2023, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Brazil Day 3: Olinda/Recife Monday August 28, 2023

We woke up and sat down to a slightly different breakfast than the day before. Like most hotels outside of North America, Brazilian guesthouses have great breakfasts, as do their hotels.

Olinda is so small, sometimes you overthink where things are. Knowing that many of Recife’s attractions were closed on Mondays, we decided to seek out something that was for sure open in Olinda before we headed into the city. So we went looking for the monastery, Basílica e Mosteiro de São Bento. I got us “lost” in the sense that we walked the long way, seeing a part of Olinda we had missed before, including a park. It turns out the monastery was actually just down the street from where we ate burgers, oops. On this walk we also saw the first of many horses we would see in the northeast that were just…around in towns. (In this case, this horse had an obvious owner, but some others we would see would not.)

Basílica e Mosteiro de São Bento, Olinda by Matti Blume, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The monastery is extremely impressive, this massive old (17th century) building with ornate decorations. (That picture makes it look smaller than it is, as those doorways are much taller than a person.) It’s only the churches we would see later that make it seem not so impressive in my memory. It’s certainly one of the highlights of Olinda and it’s only a couple of minutes from Four Corners. You absolutely do not need a guide unless you want someone to give you some information about the building.

Brazilian hotels and pousadas all seem to offer noon checkout, so we were able to swim at the pousada before we left. This was great because, though it was not as hot as yesterday, it was still really hot.

We left our luggage at the pousada and took and uber to Marco Zero in Recife, the place at which the Portuguese are considered to have landed here. It’s in the middle of Recife Antigo (the old town), which is on an island just east of the downtown.

Next to the square is a crafts market that we wandered through and Jenn bought a few things. Some of the work was really interesting and creative, some of it also using repurposed materials.

After that we walked a few blocks to the tourist office where they confirmed that most things were closed but told us about a few things that weren’t. Mostly they were located in the Santo Antonio neighbourhood on the next island over.

We walked back down the street and got lunch at one of the places we had seen. Jenn’s came with a deep-fried pineapple as a side. I think this is the first time either of us have ever had it.

We walked through Antigo and over the bridge to Santo Antonio, passing a horse and buggy. On the other side we were greeted by some grand old buildings. Recife is interesting because it does have these huge old buildings but then, on some streets, to surrounded by standard modern or recent architecture that is boring and doesn’t stand out. Some sometimes you really have to look around. But some, like the courthouse, are in a prominent place and easy to see.

We walked past the courthouse looking for the Convento Santo Antonio. We found what we thought was the entrance, paid some money (less than $2 each) and went in. The nave is really something, with tiles on the walls and a really impressive sanctuary. It makes the church at the monastery in Olinda look like nothing much.

After we gaped awhile we asked them how we get to the rest of the convent and we learned that we had actually just entered the attached church and that the rest of the building was a museum with a separate entrance fee. Museums are very cheap in Brazil, for the most part, so this was no big deal but we did feel kind of dumb.

The museum parts of the convent aren’t very interesting – there is some stuff from a parade they hold every year – but the convent itself is worth it. There’s the stunning chapel, which the term “chapel” really fails to capture.

matt dowdeswell, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The paintings are arranged in terms of how holy the subjects are.

There is also a nice courtyard.

The one fascinating thing about the dolls used in the parade is that, traditionally, their hair is made from human hair donated by locals. You can tell whether or not the doll’s hair is human by how nice it looks – if it’s old and grey, it is apparently human. We know this because this particular museum is one of the rare places we visited with English guides.

We walked across part of Santo Antonio to the Mercado São José and walked around it for a while. It seemed like it was mostly crafts and clothes until we suddenly got smacked in the face by the smell of raw fish.

There are a number of really old churches in Recife – as someone said about this area of Brazil, there are so many churches – and so we wandered around Santo Antonio looking at some of them. The churches in South America really are something.

After that, we wandered towards the Forte das Cincos Pontas. We knew the museum in the fort was supposed to be closed, but I guess we thought it would be a good place to take stock and figure out what else we wanted to do. The walk over was one of those things that I think people who do not walk through cities very much would tell us not to do. There was no sign of any other tourists, just people going about their days. The further towards the fort we got, the fewer people there were.

It turns out that yes, the museum inside the fort was closed. We also realized there was no beach around the fort, as we were hoping, but just an embankment. Due to the hilariously early sunset time in Pernambuco, we figured we could head back to Olinda now even if it was a little early. So we took an uber back to our pousada to figure out exactly what we wanted to do.

We walked around Olinda a little bit and then headed back up Alto Da Sé one last time. The stalls were all open and we grabbed caipirinhas and sat on the wall as sunset happened. It’s a weird location for a sunset, because it looks south. Some of the angles look southwest but there are trees in the way. Anyway, it was still very pleasant, looking over Recife and the sea, drinking a soursop caipirinha made with really fresh fruit.

We didn’t want to walk back down to town to look for a place to eat so we decided to eat at the restaurant next-door to the one we had lunch at yesterday. It was way less busy but that is not a complaint. We got to sit at the very edge with an incredible view of Recife.

After dinner, we went back to our pousada to catch our cab to the airport. When we got to the airport a little early, we discovered (or were reminded) that in Latin America there’s often more stuff outside security than inside of security. We went through security and there really wasn’t much on offer. But there was at least beer.

The behaviour of everyone on this flight – getting on, on the plane, at landing – was noticeably worse in terms of consideration for others (especially staff). The airline was Azul, the only time we flew it. We did wonder if this was some weird example of enforcing rules versus not. On GOL, for the most part, people behaved like people on other airlines. On this Azul flight it felt a bit like nobody had ever been on a plane before and every person felt they were the most important people on this (budget) flight. It was weird (and reminded both of us of flying in Colombia).

On the plane I watched Simulant, a bad Blade Runner rip-off.

<<<< Day 2 | Day 4 >>>>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.