We woke up very early this morning; around 5.00am in fact. We had already noticed that the sun rose much earlier south of the Equator than it does in the North (even in the tropics) at this time of year. Of course, the reverse would be true if this were July instead of January.
From our vantage point on our balcony we could watch as the Arcadia approached the port of Recife, in the Pernambuco state of Brazil. I love Brazil, we have had two previous holidays here; in 2001 and in 2011. It’s such a colourful and interesting country of so many cultures and contrasts; the people are really friendly and the samba beat is so infectious.
Recife (re-see-fay) however was a new port of call for us so we were looking forward to exploring. We had our breakfast outside on the Aquarius Pool deck while soaking up the atmosphere and getting our first impressions of this north-east coastal town and port area.
One of the first things we noticed was the great numbers of diggers that were lined up, in rows, along the water’s edge. They were not a brand we recognised so we assumed they were made in Brazil and had been taken to the port ready to be exported. A group of singers, dancers and musicians had assembled in front of them and were entertaining the disembarking passengers; we could hear the catchy beat of the drums from our position on the pool deck.
Back in our cabin we gathered together the stuff we’d need for our visit ashore; camera, credit cards etc. then we went down the gangplank and set foot on Brazilian soil again. We were not allowed to walk around the shipping and dockside area (health and safety and all that) but a shuttle bus was waiting nearby to take us into the outskirts of the town.
The brief ride on the bus allowed us to take in our surroundings. As it was a weekday it was fairly busy, and the streets bustled with busy shoppers and workers. The shops and streets looked typical of those we’ve seen before in Brazil; once you leave the fashionable (expensive!) touristy areas the streets are slightly dilapidated with lots of peeling paint, tired-looking trees and plants, cafés and bars with rickety looking canopies and potholed roads.
We alighted from the bus outside the library, then decided to cross the sluggish-looking river over a prominent bridge to visit the shops and, so we had heard, the local markets. At low tide the river was full of all sorts of rubbish and, I’m sorry to say, stunk of raw sewage. The bridge was called Ponte Maurício de Nassau and was built on the site of the first bridge in Latin America.
Once over the bridge we found ourselves in a maze of busy streets, our ears nearly deafened by the up-tempo Latin music blaring out of ghetto-blasters. The streets thronged with people and the cries of the vendors competed with the cacophony of music. Several times cyclists rode by with huge sound systems blasting out recorded advertising messages through megaphones which added to the din. Despite this, we were amazed to see people (young and old alike) just asleep on the pavement or in shop doorways. Quiet Recife was not!! 🙂
Our first stop was to the local bank, to use the ATM machine and withdraw some of the local currency, the Brazilian Real (or reaïs in the plural). We spent some time browsing the shops and stalls. Every other shop seemed to be selling curtains, sheets and bedding, and there were also a lot of shoe shops. As a shoe freak I thought I’d find something different, but the shoes and sandals weren’t any different from the ones I could buy back home, so I didn’t bother this time (that’s a first!) 🙂
We went into a little fashion shop (it was like the Brazilian equivalent of Claire’s Accessories back home) and I bought a feathered mask, feathered earring and a colourful sarong; later on in the cruise they are having a Carnival themed deck party, so I wanted to make sure I had my props ready. 🙂
We looked all over for some postcards to send home, but as we weren’t in the tourist part of Recife (you need to go to Boa Viagem for that) there were none to be seen. So we just browsed the shops and streets a bit more, then decided to go in search of an off-licence to purchase some cachaça. 😉
Eventually we found what looked to be a shop selling booze; apart from a counter at the front the interior was just a type of warehouse, stacked floor to ceiling with bottles and cans selling everything from beer to wine to spirits. We spotted some bottles of the famous cachaça brand “Pitú” and they also seemed to have it in cans. Cans? Surely they would already be mixed as caipirinha, they wouldn’t sell 40% volume spirit in cans, like Coca Cola. So we bought one to find out, along with a couple of cans of Red Bull and a bottle of mineral water.
Around the corner we decided to open the can of Pitú, which had a resealable plastic lid. We took a swig and found out the hard way – it was neat cachaça. 🙂 So we opened one of the Red Bulls and tipped some of it in. It was different I suppose! Then we decided we’d go back to the booze stall and see what the full litre bottles of Pitú cost. I’d recently bought a 700ml bottle back home for £24.99 (outrageous!) so it would be interesting to compare the price. The litre bottle of Pitú was 6 reaïs, or two quid. So I could have bought a case of 12 bottles for my £24.99 and still had change left over!
After our bargain purchase we decided to take slow stroll back to the ship. Back over the bridge we were just in time to get the shuttle bus and we arrived back at the Arcadia in time for lunch. It was nice and quiet up at the pool deck as most people were ashore. After lunch we sat out on our balcony for a bit then had a post-luncheon nap.
The dress code for tonight was tropical, so I wore a flowery dress and wrap, and Trevor put on his tropical shirt that he’d bought in Aruba in 2007 (incidentally, the last time we were on the Arcadia). When we went into the dining room you needed your sunglasses, the shirts and dresses and colours were so bright. We had the usual convivial company and interesting conversation at table #187, but afterwards I was inexplicably tired. There wasn’t really any show on in the Palladium tonight; they’d just decided to let the classical pianist, Jonathan Powell, do a stint instead. I decided I’d give it a miss and just go back to our cabin to read my Kindle. I am re-reading Alex Haley’s Roots, as we are going to the Gambia next year.
Trevor went along to see the pianist but came back not long after; he said the showlounge was only half full and it was difficult to stay awake. So we waited until 9.30pm when it was time to go along to the Rising Sun for the quiz with host Darren. Frank and Brenda came along too, and we sat there in a sort of “can’t-really-be-bothered” fashion (once again we didn’t win).
After the quiz we decided we’d go up to the Aquarius Pool and have a nightcap and see what the tropical deck party was like. It was packed with bodies dancing away to the soca and Latin music. We only had the one drink then went back to our cabin, where I fell asleep almost immediately, lulled by the gentle motion of the Arcadia who was on her way once again.