Rain and thunder provided the soundtrack to our morning in our beautiful Airbnb. I walked out onto the drenched terrace barefoot to look at the beautiful pink flowers, which were now flopping sadly from the bush they grew from, and at the horizon, which was engulfed in fog with no sun in sight. I figured, as long as I wasn’t sick then nothing was going to ruin this day, no matter how much rain.
We rushed out, needing to cram as much into the day as possible, first heading up the cute road we were staying on to one area with a park in the centre and a large majestic white church to the right – Paróquia de Santo Antônio. Right ahead, behind the park, was Forte de Capoeira, a historic fortress dedicated to the history and practice of Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art, which is like a fight and a dance at the same time).
It seemed completely empty when we arrived, the early morning and rain probably being the main culprit. We walked around the courtyard, looking into the various practice rooms sitting at the edges and found one with signs of life. Inside, it looked like a crazy capoeira shrine. A capoeira master came over to greet us and talk, Mestre Curió, who spoke about the capoeira that happened here at the fortress and the practice of capoeira in general – I could only grasp a couple of words and sentences (my Portuguese is abysmal) but he seemed very wise… He invited us to join in classes happening that very evening (which we never actually found that night) and on a high note we ran back into the car, the rain still pouring down, and went off into the streets of Salvador.
Salvador was brimming was culture and history. Of course, many museums and exhibits accompany such a place. Heading a little further from the historic centre, we visited a Caixa Cultural. Caixa is actually a bank in Brazil, but they invest in creating cultural spaces and events to exhibit and share the rich culture of Brazil. The spaces are free to enter and are present in Brasília, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and São Paulo. Here in Salvador, the building of the Caixa Cultural featured a bunch of super interesting exhibitions, displaying everything from archaeological digs and relics found around the city, to an incredible contemporary photography exhibition by João Machado, to an exhibit on some famous people from the city on the top-most floor. Everything was in Portuguese pretty much, so it’s worth bringing a Portuguese-speaking friend or a trustworthy dictionary…
On the way to the Caixa Cultural. A nearby road with amazing houses and churches…
At the Caixa Cultural, in the photography exhibition.
Weirdly, so many things weren’t open until midday, not even like 11pm or 12pm but at 1pm or 2pm. A lot of places were even totally shut, in the middle of the week… we missed the modern art museum sadly, but how could we have known it would be closed on a Wednesday? Salvador, you crazy. We thus had to plan where we were heading carefully, google-mapping any desired location and finding out opening times beforehand…
After the Caixa Cultural, we just headed to Pelourinho, the historic centre, to spend the whole day exploring there, it having nearly everything a fleeting tourist needs to see. Also, we got charged a lot for parking so we had to make the most of that too… ha ha ha. Be warned: in Salvador, you get asked to pay for everything. Parking? Get your wallet out. Directions? Get your wallet out. A photo with a Bahian lady in costume? Get your wallet out. Say goodbye to your budget, folks. #bitter
Well we parked in a great spot, despite the not-so-great price, right in front of a very famous church, Igreja e Convento de São Francisco, which had an extremely elaborate carved exterior, beautiful white and blue-painted tiles and a red pavement in the courtyard, and an incredibly beautiful church with lavishly gold ornamented walls. It was truly stunning, and so silent, so peaceful.
Back outside, we strolled around the cobbled streets and colourful houses, people-watching and keeping an eye out for any breakfast spots.
Rain began to drizzle once more. I was on the edge of madness with the weather. Forget everything I said before about being in good health and yada yada. I paid to come to Brazil and goddamit I wanted the sun. Bottling up my emotions, we slipped into a humble dining establishment, a lanchonete place, and ordered some classic burned coffee (they export all the decent stuff), juice and coxinhas to feed the hangry demon inside me.
Back outside, the rain didn’t let up. The beautiful city was dreary and grey, and for an extremely colourful city, this was quite some feat, even applaudable. We walked further to see the fallen cross monument (Monumento da Cruz Caída) but as soon as we arrived, by some stroke of luck, rain began to tip down like crazy, like someone throwing buckets of water from the clouds. We ran into a building that turned out to be a little museum about Bahian women – Memorial Das Baianas – so we made the most of being stuck indoors temporarily.
The fallen cross monument.
Inside the Bahian Women museum.
Still beating down with rain, I was raging, and we ran outdoors to get to our next tourist spot, jumping from store to store to cover our soaked selves momentarily before getting drenched once again (and again and again).
We made it to the Elevator Lacerda, a historic art deco elevator with great views of the city and sea, but fog had engulfed the landscape and we waited piteously at the front, looking out on to the rainy square, Praça Tomé de Souza, where people were running to and fro with large umbrellas. Of course I took the opportunity to get some umbrella-shots, but I can get these in the UK all the damn time. Street sellers had taken to monetise this awful weather and were proclaiming their rainy bargains, selling ponchos and umbrellas with admirable gusto. A Bahian lady approached us and rather forcefully made us get a photo with her but our defences were low and we thought yolo. It turned out great as she spoke to us about the area to pass the time and the photos actually were pretty cool.
After a little while, trying to wait for the weather to improve (it was a futile activity), we hollered a street seller to buy a bargain umbrella and off we went. Right nearby, on the square, was Palácio Rio Branco, a grand neoclassical palace and government building, where there was a great photography exhibition featuring sunny photos of the city, a side of the city we probably weren’t going to get to see… my patience was wearing thin looking at these beautiful photos.
Running around the city in the increasingly heavy rain, we were in search of a specific lunch place the Bahian lady recommended to us – ‘Senac’. Huddled under one large umbrella, we skipped through deep puddles and sped-walked through Pelourinho. It seemed like it was only us outside at one point, as the streets looked like they were reaching flooding point. Locals peeked out of windows and doorways as brave tourists ran around like headless chickens.
As we neared closer to our destination, the rain worsened. It became torrential, flooding the narrow roads and mystifying the path ahead. We splashed through the water, our legs drenched and sandals sodden. The famous landscape of Pelourinho was engulfed in water by the time we reached Senac and I totally snapped: WHAT THE FRICK BRAZIL?
(Spot Michael J.)
I, very sadly, entered Senac, annoyed, but still hungry. Hangry.
At this place, they train students in many aspects of catering and hospitality, also serving up amazing authentic Bahian dishes in a buffet style at a reasonable price – well, pricey for Brazil but decent for any Westerner. It’s considered one of the best buffets in the country; with over 40 different dishes (and 12 desserts), you can eat as much as you want and sample the many flavours of Bahia. However, Bahian food is renown for its extreme flavours – very fragrant, very strong, very spicy, and sometimes all at once… All-you-can-eat became a challenge with such crazy flavours and our stomachs and tongues couldn’t quite hack two modest plates of food. But dang, it was a great food experience nonetheless. Don’t forget to sample to not-so-overwhelming deserts to finish the meal, including sweet milk jellies, cocada and various fruits and fruit purees.
That white jelly was sjkdfskfsjkdfhsdk YUM
Head here for PART 2!