We’re going to Carnival in Brazil! We have a celebratory drink at the Pittsburgh International Airport while we wait to board our flight. On schedule, we land in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at 4:00pm. Only a quick layover is between us and our flight to Brazil…we think.
After significant time on the runway, boarding and deplaning twice due to maintenance issues, then crew times expiring, at 3:00am we hear the news we have been dreading. Our flight to São Paulo-Guarulhous International Airport is cancelled. Hotel vouchers are handed out to stranded flyers. Receiving vouchers for different hotels and our rescheduled flight departing in five hours, we decide to set up camp in the corner of a deserted gate. Layering with clothes from our carry-on bags, we huddle for warmth near the large, drafty windows and attempt to get some sleep. After drifting in out of consciousness for four hours, we gather our belongings and head to our gate. Finally, fourteen hours and three planes later we on our way to Brazil.
Disappointed in our extremely delayed arrival, we land in São Paulo around midnight. Staying with generous friends nearby, we crawl into a taxi and an hour later arrive at their home. Opening the front door we are greeted with hugs, beer, and a ride to carnival. Ecstatic and delirious, we quickly take our luggage inside, change, and are on our way to Anhembi Sambadrome.
We arrive into a sensory overload of confetti, music, dancing, drinking, cheering, an endless line of floats with elaborate costumes, feathers and vibrant colors. We take some photos of our favorite floats ranging from royal frogs and cupids to the Brazilian soccer team, Palmeiras.
The Portuguese celebration begins every year the Friday before Ash Wednesday continuing until noon on Ash Wednesday. São Paulo began holding their own Carnival celebration in nineteen ninety-one. Samba schools compete to attract famous musicians and television stars to top their elaborate, themed floats. Each night’s festivities continue early into the next morning.
Just before sunrise, we take one last look at the extravagant parade as our carnival experience comes to an end. Tomorrow, we leave for Guarujá.
The scenery on the ride to Guarujá is filled with vibrant greens as we drive by mountains, forests, lush vegetation, and the occasional favela. As we get closer to the coast, the smell the salt water fills in the air.
Slightly overcast as we walk to the beach, we don’t expect much of a crowd. As the ocean comes into view, we are dumbfounded by the masses of umbrellas, beach chairs, and people. With no room to walk along the sand, we maneuver to the water walking knee deep in the ocean searching for a less crowded area.
Our persistence pays off and we find an opening to lay our beach towels at the far end of the beach. A stunning backdrop of mountains and thick vegetation surround the ocean. After a relaxing day at the beach, we pack up our towels and begin the walk back. Smelling something delicious, we stop at a cart in the ocean with waves crashing against its wheels, selling hot, roasted corn.
During our stay we eat very well dining on delicious homemade Brazilian cuisine, fresh bakery items, and experiencing an authentic Brazilian steakhouse. Getting accustomed to the late mornings, we awake around 11:00am to an abundance of tapioca crepes, fresh fruit, strong coffee, breads, cheeses, and lunch meats. For an after breakfast snack, plates of chicken hearts and sausages, followed by lunch, dinner, a second dinner, and a late night snack. Coxinhas, a water droplet shaped ball of dough containing shredded chicken battered and fried, Pao de Quijo, cheese filled bread balls, or Pastels, deep fried pockets of cheese and meats, similar to a empanadas are eaten during at least one of the meals throughout the day.
We return to São Paulo, for a breathtaking view of the city below at the sophisticated Skye Restaurant and Bar, followed by a night of dancing and caipirinhas.
Traveling Gingerbread Note: Flip flops are not permitted in most São Paulo dance clubs.
As we wait to enter a club, a bouncer informs me I am not permitted inside wearing flip flops. There are no exceptions to the dress codes posted outside. After several shoe exchanges, I enter wearing four sizes too large, five inch high heels.
We cannot thank our Brazilian family enough for their generous hospitality, the delicious meals, and an unforgettable experience. Obrigado!