The good news is, there is a direct flight from Manaus to Recife … The bad news is, the plane stops at Santarém, Belem, Sao Luis & Fortaleza before reaching Recife, each a 50 minutes flight and every flight the same sandwich. When we arrived in Olinda at about 05:00 pm, without our luggage, thanks to TAM, we had been going for 13 hours. However, our backpacks were delivered to the hotel the same evening!
Recife, a very modern city, has little to offer to the curious tourist, but so does its little sister Olinda, only six kilometers to the east. It is said to be one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Brazil, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982.
Heidi decided that she needed a little more comfort, so Gilles did not dare say “no” to the choice of the Pousada d´Olinda, a beautiful Pousada with a nice tropical garden, a swimming pool and rather comfortable and quiet rooms and as we by now understood, typical for Brazil’s Pousadas, a great breakfast buffet, which turned out to be our main meal. Of course it has been the most expensive Pousada of our travel so far, but with a little less than 30 € per night including breakfast, this remained affordable luxury!
The historic center of Olinda or “Olinda Antigua” is surely one of the best preserved colonial cities we have ever seen. Rather similar to Trinidad in Cuba, but more extensive and more picturesque because its houses are clustered around a little mountain with a great view of the skyscrapers of Recife’s downtown. There are hundreds of houses of many different colors: in former times, the color/s of the very house would stand for its address! There are also no less than 18 churches, although with one exception, all original ones were destroyed by the Dutch Protestants fighting the Catholic Portuguese in 1632. Rough cobble stone streets underline the quaint appearance.
On the first day, we hired Alejandro, a local guide, who spoke a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish and French, to show us the main attractions but also to be left in peace by every other guide approaching us within the next few days. The most interesting part of the tour was when Alejandro got us access to the very old church that was not destroyed. We climbed up to the bell tower from where we had a great view of the city. The church is presently the home and atelier of a young painter, who has his paintings on display in the different parts of the church. We found this extremely enchanting, especially since this whole ambience was accompanied by classical tunes that filled the whole building.
Walking the city and spending time leisurely at our pleasant new home made up most of our days, when night fell we went to the Placa do Carmo, where the locals spend their evenings meeting friends, drinking beers and / or capairinhas, one for 0.90 Euro. Once more, we have there experienced the negative impact of travel guides, with all the tourists concentrating in the few restaurants recommended, one an overpriced Creperie and an even more overpriced Pizzeria. All Saturday afternoon we could listen to the Carnival bands playing up Alto do Sé.
The northeast of Brazil is also the place to taste “Tapiocas” these are cooked at special food stalls, which require a little stove heated by charcoal, two pans, tapioaca flour and all the ingredients – cheese, coconuts, shrimps, tomatoes, … to fill the pancakes. Not to forget the ladies producing this excellent but filling meal. Usually they are clad in white with what looks like a white shower-cap and taking their job very seriously. And for a drink, chilled coconuts … Fantastic!
Afterwards, we plan 4 days in Fernando de Noronha, which is said to be a paradise-like island in the southern Atlantic, 500km off the coast from Recife. The only affordable flight we found was through LastMinute.com. The night before departure, three days after we made the reservation, the e-tickets were still not mailed. And of course there is no possibility to contact them but directly from France. Vamos a ver!