So it was a pretty gruesome history which gave rise ultimately to the soul of the city. The Afro-Brazilian culture is alive and gives the spirit, energy, music and soul to the city through today.
Our “home” while in Pelourinho was the Colonial Chile Hotel, (www.chilehotel.com.br) a pretty humble and very affordable place with a great view of the Baia de Todos Santos (All Saints Bay).
The city is divided between the historic Cidade Alta about 200 feet up (where we stayed) and the Cidade Baixa which houses the port area, central market and commercial areas. The connection between the two is either a very sketchy and not so safe stairway or the Elevador Lacerda providing a pretty quick and cheap ride down to the lower city. We sprung for the R$0.15 fare and headed down to the Mercado Modelo to explore and shop.
We clearly were spoiled in Peru. The markets in Peru are dirt cheap and have a full range of quality and product. The Mercado Modelo, while cheaper than Rio (but what isn’t?) was a whole lot pricier than Peru and the selection more limited. Leather products were lovely but comparable in price to what one would pay in the States. This, however, did not stop us from making some purchases and adding more items to our Christmas decoration collection from around the world.
We also got to see the visitors in from the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship scurrying about to bag cachaça and other local goodies.
Next stop – the historic architecture and some cold beers. One thing that we have come to love in Brazil is their love of very, very cold beer. How totally civilized! Be it Chopp (draft beer) or the local canned and bottled product, the beverage is always served splendidly cold and is thus quite refreshing in the tropical heat.
But I digress… On to history & tourism…..
The Igreja de São Francisco was built in the early 18th century and is a testament to the wealth that once defined Salvador.
In its prime it was the second most important city in the Portuguese empire after Lisbon. The church includes a 170 pound silver chandelier and extensive wood carvings covered with gold leaf, as well as a pretty fabulous altar,
a very good museum area, and a fine display of Portuguese tile
And it’s a pretty cool place that a fun loving couple can enjoy!
We found a fun and funky lunch spot – ideal for vegetarians and budget lovers alike – in the Hotel Larangeiras café. Lunch featured wraps, crepes, beers and an opportunity to watch the young international community that chose this as the hostel of choice during their Salvador visit. Hammocks hang about the common areas and it generally looked like a pretty cool place.
Our travels took us to the other end of the spectrum as well as we checked out the Convento do Carmo (www.lhw.com/PestanaConventodoCarmo), a pretty classy and very upscale place that is out of our budget but also out of the fun and thick of things. But it’s always worth checking out the various hotel opportunities lest we return after winning the lottery.
We had a number of pretty good restaurant experiences during our stay. One night we dined at Zulu – an open air restaurant/bar next door to Hotel Larangeiras that had an NFL football package so we were able to watch the AFC playoff. It drew a small crowd of expats with a taste for the American style of football and the food was pretty good. Also La Figa for pretty good Italian food, and Maria Mata Mouro with truly excellent food and a simply charming garden setting.
Just wandering the central area of Pehourinho was in itself quite pleasant with the lovely colors, stonework and pleasant shops and restaurants.
Also – one couldn’t beat the prices or priorities of the street vendors!
Out and about – took a ferry to Itaparaci island in the Baia. Not a bad deal – for a 45 minute ferry ride the cost was only R$5 per person and brought us to a funky island with limited services but a better beach than offered in Salvador proper. We hooked up with a taxi driver – JoJo – who gave us the full island tour for R$20 per person. However, the whole island tour goes to the Fort (closed to the public), a drive by of the old town, a lunch stop at Ponto da Areia beach (and a disappointing kick back since a vegetarian is a poor bet at a seafood restaurant), and a trip back to the ferry dock. All in all a pleasant way to spend 4 or so hours in peace and calm.
JoJo proved to offer a service that sadly did not benefit him. His marketing pitch was for us to use him to get to a neighboring, car free island – Morro de Sao Paulo. At the time we were fully booked in our hotels and declined the offer. But – stay tuned – the guy ultimately made our stay!
Other fun features of beach life in and around Salvador – accounting is a more tactile process. To ensure that the vendors track how many beers one consumes the empty bottles are place under the table (generally on sand) and are counted up before you leave the table. The scam to watch out for is other folk sneaking their empties under your table. As a retired accountant I find the method subject to question but, hey, that’s not what I do anymore!
So…. After 3 nights in Pelourinho we headed to the Atlantic coast to the Golden Tulip - Rio Vermelho. After staying in a cliffside hotel looking down on the water, we were kind of looking forward to staying on the beach – a sandy beach – when we headed north up the coast. Imagine our disappointment as we drove north to see only narrow rocky coast with no sand. And to top it off, our hotel was set back from the coast with no coastal access – rocky or otherwise.
It did have a lovely roof top pool but, as you can see, my Chico wanted a beach....
As we have now become official beach snobs, “this aggression will not stand”. Okay, so that is a not entirely applicable quote from the Dude from The Big Lebowski but it somehow fit our state of mind. Anyway, we spent our first few hours in a very classy, lovely hotel trying to get out of town. And that was when we remembered JoJo and his recommendation and, with the help of our Quatro Rodas guide book (an excellent “must” for travelling around Brazil, providing you can read Portuguese) and trusty cell phones (whatever did we do before this technology?). So we took his suggestion and got out of Dodge and headed for Morro de Sao Paulo, said farewell to the dancing muses on the lake.
So on to the next blog…..