I don’t know how and why but the journey back from a place always seems way shorter than a journey to a place. You would think it would be the opposite way around… the anticipation gone, with maybe a little misery in the air as to the passing moments of joy…
On that sunny and positive thought, we finally arrived back in Salvador after 4 hours of driving and another hour on the ferry back to the port of the city from Ilha de Itaparica. The sun set as we left the harbour in Bom Despacho, and we sat on the floor of the ferry ‘balcony’ watching the landscape turn from a bright blue to a beautiful magenta, then purple, then navy blue speckled with clouds and stars.
It should’ve only been a ten-minute ride to our Airbnb from the harbour, but oh boy nothing could’ve prepared us for the spaghetti that is the roads and streets of Salvador. Maybe 40 minutes later we actually got to the place, thoroughly infuriated after missing nearly every single turn and spinning wildly through the city in the rental car. And let’s not get into when we went back out again from the Airbnb to find Pelourinho, the historical centre of the city that should’ve supposedly also been a ten-minute drive away – it was approximately an hour later we found it… if you can, walk your way around Salvador, or take a look long study of a map before arriving, or just catch an uber…
When we got to our Airbnb (FINALLY), we were stunned. I mean, we were on a tight budget throughout this holiday – we’re definitely not lavish spenders but we don’t compromise with certain comforts – but we didn’t expect this incredible apartment whatsoever. Located on a long road lined with colourful colonial terraced houses on either side, the green house-front was instantly adorable. Upon entry, the reception was in.cred.i.ble. With high ceilings and stunning high-ceiling artwork to match, everywhere was furnished with dark wooden amenities. Taking a few steps in and you go up a few stairs to get further into the long reception area. To the right was a large spiral staircase going up to, presumably, the host’s lodgings, and to the left was a GARDEN. Like a tiny one, but patio-like with real soil and plants and trees and everything. A bit further on the right was a bar, with a mirrored rack of shelves featuring liquors of all sorts. Even further, and on the far back ‘wall’… was no wall, but a large curving balcony with white hip-high pillars, overlooking the star-lit port and sea. Sofas and comfy chairs featured so one could plop themselves down and admire this utterly incredible home. I was so shocked whenever I walked into the apartment I didn’t even get many photos, and now I’m kicking myself.
Just after the bar area was a hidden set of spiralling stone steps, heading into what I presumed was a basement area, but was another level to the incredible Tardis-like home. It was warmly lit and beautifully decorated in a colonial manner. To the end of the hallway there was a large dreamy kitchen and then closer to the stairwell was a couple of stone steps descending further down to get to a pair of large red doors. Upon entering revealed our bedroom… it was stunning. On entering, to the right was a little bathroom area with a sink and mirror and when making 90-degree turn you find a little cave-like area with a shower with beautiful colourful tiles and the toilet.
Next to the sink was a window that looked down into the bedroom, which had a massive double bed perched high on a wooden-like plinth of sorts facing wooden-shutter windows and doors which led onto a beautiful balcony. The balcony also had the amazing view of the port and sea, featuring huge luscious green shrubs and hot-pink exotic flowers. This was the house of my dreams….
We left the apartment fairly quickly to experience the Salvador nightlife, as we had hardly any time in the amazing historical city. After a driving fiasco we managed to get to Pelourinho.
The colourful houses and buildings were illuminated by amber streetlights in the darkness. A steep cobbled road had slanted houses on either side, leading up to the main part of the historical centre. In the distance, we could hear the sound of drums echoing rhythms into the night. Following the music, a dancing crowd filled a small cobbled side road, surrounding the famous internationally acclaimed cultural group Olodum who were playing percussive rhythms on the drums. The crowd was divided, between a samba-reggae style of dancing and just falling into a rhythmic trance, letting the beat of the drums take over their bodies. The beats reverberated throughout out the streets of Pelourinho, even Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ infiltrating the set – this music video to the track was filmed in this very area.
Men in white vests and hats weaved from dried palm leaves painted the crowds’ arms in Olodum’s typical fashion, definitely making us stick out even more as tourists… We were super lucky, as I had read somewhere deep on the internet that Olodum would be playing on Tuesday nights in the area, but I was really going out on a limb believing this nugget of info.
The vibe of Pelourinho was like no other I had felt in Brazil, full of colour and full of life. There were definitely many dodgy characters roaming the streets, however, waiting for the right moment to take advantage. If you’re visiting, don’t get carried away and stay safe folks.
We wandered around the cobbled historic streets with the beats of the drums in sync to our footsteps. We were exhausted from all the travelling, so we called it quits pretty soon. But first, we tried to sneak our way into a capoeira Roda (which I could hear coming from the window of a colourful building) (we were unsuccessful) and sampled the famous Bahian street food Acarajé.
Acarajé is basically a crispy fritter made from black-eyed beans, filled with an assortment of things, including marinated shrimps and vatapá – an afro-Brazilian puree made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts and palm oil. To be 100% honest… it was way too weird tasting for me, being very fragrant and composed of many tastes that my tongue couldn’t even begin to recognise. I think the texture of the shrimps was all I could distinguish. I was pretty gutted as I had heard so many good things. It even looked REALLY good and sounded super appetising. I know some people who would kill for acarajé, but sadly it was a no from me.
Luckily we only shared one between us, and so we scampered off, drove around for around 2 hours trying to get home, and then dined in a little restaurant called Bar Ulisses only a few houses down from our Airbnb. We had an amazing grilled fish and garlic-butter shrimps. With a couple of beers to cap off the night, we sat on the terrace, overlooking the starlit port (the same view from our room, haha) and mentally prepared for a jam-packed day of exploring.