We kept our wedding anniversary low key this year. Just the two of us, a bottle of fizz and a trip through 35 year of memories. But it has to be said, we haven’t always been so understated. In fact, we have had the Ultimate Anniversary Celebration!

Rio Bound

Rio carnival, Beija Flor samba school and 30th wedding anniversary - a great way to celebrateFor our 30th anniversary we went in the Rio Carnival. Not just spectating, you understand, we did the

whole nine yards and danced our way through the Sambadrome as part of the Beija Fluor Samba School.

It was John’s idea. While working in Brazil he discovered that each samba school allows a small number of
Gringo’s to join the parade. We just had to decide the costume we wanted, send our measurements and pay the fee. A while later, we received a recording of the School song so we could learn it ahead of time. The tune was simple, the Portuguese less so – I just hoped that ‘la la’ would be sufficient.

This is serious stuff

I had no idea just have serious Carnival is, I just thought it was good fun. Little did I know this is the equivalent of our Football League. As soon as one Carnival ends, the search begins for next years design. One whole year is spent making costumes and floats, choreographing the movement of people and artefacts, practising the dancing, organising the drumming. The end result is a spectacle beyond your wildest dreams and a major competition that sets up Samba Schools like our First Division Football Clubs.

Now imagine setting out to dance in that parade – i was terrified and already didn’t want to let the Beija Flor school down.

Rio carnival, Beija Flor samba school and 30th wedding anniversary - a great way to celebrateCarnival? Feathers? Skimpy costumes?

I know what you’re thinking – what was I wearing? Images of those sexy young women with more feather than costume come to mind. Relax – that was not me – although we did had plenty of feathers, a huge (and heavy) crown, a stunning ‘Sergeant Pepper-esque’ coat and pantaloons. Everything was provided, even down to socks and shoes. If something was missing, woe betide you.

And guess who lost his necktie? And guess who found one that some other poor soul had lost along the way?

This really was the ultimate anniversary celebration!

Rio carnival, Beija Flor samba school and 30th wedding anniversary - a great way to celebrate

At 11 pm, with our 2,000 dancing partners plus massive floats carrying larger than life horses, cavemen, soldiers, kings……. we lined up along a dual carriageway just outside the Sambadrome, as the bands geared up and the Brazlian drums snapped. On the stroke of midnight – and the beginning of our 30th wedding anniversary – we turned into the Sambadrome to a huge roar. Imagine the finishing line of Formula One racing with the crowds banked up to watch and you begin to get the idea.

90,000 people clapped and cheered as we danced our way past the judges. Our instructions had been simple – dance, smile and when you pass the judges, look the other way, so they can’t see you don’t know all the words.

‘Judges on the left, eyes right’!


Rio carnival, Beija Flor samba school and 30th wedding anniversary - a great way to celebrateIt was the most amazing feeling. The School had 75 minutes to get all 2,000 dancers, musicians and floats through the Sambadrome. Any longer and there would be penalties. As our section emerged at the other end, we were exhausted, (have you ever done the Samba for 30 minutes nonstop, at midnight, in heat?) high as kites and exceptionally sweaty. Crowds were waiting, offering to buy our costumes, as we helped each other pull off crowns and detach feathers. No way were we selling!

Although I’d known this was the form, there was a stunning multi-coloured sparkly jacket in the section behind us that I’ve have done a deal on!

Did we win?

Turns out we came second that year. This year (2018) Beija Flor is the winner – just one of many times

they’ve been successful. Thank goodness we didn’t realise we were joining the Chelsea of Samba Schools – I’d never have taken the first step.

the ultimate anniversary celebration with the Beija Flor Samba School at Rio Carnival

Back at our flat as the sun rose, we were totally exhausted but still exhilarated. After a few hours sleep, we
set up camp on the hotel balcony in Sainte Therese, looking out over Rio and the arc lights of the Sambadrome, drinking passion fruit Caipirinhas and talking through all the remarkable moments and memories. It was truly a day never to be forgotten.

And no wonder we’ve kept it low key since – how do you follow that?

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