Category: dining

Feathers and Food – Carnival alternatives in Rio

Ok, so you’re in Rio de Janeiro, and you’ve missed Carnival. You still want to experience the music and see the costumes, but without spending days and nights sitting on a concrete stadium bleacher surrounded by crowds and a giant party. Out of season, but are you out of luck? What to do?

Well, depending on the time of year, it could be worthwhile to visit a Samba school. I didn’t do that, as I was in Rio only a week or two after Carnival, and the schools were just re-forming and classes re-grouping to begin preparation for next year’s celebration. So there wouldn’t be all that much in the way of performance going on. But that’s a link worth following anyway.

Any time of year, however, there is an excellent option at the Plataforma Theater in Leblon. There are many websites, reviews, and youtube links which refer to this venue/show, so Search away. Or if you’d rather just take it from me, here are the details:

Plataforma I
Rua Adalberto Ferreira, 32
Leblon Rio de Janeiro
Phone: 2274-4022

In researching links for this article, I discovered many are of the opinion that this folklore show is just a big tourist trap. Well, I am of the opinion that shows attract tourists with good reason, and nothing about this show had me feeling trapped. In fact, quite the contrary, it had me dancing for weeks following!

I didn’t have dinner there, but that is an option. I just went for the show. What a show it was! Amazing mulata dancers, Capoeira (a mixture or martial arts and dance), and of course Samba, accompanied by a cultural journey of Brazilian music….and live singers! The grand finale is a parade of colorful feathered Canival costumes, and apparently this particular show is the venue for the winners of the 2009 Carnival Schools Samba Contest. The Samba Schools are judged in the following categories:

* Samba Song
* Harmony
* Flow and Spirit
* Theme of the Year
* Overall Impression
* Floats and Props
* Costumes
* Vanguard Group
* The Flag Bearer

They all looked pretty fantastic. Here’s a slideshow of some favorite costumes:

And of course, what blog about a Samba Show would be complete without a video clip, just to give you an idea of the rhythm, energy, and pulse of the evening!

And before I abandon the subject of Carnival, I feel compelled to share a link to some pictures of the real deal, Carnival in action, by my good friend, great photographer, and Brazil enthusiast, Mark Whitley. Take a browse around his website to see more travel and people pictures from Brazil – for years his images have inspired me and fed my dreams to visit this colorful country!

As for dinner, well, Rio is full of excellent dining options. ZUKA is my choice to mention here, because the food presentation was a Carnival in itself. Don’t panic that the website is only in Portuguese – the staff speak and understand english, and the menu is bi-lingual, but it is anything but a “tourist menu”! The food looked as good as it tasted, so of course, I’ll finish my short review in pictures instead of words:

Brasilia: A study in composition

When it comes to capital cities of the world, few compare to the wonder of Brasilia. For those of you who didn´t have a Brazilian roommate in college, Brasilia is in fact the capital of Brazil – not Sao Paulo (the financial capital), or Rio (the glamour capital). It was built entirely from scratch in 40 months, out on a plateau in the middle of nowhere, when then President Juscelino Kubitschek ordered it´s construction there in order to bring population to that region of the country. Inaugurated in 1960, today Brasilia is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city was planned by Lucio Costa and his close friend, Oscar Niemeyer, who was the princial architect of Brasilia. I am convinced this guy would have made an incredible photographer, as every structure demands an eye for composition, and every vantage proves the city to be incredibly photogenic.
Brasilia makes a perfect entry point for visitors to Brazil – it is a modern city and a good place to leisurely immerse oneself into Brazilian life. All the hotels are centrally located, with shopping and banks nearby; the avenues are long and wide; and there is no escaping iconic landmarks – the city is composed of a great concentration. It takes only a glance at these images to recognize the traits of a modern planned city, built circa 1950´s, and to appreciate the imagination and inspiration that went into it´s planning and architecture.

As I am using a public computer, I don´t have ability to edit and caption the images, but I will update this when I am back home so that you know what you are looking at!
As for the best restaurant in Brasilia, well, I am certain I found it. Though it lacks it´s own website, Patu Anu is an absolute must for a fine dining experience, great ambiance, location, and the food exceeds expectation. There was no problem ordering special requests and modifying menu items for vegetarians. It is worth the remote access, and my insider´s tip is that you prepare to wait as long for the check as for the meal – request it when you order dessert, and save that last drink to enjoy conversation and company while your bill is being prepared!

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