A few weeks ago, I set out to travel to four cities in the Northeast of Brazil. JoÃ£o Pessoa and Olinda were the third and fourth stops.
JoÃ£o Pessoa was a bit quiet after Recife, but we were there on a Monday and a Tuesday – as far as I know, not the most exciting days of the week anywhere.
Despite that, on our first night, we had a great time at a beachside bar with ETAs Connor and Renée and some Brazilian, Spanish and French friends. It’s always a fun challenge to be part of a conversation that includes more than one language: you can almost feel new synapses forming as you switch from English to Spanish to Portuguese and back.
The next day, Mike and I went to explore the Island of the Red Sands, mostly because of its alluring name. It turned out to be a bit disappointing – there wasn’t much to do there except admire the skyline of JoÃ£o Pessoa. When the tide came up fast, though, waiters loaded up the tables and chairs at their makeshift cafés and tourists hurried back to the catamarans. By the time we reached shore again, the island was completely underwater.
Besides that trip, we didn’t make much of an effort to see the touristic draws in JoÃ£o Pessoa, which include beaches like JacumÃ£ and Coquerinho and the easternmost point in the Americas. There’s also an event that happens every evening, in which a saxophonist plays Maurice Ravel’s Bolero in a canoe as the sun sets. It must be the kitschiest thing ever, which is why I’d love to see it next time I’m in JoÃ£o Pessoa.
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We also managed to squeeze in a short visit to Olinda, Recife´s prettier, quainter neighbor. Olinda’s highlight is the Alto da Sé, a hill covered in historic churches and houses. It’s a bit of a hike up cobblestone streets, but the Alto da Sé offers beautiful views of the modern downtowns of Recife and Olinda.
The one thing that people insisted we do in Olinda was order tapioca. Tapioca is a sort of tortilla made of cassava flour that can have sweet or savory fillings. Sitting with a tapioca de cartola – banana, sugar, cinnamon, and cheese – and soaking in the view from the hilltop market was a perfect end to this quick trip through Pernambuco and ParaÃba.