Feb 10 - Recife/Olinda, Brazil
SANDY SHORE : I love everything about this port… Recife was a much better destination than our first Brazilian stop. Our tour guide Marcello was a knowledgeable, animated character who made our day fun and interesting.
Recife is often referred to as the “Brazilian Venice” because there are several rivers and bridges… lots of water. Marcello feels like Recife is more of a Brazilian Amsterdam than Venice, and with the city’s heavy Dutch influences I would most definitely agree.
The best part of Recife is the charming old world village of Olinda. It’s positioned high on a hill just outside of the city. The hilly neighborhood is home to arts and crafts, historic buildings with cool eating and drinking spots, aphrodisiac liquors and beautiful and rather bountiful female statues positioned all about the area, some even resting on the tops of buildings… sisters of the soul (and sol) I say!
With only a couple of weeks to go before Carnaval, Olinda prepares for the impending, unabashed partying! I’m suddenly feeling SO comfortable in my skin today that I find myself fantasizing about the notion of spending Carnaval in Olinda. Perhaps another time… as today this Carnival ship sets sail at 6pm. ~ss
DONNA KAY PHILLIPS : Thank goodness for queens. They can liven up any hermetically-sealed guided tour bus with the snap of their wrist and the overly dramatized way they convey simple bits of information on a karouke-style mic. Marçelo was our mother hen for our 4.5 hr driving trip through beach-centric Recife and cobblestone-laden hillside of Olinda.
He informed us of the Dutch, Portuguese, and Jewish influence in the original architecture especially noticeable in the financial and goverment districts downtown. Actually, we were suprised to find out that the largest community in Recife is Spanish, then Italian, then Portuguese. The public parks are very beautiful, this one pictured above, featured a large centerpiece fountain surrounded by statues of women (Minerva pictured above). Marçelo explained that the 12 statues were the months of the year. It was powerful imagery to see women depicted this way. The tree (pictured above) is from Africa, it is extremely large and very young at the same time, only 350 years old. They grow to 3,000 years old.
We reached another first at the House of Culture and Detention, where the clever Brazilians have turned a very old prison, laid out in the shape of a cross, into a cultural center. Each cell has been turned into a small shop selling local art and wares. It's impressivley inventive, ornate and creepy at the same time.
The street vendors are plentiful in Brazil, as one would imagine. Life is lived outdoors and any type of food or tropical drink is made for your consumption right there - it is the farthest thing from mass produced processed food on the planet. It is also endlessly entertaining from a marketing standpoint whether it be food, drink, music, art or clothing. I cooled off with a local cerveza from a woman's cart for $1, I was thrilled. It reminded me of the excellent breakfast I scored for $2 in the Bahamas - I love this.
Between the Codiene Cough Syrup hangover, the heat and the beer, I found myself on a mild peyote like high as I sat back and watched Sandy, Diane and Natalie shop, my Dad and his friend Pietro take photos and drink the local form of Grappa and the street vendors try their best to eek out every last dollar we had - "No Obrigado (Thank You)" is not a denomination they accept here. My favorite, by far, were the traveling band of dobro players. I don't fully understand Portuguese, but I get patterns This man and his little friends appeared to singing and playing as they wound their way through the marketplace, garnering lots of photos. My guess, is that they've been doing this a very long time now. So long that they've run out of songs and now they are just making up stuff about whoever is taking their picture... "there is a lady with a camera, she appears to be American, she is taking our picture but won't give us a tip...la la la..." HILARIOUS.
Like I said, thank goodness for Marçelo and his colorful descriptions of his culture, it's history and especially the true celebration and debauchery that is Carnaval - i think I will remember him the most. -dkp