Recife (pronounced Heh-see-fee), takes its name from the offshore reefs that calm the waters of its ports and shoreline. It is almost at the easternmost tip of Brazil, closer to Africa than Brazil’s western and southern fringes. Due to its many canals, bridges, and islands, some call Recife, the “Venice of Brazil,” but “Amsterdam of Brazil” may be more appropriate because the Dutch laid out the design and laid the foundations for the city. Because it is so close to the Equator (just 8 degrees south), it is warm year-round, as is the ocean. This is nearly winter for them and it was a comfortable 80 degrees with a little wind and rain. Our guide called it “cold.”
Our 8:45 excursion was “Catamaran and Historic Recife.” Our group walked from the lounge, off the ship, and had to take a shuttle bus to exit the working dock area because of safety reasons from the activity. Then we walked through a large terminal building, up an escalator, across the hall, and down the other side to exit to the buses. This all took an additional 15 minutes from when we left the ship. This was not a problem for us, but those with canes and walking difficulties struggled, even with an elevator handy.
We drove through town, looking at official buildings, as Recife has been the provincial capital since 1965 when it was moved from nearby Olinda, a charming historical town. We stopped at the Casa da Cultura, a former prison that was cleverly transformed into a craft and handicraft center. We had 40 minutes to spend here. First, we checked out the prison itself. It was 3 stories high and contained hundreds of cells, still numbered. Each sell was an individual craft shop. One cell was left empty to give an idea of the living area of each prisoner. It looked like maybe a 12 x 20 foot space with no bathroom, of course. There was a small window about 7 feet up facing the exterior of the building to provide a bit of light. We did find some hand-made table runners, tee shirts and an embroidered purse here.
Next, we headed for the catamaran dock for our canal cruise of the city. A refreshing drink was provided while we waited for the first catamaran to return. They would be heading for the jail next, the same tour but in reverse order. This is the beginning of Brazil’s rainy season, and it was raining, stopping, then raining again. It had stopped when we boarded, and the staff hurriedly dried the seats for us. We went under many bridges, one even made in the 1600’s and saw many impressive buildings. Multi million dollar high rise apartments were recently built along the shore, catering to the very wealthy and foreigners, but there are still poor living in the favelas and trying to make a living fishing in the rivers. We took photos of some digging for clams and crabs during low tide. The rains began again, and even with the sun shades, wind drove the rain in on us. Even though it was a warm rain, we girls had a bad hair day.
We returned to the ship with enough time to grab a quick bite (and fix my hair) before leaving at 12:45 for our afternoon tour, “Highlights of Recife and Olinda,” which began at 1:10. We allowed enough time to get to the bus, but many did not and were late. Fortunately, the bus waited an extra 15 minutes. We again drove through Recife on our way to Olinda, but had to transfer to vans midway to drive around Olinda’s narrow, cobblestone streets. This town is now a Unesco Heritage Site and must be preserved with no new development. We had a walking tour through several streets and visited the Se Cathedral from the 1500’s. It has gone through several restorations. Our guide explained that the 2 months of rain every year reeks havoc on the exterior of the buildings and turns them black after a while. We went to a local craft area where 3 young men danced local dances for us. We were then given a coconut with a hole and straw to drink the coconut water. This is a favorite here. We later boarded the vans, went down the hill, and reboarded our bus to finish the tour. About 6 passengers with canes and walking problems signed up for this tour, even though the description mentioned the van transfers and walking over cobblestones. This may be us one day, but I hope I would know my limitations.
On the way back, we stopped at Golden Chapel and the Church of St. Anthony. This was a former monastery and the gold is real, but only a thin layer. The ceiling is covered with painted murals of Christ’s life, much like the Sistine Chapel. This is also 300 years old. There were mosaics as well and lots of carved jacaranda wood. This church is also undergoing a restoration of its chapel area. Notice the scaffolding. Workers were present today.
We made one more stop at the Boa Viagem Beach for about 15 minutes. Many did not even get off the bus, but about a dozen of us walked the sandy beach. I even took off my sandals and walked in the warm water a bit. There were small sand dunes and lovely palm trees swaying in the breeze. It would have been easy to swim here, but no one was present, the lifeguard stations were closed, as were the local restaurants. After all, it is winter.
We missed mensa and trivia as we knew we would, and just relaxed (???, but Mac worked on downloading and arranging the pictures from the cameras) a bit before meeting Art and Joanie for dinner at Prime 7 tonight. The restaurant was serving fresh Argentinian beef (filet, sirloin, and ribeye) for only a few more days and Joanie and Art wanted us to experience this. Three of us ordered steak, and it was terrific. We had so much fun that we closed the place down at almost ten o’clock. We weren’t rushing to the show because it was the cast production of The Great American Song Factory, which we had seen 4 times.
We now have two sea days on our way to Devil’s Island, French Guyana.
Yours in travel,
Pat & Mac