We were given our first taste of Carnival and Brazilian culture in Florianópolis, a large island connected to mainland Brazil.

Downtown Florianopolis is full of colourful colonial buildings and lush piazzas.

During Carnival, parades fill the street. We unknowingly stumbled upon one of these typical ‘Carnival blocks’. All of a sudden a large truck began blasting samba music, and hundreds of enthusiastic (or maybe just intoxicated) revellers followed in pursuit.

Vendors kept pace with the crowd, ensuring a constant supply of beer and food, such as corn on the cob, barbecued kebabs and popcorn. Some of the people were dressed up in bizarre outfits – drag queens, witches, fairies and feathered creatures were all part of the mix. Others carried aerosol cans labelled ‘Axe Brazil’, that sprayed foam all over us.

Outside the downtown core, Florianopolis is covered in sandy beaches (42 in all!) and has a much more relaxed vibe. Jill and Calina got the chance to explore one of the more famous of the beaches called Mole Beach, reputed to be where all the beautiful models go. There was a lot of people-watching to be had, ogling sexy sunbathers and toned surfers expertly cutting through the tubular waves. At Joaquina Beach, Calina and Jill tried sand-surfing and tobogganing down dunes. Dan and John who had spent that day shooting pool at the hostel were a little jealous when the girls got back and regaled them of their sandy adventures.

To travellers wanting to spend Carnaval in Brazil, reservations are a must. Most accommodations increase their prices by at least two-fold during this period, and many require you to stay at least four or five days. We stayed in a small, simple hostel called ‘Portunhol’ in Lagoa de Conceição that didn’t have a minimum stay, was reasonably priced and had a very friendly staff. By staff, I am of course referring to cook, concierge, maid, repairman and bartender extraordinaire, Régis. Régis is one of those characters you meet while traveling that you’ll continue to tell stories about, years after the other details of the trip have faded.

Régis introduced us to the caipirinha, a classic Brazilian drink made by pouring cachaça over crushed ice, lime and a modest 3 heaping tablespoons of sugar. We’re not sure how many ounces of cachaça Régis uses in his drinks, as he’d often get distracted in conversation with the bottle turned upside down, emptying into your glass.

We only spent three days in Florianopolis which was definitely not long enough to explore the many personalities of this city.