27 hours later…

January 28, 2009

I snapped this photo of Bahia de Todos os Santos as I left my apartment yesterday morning…


Three flights, a long bus ride, and about 27 hours later, this is the view from my parents’ porch in Lyme, NH this afternoon…


I’m home and the skiing is surely good. I’ll come back to post a lengthier wrap up and to flesh out some earlier posts, so check in from time to time.

Morro de Sao Paolo.

January 21, 2009

Well, I finally made it out of Salvador, for now. Moved out of my apartment yesterday, and today I took a two-hour boat trip south to this island paradise of a resort town called Morro de Sao Paolo.

I don’t know if I mentioned this already on here, but another traveler told me when I was in Rio last month that every new place I went to in Brazil would prove to be a culture shock…this is definitely so. Coming out of the gritty, vibrant reality of Salvador to this idyllic little spot is a bit jarring. For one thing, for the first time in a month, when I’m in a crowd I’m not the only white face in sight. Lots of Argentine and other travelers here. I haven’t got any photo posting capabilities yet, but the beaches are stunning and the water is that gorgeous aquamarine color you see in pictures.

I made a bit of an itinerary change, and decided not to return to Rio on this trip. Instead, I’m going to spend a couple days here then head back to Salvador for the last couple of days before returning home. Having built up a bit of a network of contacts there made sticking around seem more appealing.

I watched the inauguration at an American friend’s apartment, then went out to the beach for the afternoon yesterday. It was a happy day for me, I am full of…dare I say…”hope” for our country’s future, like a lot of us. I’m a big believer in the power of collective thought and feel sure that if enough people feel like I do, things can’t help but get better.

The events were covered extensively on the local news, of course…Brazilians also appear to be very positive in general about the possibilities of the Obama presidency. Folks in the streets of Salvador last night were calling out “Baracky Obama” to me as I walked by…(the letter K is a bit of a tough one for local pronunciation)…it was, from my point of view, a good day to be an American.

A week from today I’ll be back in the cold and snow of Vermont. My god, I think I’ve convinced myself that I actually miss it now. Something is seriously wrong with me. I need a caipirinha to straighten this out.

Lavagem do Bonfim.

January 16, 2009

Wow, what a party.


It started out in the lower city with a ceremony at this church, which then became a parade to the Bonfim church out on Itagipe peninsula. You can see members of the famous Carnaval group “Filhos de Ghandy” in full regalia standing up on the truck in this photo. They were a big part of the festivities. It was a several-kilometer procession, though walking takes even longer when you’re sort of shuffling/dancing your way through the streets. All kinds of music groups were moving along the procession, which went through a bunch of neighborhoods which I usually would just cruise through on a bus.

Because there was so much movement in the streets, I felt a lot more comfortable snapping shots of neighborhoods which are usually deserted and slightly sketchy. This street that runs from the upper to lower city is called the Ladeira da Montanha and has these interesting buildings tucked into the hillside.


Anyway, back to the party…madness, crowds, great music, tasty food, cold beer, etc. We got out to Bonfim and the party was focused out there.


Glad I got a taste of this kind of massive street party, since I’m not sticking around for Carnaval. I’ll add more later, and I have more photos.

More Salvador…

January 15, 2009

Hello all, thanks for checking in. I know it’s getting less rewarding since the pace of my updates fell off. At least you should know that if I’m not posting, that probably means I’m having a good time.

I’ve been very happy with my decision to spend more time in one place, rather than constantly moving from town to town. I’ve been thinking of an exchange I had with the cab driver who brought me in from the airport. I was explaining to him that I planned to stay here for a month. He very seriously said, “Be careful, this is a dangerous city.”

I was a little disappointed he would say that to me, since all kinds of people from other parts of Brazil had said the same thing, but I was withholding judgement on that. I said something like “Oh really?” and he broke into a big smile and said, “It’s very dangerous…you come here once and you can never leave.”

I liked that at the time, and looking back I get exactly what he was talking about. As I’ve become more immersed in the rhythm of everyday life here, I’ve found more and more to love about the place. But mostly it’s the people that make it so special. All my prior plans to go on trips to the surrounding area, etc, have pretty much fallen away because the city itself has so much to offer.

Last night was another Tuesday of wild partying here in the Pelourinho. I got swept up in this informal samba parade that went all around the area. This moving dance party rambled along through the narrow streets, overwhelming the sidewalk restaurants, and occasionally mixing in with other street performances. That was a good evening’s worth of entertainment in itself, but it was just the beginning.

There are so many great musicians out in the streets here, and here’s the smallest of them.


the little drummer guy

This tiny drum set sounded amazingly good. Later today I was at a beach called Farol de Barra.


Nice day. Tonight I’m resting up for a big festival tomorrow called Lavagem do Bonfim. I promise to make a nice post for this one.

A few photos…

January 6, 2009

I feel like the blog has been slipping lately, so I went out in search of fodder today and found some interesting offbeat stuff to share.


Artists sell their stuff all around the Pelourinho: not all of them have an Obama tribute.

largo do pelourinho

largo do pelourinho

That’s one of the main entry points to the pelourinho district…it apparently was a place where slaves were publicly punished, or bought and sold. Much of the history behind this place is very dark.

coconut phones

coconut phones

In Brazil pay phones are colloquially known as “orelhoes”, or “big ears” because of their shape. I had walked by these, which were done up as coconuts prepared for drinking, many times without noticing them.



Apart from the Lacerda Elevator, there are a few of these “plano inclinado” to take you down to the lower city. I would have taken a ride down here, but the neighborhood at the bottom didn’t appear too inviting, really.

My apartment is located on the “praca da se”, one of the main entrypoints to the historic center from the modern city. It’s a good place to see neat street performers, and on the way home today I caught a good one. First he was whipping this guy with a bullwhip, cutting sheets of newspaper in half that the guy held out, then whipping the ash of the tip of a cigarette that the guy held in his mouth! Then he cut the cigarette in half with the whip by way of an anti-smoking message.


Then he dove through the ring of knives, with another big knife propped up on the ground on the other side!


Between stunts the guy was like an old fashioned snake oil salesman, peddling miraculous herbal remedies and ointments, of which I picked up a couple…I’ll have to let you know about the effects. He promised they would do a lot for me. I then headed home to get out of the tropical heat.

A fruitful expedition!

happy new year.

January 3, 2009

New Year’s Eve has come and gone, but the festivity continues.

I spent NYE out at one of my favorite areas of Salvador that I’ve gotten to know so far. It’s a peninsula just a couple kilometers away from my place, which has a famous church called NS de Bonfim, a great beach called Boa Viagem that looks back towards the city, and a laid-back neighborhood called Ribeira.

Salvador from Itagipe Peninsula

Salvador from Itagipe Peninsula

I’ve met some good folks down here, part of a network of american expatriates that are showing me the ins and outs of Salvador. Fortunately, through them I’ve gotten to know some of the less visited parts of the city.

We started the evening in Ribeira with the plan of grabbing a bite and heading over to the main party in Boa Viagem at midnight. We got a bit of a late start, and the quick bite became an epic feast, and ended up marking the new year with the local fireworks in Ribeira…which was great anyway. It was a lively, local street party with kiosks set up all along the beach and main avenue providing music and cold beer.

When we did make it over to Boa Viagem, it was way more packed and festive. It was a bit surprising when the police went around and shut the party down at 4 am. We drifted away with the rest of the crowd, and just made a quick stop at the main city beach at Porto da Barra to check out the remnants of  the party there.

530 am revellers

530 am revellers

Unfortunately, I was tired and went home and slept through a traditional New Year’s Day procession that takes a religious icon across the bay from the main city to Boa Viagem…really wanted to check that out, but couldn’t quite hack it.

I did go out to Boa Viagem later in the day and the beach was unbelievably rocking, and the street party kicked up again in the late afternoon…just as packed and wild as the night before. I just marvelled at the indefatigable partying spirit of the Bahians…it has to be seen to be believed.

The days have blurred together a bit, hours on the beach during the day, music in the streets at night. Saturday will have to be a day of rest for me.

Blessed Tuesday.

December 30, 2008

All is well down here. Tuesdays, for some reason, are big party nights here in the colonial center. It’s early right now (7pm) but things are already heating up…the plazas and cafes are packed.

Terreiro do Jesus

Terreiro do Jesus

Saw some more good capoeira this afternoon…it’s hard to photograph because they move so fast. I need to practice with the camera for more rapid fire action. Here’s a decent shot of guys about to bust a move…


Since the last post I’ve just been having a good time as the city cranks up for New Year’s Eve and also for Carnaval…

I finally figured out the most important thing about beach-going in Brazil…it’s something I’d been told, but still had to learn for myself. My american instinct has always been to seek out the most peaceful and secluded beach spot, and there is something to be said for that, I guess. But for brazilians, the best beach is the most packed one, and a day at the beach is like a huge, democratic, all inclusive party. The beachside restaurants or kiosks set up plastic chairs and tables, and the more crowded and lively it is, the better. It’s really pretty great. I feel sort of foolish for not grasping this earlier…that’s acclimation for you.

My next report should be of the new years festivities, happy new year to everyone, let’s make 2009 a great one.


Salvador Christmas.

December 27, 2008
Palacio Rio Branco

Palacio Rio Branco

Salvador reallygot into the Christmas spirit. Lots of decorations around and surreal tropical santa images. My favorite was a bunch of scantily clad santa’s elf cheerleaders doing dance routines in a local plaza one morning for a crowd of gleeful children and more gleeful old men.

Christmas day itself was a relaxed day off for the city…the weather was nice so people took advantage of the day off by heading to the city beaches. I followed suit and checked out the main beach neighborhood of  Barra in the afternoon.

Today I hopped on a passenger ferry and headed 45 minutes across the bay to an island called Itaparica, with nicer beaches where lots of folks head on the weekends. Picked a fine spot called Ponta de Areia with good beachside restaurants and lazed the day away. Great clear water, the kind where you can stand with it up to your neck and still look down and count your toes.

Proximity to the ferries is one of the best qualities of my location here. One minutes walk and I hop on the Elevador Lacerda.


The elevators in this cool structure cost a bafflingly low 5 centavos to ride, taking you from the upper to the lower city. It’s another 5 minutes walk from the bottom of the elevator to the ferry terminal.  Very convenient for a spur of the moment excursion.

Hope everyone had a great christmas…I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the snow and cold and especially friends and family that day. The beach felt a bit out of place for Dec. 25, but the mood in the air was strangely the same.

Now counting down to New Year’s Eve….

Reconcavo Recon….

December 24, 2008


I took a little side trip yesterday and overnight to the nearby twin cities of Cachoeira and Sao Felix. I kind of planned to make it a bit longer adventure, but neglected to bring enough money to do so. It ended up being more of a recon trip into an area I plan to visit again.

The Reconcavo is the name for the area that surrounds the Bahia de Todos os Santos here in the state of  Bahia. In Brazilian music, I think the region is sort of analagous to the Mississippi delta region of the US, in that so much of the really unique traditional music originated there. It’s (or was) a big sugar producing region, very lush and humid.

Cachoeira is a very nice small colonial town. The whole place has a kind of faded glory to it…it’s not hard to imagine how thriving it must have been in it’s day. Very nice riverfront and buildings both restored and decaying.


An interesting rickety bridge spans the river between Cachoeira and Sao Felix.



It was kind of a seat of the pants excursion, so I failed to plan well, but it was worth it to get an idea of the place…it’s within a couple hours of Salvador so I’m sure I’ll return. I’m trying to figure out a big loop excursion where I’d head up there and come back to the Bay by boat. Found a couple people up there who were willing to do it, so hopefully I’ll have a more exciting trip to tell you about next month.

The town was busy this morning with lots of last minute christmas shoppers, and the Salvador bus station was ridiculously busy with folks headed home from the city for the holiday.

Planning to spend a laid back christmas here around the city, hope everyone has a great one.

it’s all relative…

December 23, 2008

I woke up this morning a little disappointed at the greyness and showers outside…it’s putting a mild damper on some of my plans for excursions outside the city. I feel like if I’m going to be here for a month, I can pick and choose when to visit the spots I want to see, spend rainy days looking at churches and museums and such around here.

It lifted my mood when my dad sent me this photo today:


That’s what you can see of the jeep I left in my folks’ driveway.

Maybe I should go to the beach after all.