|Cunard Queen Victoria's Exotic Voyage 2018
Discovering South America Part 3
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Fortaleza was our first port in Brazil and is the capital of the State of Ceara which is one of the three leading cities in the Northeast region together with Recife and Salvador. Fortaleza was officially founded as a village 1726. becoming the capital of Cearé state in 1799. The metropolitan area of Fortaleza is home to over four million inhabitants spread over an area of 540 square kilometres. The city itself had a population of over 2 million in 2016 and has steadily grown as the city developed. lt's known for its beaches, which are punctuated by red cliffs, palm trees, dunes and lagoons.
The Queen Victoria berthed in the rain in the east at Porto do Mucuripe which is the place of jangadas, the fishing boats. We were welcomed with shopping bags and information booklets. There was a complimentary shuttle bus service to the Central Market in Fortaleza which passed along the coastal road and the hotels of the Meireles and Iracema beaches. There was a beach volleyball competition as we drove by. Our driver passed the Central Market and then did a small tour of the centre before returning on the other side of the road. This gave the chance to see three sides of the Centro de Turismo craft market which we planned to visit later.
Today was Saturday and the Central Market and the surrounding pavements were overflowing with local people buying and selling all sorts of cheap cotton goods and kitchen items. It is a large building with four floors full of stalls selling leatherwork, lace and textiles. We decided to go inside later but never managed to do so. It was so busy we had to walk on the road to reach the Metropolitan Cathedral. It had started to rain again and it was perfect to wait inside until the shower passed. The cathedral is modern. Building started in 1939 and took nearly 40 years to complete and was finally dedicated in December 1978. The design was by French architect George Mounier. The Cathedral is built in a Gothic-Roman style and holds 5,000 people - the third largest in Brazil. Opposite the west door was a row of shops selling hammocks which reminded us of our trip on the River Amazon in 2017 when people travelling on the ferries brought their own hammocks for sleeping. Like many of the streets many houses were badly looked after and in need of restoration although the ground floor shops were in use.
Our next target was the José de Alencar theatre but there are other interesting buildings en route. After two attempts we found R. Sao Paulo and the Museu do Ceara. Entry was free although the information was not in English. There was lots of information about the history of the local region of Ceara, and a special exhibition about slavery. Ceara was the first province to liberate slaves on 25 March 1884. The neighbouring Praca do Ferreira was preparing for a music festival and had restored old buildings, including the blue and white Palacete Ceara, the Antigo Hotel Excelsior and the Pharmacy of Oswaldo Cruz.
Our map showed the Rua Liberato Barroso led directly to the José de Alencar theatre but it did not show how narrow the street was. There were lots of stalls selling all sorts of cheap clothes, as well as the normal shops, and it was busy although it was still raining. Eventually we emerged at the Praca Jose de Alencar square, and we knew we were in the right place because of all the Cunard tour buses. The tours were all supposed to pass by the theatre, but not go inside. We were lucky and the theatre was open early to visit because of the Cunard tours - it should only be open for tours in the afternoon. The Theatre has been open since 1910 and many of Fortaleza's long-standing folkloric traditions are presented in dance performances at the Theatre. There is a courtyard, with access to a pretty garden, and then the theatre itself is much smaller than the theatre in Manaus. It was arranged with seating on the stage as well as in the main stalls and the balconies and rows of boxes. The Theatre is a must for theatrical enthusiasts not least for its ornate wrought iron structure and balconies which were imported from Glasgow. The stained glass windows are Art Nouveau and the stunning ceiling design is hailed as Brazil's most beautiful.
Continuing along the side of the square and down the Rua General Sampano it was not far to the Railway Station Joao Felipe which was a beautiful colonial building but no longer in use. The Centro de Turismo, a mustard coloured caft market in the former Victorian prison building, was obvious by the lines of waiting Cunard tour buses. Inside there were lots of small local craft shops which specialised in handicrafts, embroidery and leather goods.
Walking back towards the shuttle bus we passed the Ceara Museum of Industry. This was very interesting and the staff spoke good English. The downstairs was mostly machinery and displays of technology which was formative in the development of the city but the first floor was a thorough temporary exhibition to celebrate 60 years of the special local Carnauba palm trees used primarily for the very hard and high quality Carnauba wax which covers the leaves and prevents evaporation enabling it to live in the semi-arid conditions. The Palm is a symbol of Ceara. The flakes of wax are physically removed from the dried leaves and melted to give blocks of the wax, the colour varies with the quality. There were jars of samples so one could 'feel' the waxiness. F C Johnson organised an expedition to Brazil to learn more about the environment, cultivation and processing of Carnauba waxand explored the area by with a Sikorsky S-38 Amphibeous aircraft and covered 7500 miles during the trip. Tey were the first to build a dedicated factory and research laboritory in Fortelesa in 1937. A very good exhibition with most of the information also in good English.
Finally we reached the Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Assuncao. This fortress is where the History of Fortaleza started. The name means Fort of Our Lady of the Rising. The fort was built by Dutch captain Matias Beck in 1649, and called Fort Schoonenborch. it was reclaimed by the Portuguese in 1654, and the name was changed to Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora de Assuncao. There is a museum inside the fort, dedicated to General Antonio de Sampaio, who was born in Ceara and became a hero in the War of Paraguay, in the 19th century; the General was buried in the fort, and some of his personal belongings are in the exhibition. The Mercado Central was directly opposite and if the weather had been better then the next step would be to head north, straight for the Praia de lracema beach, where there are a number of bars and restaurants occupying original 19th century buildings. It is the former port which has been renovated. The sunset spot on the Ponte dos lngleses (English Bridge) is also nearby - the long pier was first built in 1920 and is modelled on the piers of Brighton. However the heavy rain had by now turned into a deluge of epic proportions so we settled for a shuttle bus
After the bad weather in Fortaleza it was pleasant to approach Salvador in fine weather. To our surprise it was the maiden visit of the Queen Victoria so we knew more about the city than the tour staff. Our previous visit, was on the QE2 in 2003 when our first stop from Southampton on the way to the Falkland Islands had been Tenerife and then the second stop was Salvador de Bahia. The QE2 was much faster across the Atlantic than the Queen Victoria and on that voyage did not stop in the USA. The Cunard tour on our visit this year (2018) was very similar to that taken in 2003.
Salvador is Brazil's fourth largest city on the sheltered Bay of All Saints, said to be the fourth largest natural harbour in the world. We have previously visited two of them - the Hudson River and Sydney Harbour. It was founded by the Portuguese and was the first capital of Brazil from 1549 to 1763 and is now a mxture of European, African and American Indian cultures. It was also, from 1558, the first slave market in the New World, with slaves from Africa arriving to work on the sugar plantations. Slavery was finally abolished here only in 1888. The descendants of these African slaves have preserved their heritage in Salvador from music and religion to food, dance and capoeira martial arts traditions. A capoeira group performed on the QE2 but local folklore shows are less frequent with Cunard now. African gods and Candomblé ceremonies are still part of modern local religion.
Approaching our berth outside the Cruise terminal we passed two funicular railways from the Lower Town ( Comércio) on the waterfront to the Upper Town (Cidade Alta). Salvador de Bahia's historic centre is the Upper Town, a defensive, administrative and residential neighbourhood perched on top of an 85 metre high escarpment. UNESCO recognises the importance of the historical old town and describes it as the densely built colonial city par excellence of the Brazilian northeast which is distinguished by its religious, civil and military colonial architecture dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The cobblestone streets are lined with restored 17th and 18th century palaces and Baroque churches decorated with gold.
As in all Brazilian towns on our voyage we were advised to take special care with valuables and cameras ashore. An organised tour can be a good option to reduce the risks of pickpockets and the tour buses provide a welcome airconditioned environment and enabled us to see more than just the historical centre. However progress, especially on a walking tour, is limited by the need to keep the group together, and interesting buildings which are not on the tour list are ignored. If we visit Salvador da Bahia again we will do so independently.
The tour began by driving to the Mercado Modelo then along the waterfront, passing the lower entrance to the Elevador Lacerda, the Naval Academy and the Marina, before turning and coming back by the Mercado Modelo. It was then possible to climb up the steep road to the level of the Upper Town and park by the Palacio Rio Branco. The first Palace on this site was built in 1549 for the Governor Tome de Souza. The present building dates from 1900 - 1912 and it was used as an official residence until 1979. It is now the Centro Memoria da Bahia. Workers were making the preparations for Carnival, which is very famous in Salvador and starts in 2 weeks, and buildings and statues were being protected and there were hundreds of portaloos arriving. The Praca Tome de Souza is also where the Elevador Lacerda has its upper station. It costs just o.15Rls to travel in one of the 4 lifts which makes the 72 metre trip in 22 seconds. The Elevador was originally built in 1873 by Antonio Francisco de Lacerda and its current Art Deco style dates from restoration in the 1930s. There are also the three inclined planes of Goncalves, Pilar and Calcada. There is a good view down from the Belvedere of the Mercado Modelo, the Ferry Terminal and the Bay of All Saints. It is a popular place for local ladies dressed in crinolines to ask tourists to pay $1 for photos.
This is the edge of the most important historic part, Pelourinho, which means whipping post because it was the area where slaves were flogged. Praca da Se links the Praca Tome de Sousa with the Terreiro de Jesus. Pelhourinho was once the traditional residence of the wealthy in the city and hence the amazing Portuguese colonial style buildings. From 1552 to 1933, the Praca da Se was the site of the grand Sé cathedral, overlooking the bay. The cathedral and its cemetery were razed in the '30s and there is only a large fallen cross to mark the spot. Salvador's main cathedral, built between 1657 and 1672, is a fine example of Portugese Baroque architecture. We saw the outside in 2003 but it is now undercover and closed for restoration. The adjoining pink building was a medical school but is now a Museum of Afro-Brasilian culture. There are many small attractive pastel-coloured buildings in the Pelourinho, mainly hotels, cafes and shops..
We rushed past two other churches in the Terreiro de Jesus on our way to the Igreja e Convento de Sao Francisco. This is a very impressive Baroque monument and tickets have to be purchased to visit but our tour group was pre-booked and we walked straight in. The facade dominates the Largo de Sao Francisco and the complex was entered by a side door on the right. The building was started in 1708 and completed in 1723. . There is a small chapel in the cloisters which is richly gilded with a fine ceiling with octogonal paintings. The church is accessed from the cloisters and we waited until our turn to go in. It has an amazing, beautiful and spectacular interior; if only one place is visited in Salvador then it has to be this church. The walls and ceiling are covered in gold leaf. The main altar and side chapels are magnificent and decorated with angels, birds, fruits, leaves and caryatids. There is a silver chandelier said to weigh over 176 lb. It was all so gilded that it completely fooled our cameras. The altar carvings are fine examples of Baroque style, and one was Saint Benedito who was a Black Saint.
The area had lots of tourist shops and cafes and there was a 30 minutes shopping stop during which we paid 5 Rls each to instead visit next door the Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco (Church of the Third Order of Saint Francis). The church was constructed as an annex to the Sao Francisco Church and Convent. It is noted for its distinctive Plateresque-style limestone and sandstone facade, an example unique in Brazil, which was only discovered in the 1930s when an electrician removed some of the plaster covering by accident. The Third Order was founded in 1635 and this church was built in 1702-03. The church has an interesting museum with views down from a gallery into the church below. There is also a meeting room and a room of Franciscan tombs.
From here it was all downhill walking and we passed the church without stopping. We stopped unexpectedly outside the Casa do Olodum. Founded as an African block of the carnival in Salvador in 1979, Olodum is a cultural and music group which explores and explains historic themes about African and Brazilian culture. This area of town is an area with many African shops and sounds of African music. We then continued downhill to the distinctive blue and white building of the Fundacao Casa de Jorge Amado. He was one of Brazil's most famous authors and the building contains copies of his books and archives. The final visit was to the Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos, a blue church just opposite. There is a fine painting on the ceiling. The church was established by the Brotherhood of Black Men which was founded in 1685 and is a religious organisation of black people who worship the Virgin of the Rosary. Black saints such as Antolio de Categero, Benedito, Elesbao and Ifigenia have been traditionally honoured by black Brazilian communities from the time of slavery, not only because they are black but because they represent examples of martyrdom. The church was built by slaves in the 18th century and restored in 2011. It is the centre of Afro-Brazilian traditions, located in an area famous for its music and capoeira.
Rejoining our bus we passed the Football Stadium and drove along the lake of the Dique do Tororo which has the famous Orixas sculptures by the Bahian artist Tati Moreno. There are many poor houses clinging to the hillside. Soon we entered a better area with gated colonial style detached houses. We had driven past the Carlos Costa Pinto Museum in 2003 but not visited inside. It is not open in the mornings but there was an arrangement for our tour so that it opened early. The house belonged to Margarida and Carlos Costa Pinto who married in 1912. He was a merchant, sugar exporter and distinguishd businessman. They collected valuable crystal, good quality china and porcelain, and a range of silver and gold objects. There are 216 pieces of crystal in the collection which is mainly Baccarat although we admired some Swedish and Venetian glass. There were paintings by local artists, ivory carvings, furniture, gold and silver jewelry and other . Salvador was a centre for silver craftsmanship and silver items were not only collected for their artistic merit but also the metal was valuable in itself. The china was Davenport, Lowestoft, Copeland and Clews. There were two bedrooms upstairs with jacaranda wood furniture. The final rooms, the Golden Room and the Dining Room, led to the gardens and the cafe. Carlos died in 1946 and Margarida later decided that the house and its collections should be donated as a museum. The museum opened in 1969 and she died in 1995.
Our final destination was to pass by the Fort of San Antonio and its lighthouse. The Fort was erected in 1535 and upgraded to its present shape in the 18th century. The lighthouse was originally built in 1698. It has superb views from the top of the lighthouse and contains an excellent nautical museum, with relics and displays from the days of Portuguese seafaring, plus fascinating exhibits on the slave trade. Tickets are 15Rls but half price for seniors and students and we were carrying ID. Unfortunately we were only allowed 15 minutes to look at the museum but it is amazing how much can be seen and photographed in 15 minutes. Fortunately we had local currency and running up what we were told were 200 steps (we did not count) of the spiral staircase seemed little harder than climbing from Deck 1 to Deck 11 on the ship.
Having returned safely to the cruise terminal it seemed a pity to waste the remaining time so we walked to the Mercado Modelo. It was built in 1861 as a customs building and was transformed into a craft market in 1971. There were lots of stalls with local art, embroidery, clothes, hats, spices and hammocks. We found a stall selling Brazilian coffee at 50Rls for 1 kg. So we now have plenty until we get home. A bottle of the local lager went down well and there were special chilling covers to stop it getting warm.
Overall we liked Salvador and hope we will find a cruise which visits there again. It was much, much better than we had been expecting.
Buzios is a small town and beach resort only 130 miles from Rio de Janeiro. It is a peninsula with over 20 beaches. It was a maiden call for the Queen Victoria and we were at anchor at 0800. By 1100 there was a steady line of people reporting for their tickets and proceeding to the tenders. Viewed from the ship it was clear that Buzios had a narrow golden beach with small houses and various schooners and water taxis were waiting to take people out to neighbouring beaches and for water sports. The best beaches were beyond the town to the west.
The tenders arrived at the junction of the Rua das Pedras, Orla Bardot and Trav. dos Pescadores. There was soon a steady procession walking along the Orla Bardot, named after Brigitte Bardot who spent time here on holiday in 1964. She stayed at the Pousada do Sol which we passed later when going down to the beach. Our first target was to see her bronze statue which was made by Christina Motta and is on the oceanfront path. Another bronze statue is further along the path and there are 3 bronze fishermen in the shallow water. We turned back at the end of the path at the Praia dos Ossos beach. One popular transport was the beach trolley which passed us on its roundtrip of the peninsula.
Shopping seemed quite expensive compared with Fortaleza although pareos, cheap beach clothes and T-shirts were good value. Many people bought the Havaianas flip-flop beach shoes.The town is centred on the Praca Santos Dumont, named after the famous Brazilian aviator. This large square had shopping streets leading in all directions, and by accident we found two small churches and a small supermarket.The Estrada da Usina is the main road, connecting the area to the furthermost beaches and acting as a southern bypass for the town. Returning to the Praia Canto beach, the tide was coming in and the stretch of sand was getter narrower so there was no chance of sunbathing but it was possible to change and have a quick swim, then leave. Overall we spent 2 hours on shore - it was probably a lovely deserted area when Bridget Bardot 'discoved it' and made it a 'must do' place but it has little left to commend it as a cruise ship destination.
The next part continues at Rio de Janiero still in Brazil.
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 28th March, 2018