4 hours of luxury bus journey with the rainforest on one side and some stunning coastline on the other, we were light years away from the frenzy of Rio. Paraty was founded in 1500 ish and sits on a shoreline of peninsulas on the Costa Verde – Brazil’s most beautiful coastline. It’s hemmed in by jungled mountains which seem to fall straight into the sea and its bay has 100s of tiny islands and tropical beaches. As if that wasn’t enough, the town of Paraty is a wonderful maize of cobbled streets and perfectly preserved colonial houses painted in bright colours. (Parents – you would love this place!) It’s the perfect place to wander aimlessly (though not too aimlessly or you’ll trip on he huge uneven cobbles!), filled with quaint squares, shops and restaurants. The first night we unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of the last night of the Paraty carnival. The main square and surrounding streets were teeming with people dancing, drinking and eating from the market stalls. Gone was the extravagance and splendour of the Rio carnival, but this was replaced with a really laid back family atmosphere and being amongst only a few foreigners there made it feel much more authentic. In Rio, the samba had seemed like a collection of never-ending drum beats with a strange song over the top, but as we joined the crowds dancing behind the samba “Banda” here, I could suddenly feel how the beat built up steadily in layers until the crowd exploded into a frenzy of dancing and shouting/singing. They appeared to be repeating one line of the song over and over, and we felt it would be rude not to at least try and join in…. however since we had no clue what they were singing Marc decided to make up his own version and ended up dancing down the street shouting something quite obscene in English – it was hilarious! (Better not repeat it, as I know our parents are reading!) Following our samba debut we then exhausted ourselves dancing in the main square (quick its western music at last!) and joining the locals in a massive foam fight. (See photo) It was a night where I finally felt we got to the heart of what carnival was originally about. Brazil is a country with so much to offer, I would seriously recommend a holiday here! Of course sometimes you remember that its not quite the developed world – the run down villages with tin-shack houses you see as you leave tourist-ville are a stark reminder that the areas we have seen are those boosted by tourism. Actually the main thing that makes you realise you are in a less developed country is the Brazilians somewhat dubious sense of what is hygienic. More specifically the fact that they will use any tree/lampost/wall/beach as a urinal! The “indiscriminate weeing” thing was major in Rio, where sometimes the stench became unbearable. Still, it was a surprise when entering the sambadrome to be presented with a little packet entitled “Conductor Urinario femininino”. On the back 6 steps showed how to fold the “device” and place in the appropriate position to enable me to wee like a man! (See picture) Whether this was incase the queues for the ladies were just too much or simply so I could share the nearest lampost with the men I couldn’t decide!