2023, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Brazil Day 2: Olinda/Recife – Sunday August 27 2023

We slept pretty well despite how warm it was. Breakfast was a fairly elaborate buffet for a guesthouse. The buffet had lots of fresh fruit (standard in Brazil) with a bunch of interesting baked goods and savoury stuff. We tried most of it over the days we were there.

It was a Sunday in a Catholic country so we were limited in what we could do, especially, it turns out, in Olinda.

First we headed up to Alto Da Sé a prominent point in the town overlooking both Olinda and Recife. Even though it was relatively late in the morning, nothing had really opened yet. But the big church at the end of the stretch was obviously in use.

Olinda in the foreground, Recife in the background

After that we walked around the hill looking for the lighthouse, which is up on the hill, as opposed to on the edge of the water. We had to wander into a less picturesque part of the town where people live without seeing too many tourists. The journey was definitely more interesting than the destination as the lighthouse was closed off and wasn’t particularly interesting looking.

When we walked back to Alto Da Sé we stopped into one of the many galleries in Olinda that shows off Carnaval equipment, in this case the massive heads that people wear. They’re a combination of legendary figures, local archetypes, local Carnaval people and really famous people. It’s an odd amalgam. (There is a much bigger museum of this stuff in Recife that we didn’t get to.)

When we got back to Alto Da Sé things were starting to open up. We went to check out the local shops and this woman found us and started pouring us samples of cachaça. I had been told this happens but this was the only time it would happen to us on the trip. We got to try both straight and flavoured and ended up buying a bottle of soursop cachaça which is dangerous stuff if you like soursop as much as I do. (Though it isn’t that strong, thank science.)

We walked down the hill a different way and saw a bit more of the town. We accidentally wandered down the street with most of the galleries and workshops, oblivious to their presence.

It was really, really hot and despite being the morning, we were sweating like crazy. (I should mention, due to Pernambuco’s location, the hottest point of the day is likely two hours earlier than it should be, so though we were walking around in the morning, it was hotter than it would be somewhere with a more reasonable time zone.) So we headed back to the pousada to use the pool. This was really necessary because were both nearing heat exhaustion, or whatever the least serious of those conditions is. So we spent a long time in the pool, even though it wasn’t shaded, just trying to get back to normal temperature.

After our swim, we took some time figuring out how to schedule our remaining time here because tons of stuff is closed on Monday but lots of stuff is closed on Sunday. Eventually, we decided to go get lunch and found that almost all of Olinda is just shut on Sundays. (It’s actually pretty much true of OIinda during the day regardless of the day of the week, it seems. It’s a very sleepy place during the day, very much not so at night.) So back up to Alto Da Sé it was because we knew stuff was open up there.

And there was. And we ended up eating at a place that overlooked Recife. There I tried the salted meat – seemingly sundried – that was salty but extremely flavourful for how cooked it was. The whole experience was very nice, with us getting a free caipirinha because we were foreign tourists – this place doesn’t hate tourists yet – and the whole staff doing everything to make us happy even though they couldn’t speak English and we can’t speak Portuguese.

It was getting pretty late in the day. Fortunately we had learned that one of Recife’s premier galleries/museums had extended rainy season hours so they were open into the evening. (In most of the places we visited, most galleries and museums close pretty early….and often open somewhat late.) It was going to be closed on Monday, because everything was, so we decided to head over there by Uber.

Instutito Ricardo Brennand

So there were these two cousins and they inherited a tile-making business, or something, and one of them became one of Brazil’s great ceramists and the other became a collector. They each have their own “institute” (i.e. art gallery) outside of Recife and we were told that the collector’s was the better visit, unless you’re really into ceramics. So we went to Ricardo’s instead of Francisco’s.

It’s a fake castle with some other buildings on some really nice grounds with an extremely long driveway and a totally unnecessary entry gate where the driver has to press a button to open the gate so it causes traffic jams at the entrance.

Instituto Ricardo Brennan

Inside the castle is his collection, of weapons, armour, nudes, tapestries and, um timepieces. It’s an extremely arbitrary collection with no discernible rules. He just collected what he liked, I guess, resulting in, apparently, Brazil’s biggest collection of weapons. There are reasonably old items and there are rather new items, which is one of the things that makes the museum so weird, to see things that look brand new and modern next to stuff that is hundreds of years old. The man liked to collect. He doesn’t seemed to have cared about age. (The tapestries in particular are quite old, though.) It’s a fascinating place and for Jenn might have been worth the visit alone. However, there are other buildings with other exhibits.

One building contains the largest collection of Dutch Brazil artefacts plus the largest collection of paintings by Frans Post, a Dutch painter who pained more of the Americas than any other painter of the Dutch Golden Age. There are maps, there’s pottery and other household items, coins, that kind of thing. It’s a cool collection of a piece of Brazilian history I was totally unaware of. It is also worth the price of admission.

However, there was one last building. (Well, there were other buildings, but the library was closed.) And that had a totally unrelated modern exhibition featuring the work of Brazil’s most famous graffiti artists, OSGEMEOS, who have since expanded their work into other areas. They have a very distinct style – in my eyes influenced by Botero but apparently influenced by lots of other people I’ve never heard of – and are really, really creative. It’s one of those things I didn’t know I wanted to see. These really don’t give you a proper idea of their true range:

They work in many media and from tiny little sketches to murals that are the size of buildings. (Their murals are everywhere, including one in Vancouver.)

We took an uber to a “brewpub” in Olinda. It was a place blasting loud music across from another bar blasting really loud music. The music from the other place was so loud I almost had to leave. They had a few beers and we tried one each but it was very much not our idea of a brewpub, much closer to just another Brazilian bar, with slightly more of a modern vibe than most. We didn’t stay long in part because we couldn’t find a food menu.

Instead we went a few doors down to a burger place where we had shockingly good burgers from a man and his family just making them on a tiny stove.

Olinda is so small that we walked home from what felt like the other side of town and it maybe took us five minutes.

Back at Four Corners we joined the crowd and had a beer on the street. It was Sunday night, and nobody had been around – with very little open – hours earlier but now it was a happening place. Not anywhere near as busy as Saturday night, but still full of people out for a good time.

When we got back to the pousada, we somehow found A Cook’s Tour and watched a little bit of it. It is so hilariously of its time.

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