2023, Personal

Riley Goes to Brazil Day 9: Salvador Sunday September 3, 2023

We had another big breakfast buffet this morning, with lots of choice, and the ability to sit outside like at the pousadas in Olinda and Santo Amaro, but with arguably the worst tea options since Santo Amaro.

We walked from our hotel to the Pelourinho, our third UNESCO old town of the trip. Since it was Sunday, everything was closed so the streets were pretty dead. It also rained a little bit to start the day, which ended up messing with brain enough to potentially cause some issues for me later in the day.

The tourist office in the Pelourinho was closed. But, in looking for it, we got to see a fair amount of the incredible Pelourinho. It puts the UNESCO old towns of Olinda and São Luís to shame. I’m glad we saw it last because if we saw it first the other two really would have paled.


Once I failed to get a map, we headed over to the famous elevator so that we could go visit the market in the old town. Why is there an elevator? Well, it turns out the city was built on an escarpment, with a lower town that is way below the upper town. The elevator was apparently was the first one in Brazil, and there’s also a funicular (closed on Sundays) and apparently another elevator somewhere else.

Elevator Lacerda

The elevator was hilariously cheap – a few cents to ride – and very fast. No views, if you care.

The market was a crafts market, and we browsed a little but the vendors were considerably pushier here than at markets we’d been to in the previous two cities.

Because the funicular was closed we went back up the elevator to the Pelourinho and wandered over through the squares towards the African Church.

African Church

After we wandered around a little bit more, we headed to the Convento e Igreja de São Francisco, as it was now open. If you visit one church in Salvador, make it this one.

It looks better in person

We went to a number of churches in Brazil but this one was by far the most impressive, both in terms of the knave and the elaborate mural in the courtyard. For good measure, there is also a currency collection in another part of the complex, for some reason.

After the church we wandered around until we found somewhere to (try to) eat lunch. (It turns out a highly recommended restaurant was just outside the church but we didn’t check the guidebook until later.) We tried a place in a smaller street hoping it would be less touristy. Jenn had a salad – still struggling to eat – and I had a great little crab dish. (I had seemingly eliminated my own problems with Imodium.) However, it didn’t seem like enough food so I decided to order some fries. I had not been paying attention to all the people who had sat down around us and were still waiting on their food. We then spent…a very long time waiting for our fries while other people waited for our dishes. Our initial food had taken a while but nothing compared to the fries, or how long other people had to wait for their food. We may have been at this restaurant for two hours or more, I don’t remember, but it was comical.

After lunch we went and got Jenn some ice cream at the elevator. Then we went and found the carnaval museum.

The museum isn’t that big but has really in-depth audio guides to give you a really deep perspective on Salvador’s carnaval, which is considered by many to be the most important in Brazil. They can get repetitive – they could be edited down – but they do an excellent job for anyone who is not going to be in Salvador at carnaval time. It’s like another world, given how important to Brazil this stuff is and little we outside of Brazil know of it and all the significant people in the history of it. Brazil’s big enough that these people are really famous and some have sold millions of records. But I don’t think they’re know outside of the country. Some of this likely has to do with how relatively few people speak Portuguese worldwide. It’s just interesting.

The second floor has some participatory exhibits that are probably really fun for kids but both Jenn and I were not in the mood and so we left.

We headed back down to Barra to check out the fort/lighthouse and its museum. We ended up not going to the museum or up the lighthouse – as it was way, way busier than the old town – but it’s still a neat place to go. Usually these things are off somewhere outside of town but this one is right at the end of the peninsula right in the city.

There’s a whole city right behind us

It’s a really stunning place, where the bay meets the sea. But even here I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Blinded by the scenery

We walked up the ocean side of the coast to the next point. We didn’t have our bathing suits with us so we weren’t able to go in the water.

Then we turned into the city so Jenn could check out a mall. It sort of hidden among other buildings but was actually quite big. We had trouble finding anywhere to buy water and eventually went to a drugstore where the (teen) cashiers laughed at us for not speaking Portuguese. This was one of the many moments where it felt to me like Brazil was insular in the way that the US is. These girls, working in a mall in the most touristy area of one of Brazil’s largest cities, thought it was really weird that there would be people visiting from a foreign country who didn’t know the language. Compare that to Australia, where it’s a right of passage to go abroad when you’re young, even to (shock! horror!) countries where you don’t speak the language. I’m sure there are plenty of non-English speaking countries where that’s common, too. (Japan comes to mind.) This is just one moment, but the overall vibe I got from people who didn’t explicitly work in tourism or hospitality was general surprise at encountering people who don’t speak Portuguese. That is not something I feel in Toronto. If someone doesn’t speak English, or speaks it very poorly, that’s just…fairly normal.

At some point while we were in the mall the sun set – we were back on the east coast and, though, not as absurdly far east as Recife, we were still east enough that the sun set earlier than you’d expect. And so I missed my potential fort sunset. So then we went across the street to a Brazilian grocery store, the only really big one we visited on the whole trip. We bought a bunch of stuff and laughed at how cheap the water was in the grocery store compared to on the street.

We went looking for food and both of us were too tired and we couldn’t make a decision. We walked past multiple probably totally acceptable restaurants before settling on a crepe place and then accidentally sitting at the wrong place. (The boundaries between the tables of different restaurants are not always clear.) Eventually we sat down at the crepe place. Even though I had been constipated ever since taking Imodium before we left Santo Amaro, I inexplicably ate a cheese crepe.

As we sat there, next to the see, my eyes began to water. I had been sneezing occasionally for the last day or two but pretty rarely. (Once every few hours maybe.) As my eyes got more watery I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something. Then I started to feel cold. I blamed it on the sea breeze and possibly on not drinking enough water during the day. It rained lightly in the morning, and had been mostly overcast, but it was still hot. Maybe I really hadn’t drank enough water. (I had a headache which I presumed was from dehydration.)

We finished and went to wait for our Uber. As I stood there, I began to feel really ill. When we got back to the hotel I started shivering uncontrollably. I tried warming myself up and that seemed to work for a bit, but then I’d get cold again. The chills stopped after a few hours but I felt horrible. Once the chills stopped I started brainstorming about what could be the problem. Maybe I had heat exhaustion plus something else?

I had five COVID shots in the last few years, and before I came to Brazil I got my Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccines. I was currently taking anti-Malaria medication because we had gone to Maranhão which has some. (Jenn got different advice and didn’t get either the Typhoid vaccine or the anti-malarial drug.) And yes, despite this, I had already had a minor intestinal issue for days and now I was getting really, really sick with something.

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