2023, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Brazil Day 7: São Luís Friday September 1, 2023

The buffet breakfast at this hotel was the biggest we’ve seen so far, with multiple tables and all sorts of options. It was still very much Brazilian, which we appreciated.

We went down to the beach and went for a swim in the ocean. Somehow this was the only time we went into the ocean on the entire trip. The waves were fairly big and the current was quite strong (though directed down the beach). I can’t tell you the last time I swam in the ocean. (As opposed to waded.) 2019? It was great even if it was brief. (It was brief because it was hard work and because we had sites to see.)

After the swim we took an uber into downtown, to visit our second UNESCO old town of the trip. We went straight to the tourist office so I could get a map. Once we got our map we headed over to the (closed) palace to get a view of the harbour.

Then we headed to Rua Portugal, the street that is most representative of why the city got its UNESCO status:

Buildings with tiles

Many buildings in São Luís have tiles on the outside. They did this because the tiles dealt better with the humidity than masonry or wood, apparently. But much of the city has not managed to preserve this so it’s the brief Rua Portugal where you can see the most consistent preservation.

At the end of the street is a museum for São Luís’s unique festival of the bull, full of costumes. We had a really hard time finding the entrance – there are very few obvious signs for São Luís’ many museums – so we actually ended up going in the exit, through the gift shop (and hearing about it). This was the first of many museums in which we would encounter mini biographies of all these locals who’ve contributed to the local festival. One thing you can say for these Brazilian cities is they respect their history. (Nobody outside of the these cities knows who these people are.)

We then walked to a museum we thought was a different museum to the south end of the old town. It was a kind of inexplicable mix of historical artifacts and modern art, which seems to be a bit of theme with some of these smaller museums. But it was a nice building and there were some interesting artifacts and some of the contemporary art was really interesting.

We then went looking for the African cultural museum. It took us a while to find it – as the signage in this city is really terrible – and when we did we realized it was closed.

So we walked back up to a restaurant we had walked by, but then we learned it was a buffet (or “self serve”). There are a lot of these in Brazil and we never ended up trying any. Anyway, we kept looking for restaurants and nothing but this expensive tourist trap seemed to be open. One snack bar we were trying to find, we couldn’t even locate it. (We could find a store with the same name but not the actual snack bar.)

So then we started looking for another restaurant. And we realized that it was inside a block. It was this weird building/block where it’s a solid rectangle but then there are these entrances and inside is a large atrium with another circular building inside. On the inside of the circular building are bars and stalls, on the outside are restaurants.

So we walked through the building and out the other side and wandered through all these tiny restaurants next to each other until we found the one we were looking for. One of the interesting things about these types of restaurants and bars – which we encountered all over the place – is that even though they are private businesses, they seem to get along with each other. They borrow each other’s tables and chairs and other things, something that is totally foreign here. Anyway, the food was good and the experience was really neat, as we were sitting among just a ton of people getting lunch in this place, whereas outside it’s like the city was experiencing a siesta or something.

After we went and go Jenn some coffee, which I have no memory of.

Then we headed to the anthropological museum. We were told to go to the top floor, and we did. There were all sorts of indigenous artifacts and some contemporary stuff. It was interesting when there was English but, like so many museums in Brazil, most of the displays were solely in Portuguese. (This is not a criticism, just a fact.) So a lot of the time we were guessing as to what we were looking at.

The first floor is a rather hilarious dinosaur museum. I didn’t know there were dinosaur bones discovered in this part of Brazil but it makes sense given how dry it is. But the displays are very clearly directed towards children and so most of what is present on this floor is dioramas and models. There are some bones thrown in there.

At this point it was fairly late in the day so we decided to head back to hotel for a swim. It was even breezier today and there were very few people at the pool despite the temperature inland. By the time we left, we were literally the only people there aside from the bartender. About the bar: the pool had a swim-up bar and I hadn’t been somewhere with a swim-up bar since before I started drinking. So we went to it but the stools were so high that we ended up freezing a little bit as we drank. So eventually we went back to the other side of the pool where we could at least sit in the water, out of the wind, with our drinks. It was cold enough we decided to check out their steam room but it was smelly and so we ended up just going back upstairs once we were done our drinks and kind of cold. Inland it was probably 30C, maybe a little cooler, but on the coast that breeze was just crazy.

For dinner, we once again ran across the very large, busy street and walked to a restaurant Jenn thought she could handle. (She was starting to experience some nausea around food.) However, despite it being Friday night, it was closed. As were the restaurants next to it. In fact, every restaurant in the immediate area appeared to be closed even though it was Friday night. This was weird. (We also noticed on Google Maps that a number of restaurants said they were either closed for the weekend or closed for the night. Some of them must just do lunch business but it’s really weird.)

So we again ran across the very large, busy street to the “carwash” restaurant down the street from our hotel. It was a zoo but they found us a table. The food was good – especially the dessert – except for the ceviche, which was the oiliest ceviche either of have ever had. (Turns out they hadn’t mixed the citrus in well enough, it seems.)

After dinner, we went back to the beer bar. We had both been eying a wine beer in the fridge the night before. If you don’t know, wine beers are a bit of a Toronto brewery specialty. Anyway, we tried it and it was…weird. Not bad weird but just very different than what we were expecting. It later turned out it was hilariously expensive for Brazil, so expensive the server did a doubletake when she rang up our bill. We also had a saison that was better than the one the night before.

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