As some of you know, my spouse spent a year in high school in Brazil. The nephew of one of her hosts was getting married and we were invited to the wedding so we decided to fly-down and attend. (This was in September 2010, but I’m hoping to get caught-up on a few blog posts this weekend.)
We flew into Sao Paulo and spent a few days exploring. We stayed at the L’Hotel Porto Bay which I recommend both for its comforts and its location just off one of the largest commercial (business) Avenues in Brazil and a short walk to Oscar Freire Street where there are beautiful boutiques (outside of our price range.) We did stop at an ice cream shop though. 😉
Brazil is geographically larger than the contiguous 48 U.S. states. Sao Paulo is in the south and the wedding was to take place in Fortaleza in the north so we took a flight on one of the domestic airlines to Fortaleza. Below are some specific recommendations for Fortaleza:
- Walk down the beach in the evening – The 2-3 mile downtown beachfront in Fortaleza seems to come to life as the sun starts to fade. At one end are some impressive beach volleyball and soccer players and in the middle is an open-air market. It seems to capture both the calmness of the water on one side and the energy of the city on the other.
- Eat at a Churrascaria – Obviously the all you can eat beef is great if you’re a meat lover, but the buffet of other items that Brazilians include will enhance your culinary experience whether your primary focus is beef or if you’re a vegetarian.
- Go to the Central Market – This multi-story building has tons of interesting food, clothing, and other goods for sale. The building is also very interesting as it seems to be designed for browsing with softly sloping bridges up through an open center atrium.
- Take-in the view – Fortaleza’s downtown area is filled with relatively tall (~10-25 story), skinny buildings. Our hotel had one glass elevator and you could see the public beach in downtown Fortaleza.
- Relax at the beach – There are a few beaches close to the city (but not the main beach) that are very nice. We spent an afternoon at Croco Beach which was somewhat crowded but offered rentals of umbrellas, large bean bags, and the like to make relaxing even more comfortable. The beaches close to the city will have many vendors walking the beach and offering their wares including fresh fruit, coconuts, sunglasses, and more. If you want a more calm experience, you may need to go to a beach outside the city (as we did for one day.) This can be especially beautiful and places tourists are referred often have the same amenities of the close beaches like lockers, a restaurant/bar, and more; but without the crowds or vendors.
- Watch someone make lace – There are artisans who make lace (for table runners, table cloths, etc.) by hand. The have a bunch of thin threads each tied to small sticks with a ball on the end and then quickly weave a pattern using pins in a circular cushion to hold the in-progress pattern. My Portuguese-speaking spouse says that this art is fading away so you may need to ask around to meet people who do this.
- Go to the market at the old Jail – My spouse liked this market the best. I was especially impressed with an artisan who made designs from delicately pouring different colored sand into a glass.
While we enjoyed Sao Paulo and Fortaleza, our original purpose was to celebrate the wedding of Paulo Henrique to Camila. The ceremony was held in a beautiful, circular, modern church and the reception afterwards was as if it was out of a fairy tale. Brazilians really celebrate at their weddings. In addition to full dinner and dessert, there were three small courses of snacks planned to sustain revelers through the evening and into the morning. Hillary and I left after the second snack course (chicken soup) around 3 am.