About Critical Divide

Standing at the Critical Divide with Chris Pickard

Baía do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, world’s best beach for 2023

Baía do Sancho, on Fernando de Noronha, is the world’s best beach for 2023, according to Tripadvisor. Ipanema in Rio is at number 19 on the list.
Top ten for 2023 is:
  1. Baia do Sancho, Brazil
  2. Eagle Beach, Aruba
  3. Cable Beach, Australia
  4. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
  5. Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos
  6. Praia da Falésia, Portugal
  7. Radhanagar Beach, India
  8. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Italy
  9. Varadero Beach, Cuba
  10. Ka’anapali Beach, Hawaii

Porta da Pedra returns to Grupo Especial in 2024

G.R.E.S Unidos do Porto da Pedra has topped Série Ouro, the second league of samba schools, with its samba “A Invenção da Amazônia”. The school will now parade with the elite schools of the Grupo Especial in 2024.

The samba was based around a book by Jules Verne published as “La Jangada” in French in 1881, and “Eight Hundred Leagues of the Amazon” in English.

It was Porto da Pedra and its returning carnavaleso, Mauro Quintaes,  that featured the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs in its carnival samba “Samba No Pé e Mãos ao Alto isto é um Assalto” (Samba On Your Feet and Hands Up. This is a Robbery) back in 1998 in Grupo Especial..


Imperatriz Leopoldinense is the champion school in 2023

 Imperatriz Leopoldinense is the champion of Rio’s carnival, 22 years after its last title. The green, white and gold school of Ramos paraded on the Monday night with “O aperreio do cabra que o excomungado tratou com má-querença e o santíssimo não deu guarida”, of carnavalesco Leandro Vieira.

Imperatriz Leopoldinense travelled to the northeast to tell the story of the arrival in both heaven and hell of the bandit leader and folk hero, Lampião. It is the school’s ninth title and the carnavlesco’s third title having  previously won with Mangueira in 2016 and 2019, in addition to having won the Série Ouro twice, with Imperatriz itself in 2020 and with Império Serrano in 2022. But it is Império Serrano that is relegated straight back to Série Ouro. 

Joining Imperatriz for the winners’ parade will be Viradouro, Vila Isabel, Beija-Flor, Mangueira and Grande Rio.

The results of Rio’s Carnival Parade in 2023 were:

  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense (269.8 out of 270) 
  • Viradouro (269.7) 
  • Vila Isabel (269.3) 
  • Beija-Flor (269.2) 
  • Mangueira (269.1)
  • Grande Rio (268.6) 
  • Salgueiro (268.5)
  • Paraíso do Tuiuti (268.3)
  • Unidos da Tijuca (268.2) 
  • Portela (267.7) 
  • Mocidade (266.6)
  • Imperio Serrano  (265.6)

And the winner is….

The markings and results of the main samba school parades in Rio will now start at 16.00 on Wednesday, 22 February at the sambodromo (19.00 in UK).

In all, 12 schools from the Grupo Especial and 15 from the Série Ouro will be evaluated in the categories of drums, samba, harmony, evolution, plot, allegories and props, costumes, front commission and mestre-sala and  porta-bandeira (ballroom master and flag bearer).

This year, there will only be four marks per category, and only the lowest note will be discarded – unlike recent years when there were five sets of marks and the highest was also removed. The final classification will be determined by the total sum of the marks and often just one or two percentage points out of 270 can make the difference of winning, losing or being relegated.

Carnival 2023: Day Two of Grupo Especial – Rio’s Top Samba Schools

Thanks to the Riotur.Rio team of talented and hard working photographers, a quick and colourful look at the second of the two nights of parades of Rio’s top samba schools, the Grupo Especial. On 20 February it was the turn of Paraíso do Tuiuti, Portela, Vila Isabel, Imperatriz Leopoldinense, Beija-Flor and Viradouro.

The results of the Grupo Especial, which covers Rio’s top twelve samba schools, will be announced in Rio on Wednesday (22 February) starting at 15.00 local time (18.00 in London). The lowest scoring school will be relegated to the Série Ouro for 2024, with the winner of this year’s Série Ouro joining the top 12 in 2024.

Dates of the parade of the Grupo Especial in 2024 are 11 and 12 February.

Carnival 2023: Day One of Grupo Especial – Rio’s Top Samba Schools

Baile do Copa – Copacabana Palace

Saturday, 18 February,  sees the return of the iconic Baile do Copa carnival ball to the equally iconic Copacabana Palace, A Belmond Hotel in Rio de Janeiro.

The hotel is celebrating its centenary this year and the ball – that took place for the first time in 1924 – will celebrate its own centenary in 2024. This year’s theme for the ball is “Time Tunnel” to encourage guests to dress to recreate some of those special moments from the hotel’s past 100 years, or even if they wish from its future. The hotel promises an evening of “decadence, joy and glorious excess,…”, something we all need in 2023. Many of the great and the good have attended the ball over the decades from Orson Welles to Brigitte Bardot, to name just two.

Rio Carnaval Parades 2023

As always a diverse selection of themes and story lines have been chosen to be presented by the top schools at Rio’s carnaval.

In 2023 these include Vila Isabel that will celebrate the human capacity to have faith in what cannot be seen; Salgueiro that has chosen a plot about valuing freedom of expression, showing that paradise is built individually by each person, without restriction or sin. Mocidade will look at the cultural legacy of artists from Alto do Moura in Pernambuco, and the disciples of the artist Mestre Vitalino. Historic figures also feature and Viradouro will tell the story of Rosa Maria Egípcia who was brought from Africa to Brazil in 1925 and is credited as the first black woman to write a book in Brazil. Imperatriz Leopoldinense will travel to the northeast and tell the story of the arrival in both heaven and hell of the bandit leader and folk hero, Lampião. Império Serrano brings a storyline based on Arlindo Cruz’s success, “My Place”. In a tribute to the singer, the samba school will go through moments and places that marked his career.

Paraíso do Tuiuti will tell the story of the arrival and impact of buffaloes to Brazil, through the Marajó Island, in Pará, which inspired a cultural manifestation in the region. The state of Bahia is featured by three schools. Unidos da Tijuca will celebrate everything about Bahia, taking a lot of axé to the avenue and feature the joy of Bahia’s carnival. Mangueira will highlight the impact of women on the music of Bahia, while Beija-Flor will argue that the “true” independence of Brazil was the expulsion of  the Portuguese troops from Bahia 200 years ago in 1823. Celebrating its centenary, Portela, one of the city’s most famous and traditional schools, will not surprisingly look back at the school’s history through the eyes of five characters who have been fundamental to the school and Rio’s carnival. And Grande Rio, the current champion of Rio’s carnival, will pay tribute to the musician and great sambista Zeca Pagodinho, who will join the school for the parade.

The main parades of the Grupo Especial – Rio’s top 12 ranking samba schools – will next take place on the nights of Sunday, 19 February and Monday, 20 February 2023.

Sunday, 19 February 2023

  • Imperil Serrano
  • Grande Rio
  • Mocidade
  • Unidos da Tijuca
  • Salgueiro
  • Mangueira

Monday, 20 February 2023

  • Paraíso do Tuiuti
  • Portela
  • Vila Isabel
  • Imperatriz Leopoldinense
  • Beija-Flor
  • Viradouro