

The sensational Sambadromo parades:

We arrived at the stadium around 22:00 and the first parade began at 22:20. As we were seated quite close to the end of the runway, it took 40 minutes for the dancers and floats to slowly twirl their way down towards us. We could hear the live music but could not see any of the performance yet, however this did not affect the energy of the singing along locals, and soon to be us! Flyers were handed out with lyrics to each of the school’s songs which we blasted out in our terrible Portuguese.

The first spectacle was sensational, there were ginormous dragon and crocodile meets jaguar floats, a lady dancing on the wings of a giant macaw, all to an incredibly catchy song – to this day I am still singing the chorus.

At the beginning of each samba school there are groups of beautifully coordinated dancers all in matching uniforms, followed by a live band who proudly marched up the runway, pausing in front of our sector to show off their musical skills. For me, they were the real stars of the show – nonstop singing and beating drums to the same song over and over again for one and a half hours, it was seriously impressive.

The dancers spun and the ladies sparkled in their jewelled thongs – we unfortunately couldn’t see the intricate details of every costume from the height we were standing but it let us look down on their perfectly synchronised moves.

There was quite a wait between each samba school, at least 20 minutes for the next one to start and a further 40 minutes for the parade to reach our stall. This gave us time to go to the toilet or sneakily grab a Bob’s cheeseburger or keep on drinking and chat to our neighbours.

One of the guys we were with was so sleepy, the best way for him to stay awake was to read through all the lyrics to each song. Pulling the words right up to his face, he religiously sang along, missing almost all of the parade. It was certainly entertaining for us to watch but it was also a sign for us to go home.

We stayed for 4 out of the 6 schools and at 04.30, we accepted defeat and walked home.

On the way out we were walking against the exhausted dancers who were stripping off their heavy and extravagant costumes, glittering them along the street leaving behind head pieces, wings and jewels, not even allowing them to be recycled for next year. It was quite a sad sight and it was a shame we couldn’t collect all the abandoned outfits, but they were even too heavy for us to trail home.

Top tips:

– What I would recommend if you are staying in Lapa would be to stand in one of the odd numbered sectors, either 9 or 11 as they are much easier accessible from Lapa.

– You can take in your own drinks and snacks into the Sambadromo to keep your energy and spirits high!

– Your camera and/or phone is safe inside the Sambadromo, just be careful with it on your way there and back.

– Surprisingly the locals didn’t get as involved in fancy dress here as on the streets so it’s the one place to not dress too crazy. A little glitter won’t hurt anyone though.

– Don’t worry if you don’t get tickets in advance, we found that some hostels had spare tickets for sale and at a reasonable price.

– If your budget doesn’t quite stretch for a ticket to the semifinal or finale events, if you are in Rio a couple of weeks prior to Carnival, the Sambadromo comes to life at the weekends for free parades.

– Be prepared for long waits and repeated songs – if you get involved with the locals and sing your heart out, you won’t even notice!

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Rio Carnival Part Two: Top Tips

There are a lot of things to think of when planning your trip to Rio. I have put together some of my best tips I thought would be helpful for any of you who are planning to visit during Carnival.

How long should you stay for?

We arrived into Rio on the 21st of February and had a couple of days to spend relaxing on the beach and getting the lay of the city. We did a great free walking tour with Rio Free Walking Tour who were fantastic and showed us around the city centre and Lapa. It’s a great way to meet new travellers as well!

We had our first week booked in a hostel in Lapa and from the Thursday night, street parties had already begun. From Friday begins the complete shut down of the city and the streets are filled with thousands of party goers and parades. The carnival weekend was in full force.

It wasn’t until we left after 10 days that the city began to return back to everyday life and the tutus started to vanish, exchanged for suits as people slowly went back to work.

I would recommend arriving to Rio the week before Carnival weekend so that you can still get a feel for the city and what it is really like outside of the festival, as it is like a fairy tale world for at least a week once the party starts. We stayed for 10 days and that was a good amount of time to experience Rio in Carnival. After a weekend detox in Ilha Grande, we did come back to Rio to finish all of our sight seeing, such as Pedra do Gavea and Parque Large, for another 4 days.

If you are staying in Rio for a longer period, definitely visit the Sambadromo the weekends prior to Carnival as you can see these spectacular shows for free as the samba school competition whittles down to their finalists for the big weekend. After speaking to some locals, street parties start from New Year and continue until the end of Carnival!

Stay safe

One of my biggest tips would be to leave all valuables at the hostel when going to the street parties and blocos, take R$20 cash and throw yourself into the hordes of people. If you have nothing to loose, you have nothing to worry about.

I unfortunately was wearing a gold necklace and on my last night on my way home I was zigzagging over and under people’s arms. I felt one guy push me under, exposing my neck, which I then felt a very hard tug as he snapped my gold necklace off and ran away. There is not much you can do when it all happens so fast and hundreds of people are squashing you – you just have to move on and accept defeat.

I never took my iPhone out with me or my debit cards – opportunists are everywhere and can ruin your experience just like that. It could have been a lot worse but it’s a lesson to be learned from and I can only warn you to avoid wearing or taking anything too flashy or valuable out with you that you would be gutted about being stolen. I carried everything with me in a bum bag, I mainly had some make-up, glitter and some cash for drinks and metro passes.

All I carried with me was a bum bag and of course the pineapple!

Get involved!

As I mentioned at the beginning, you should definitely get involved in dressing up! Release your inner child and think of that fancy dress you’ve always wanted to do – it’ll go down a storm here! We saw groups of pirates, mermaids, M&Ms, highlighters, pineapples, and anything with feathers! You can bring supplies with you from home or you can find almost anything you need at the Mercado do Uruguaiana.

Not to miss: Sambadromo and blocos!

I haven’t yet mentioned it as my next post will be about this, but while in Rio over the Carnival week, I would definitely recommend going to the Sambadromo to experience the biggest event and parade of the whole of Rio Carnival! Here you will see the Rio samba schools dance their heart out to compete in the greatest dance competition of Carnival.

The amazing Sambadromo parades!

When you picture Carnival, what do you see? You will see it all here! You can buy your tickets online in advance or you can see if there are any once you arrive, some hostels sell them or you can get them at the Sambadromo ticket pick up point. I will explain more in my next post, but Rio Carnival website has all the most important info.

Rio Carnival officially starts next year on the 9th February and goes on until the 13th February. During each afternoon there are parades along Copacabana and Ipanema beach and there are also hundreds of blocos taking place throughout the entire city – these you can hear through word of mouth.

Find the official 2018 Carnival program here. It is the Samba School’s finals that take place in this week at the Sambadromo, however a few weekends before Carnival starts, similar types of parades happen here that you can attend for free. If you are in Rio in the weeks prior to Carnival, I would recommend visiting the stadium for these free processions.

An event not to miss while in Rio for Carnival!

Blocos are also known to continue in the streets after Carnival officially ends, making the celebrations easily a month long.

For the street parties, I would recommend taking your own drinks as it works out a little cheaper. If you can find something like our pineapple jugs to put your alcohol in, perfect!! If you don’t want to carry a big bottle of mixed drink, you can buy cold beers for R$2 off the street, sacolé or cocktails for R$5. Take advantage of some hostels allowing you to bring your own drink as the hostel prices are pretty high for what you get. Happy Hour deals are usually R$8-10 for 2 small caipirinhas, where as I said earlier, you can source way stronger and larger cups for the same price or less!

An impromptu bloco starting outside our hostel in Botofogo!

If you are wanting to experience Carnival in other parts of Brazil, you can visit places such as the colonial town of Ouro Preto, MG and colourful and vibrant Salvador, Bahía for more authentic festivities! Apparently a lot of locals actually leave Rio de Janeiro during Carnival weekend to escape the mass crowds and many tourists take their place. I didn’t actually spend much time with other tourists, however I would be interested in seeing what another city can offer as each place celebrates in their own style.

The colourful streets of Pelorinho, Salvador fill with locals and parades during Carnival.

How to get around the city

It’s fairly easy to get around Rio throughout Carnival, just a little slow. The metro runs 24 hours and is almost an event in itself. Everyone is chanting and singing while riding up and down the escalators. Some stations require prepaid cards, such as Carioca in the Centro – this is one of the closest metro stations to Lapa, along with Cinelandia but this was sometimes closed late at night.

Walking through the town you can see these colourful floats being taken to the Sambadromo.

The prepaid cards are purchased from a separate queue outside the station before you enter, these have a minimum load of R$5.

Other stations have people manning the ticket offices inside, such as Botafogo station. Here you can buy a single or a return ticket. A single costs a fixed price of R$4.10 and you can go on multiple journeys at whatever distance but once you leave a station you must purchase a new ticket to reenter.

There are also Metro Bus services at certain stations, which a Metro Superficie card can be used on. You can buy these in the metro stations or on the bus.

I found a really helpful link that gives you a map of the Metro stations: Metro Easy – Rio de Janerio

Where to stay in Rio throughout Carnival

Book your hostel a few months in advance as they fill up very quickly. Some demand full payment in advance and others a higher deposit. This is normal so don’t worry, as long as you are booking through certified sites or directly with the hostel.

I did not really enjoy staying at Books Hostel, as it is over priced during the celebrations and guests preferred to party in the hostel instead of at the street parties so not really offering a great experience for Carnival. It’s brilliant for younger travellers as it’s a great party hostel and I’m sure it’s better for any other time of the year – but you couldn’t really meet anyone to go to the blocos with as many stayed in to party so I didn’t find it as social in that aspect, which I was looking for as I had just arrived and wanted to meet people.

Other hostels we were recommended by people we did meet were Bananaz Hostel in Lapa – they offer free breakfast and free dinner!

If you prefer to stay nearer to Copacabana, we heard Walk on the Beach Hostel was really friendly and super close to the beach.

For Ipanema Beach, where there are also a lot of blocos, we heard Mango Tree Hostel to be great fun!

After our first week in Books, we moved to another area of Rio, in Botofogo, where 2 friends had been staying. We actually ended up spending a lot of time there as locals flocked to their bar and blocos pushed passed their gates. Contemporaneo Hostel in Botafogo was a much cheaper option and had incredibly friendly staff. They were so keen to show us a good time and had friends come round to the bar and hosted great parties – it was an amazing way for us to witness more samba dancing and for them to laugh at our attempts! I loved this hostel and would highly recommend staying here. Wesley who works there is so much fun and can tell you the best places to go out to eat, drink and party! The hostel is close to Botafogo metro station giving you quick and easy access to Lapa and Ipanema – 2 of the best spots to celebrate Carnival.

A screenshot of us in action – dancing with the locals!

If you have any questions about Carnival and if you’re planning your trip to Brazil, please feel free to contact me on my Instagram page @howetoroamtheworld and I’ll be more than happy to help!

If you haven’t read my post already about what to expect at blocos and in Lapa, give my first post a read!

Howe to brunch down under

This post may make you extremely hungry and/or hopefully point you in the right direction if you’re an egg lover like myself and in Australia… 

Here are my 10 top cafes I willingly tested out in Australia:

 1) Cozzi Cafe, 233 Coogee Bay Road, Sydney


Coogee big break $17

Our first breakfast in Australia and it was an incredible start, and on New Years Day on route to go back out and see Derrick Carter at Greenwood, this was especially vital. Everything was deconstructed; mushies piled up, a fat chunk of avo lay on the bottom left of the iron slate, 2 fried eggs marinated in green pesto oil in a hot pot and 2 slices of crusty sourdough. A build your own breakfast. Everyone had their own way of putting it together, mine rivalling the lot. I lay out the bits of bread; first layer of each slice – avo, second – the bacon, scattering the mushies on top with the egg glenty placed to allow for the runny yolk to flow below. 

Cozzi Cafe in Coogee

*Sydney Cafe top tip: Three W’s in Waterloo. Mars Bar milkshake is a must!!

*Sydney’s second best breakfast goes to Pancake on the Rocks for its amazing fluffiness and fantastic harbour views. 

2) The Eatery, 18 Johnson Street, Byron Bay. 

Eggs Benedict $21

After a very humorous evening in Byron Bay, including a discography of John Mayer, a stripped onesie and a full moon, me and my friend Steph desperately needed to get out of the Arts Factory, where people insisted on playing the drums completely out of rhythm and search for our breakfast fix. 

This was one of the best eggs benedict I am still yet to beat! We sat out on the street watching the characters of Byron Bay go by, with our collection of flat whites and orange juice to reenergise ourselves and this beast of a breakfast! Steph has even been back since and it’s just as good! 

The Eatery, Byron Bay

Call me…

 

*Cafe top tip: Twisted Sista Cafe – their cakes are to die for!! We went back for another round, the banoffee pie even rivalled my own! 

Twisted Sister Banoffe Pie


3) Double Shot New Farm, 125 Oxlade Drive, New Farm, Brisbane


Big Breakfast Plate $23

Holy hell!! This was the mother of all deconstructed brunches!!! The best thing about being single on Valentine’s Day is you don’t have to share! This is what we did this wonderful V Day of 2015. Our friend took us to this lovely hidden spot in New Farm. There was a glorious selection of: avo, poached eggs, salmon, haloumi, mushrooms, pesto oil, cherry tomatoes and sourdough. Definitely worth finding if you’re in Brisbane, it’s worth the trek! 

Big Breakfast Plate, New Farm


4) Caffiend, 72-74 Grafton Street, Cairns. 

Eggs Benedict $21

For anyone who stays in Cairns for a long period of time, you’ll need to head to Caffiend for some insane juices to cure a brutal Gilligan hangover. It’s a little taste of Melbourne in this crowded cafe which spills outside into a graffitied side alley, where you can have your morning hangover flat white and cigarette. A little expensive, especially if you are on your last $10 while desperately searching for farm work, but it’s worth skipping a night in The Woolshed for! 

*Cute cafe: Tinies (to the left of Giligans) Egg Benedict $18 – splash out for a juice here as well! 

*Award winning pie alert!! For only $8, pick up an amazing selection of apparent prize winnings pies at Meldrums, Grafton Street, Cairns. 

Northern Territory and West Coast stops to tick off:

  • Coffee Clubs are found all around Australia, but the butterscotch and caramel cheesecake is truly delightful. 
  • Three-way Roadhouse on the way down to Alice Springs. They offer the best steak and ale pie in NT for only $5. We made sure we stopped here on the way back up from Alice Springs, but alas we were too late and all the pies had gone. 
  • Zanders at Cable Beach in Broome boats some of the best sea views on the west coast, I was enjoying my $20 Eggs Benedict while watching humpback whales breaching in the distance. 
  • Pop into Brumby’s Bakery in Exmouth for a delightful vanilla slice. 
  • Before heading to Monkey Mia early in the morning, if you stay the night before in Denham, The Old Pub on the high street makes you feel like you’re back in a good old English pub on a winters day. The sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce was to die for. A lady next to us asked if we’d be walking home after seeing the amount of food 3 girls put away. 
  • Yanchep National Park, north of Perth is a lovely stop to spot local wildlife like the Kookaburra or if you’re hungry, visit the Chocolate Drop Cafe inside the park and try their amazing coconut and maple syrup caramel slice.  

Chocolate Drop Cafe in Yanchep National Park

5) The Bakery, Margaret River

Devonshire scones $7.50 & 
Banana and Honeycomb pancakes $16

The winner of all bakeries! We came here two times in the 2 days we stayed at Margaret River. And both those times I went for the banana and honeycomb pancakes. They are stacked up high and drizzled in maple syrup with a dollop of whipped cream and a bowl of banana slices on top! The bakery had an amazing menu and selection of cakes. It was beautifully decorated with antic treasures and comfy sofas. 

The Bakery was so good it deserved a montage

*Nearby in Perth: The Little Bird Cafe in Northbridge. The Eggs Benedict for $18 is lovely but if you’re sick of eggs by now they have a great array of cakes, pastries and vegetarian foods, particularly the zucchini lasagne. 

6) Tall Timber, Commercial Road, Prahran, Melbourne. 

Sourdough toast, Poached Eggs, Salmon and Avo $16

Having just moved to Melbourne, we were overwhelmed with brunch spots and didn’t know where to start. Scroling through Broadsheet Melbourne, I had compiled a list of cafes I had to visit before leaving and this one was at the top. It took a while for us to navigate the trams, having come from Richmond to Prahran but we finally found this white walled cafe teaming with Melbournites. We asked what was highly recommended, and I’m guessing from reading so far, you’ll already know what I went for….eggs…but I did try some of the pumpkin toast and pumpkin spread and it was so flavorsome! 10/10 for presentation with everything! 

pumpkin toast and pumpkin spread

Avo and smoked salmon


7) Issus Cafe, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Issus Eggs $18

As many of you may know, it rains a lot in Melbourne. So when it does and you get caught in it while shopping, what do you do? You run into the nearest cafe! What a find this was! The first time we got rained on and ran into this tiny eatery, I went for a duck pasta from the specials as it was a little late for brunch and nearing dinner time, but I did check out the menu for the next time and the Issus eggs were well worth returning back for. 

Not always on the hunt for brunch, this duck pasta was delicious

8) Fifty Acres, Richmond

Chorizo Scotch Eggs and Avo $18

What a revelation! Scotch eggs for breakfast! And lined with spicy chorizo with a runny yolk in the middle. Absolute perfection and just around the corner from my first flat. 


9) Two Birds and One Stone, Claremont Road, South Yarra

Two Birds breakfast $19

I’m not one for going to the same place twice, but I do make some exceptions and this was one of them. I even had the same breakfast both times, because who wouldn’t want mushrooms, haloumi, avo and poached eggs over and over again. 

*Best hot chocolate found just around the corner – A La Folie Patisserie was perfect for a Melbourne winters day. 

*Best selection of muffins found at Tom, Dick and Harry Cafe – the crunchie muffins were out of this world. 

10) Top Paddock, 658 Church Street, Richmond

Eggs Benedict with ham hock $19

You need to get here super early to avoid waiting for over an hour outside. And if you don’t make it early, make sure it’s a nice day, you’re with a good crowd and find a good patch on the opposite lawn and maybe sit near a group with a dog to make the wait more fun! This place is epic and definitely worth the wait! The coffee here is so fresh and the choice is overwhelming. Do you go for the hot cakes, or the eggs benny or go all out and have the steak sarnie?! Keeping to my brunch theme, I had to try the eggs benedict but did get a side of blueberry hot cakes to share. If you’re not too hungover or maybe you are, go for the Aperol Spritz to start the day as you mean to go on. 

Blueberry hot cakes

Eggs Benedict and ham hock

Line up for a fresh cup of coffee

 

It’s safe to say they don’t do brunch better anywhere else but down under!